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Journalisterne tror på Holland

Søndag d. 5. marts 2000

The Netherlands are strong favourites to win this year's European championship according to a Reuters poll of leading sports journalists, who gave world champions France virtually no chance.

Out of 50 sports journalists canvassed from 30 countries, 27
said the Dutch co-hosts and 7-2 favourites would triumph. Seven went for Spain and five for defending champions Germany.

The Czech Republic, runners-up in 1996 and currently ranked the second-best team in the world behind Brazil, got three votes in the poll released Friday, followed by England, Turkey and Italy with two each.

France, who won the 1998 World Cup, received just one vote
while one respondent was undecided.

"The host country always have the best chance," said Grant
Kosyan at Kommersant Daily in Moscow. "Especially if they have Dennis Bergkamp in the line-up."

Despite a recent 11-match win-less streak -- ended by a 2-1
victory over Germany last month -- the Dutch team has a
formidable side.

"This team has the best midfielders and attackers of all the
teams taking part in the competition," said Manos Staramopoulos at Eleftheros Typos in Greece.

"Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids, Marc Overmars, Phillip
Cocu, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrik Kluivert are very dangerous."

Phil Gardner at the Herald Sun in Melbourne said home
advantage give the Dutch the edge.
"The Netherlands should start as favourites and, if they can
handle the pressure of expectation, win the championship," he said.

The Dutch first have to get through a difficult first round
draw where they were placed with the Czech Republic, France and Denmark in the toughest-looking of the four groups.

However, sports journalists said the team could win under
the leadership of coach Frank Rijkaard, despite producing only two victories since taking over in 1998.

Spain, who again qualified in style, were the choice of
seven journalists despite under-achieving at the major
tournaments in recent seasons.

"It's now or never for this country after a good
qualification session," said Hermal Renaud at La Libre Belgique in Brussels.
Andreas Jaros at Sportmagazin in Austria also backed Jose
Antonio Camacho's Spanish squad. "Camacho's boys destroyed

Austria 9-0 last March in the qualifiers," he said. "Once in a
lifetime the Spanish must deliver when it counts. Their
potential is huge."

Three-times winners Germany attracted five votes largely on
the basis of their fantastic record at the big tournaments.
"Germany had a good tournament in Euro 96, but they did not play too well in France," said Heikki Miettinen at Helsingin
Sanomat in Finland.

"But they are always very strong in long competitions like
the European Championships."

Alastair Himmer at Kyodo World Service in Japan went for the Czech Rebublic, who won all 10 of their qualifiers.
"They sparkled in qualifying and there is no perceptible
weakness in the squad," said Himmer.

But one journalist was unable to make a decision. "It's
anybody's to win," said Mick Dennis at London's Evening
Standard. "Tournaments have a life of their own and if you
survive the groups then everyone has a chance."