Kharkiv, Ukraine – There is, perhaps, no team under more scrutiny this early in Euro 2012 than the Netherlands.
After a strong showing at the 2010 World Cup, which ended with a second-place finish behind Spain, the Dutch entered the European Championships this summer as one of the favorites to lift the trophy. But much of that adoration came to a halt when they were held in a 1-0 loss to Denmark on Saturday.
Now Bert van Marwijk's side will have their work cut out for them as the Netherlands will need to a positive result against Germany on Wednesday to keep its hopes of emerging from the "Group of Death" and advancing to the quarterfinals alive.
The Dutch coach is keeping his grand plan to achieve that a secret.
"We're preparing for one of the most important games for the past few years," van Marwijk said. "How to beat them? I won't tell you that because I'll tell my own team that. The Germans are very strong but we can also beat them. How we do that and where we do that, I won't tell you now."
Van Marwijk's opposite, Joachim Low, was delighted to see his side get off to a favorable start in such a tough group. Germany, another odds-on favorite to be victorious this summer, topped Portugal in a 1-0 win thanks to a second- half header from Mario Gomez.
"The European Championship is like a Formula 1 race without the warm-up," Low said. "You have to make a good start and get off the grid straight away; there are no easy games.
"You have to win your first match and we did. Both teams were quite tense, especially after the Denmark-Netherlands game as for the loser it means knock- out competition from here on in."
Low was full of praise for Germany's ability to adapt midway through the match, and he knows that his side will have a whole new test Wednesday as the Netherlands is desperate to avoid a quick exit.
"I told the guys at half-time that we had to up the pace," said Low. "Portugal were breaking up our rhythm and eventually we picked it up. It is so intense, and if you make a mistake you will be punished - one chance, one goal - it was important to avoid the risky pass. It was about finding a rhythm, avoiding carelessness. At the end of the day it's winning that matters and we did.
"We can see where we need to go now. Germany have three points, Denmark have three points so it's good for both of us. But the onus is on the losing teams to recover so we have to be wary of the Netherlands."