Van Basten has 'surprise'

LAUSANNE - With group victory and a quarterfinal place already secured, Netherlands coach Marco van Basten said yesterday he would look far beyond his usual starters for today's European Championship game against Romania.

LAUSANNE - With group victory and a quarterfinal place already secured, Netherlands coach Marco van Basten said yesterday he would look far beyond his usual starters for today's European Championship game against Romania.

"We don't talk about an 'A' team and a 'B' team. We have 23 full internationals," Van Basten said.

This indicated that wholesale changes were a possibility for the match. The game will have a direct impact on the fate of the three other Group C teams - Romania, Italy and France.

Cynics were already calculating a loss might have its advantages since it would automatically eliminate potential semifinal opponents Italy, the world champions, and runners-up France.

After beating Italy 3-0 and France 4-1, the Dutch are the stars of the championship so far. And in a sense, they do not want to throw away that momentum with a losing performance against Romania.

With six points from two games, the Netherlands are already assured of winning Group C.

Romania are second with two points while Italy and France have one each. A Romania victory would automatically eliminate the others.

Italian and French fans were already fearful the Dutch would field an under-strength team to rest all key players for Saturday's quarterfinals.

Likely inclusions will be defender John Heitinga and holding midfielder Demy De Zeeuw, two players who were dropped at the last moment from the starting line-up and who will seek to prove coach Van Basten wrong.

A player like Robin van Persie, who was long injured and is short on match rhythm, could also be on the starting list.

Players like relentless dynamo Dirk Kuyt will likely be rested to be fully fit for next Sunday's quarterfinal match in Basel, where the Netherlands will face the runners-up of Group D, likely Sweden or Russia. - Sapa-AP

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