Dutch Foreign Legion Relish the Call Home

Article excerpt

FORGETTING that the game we created had been adopted with greater success by other nations, England was celebrating as it prepared to stage Euro 96 because, so the anthem went, football was coming home.

Now, among fans in Holland, co-hosts of Euro 2000 and huge exporter of talent, a similar excitement is arising, this time because footballers are coming home. When those Dutch players head back to their prestigious clubs abroad next month, they may well do so as European champions.

Hollands entire first-choice team comprises foreign-based players, with a further six in the remainder of the 22-man squad, and their stature is undeniable. A dozen are with sides that finished in the top two of Europes big three leagues Italian, Spanish and English while two more were champions in Scotland with Rangers.

Player for player, Holland are perhaps slightly stronger than France, their main rivals. More significantly, though, just as the French used home advantage to win the last World Cup, Holland can also profit in similar fashion. Providing the Dutch win their qualifying group, they will avoid playing in Belgium and instead be guaranteed an orange brick road to the final in Rotterdam on July 2.

There are dangers, however. If Hollands adventurous style can sometimes produce results such as the 5-5 draw against Belgium last year, their suicidal tendency is not confined to the pitch. …