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Injuries hamper Netherlands and Poland ahead of European Championship group D opener

HAMBURG: Stripped of their leading lights, the Netherlands and Poland limp to the start line at the European Championship on Sunday as they kick off their Group D campaign in Hamburg.

The Dutch will be without their key playmaker Frenkie de Jong, sidelined by an ankle injury. Poland, too, faces significant challenges as their talisman Robert Lewandowski will miss the opening match. Poland’s woes are compounded by the absence of right back Matty Cash and striker Arkadiusz Milik. Adding to their injury list, forward Karol Swiderski injured his ankle while celebrating a goal in a friendly against Turkey. Fortunately, both Swiderski and Lewandowski are expected to be fit for Poland’s second group game against Austria.

The Netherlands also contends with a substantial injury list. Europa League winners Marten de Roon and Teun Koopmeiners, along with defender Sven Botman, are all unavailable. Despite these setbacks, Dutch coach Ronald Koeman remains optimistic. “In principle, we still have a strong squad now,” he said. “I think that we have been a little unlucky with quite a few injuries during the past year and also for sure a lot of injuries to players who were more than valuable for the national team.”

Poland is likely to suffer a more significant morale blow due to the absence of 35-year-old Lewandowski, who has scored an impressive 82 goals in 150 international appearances. “He’s an outstanding player, who has given much to the team in how he helped in every way,” said Poland coach Michal Probierz.

Adding to the pre-match tension, Koeman suggested that Lewandowski’s injury might be a strategic bluff, a comment that Probierz met with irritation. Historically, the Netherlands have had the upper hand in their encounters with Poland, remaining unbeaten in their last 12 meetings since a loss in 1979.(Reuters)

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