With Robben back, Dutch are all out to win

2010-06-29 00:00

ARJEN Robben’s return to the starting line-up, and a Dutch side again not as attacking as past editions, but focused and determined, were the features of the Netherlands’ 2-1 World Cup second round victory over Slovakia in Durban yesterday evening.

It was a fourth clinical if unspectacular victory for the Netherlands in the competition, setting up a dream quarter-final against Brazil in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

Robben, who returned from a hamstring injury for 20 minutes as a substitute in Holland’s 2-1 final Group E win against Cameroon, started yesterday and scored a characteristically dynamic 18th-minute opener.

The forward said the Netherlands may not be playing their normal attractive football, but still have a gear to go up.

“I think in the past everybody said about the Dutch team that they play nice football, but never win something,” the Bayern Munich forward said.

“In 2006 we were in a very big group and when we went through everybody was happy. Then we lost. So that’s something we improved on today.

“We did not play the best football, but it was sufficient because we went through to the next round. And hopefully we have saved our best match for when it’s needed.”

Holland progressed from a group including Argentina, Ivory Coast and Serbia and Montenegro in Germany, before losing 1-0 to Portugal in the last-16.

Netherlands coach Bert Marwijk said the Dutch could have wrapped the game up earlier than Wesley Sneijder’s 84th-minute second goal.

“When you don’t score a second goal then you leave yourself in a position in which your opponents could score the equaliser. I thought we played very well, but that our last pass wasn’t very good,” Marwijk said.

“If those balls were better then we could have been facing the ’keeper alone. This is what can decide matches, and I think this is what happened in the first half.

“The second half was our best period and we should have scored the second goal — as long as we didn’t we continued to be under pressure.

“Our goalkeeper [Maarten Stekelenburg] saved us with two excellent saves. Up to then Slovakia hardly threatened us, yet they could have managed an equaliser, or we could have even lost.

“But in modern football there is always a period where the opponents spring to life. If you look at the whole match, I think we deserved to win.”

Asked if his side can win the World Cup, the coach replied: “We’ve come here for one purpose and one purpose only.

“We are in third in the world rankings and have shown in the past that we can beat big countries. We have to show focus and determination and that’s what we’ve been doing.

“And I think everybody is taking notice of the Netherlands at the moment.”

Marwijk said the return of Robben has strengthened the Dutch, but that the forward is still not at his best.

“We are so pleased Robben is fit again because he is so decisive for us. But he is not the player he used to be and that tiny bit that is still missing is so important. It was crucial for him to play a period today, whether it was one half or more. In the end he played 70 minutes, which was very encouraging.”

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