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Portugal, Netherlands Play for Spot in World Cup Quarterfinals


The football teams from Portugal and the Netherlands put impressive streaks on the line when they face one another Sunday night in a second round World Cup match in Nuremberg.

Portugal has played 17 straight international matches without a loss. The Netherlands has not lost a competitive match in two years.

But the last time the Dutch were beaten it was by the Portuguese. That came in a 2-1 loss in the semifinal of the 2004 European Championships.

Portugal is coached by Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari. He guided Brazil to the world championship four years ago and has never himself lost a match as a World Cup coach.

The Dutch are led by former star player and rookie World Cup . Van Basten has nothing but respect for Scolari. "He's a very good trainer (coach). He's very experienced. And its not only his team that's a problem, but its also the trainer. He makes the team a strong team from Portugal," he said.

Portugal has dominated the Netherlands in recent years, losing only once in their previous nine meetings.

Here at the World Cup in Germany, Portugal won all three of its first round games against Angola, Iran and Mexico, scoring five goals and yielding one, to place first in Group-D.

The Netherlands also yielded only one goal in finishing second in Group-C with wins over Serbia and Montenegro and Ivory Coast, and a scoreless draw against Argentina.

Scolari, through an interpreter, said he expects a close match, that neither team should be considered to have an advantage. "I think that the two teams are very equal and probably one of the teams is going to win by the difference of one goal. Or maybe we will go to penalties (penalty kicks) to decide it after 120 minutes." (after 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of extra time)," he said.

The Dutch have a much different line-up than the one that faced Portugal in Euro 2004, as Coach Van Basten made a number of changes. At a news conference in Nuremberg the day before the match, Van Basten played down his teams chances against a veteran Portuguese team. "I think Portugal is a good, organized team with good players, and also an experienced team. And I think we have a much younger team and not as experienced as the Portuguese team. We started two years ago with a lot of new players. Okay, were on a good way (making good progress), but I think we still have a long way to go to be a really strong team," he said.

The winner of the Netherlands-Portugal match will move on to play in the World Cup quarterfinals against the winner of the England-Ecuador match .

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