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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ajax Base Powers Clockwork Dutch

AMSTERDAM -- The Dutch national team went to the well again.


And, lo and behold, that amazing talent pool of Ajax sprang forth with a yet another slew of prodigies like Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids and Michael Reiziger, making "Oranje" one of the favorites to go all the way.


The Dutch were forced into a last-ditch playoff match against Ireland in December to qualify for England, but they produced such a stunning show of skillful combination play on the way to a 2-0 win that the rest of Europe was left in awe.


"Being considered the favorite doesn't scare us. But the tournament is far too big to be considered the sole favorite," said coach Guus Hiddink.


The Dutch have always played with the free flowing Ajax flair, culminating in reaching two World Cup finals in the 1970s.


At the World Cup two years ago, the Dutch pressured Brazil until the final minutes in the quarterfinal before succumbing 3-2 to the eventual winners.


"Everybody knows the style of play and every player knows his task," said Hiddink, reflecting on Ajax' clockwork system.


Apart from Ajax, the Dutch team is also united by youth.


Kluivert is 19, Real Madrid-bound Seedorf is only 20 and several other prodigies have given Hiddink one of the youngest teams of the 16-nation championships. It seems the De Boer twins Ronald and Frank are already veterans at 25, although Frank might not participate after he seriously injured an ankle in a Tuesday training session.


Perhaps going all the way may be too much too soon.