Netherlands still has hope against Portugal

The Netherlands has dropped its first two Euro 2012 matches, but it could still escape the "Group of Death."

The Dutch made the 2010 World Cup final and entered Euros among the favorites, but losses to Denmark and Germany have left manager Bert van Marwijk's team on the brink of an early exit.

A win over Portugal on Sunday - and some help from Germany - could erase that poor start and give the Dutch a chance to start over in the quarterfinals.

The Netherlands need to defeat Portugal by at least two goals and have Germany defeat Denmark in the other Group B match. That scenario would lift the Dutch from the bottom of the group to second based on a tiebreaker.

"The situation is that we still have a chance to go through and when you have a chance you have to believe," Van Marwijk said. "That's what I've said in the dressing room and the players think the same as I do."

Although the Dutch have lost their first two games, they played very well in a 1-0 loss to Denmark to start the tournament and enjoyed strong spells in a 2-1 loss to Germany.

Netherlands striker Robin van Persie did give his side, and himself, some much needed confidence with a second-half goal against Germany.

Now, Van Persie, who topped the English Premier League in scoring last season, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the top scorer in Germany's Bundesliga last campaign, and the rest of the Oranje machine must fire on all cylinders.

The Dutch have created chances in both of their games, but they failed to score, and their defense paid the price.

"I think we were courageous going forward and against Denmark, too," said Van Marwijk said, "but I don't think we were strong enough and courageous enough in defense."

Van Marwijk will have no choice but to attack against the Portuguese, and will likely pair Van Persie and Huntelaar from the start for the first time. There could also be more offensive changes, with Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong a pair of players most likely to be sacrificed.

Portugal is unlikely to make major adjustments as it defeated Denmark, 3-2, in its last match. Silvestre Varela scored the game-winner in the 87th minute, while the team lost 1-0 to Germany in its first match.

"The team were focused throughout and showed real quality," said Portugal boss Paulo Bento. "The equalizer was unjust, but we didn't bow our heads; we showed character and got the winner we deserved.

"We suffered after the first game but these three points means it is now in our hands."

That is not completely true as Portugal will not be assured of a knockout spot with a win. There are scenarios where Denmark and Germany could both go on to the quarterfinals, if the Danes win their match against the Germans.

"We've had two good games now against two great opponents. We've had obstacles but we're continuing on our path, the right path," Bento said.

Even Germany, which leads the group with six points, needs at least a draw to secure a place in the quarterfinals.