Netherlands ambitious despite debate over poor play

June 20th, 2010 - 6:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Durban, June 20 (DPA) The Netherlands became the first team to reach the second round of the World Cup: that’s a fact, and while they were to some extent lucky they must have done something right to get there.
“It’s really difficult to win a game here in the World Cup. We did it twice, so we’re happy,” said midfielder Rafael van der Vaart.

But early qualification will not cause them to let up.

“We want to win everything, and I think with this team we can do it,” Van der Vaart said Saturday in Durban after the match against Japan.

“We want to win all our games,” Dutch captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst agreed.

By late Saturday, 20 teams had played two matches in South Africa, and only the Dutch had qualified for the Round of 16. However, mistakes from their Group E rivals were key in the Netherlands’ wins against Denmark and Japan, and in both cases the Oranje failed to shine.

At home, fans and reporters alike debated on the level of play in the national team, after a less-than-impressive performance against Denmark and a match against Japan that many saw as boring. In South Africa they have so far shown little of the creative play that has traditionally characterized the Dutch.

But players were not bothered.

“I think we can play much better, but at the moment we don’t need to play our best,” van der Vaart noted.

Van der Vaart, van Bronckhorst and Dirk Kuyt commended the squad for its ball control, concentration and patience in waiting for chances. And above all for its ability to make the most of those chances, for not conceding any goals and for winning their matches.

“For us the most important thing is to win the game,” striker Kuyt stressed.

On Thursday, the Netherlands are set to play already-eliminated Cameroon in Cape Town. Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk admitted that he might make changes in a game where the only thing at stake is whether the Oranje will be first or second in Group E.

“I will keep in mind how fit my players are, and perhaps I may keep in mind the cards,” he said, referring to the the fact that three of their stars are on yellow cards.

As they move on in the World Cup, they are set to clash with one of the top two teams in Group F, perhaps even defending world champions Italy.

But the Dutch still feel confident.

“No problem, I like Italy,” van der Vaart said with a smile.

And of course, their chances increase if, as expected, Arjen Robben returns. The superstar winger was back in training after a hamstring injury, and he was expected to start seeing action in the knock-out rounds.

“We want to play a great tournament,” Kuyt stressed. “We want to play as good as we can, and we want to advance as far as we can.”

Van Marwijk said the Dutch “came here to win a prize, to become world champions,” but is realistic about their chances. “That’s far from straightforward and easy.”

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