Dutch focus on win …

2010-07-06 00:00

A NETHERLANDS side focused on winning the tournament, even if at a cost to their famously aesthetic football, take on a physical Uruguay who have shown an equal determination on their path to the last four in tonight’s World Cup semi-final at Green Point Stadium.

Holland’s clinical route to the semi-finals has been criticised at home. However, coach Bert van Marwijk has stuck to his guns, as the Dutch have carved a solid path to the last four, including their 2-1 quarter-final victory against Brazil in Port Elizabeth.

The Netherlands, like tournament favourites and participants in tomorrow’s semi-final against Germany in Durban, Spain, have never won the World Cup and the two nations are counted as the unluckiest not to have done so.

Both might feel they won’t have a better opportunity than in South Africa.

Spain have their best team ever. The Netherlands have been forged into a side whose determination has caught the attention, even if their play has not been as eye-catching as previous Dutch teams.

It’s a focus that everyone, from the coach to the players, seems determined to maintain in search of a World Cup trophy that eluded the more talented generations of Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens in the 1970s and Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard in the 1980s.

Captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst said: “Of course many teams in this tournament have said that we haven’t played beautiful football. But the most important thing is to win matches.

“In previous European and world championships we started really well and then we lost. Now we have only two matches left for the title, and the most important thing is to make sure we win those.

“Of course we want to play good football too, but it’s not always possible to do that. If we can win playing beautiful football that would be great, but if not we would still be very happy with victory.”

Van Marwijk said he has had many offers of advice on the way Holland should play in the World Cup.

“We came here with the ultimate prize as our goal and until we win it we won’t be happy,” the Dutch coach said.

“You can’t change a football culture, but I have managed to instil in the players that if they work hard and stay focused then we can progress in the tournament.

“In the past the Dutch team has had a tendency to become arrogant after early success.

“I have received advice from so many people, and I have decided I am going to continue on the same path, and not be influenced by anyone.”

Van Marwijk said Uruguay will provide obstinate opposition.

“Early in the competition I used Uruguay as an example to my team because of the passion they play with. They are a very difficult team to play.”

Netherlands will be without suspended midfield hard man Nigel De Jong. Arsenal striker Robin van Persie has been cleared to play after a scan to an elbow injury.

Uruguay have key Dutch-based striker Luis Suarez suspended after his hand-ball on the goal-line that denied Ghana victory in the quarter-final at Soccer City.

While this will leave Uruguay’s form player, Diego Forlan, without his partner in crime up-front, Van Marwijk warned this was not necessarily a plus factor for the Netherlands.

“Brazil were very strong and that meant that we really had to concentrate. If Suarez were playing we would have had to be really sharp in defence,” the coach said.

Despite a conservative approach, Holland have more than their share of attackers capable of unlocking Uruguay’s physical defence and midfield, including Van Persie and Dirk Kuyt.

The World-class duo of winger Arjen Robben and playmaker Wesley Sneijder are the brains of Van Marwijk’s outfit and Maarten Stekelenburg a candidate for goalkeeper of the tournament.

Uruguay might finally have found their match at the 2010 World Cup.

 

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