Euro-Dutch arrive eager to shed 'dirty' tag

KRAKOW, Poland Mon Jun 4, 2012 5:56pm BST

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KRAKOW, Poland (Reuters) - Netherlands arrived at their Euro 2012 base on Monday hoping to restore their image as guardians of 'total football' rather than rekindling memories of the rough tackles that marred their World Cup final defeat.

Bert van Marwijk's side, criticised for midfielder Nigel de Jong's kung fu kick and the rash challenges of others against Spain in 2010, quickly got over the disappointment and negative press and have waltzed into the European Championship on a high.

Saturday's 6-0 drubbing of Northern Ireland in their final friendly before heading to their Polish base in Krakow was the perfect tonic before starting a tough Group B campaign against Denmark in Ukraine's Kharkiv on Saturday.

Defender Gregory van der Wiel believes the pass and move groove of the great Dutch sides of the 1970s and their Euro '88-winning team are the way to go but he is not afraid if the players stick their foot in when needed.

"We are trying to play good football," he told Reuters last week. "But when you need to play hard, that's the game, you need to play hard, so we don't back off, everybody does that I think."

Despite the Dutch being World Cup runners-up, Group B rivals Germany are second favourites behind world champions Spain to clinch Euro glory but Van der Wiel is staying bullish.

"We have a difficult group with Germany, Portugal and Denmark of course but, if we pass that, I can't see why we can't do well. Everybody is talking about Germany being favourite and Spain also, we will see about that.

"I think we are ready next week to play against Denmark and of course we are trying to win the Euros."

The Dutch flew into the medieval splendour of Krakow, which is not hosting any matches despite being Poland's second city, with only one injury worry to trouble them.

Defender Joris Mathijsen is nursing a hamstring strain but Van Marwijk reckons he may have a chance of facing the Danes.

(Additional reporting by Svebor Kranjc; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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