Handle with care as Dutch meet Portugal
Portugal and the Netherlands shared 16 yellow cards and four reds in their last competitive match.
KHARKHIV - Portugal and the Netherlands shared 16 yellow cards and four reds in their last competitive match and there are plenty more reasons that make their decisive Euro 2012 Group B match on Sunday a powder keg.
Two teams with a penchant for theatrics, self-styled hard men like Pepe and Nigel de Jong and a brooding Cristiano Ronaldo add up to a potent mix for Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli.
With seven Dutch survivors in the squad from the team who lost 1-0 to Portugal at the 2006 World Cup, there could be lingering resentment from a match which broke all the wrong records.
There have also been warning signs of another Dutch implosion with winger Arjen Robben stomping off the field and immediately removing his shirt when substituted in the 2-1 defeat by Germany.
Both teams still have a chance of qualifying although it is a long shot for the Dutch, who are pointless after demoralising losses to Denmark and Germany.
Bert van Marwijk's team is set to follow a curious trend in which beaten World Cup finalists exit the following European Championship at the group stage. It happened to the Dutch themselves in 1980, West Germany in 1984, Italy in 1996, Germany in 2004 and France in 2008.
Their only chance is to win by two goals and hope Germany beat Denmark in the other game.
Portugal have three points after beating Denmark 3-2 and a win would be enough for them, unless the Danes beat Germany by a one-goal margin and score more than two goals in the process. A draw would also do the trick for Paulo Bento's team if Denmark fail to beat Germany.
Portugal beat the Dutch at both Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup but it was the second match, quickly named the Battle of Nuremberg, which gained notoriety.
Sixteen yellow cards, equalling the World Cup record, were handed out after a succession of flying tackles, off-the-ball incidents, injury-faking, head butts and a shoving match between the benches.
Mark van Bommel was in the thick of things that night and the partnership he subsequently developed in midfield with De Jong has given the Dutch a tough edge which came to prominence in another unpleasant match, the World Cup final against Spain two years ago.
But, with the likes of notorious central defender Pepe in their ranks, Portugal will not take anything aggression lying down.
Ronaldo is the only survivor from the Portuguese team that night, when he took a fearful battering from the Dutch defenders.
The Real Madrid forward has problems of his own to worry about as he has so far maintained his exasperating habit of failing to produce his best at a major tournament.
Portugal's win over Denmark came in spite rather than because of the Real Madrid player who missed two gilt-edged chances and had to endure taunts from Danish fans who chanted the name of his great rival Lionel Messi.
Silvestre Varela, the Portugal substitute who upstaged Ronaldo by coming off the bench to snatch the winner against Denmark, predicted another feisty encounter.
"I think it's going to be another tough game, with both teams needing to win," he told reporters. "It's decisive."
"Our opponents are hurt and they are going to want to leave a good impression in this game."