Boulahrouz plays on despite death

LAUSANNE - Despite the loss of his prematurely born daughter, defender Khalid Boulahrouz and the rest of the Netherlands team will be fully focused on Russia and its Dutch coach Guus Hiddink in the quarterfinals of the European Championship tomorrow.

LAUSANNE - Despite the loss of his prematurely born daughter, defender Khalid Boulahrouz and the rest of the Netherlands team will be fully focused on Russia and its Dutch coach Guus Hiddink in the quarterfinals of the European Championship tomorrow.

Boulahrouz left training on Wednesday after his wife was hospitalised with pregnancy complications. She had followed the tournament with the other players' partners and girlfriends. The death of his daughter Anissa was announced early yesterday.

"Khalid indicated early Thursday [yesterday] that he had given the events a special place," Netherlands coach Marco van Basten said yesterday. "He thanked the players and staff and wants to move on. He told me, 'I am a football player and I am available on Saturday'."

If anything, the loss would further increase the resolve and unity of a team that has quickly gelled into a group of friends, where partners, wives and children are never far away.

"We have one goal and Khalid has said that he is going for it. He has shown his strongest side," captain and goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar said.

Boulahrouz had started in all three of the Dutch games so far.

The personal tragedy has taken away from the duel between Van Basten and Hiddink, meaning at least one Dutch coach will be in the semifinals.

l Croatia's Euro 2008 captain Niko Kovac will end his international career after the European Championship, where he expects his country to go beyond the quarterfinals. Croatia take on Turkey tonight.

l Italy centre-back Andrea Barzagli will miss the rest of Euro 2008 with a knee injury, the world champions said yesterday. Italy face Spain in the quarterfinals in Vienna on Sunday. - Sapa-AP

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