Netherlands Camp Focus – Dutch have high hopes for South Africa

Netherlands defender Edson Braafheid believes that he and his team-mates must ignore their own hype if the Dutch are to ever shake off their tag as perennial underachievers in major tournaments.

The Dutch are often spoken of as potential winners of tournaments such as the World Cup 2010 and European Championship, despite the fact that they have never won the former and the last time they won the European crown was in 1988. The Oranje have never suffered with a lack of quality players and boast the likes of Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Dennis Bergkamp and Ruud van Nistelrooy, but why have they continuously failed on the big stage? Put simply, they implode almost like clockwork. Much like England and Spain the Netherlands always seem to show early promise, choke and miss a load of penalties while they are doing it. Why may this year be different?

Braafheid insists that the current batch of players have matured and learned from their failures in their last World Cup campaign. The Oranje came unstuck in the second round in Germany against Portugal losing 1-0 in a game that will be remembered for the 16 yellows and four red cards which were shared between the two teams. Braafheid argues that they have learned from their foolish mistakes, which will hold them in good stead for FIFA’s flagship event in South Africa. He said: “I think we have got better (since 2006). The players who played that tournament have grown. They are four years older and have experienced what they have in the biggest competition, it can only be positive for the team.”

Perhaps the Dutch defender is right and the players have adapted their mentality and stand a better chance next time around. Wesley Sneijder has benefited from a move away from Real Madrid and has enjoyed a productive season in Serie A and the Champions League, with Inter Milan. Premier League fans will know all too well how the Dutch play maker picked apart a struggling Chelsea side at Stamford Bridge in the second round of the Champions League second league. Another Dutch player to impress this season in Europe’s biggest club competition is former Chelsea winger Arjen Robben, who will mostly be remembered for his emphatic volley which dumped Manchester United out of the Champions League and saw his Bayern Munich side unexpectedly steal a place in the semi-finals.

Bert van Marwijk’s side will have been boosted by the recent return of Arsenal hit man Robin van Persie, who has been a big miss for the Gunners this season as they can only think of what might have been if he had managed to stay fit. His club manager Arsene Wenger believes the forward is up there with the likes of Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney. Van Persie has the ability to change a game as well as the aforementioned and it is vital to have these sorts of players when it comes to the biggest stage in the world. It would appear as though many punters fancy the Netherlands and they have received their fair share of backing as Coral have reported, which has led them to trim their odds from 16/1 to 14/1.

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