Netherlands Camp Focus - Success over style key to Dutch World Cup dreams
The Netherlands are two wins away from making history after defeating a much fancied Brazil side in the World Cup quarter-finals 2-1 in Port Elizabeth. Bert van Marwijk’s side will now face Uruguay in the semi-finals of the competition, a match in which they will be the favourites and the Oranje Army will expect victory and a chance to right the wrongs of both the 1974 and 1978 campaigns.
Ahead of the quarter-finals Holland and Brazil drew a comparison as they were both winning games, but because they were not doing so in style their respective fans and the press in their home countries were heavily critical. But van Marwijk and Brazil’s now-former Coach Dunga say they value winning above all else and doing it in emphatic style is just a bonus. The Dutch boss will feel justified in his approach after negotiating his way into the final four, but his counterpart Dunga has resigned his post after Brazil’s World Cup failure.
After estranged Manchester City forward Robinho opened the scoring in the first-half the Brazilians took the game by control and showed glimpses of why they are the most decorated team in international tournament history. Felipe Melo’s pass split the Netherlands’ centre-backs John Heitinga and Andre Ooijer, who were highlighted as a potential weakness before the game. To make matters worse regular centre-half Joris Mathijsen was injured during the warm-up, which is why the veteran Ooijer stepped in. For the remainder of the first-half it was men against boys as van Marwijk’s side struggled to get a foot in the game, or on the ball.
It was in the second half that the Netherlands came to life when Wesley Sneijder struck a ball from long range into the box which caused a comedy of errors between Melo and Julio Cesar, who failed to keep the ball from dropping into the goalmouth. But to blame Melo for his own goal would have been harsh as it was more the mistake of the goalkeeper Cesar. Arjen Robben caused Michel Bastos a headache over the second-half and when the left-back already on a yellow card fouled again many were expecting the Lyon man to walk, but the referee was lenient. However, the Dutch quickly forgot about that incident when a Robben corner found the net via a flick on from Dirk Kuyt and Sneijder applying the finish. Five minutes later Brazil did end up going into the book as the man who scored the own goal, Melo allowed his temper to boil over and stamped on Sneijder whilst he was clutching the ball on the floor. The ref brandished a straight red and the game then became stretched as the Brazilians got desperate and Holland looked to hit them on the counter. The final whistle brought great relief to the Oranje and they will go into the next game in a confident mood after knocking out one of the tournament favourites and major powers in world football.
The Netherlands stand in good stead for the semi-finals as their opponents Uruguay were taken to extra-time and penalties by Ghana in a gruelling and intense affair. Many of the Dutch fans will be hoping that the game took a lot out of Uruguay, who were made to work hard by Ghana for over two hours in a game which had become fairly stretched. The Netherlands will be further buoyed by the fact that Luis Suarez, one of Uruguay’s best players, will miss their encounter after receiving a straight red card after handling the ball on the goal-line in the dying minutes of extra-time. Many neutrals will be hoping that Holland win as Suarez cheated the Ghanaians, the last surviving African side in Africa’s first World Cup, out of the next round. Jorge Fucile will also miss the game after exceeding his limit of yellow cards.
No Dutchman will be happier than their captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who will retire after the World Cup and came close to calling time on his career when Brazil were in the ascendancy during Friday’s game. But his team fought back well and the skipper will be hoping for a real swansong and must be thinking Holland have a great chance to finally win a prize which has so far eluded them. The question many fans will be asking themselves now is can Robben and Sneijder achieve what the likes of Johan Cruyff and Johnny Rep could not in the 1970s?