The draw for Euro 2012 Football Championships in Kiev led to mixed feelings for the Netherlands, who find themselves in Group B with strong outfits like Germany, Portugal and Denmark.
"You can't change it," Dutch head coach Bert van Marwijk said to Dutch TV channel NOS. "It is a huge challenge. It is the toughest group, everyone agrees on that."
The Dutch will play all their matches in Kharkiv in Ukraine and start the tournament June 9 against Denmark, face Germany June 13 and Portugal will be the last opponent June 17. The first two teams qualify for the quarter-finals.
The possible opponents in the next round come from Group A, consisting of hosts Poland, Greece, Czech Republic and Russia. "Every outcome has its pros and cons," said Van Marwijk. "These are great opponents. Germany again, actually I like it. It is heavy, as I said a huge challenge."
The Netherlands also opened the last World Cup against Denmark (2-0 win) and eventually made it to the final in South Africa.
The Netherlands recently lost 3-0 to long-time rivals Germany in a friendly in Hamburg, while the Dutch only beat Portugal once in ten occasions.
The Portuguese ousted the Netherlands at Euro 2004 and the World Cup 2006. "The statistics are not in our favour, I know that," Van Marwijk said. "But the first game against Denmark we just have to win and we have to see what they do, Germany-Portugal is also a great game."
"We will meet three great opponents in Kharkiv," captain Mark van Bommel said.
"Our last meeting with Germany in Hamburg was a clear warning to us. All in all, it's clear what we need to do. For a footballer, but also for the supporters, of course, these are great games."
"Despite being in a tough group, I have every confidence that with the support of our loyal fans and the quality of our squad we will advance to the next round."