Van der Sar preaches caution

Holland captain Edwin van der Sar claims he is too long in the tooth to be carried away by his team’s sensational start to Euro 2008.

The Dutch have taken the tournament by storm in smashing a total of seven goals past 2006 World Cup finalists Italy and France to secure top spot in Group C and cruise into the quarter-finals.

Along with Spain and Portugal, they are now favourites to lift the title, with their vast array of forwards in sublime form and their often suspect defence holding up in their opening two matches.

But Van der Sar, a veteran of more than 120 caps for his country, is preaching caution ahead of the knockout stages.

“We are only in the quarter-finals,” the 37-year-old Manchester United goalkeeper warned.

“I have been going around for a long time and to be in the quarter-finals is nice, but it doesn’t bring you any silverware.

“It’s a great start for us – nobody expected us to come out and beat the world champions and then France. We will enjoy it but we still have to focus on our next game. And then we still have maybe three more games to play.”

Holland produced a lesson in counter-attacking football to blow away France in Bern yesterday, the same way they destroyed Italy four days earlier in the same city.

Les Bleus have not conceded four goals in a match since 1982, and their defence has been one of the strongest in world football over the past few years.

Dirk Kuyt had opened the scoring with a simple header from a corner in the eighth minute before second-half substitutes Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie finished off flowing team moves in some style before Wesley Sneijder fired home from long range in injury time.

“Holland must have had five or six chances, and scored four goals,” said France right-back Willy Sagnol, who set up Thierry Henry for France’s goal.

“We had 10 of them (chances) and it finished 4-1 – it doesn’t reflect the match.

“But if they continue like that, they will go far.”

It could have been different had Henry, returning from a thigh injury, made the most of a host of opportunities that came his way at the start of the second half.

He had a goalbound effort strike the hand of Andre Ooijer – penalty appeals were waved away by German referee Herbert Fandel – and lifted his lob too high when faced with a one-on-one with Van der Sar.

The former Arsenal captain’s glancing finish in the 71st minute made it 2-1 but Robben’s glorious strike just seconds later restored Holland’s two-goal cushion and the game was up for the French.

“We have a good all-round team; an excellent goalkeeper, strong defenders, intelligent players in midfield and an excellent attack,” said Holland coach Marco van.

“We played excellently against Italy and to offer a performance against France four days later is a feat. This indicates there is a great team spirit.”

France now need to beat Italy in their final match to stand a chance of finishing second in the group.

However, even a victory in Zurich on Tuesday would be made redundant if Romania, who are a point ahead of Les Bleus, beat what is likely to be a second-string Dutch team.

“When everything is going well, life is beautiful and everyone is happy,” said philosophical France coach Raymond Domenech.

“When you lose, life is not so beautiful. In high-level football, you have to keep on hoping.

“The team is still here, there is another match left.”

After four years in charge, Domenech could face the sack if France fail to qualify for the knockout stages but he is putting those concerns to one side for the moment.

“My big worry is the next match against Italy,” he added.

“That is more important than the future of the staff and the manager.”

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