Germany, Holland and the Czech Republic were united in agreement that they had been handed the toughest possible group when the draw was made for the EURO 2004 finals in Lisbon.

The three are among the favourites to win EURO 2004 but will have to battle it out, along with surprise qualifiers Latvia, for two places in the quarter-finals.

Dick Advocaat, the Dutch coach, said: “It is a very difficult group and we all know each other quite well. There is a big rivalry between Holland and Germany and it is up to us to show that we can beat them, the Czechs as well. The outsiders are Latvia but if they can beat Turkey it shows they have a good side as well.”

Of the intense rivalry with Germany, Advocaat added: “They are two great countries and it will be the same in June. They always show in big tournaments what they can do. They showed it in the FIFA World Cup in Japan, I think it will be very exciting between the two countries.”

Rudi Voller, who had contrasting fortunes as a player when facing Germany, was looking rforward to renewing old hostilities. Voller played in the team which was defeated by Holland at EURO 88, but gained revenge at the World Cup finals two years later – despite being sent off during that game.

“I played myself in two of these games. I know it was something very exciting and I expect the same this time,’ he said.

“The Netherlands finished second in their group but only because they were playing a strong opponent in the Czech Republic, it is one of the strongest groups in the tournament.” V

Czech coach Karel BrĊ¸ckner said: “Undoubtedly we know more about Germany and Netherlands who have very strong championships. Certainly we will have to learn something about our Latvian friends, but I think they may be the surprise team at the tournament.”

“I don’t want to speculate, but every team normally has a better chance of winning when they play well, and we will need to play that way when we play Latvia in our opening game,’ he added.

‘The same applies, of course, for the subsequent matches against Germany and the Netherlands.”

Despite being drawn in what is regarded as the toughest group, Latvia coach Aleksandrs Starkovs, refused to be downbeat about his side’s chances.

“All of our opponents have won previous European Championships which shows how strong they are,” he said.

“It is an honour to be playing against such good teams, but everyone knows that every good team has some sort of weakness and we will need to be able to find that in order to give ourselves the best chance of causing a surprise.”