BUDAPEST: The Netherlands turned its skeptical supporters into true believers after three straight wins at Euro 2020 but it comes up against an old nemesis in the Czech Republic in the last 16 on Sunday.
Attitudes towards the Dutch team have swung from one extreme to the other as coach Frank de Boer had to weather a storm of criticism over his tactics and results, but his side are now fancied for Euro 2020 success – at home at least.
It topped Group C with a perfect record, albeit all three wins came at Amsterdam's Johan Cruyff Arena, to send its countrymen into 'Orange fever' with expectations ratcheting up dramatically.
Yet the Netherlands will be wary of what lies ahead at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on Sunday, especially if it under-estimates its opponent.
It was a mistake it made in Euro 2016 qualification, losing both home and away to the Czechs and failing to make the tournament in France.
It was the same at the 2004 finals when the Czechs came from two goals down to beat the Dutch 3-2 in a last-gasp triumph in the group phase in Portugal.
Dutch captain Georginio Wijnaldum moved quickly this week to dispel any notion they saw the Czechs as inferior opposition.
"Everyone has seen Germany against the Hungarians, right? We are viewing the Czech Republic as a top country and approaching the game as such," he said.
The Czechs' impressive record at the Euros has been understated. Since 1996 they have not only qualified for every tournament, but have made it past the group phase four times. They were runner-up in 1996, semi-finalist in 2004 and made the last eight in 2012. Agencies