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How Van Marwijk made the difference for the Dutch

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Chris Bevan | 15:28 UK time, Thursday, 8 July 2010

World Cup 2010: Cape Town

Until the start of this World Cup, I thought I knew what to expect from the Netherlands in major football tournaments. For the last 20 years, I have watched a succession of talented players in orange shirts put on some dazzling displays before falling short, sometimes having fallen out with each other first.

True, the Dutch may still leave South Africa empty-handed - they have to beat Spain in Sunday's final to get their hands on the game's ultimate prize for the first time - but they have shed pretty much every preconception I had of them along the way.

Solid rather than spectacular and a team unit rather than a collection of star individuals, the Oranje have won all six of their games en route to the final without ever showing more than the occasional flashes of the flowing football for which they are famous.

What else has changed? Try the head coach for a start.

Bert van Marwijk, a previously unheralded 58-year-old whose only major triumphs in a 28-year managerial career have been winning the now defunct Uefa Cup in 2002 and the Dutch Cup in 2008, both with Feyenoord.

He has made up for his lack of international experience as a player - he was a skilful winger but won only one cap for his country, playing only 45 minutes for his country - by naming Frank de Boer and Phillip Cocu as his assistants. Between them, the pair appeared 213 times for the Netherlands - on many occasions alongside members of the current squad - and it is a blend that seems to work.

Since his appointment as national boss in the summer of 2008, Van Marwijk's approach has not quite been to win at all costs but it is not far off - and it is certainly effective.

Tuesday's semi-final win over Uruguay was his side's 14th consecutive competitive triumph - they won all eight of their qualifiers, too - and they are on a pretty healthy-looking 25-game unbeaten run, having lost only once since he took over.

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The Dutch media, who enjoy their team's reputation as one of football's great entertainers far more than they mind them being labelled one of the game's biggest under-achievers, were highly critical of Van Marwijk's pragmatic tactics in the press conference after their 2-1 win over Cameroon in a their final group game on 24 June.

Strangely, when they returned to Cape Town on Tuesday, that same press pack were complaining a lot less. I saw nothing but smiles from them after the win over Uruguay but then reaching a World Cup final tends to play havoc with your emotions - the usually impassive Van Marwijk was fighting back tears as he faced journalists at the final whistle.

What is Van Marwijk's secret? Other than his undoubted tactical nous, some people see him primarily as a peacemaker, keeping his players happy and stopping egos from clashing, as has happened inside Dutch camps in the past.

But there is far more to his man-management than just achieving harmony in his squad. I spoke to De Boer shortly after the Dutch had reached their first final in 32 years. He said Van Marwijk has given the squad the self-belief they can lift the trophy on 11 July.

De Boer told me: "The first thing that Bert said to these players on his first day as coach was 'we have a mission and that mission is to be world champions'.

"From day one, we tried to give them the belief they could win this World Cup. A lot of our players didn't believe it, while some said they did. I knew they didn't really think it.

"Getting them to actually have that belief was so important and it is a process we have been working on for the past two years. The fact it is working is a compliment to everyone in our camp from the kit man to the head coach.

"For us, since we have been in South Africa, it has been all about winning the final. That is something I didn't have in 1998 when we reached the semi-finals. Then, reaching the final four was enough.

"I saw the same in the Uruguay players before kick-off in our semi-final. Some of them came on to the pitch with cameras and were filming themselves and the stadium. That showed they were happy just to be there. Our approach was much better and now we have to keep that focus."

From what I heard from the Dutch players I managed to get near to in a very crowded post-match mixed zone, the coaching staff have indeed succeeded in convincing them of their potential. Dirk Kuyt, for example, mentioned he had the "belief" to win the World Cup about eight times in a two-minute interview before scurrying on to the coach.

But as well as making his side mentally strong, Van Marwijk has taught them to be disciplined, too.

The 4-2-3-1 formation that he favours is not his invention - his predecessor Marco van Basten used it with far more flair and far less success. The Dutch shone brightly in the group stages of Euro 2008 before, in a repeat of their fate at the 2006 World Cup, crashing out after losing their first knock-out match.

Van Marwijk also uses largely the same squad as Van Basten did, with the exception of Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, now retired (again) from international football, and son-in-law Mark van Bommel, who has returned to add some steel to the midfield after falling out with the previous coach.

De Boer, who won a Dutch record 112 caps for an outfield player and is behind only Van der Sar (118) in his country's record books, added: "In the past we would go to tournaments as one of the favourites, have two or three good games then crash out. But now this team has shown it is much more stable even if we don't hit top form.

"If we don't play our best, we still win, or draw. We don't lose. The only reason that happened against Australia [in September 2008] was because we were down to 10 men. The reason we are so stable is because the players trust the system we play in."

The reaction to just about every Dutch victory in South Africa has been along the same lines - that they can play much better than they just did, although they were pretty impressive during the second half of their extraordinary fightback against Brazil.

Personally, I'm not so sure there is much more to come, or that they necessarily need to produce it to beat Spain, who do not exactly appear to be on top of their game either.

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Like several other sides at this World Cup, the Oranje have a couple of world-class performers - Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben - and a couple of players with the potential to reach that level. Robin van Persie is one and has worked hard despite looking uncomfortable in his role as a lone striker.

They have all played their part in getting their side this far. While improvement is clearly possible, it is not imperative because more of the same could well suffice.

Don't get me wrong, the Netherlands will be worthy winners if they do overcome European champions Spain at Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium on Sunday but there have been more roundly-talented Dutch teams that have left tournaments empty-handed.

Van Marwijk is probably closer to getting the maximum out of his side than it may seem at first glance and deserves a lot more credit than he has received so far.

He has already matched what former Dutch bosses Rinus Michels and Ernst Happel did in 1974 and 1978 but with a much less stellar squad. The irony for a nation used to seeing their teams fail to live up to their promise is that this time Van Marwijk has overachieved just by taking them to the final.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    If only he could get Van Bommel to stop fouling and Robben to stop diving I would be pleased to support the team. Alas this will not happen. I just hope the REF has bXlls

  • Comment number 2.

    I think replacing Van Nistelrooy and therefore getting a bit of pace in their attack has made a big difference to the Netherlands.

    They've also made their defence a bit tighter than it was under Van Basten.

  • Comment number 3.

    Winning without playing well is something we've never been good at, and I for one am pleased that this team seems to have found the knack of actually playing as a team...whether it's playing well or not.

    So far, the whole team hasn't clicked into first gear properly yet, apart from a brilliant second half against Brazil, and a few superb minutes against Urugay. Looking at the last few friendlies before the tournament started, they displayed some scintillating attacking performances which they've not come even close to reproducing on the biggest stage. I'm sure that a number of players will try to turn on the style on Sunday, though, and produce a true Dutch performance to be proud of!

  • Comment number 4.

    Many people are finding Holland's new approach a little cold. Having said that, many people I've spoken to find it refreshing that they have shattered perceived myths about what they're expected to achieve and do at tournaments. I'm still undecided but let's be honest, will the Dutch really care if it results in a long overdue World Cup win? Meanwhile, the debate will rage. http://gregtheoharis.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/holland/

  • Comment number 5.

    Tightening up the defence was a priority for Van Marwijk and that's what has added steel to this side. Previously the Dutch teams, even if more talented overall, defended abysmally against the very best. The midfield rarely tracked back to buffer the defence. That seems to have changed now.

    Although Spain are probably the slight favourites (and rightly so, since they're such a fine side) I think Holland can win this.

    But it's a long way from "can win" to "will win". The current Holland side are probably the second best national team in passing and retaining possession. The problem is they are up against THE BEST passing and possession retaining side in the final. Also, Spain as reigning European champions and finally having made it to the WC final will also have the added confidence of knowing they can at long last deliver on their potential and get the monkey of the "underachievers" tag off their back.

    So, it will be hard for this Dutch side to finally land the ultimate title in football they came so close to in the 1970s, but they can do it. Will they though? Ask me again at 10 pm Sunday evening.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think the Dutch need to score first to have a chance of winning the game. If they do I feel they will lift the cup.

  • Comment number 7.

    I for one will be supporting the Dutch. They've given so much to the footballing world, and i hope they finally manage to reap those rewards on the world stage

    Come on you Oranje

  • Comment number 8.

    Nice article Chris - hard to disagree with any of it to be fair. I too think the Spanish variety might have a little too much juice for the Dutch as the latter seems to have squeezed their 'oranje' dry whilst the Valencia (cum Barca variety - D.Villa) is known to be just better later in season and just that bit sweeter!

    It'll be a real kicker to lose 3 out of 3 finals though and that might provide enough motivation for the Dutch to avoid a squishing this time around and make it to market.

  • Comment number 9.

    Have to disagree with post #2, I'd say that Van Nistelrooy at his peak is exactly the player this team are missing in attack: an old school target man. I think in Euro 2008 he did a great job of holding the ball up so that the faster players could get beyond him, and he was a genuine threat from balls in the box.

    Unfortunately Van Nistelrooy is too old, Van Persie isn't that type of player and Huntelaar has gone off the boil a bit.

    I reckon with a proper target man this team could have scored a lot more goals than they have done.

  • Comment number 10.

    This will be a cracking game as both teams are beatable. Who will win? Only the Psychic Octopus knows the answer to that question!

  • Comment number 11.

    Both the teams are at the same level.

    I mean, if we take man to man, there is Robben,Sneijder,Persie,Kuyt for the Dutch and for Spain, there is Villa,Xavi,Iniesta and Pedro/Torres.

    But when we go the bench, then the Dutch have to make grounds as Spain have Fabregas on bench.

    Which team will have that extra edge must be seen on the D-day. However i am happy for the fact that an European country is winning outside Europe and the jinx is being broken.

  • Comment number 12.

    The Dutchmen are capable of playing at higher level, but i seriously doubt they can reach the level of play Spain is capable of producing if allowed.

    Every team knows they have to disrupt Spain's midfield mastery and ball control. Germany was able to clamp down on Iniesta, who had his worst game of the tournament, but that allowed a bit more room for others to exploit.

    It may come down to goalkeeping, and Spain have the edge there in Casillas.

  • Comment number 13.

    @tony: First, you obviously have not noticed Van Bommel is far less fouling than a couple of years ago (in the game against Brazil he got not a single yellow card, despite the game getting quite tense during the second half). I think he is the strongest player of the pack while making sure everybody keeps his cool. And second, Robben is perhaps happy to dive sometimes but considering the fact that you can't even count the number of times he gets attacked, kicked, shuffled, you name it, I can't really blame him. I'm just happy he is playing after he sustained his injury. Hup Holland hup!!!

  • Comment number 14.

    @ #11, Dutch bench has talents with maybe smaller names, but not worse than Fabregas, i.e. Huntelaar and Elia. Both brilliant, so no worries about that.

    As for the Article - great analysis, Chris.
    I found many things surprising at this WorldCup. For example, I found unbelievable how easy Germans kicked out the Argentina squad. But for some reason (and I guess it was my woman's intuition multiplied by a thorough knowledge of football) I told my friends few weeks before the World Cup started (you can scroll down my facebook statuses! :)) that I see Holland and Spain in the final.

    Love both teams, traditionally been supporting Dutch, since maybe 20 years ago, but Spain team is so charming in any way, and they give so much pleasure to just watch how they handle the ball, and especially when they score with such elegance and passion.

    Foodball God made my dream come true - I see now Holland v Spain in the final. And I am going to be happy and heartbroken at the same time whoever gets the title!

    Apologies for a sentimental post, I know you guys are more into analysing things than this sort of cr@p... but for me football is about feelings and emotions.

  • Comment number 15.

    No doubt a reminder that Spain were the colonial power from whom the Netherlands gained their independence will spur the Dutch to victory.

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm just chortling at the bending-over-backwards of everyone, desperately trying not to give Kuyt his rightful due.

    Hypocrites.

    But then again, it's a BBC football site.

  • Comment number 17.

    4 years ago we all said we would win the World Cup in Germany as we thought we had exactly the right blend of exprience and youth, but Van Nistelroy was a bad influence in the team and did not play well and showed his anger whenever he was substituted and famously kicked over the water bucket etc. He was literally 'too big for his boots'.
    Also Van Basten fell out with certain players (Davids & Van Bommel for two) and was perhaps too young and inexperienced to be coaching at this level. He panicked in the dreadful game against Portugal, as he took off defenders and sent out yet more strikers until there four of them on the field all going for the same ball and getting in each others way. The formation was totally lost, the team was in a mess and after a most promising group stage it was a short drive back across the border and home.
    Van Marwijk is older, got his son-in-law Van Bommel back into the squad, and the likes of Van Nistelroy, Hasselbank, Van Hoodoinjk, Seedorf etc. disappeared, and Van der Sar retired.
    This time very few of us thought they had a chance of getting to the final, as most of us were worried about the defence and that it would be exposed too easily. But De Jong has proved to be an absolute star with his superb tackling and accurate distribution, while Dirk Kuyt has only had one poor game throughout and has given 110%. Van Bommel is walking the tight-rope with some dubious knee-high 'tackles' while Sneijder has shown that he is world class. No it has not been terribly pretty to watch but Van Marwijk warned that it would not be but it has been effective.

    Tot ziens.

  • Comment number 18.

    In the dutch anthem: De koning van hispanje heb ik altijd ge-eerd

  • Comment number 19.

    In the dutch anthem: De koning van hispanje heb ik altijd ge-eerd

    I have always honored the king of spain, we have respect for them but that doesnt mean we ll let them walk over us (hopefully) time to fulfill a promise of a nation

  • Comment number 20.

    It is either funny or ironic that Spain is playing largely the Barcelona game. Brought in and inspired by.... Johan Cruyff... ;-)

    I for one think Van Bommel is the silent star of Holland this tournament. The amount of balls that go through him is incredible. yes he does foul, but only when "necessary" (whatever that means) and they have not been as awful as some of the fouls made for instance on Robben by Brazil. Juan of Brazil actually deserved to be sent off in the last 16 match already with his fouls.

    All in all we cannot complain about this side. From the beginning I had them as favourites to reach the final and I do think they have a fair chance against Spain. The Spanish midfield is to drool, but don't forget Van Bommel knows them through and through. He won the Champions league with them in 2007. If Holland manages to neutralize Iniesta (best Spaniard on the pitch) and Xavi, then half the match is won. The forwards have a lot of trouble this tournament with scoring and the Spanish defence is OK, but can be beaten.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    ...

    "The irony for a nation used to seeing their teams fail to live up to their promise is that this time Van Marwijk has overachieved just by taking them to the final."

    If you don't know what it takes to become a winner,
    you'll never be a winner.

    Being a winner isn't about the achievements of the past,
    its all about the achievements in the present.

    Bert van Marwijk made it to playing the World-cup final 2010.

    How?

    By Team effort.

    By being a winner not a whiner.

    Sour-grapes Mr.Bevan?

    ...

  • Comment number 23.

    I agree with an earlier contributor that the Spanish can be beaten if the opposing side can take the lead. It is all about getting the Spanish to play catch up football. They don't score many goals and for all their pretty passing they generally lack that incisive last move. If you could score two goals against the Spanish they should be dead and buried. All I hope for is a fabulously entertaining game on Sunday by both sides... and if the Dutch do go behind with 20 minutes to go that they throw caution to the wind and roll out the total football of yesteryear!

    It is an intriguing situation that the the Spanish are now playing the type of football that Cruyff and co were displaying in the 70s (though they are far more frustrating to watch) and are now favourites to lift the trophy whilst the Oranje are playing a game far more conservative.

  • Comment number 24.

    anyone else apprieciate the irony of the boers winning the world cup in africa?

  • Comment number 25.

    I am from far future. I know you do believe I am kidding. I would like to let you know the fact; the simple fact will be Holland lift the Trophy in 2010 South Africa World Cup. Netherlands secures a final 2:1 victory over Spain. One is for Wesley Sneijder & another for a substitute of whom you don’t know. The solution in a few days will be known and contact me at [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 26.

    I am from far future. I know you do believe I am kidding. I would like to let you know the fact; the simple fact will be Holland lift the Trophy in 2010 South Africa World Cup. Netherlands secures a final 2:1 victory over Spain. One is for Wesley Sneijder & another for a substitute of whom you don’t know. The solution in a few days will be known and contact me at [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 27.

    The Dutch consist of 3 outstanding players and average but hardworking players. That is all. Spain have class players in almost every position and have only conceded 2 goals. The Dutch have very little chance, but if they won it, they would be the worst team to win the world cup for a very long time.

  • Comment number 28.

    Frankly, JimSprout @ #27, I doubt anyone in this tiny little country is going to mind just one iota. It'll be viewed as payment for the premature eliminations in previous years. Perhaps a tad short-sighted, but it works for the general public. I happen to agree with your assessment - there's been very little of what the Dutch side has been known for, but it works, apparently. Still think they won't last against Spain, but my mediocre results in the pools I'm competing in makes that prediction slightly spotty.

    For catharsis amongst the older generation, a Germany final would have been so much better if it ended in a win, but so much worse if it ended in a loss. I know quite a few people who were relishing the opportunity to reverse the 1974 result in style - with the Germans playing a 'Dutch' game and the Dutch adopting the sober 'German' style.

    Oh, and re: van Bommel fouling less - have you watched the last few minutes of the Brazil game as well as the entire Uruguay game? I have no clue how he has walked away with just one yellow, and that for dissent, from those games.

    Spain to win 1-2 a.e.t.

  • Comment number 29.

    Holland-Spain will be a good final. Both teams eager and able to play top football. It doesn't matter the Dutch are lucky to get away with winning whilst not playing wonderful well. They play as a team, thanks to good solid coaching and starting to believe in themselves. If Spain wins, fair due. Just enjoy the final. For once this is about the game and both teams are chuffed to bits to be in this position. The team who can really pull it off on the night and keep their focus will go home with the cup, that' s all there is to it. My prediction I keep to myself.

  • Comment number 30.

    Robben will score the wonderful 1:0 lead.

  • Comment number 31.

    Decent blog, with some good points well made.

    Sorry to be pendantic though Mr Bevan but it's not "the Oranje", it's just Oranje.

    Hup Holland Hup!

  • Comment number 32.

    Germany scored four goals each against the Three Lions and than Argentina but could not manage one against Spain. Spain has won with a single goal the last few games because of their defense. They lost to the Swiss early and regrouped. The Dutch have yet to lose a single game but may be capapable of playing at a much higher level. Neither Spain or Holland have ever won a World Cup. I wish both the best on Sunday ! One will win and the other should hold thier head high !

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 35.

    Re Future:

    Apparently people still can't read and write properly in the future.

    "of whom you don’t know."

    That's a very common grammatical myth. It's ok to say whom you don't know of (or leave off the "of"). Otherwise it's just hard to read, when you break up "know of".

  • Comment number 36.

    Actually i'm impressed by Dutch's team quality.

  • Comment number 37.

    Its funny how no-one ever mentions the constant fouling (sometimes more like rugby tackles) of the likes of Pique or Puyol, or the constant diving of Busquets. No, they are somehow immune to criticism for some reason.

    Anyway, on topic, its nice to see RvP getting along so well with van Marwijk. He didnt leave Feyenoord on such good terms ;)

    Hup Holland Hup!

  • Comment number 38.

    Only Maurinho can beat Barcelona, and a Barcelona with Real Madrid stars - no way for the Dutch. Besides its about time Van Bommel got red carded for persistant fouling and 'professional' cheating.

  • Comment number 39.

    If Holland are prepared to be positive from the beginning and keep their shape in terms of not pulling everyone back into their own half of the field, as the Germans surprisngly did, then they can win this game. The Germans were simply scared stiff of the Spanish and I could not believe their negative tactics. If you have 9 men back in your own half, and the ball is cleared upfield, there is no-one in the other half of the field to hold the ball and accordingly it is just returned back again. The fear which the Germans displayed was typified by the fact that they continually passed the ball to the Spanish. They made the Spanish look better than they are.
    Chile troubled Spain with their positive and attacking attitude and Paraguay created numerous chances too, so hopefully the Dutch will have learned something from these two South American teams, and will keep Robben, Van Persie, Kuyt and Sneijder upfield and not pull everyone back as the Germans did. If they play the same way as the Germans then the result is a foregone conclusion.
    Ramos is a weak link, tackles badly, fouls consistently (twice badly on Podolski) and leaves the righ back position open. Holland must exploit this. Van Bommel must curb his over-zealous tackling instincts otherwise Mr. Webb will have no hesitation in showing him red.

  • Comment number 40.

    i really like the decent, well prepared blogs on this site. If i compare it to Dutch reporters, this is way better!

    We the Dutch lost to many games because we were to polite, to nice for other teams... I don't like robben's attitude towards diving either... but pay close attention... everyone dives... villa as well!!

    part of modern football to be honest

  • Comment number 41.

    I would really love Holland to win on Sunday as they have given so much to football over the last 40 years and they deserve a World Cup in recognition of that. I'm too young to remember the Cruyff team but I've seen lots of footage of them and seen how brilliant they were. They were so unlucky in that in both the WC final they reached they came up against the host nation who would benefit from some poor refereeing. I remember well the Euro'88 side for the way they demolished England in the group stage and then did the same to a very good Soviet side in the final who had beaten them in the first group game, but let's not forget that they were just 10 minutes from going out to Ireland in that tournament (Wim Kieft, GRRR!!!)!

    However I just have the feeling that Spain will be too strong for them. Assuming De Jong is recalled on Sunday then he and Van Bommell are going to have their work cut out against Xavi and Iniesta, the Dutch defence looks shaky and needs all the cover the midfield can provide. But however wins will be worthy winners as they've both played some good football in the tournament. Let's hope for a good game!

  • Comment number 42.

    There is talk of Robben diving - yet Holland are about to come across one of the worst culprits for play acting and playing dirty (behind Portugal, clear World Champions in that arena).

    Every team has a diver it seems, but I sincerely hope that Holland beat the stuffing out of the Spanish perpetual World Cup under-achievers ... and Robben stays on his feet to score the winner!

    FIFA need to do something about this horrible element that is taking over football - it is a contact sport; heaven forbid it turns into the nonsense that is Basketball.

  • Comment number 43.

    The defence of Dutch used to be some kind of after thought but now it is a key aspect of the Dutch team. The way they used to play, Netherlands effectively only had two defenders since the left and right back were supporting the wingers in the attack. This made the defence very vunerable for counter attacks.
    The odds are in favour for Spain, but lower than some bookies think. Spain played well against a Germany, but one needs to take into account that although zealous they were rather inexperienced and hence Germany failed against a well organized experienced team. The Dutch are more experienced and better organized then the Germans and it won't be easy for Spain. The biggest threat for the Dutch side is that they seem easily to get a card. If no Dutch player is send off I predict 2-1 for the Dutch.

  • Comment number 44.

    Would you give over banging on about who kicks who or fouls who. The cameras show these days that everyone is at. EVERYONE. Players are taught at an early age how to foul professionally to get an advantage, they are not going to stop just for the world cup.
    Spain to win 2:1 a e t, is my prediction too, but I would the Dutch to do it.

  • Comment number 45.

    OH and RedRussian, read the comments, :-) there is plenty of emotion in football analysis

  • Comment number 46.

    this is certainly a dream final for me,, one i predicted.. but my headache now is which of the two teams i support, cos i have rooted for both teams all tournament, as an earlier contributor did say, i would definitely be having mixed feelings,.... now everyone is been singing snijder's praises to the high heavens he deserves them too but personally idirk kuyt has been immense, he never gets tired of working trust me i aint a fan of his but i have been impressed with him...

    and finally england is in the finals... howard webb, he deserves it. i hope he has a controversy free finals....

  • Comment number 47.

    I personally disagree with those who praise the defense of the Dutch.
    If you look at the results of Holland in the world cup, you'll see that, after playing against Denmark and Japan, they have conceded at least one goal (two against Uruguay) in every match they have played.
    Slovakia wasted two clear-cut opportunities when only 1-0 down in the first knock-out match (final score 2-1 to Holland), nobody would have complained had Brazil scored 3 goals in the first half of the quarter-final, and Uruguay scored 2 in the semi.
    Holland will have their best chance against Spain if they manage to score an early goal, and then hope to take full advantage of the skills and speed of their most talented players.
    If, on the other hand, they go one down early in the match, they run the risk of being torn apart by Spain, as the Spaniards will not be committing the same kind of "footballing suicide" (as it was marvellously defined by somebody on the BBC site)Brasil did.

  • Comment number 48.

    Just a note about Van Bommel - 6 games and 6 sets of officials have not seen any of his 'fouls' as requiring punishment with a yellow card.

    You could argue that TV replay's suggest he's made some poor tackles but perhaps the 'victim' has made a meal of it and at full speed those tackles are not too terrible. Given he has not been penalised after the matches using that TV evidence then perhaps FIFA didnt think they were too bad either. (that said maybe they cant review things on TV like they can in England if the ref doesn't see it?!)

    One thing is for sure, a lot of incidents leading to free kicks in this world cup would not even have attracted a referee's attention in the Premier League (perhaps thats a reason why England turned up so obviouslty fatigued but thats for another blog!).

    So, IMO, Van Bommel may not be a saint but he is not such a sinner either!

  • Comment number 49.

    @38

    You excel the virtues of Mourinho for managing a team that beat Barcelona, but then you criticise Van Bommel for constant fouling!

    Pot/Kettle mean anything to you?

  • Comment number 50.

    Decided to get the ferry over to holland to watch the final in Amsterdam on Sunday night, so I know who i'll be supporting...Hup Holland Hup

  • Comment number 51.

    I can't agree more with the comment made by Neilly #37.

    Robben has got a name of being a diving queen. He does overreact on every occasion a foul is being made against him, but he has learned over the past years only to react when he actually get kicked.
    Busquets on the other hand...

  • Comment number 52.

    So the damned octopus has gone for Spain - so we may all just as well stop speculating now as to who will win on Sunday. It has been decided for us.

  • Comment number 53.

    @52 Shame he can't tell me Saturdays lottery numbers!

  • Comment number 54.

    Paul the octopus always gets the finals wrong ;)

  • Comment number 55.

    The Dutch team now plays like Germany used to when they won the World Cup in 1974 and 1990 - efficient, organised, physically strong and just enough individual brilliance and inspiration to make the difference. The only question mark is whether they have the necessary resilience and mental strength when they go behind. I think not and for that reason I tip Spain to win.

  • Comment number 56.

    Final Spain vs Holland
    Although I’m Dutch, as you can see I put Spain first, because I believe they have a bigger chance winning the WC than Holland.
    But everybody on the internet is talking so negative about the Dutch.
    “ van Bommel should receive red cards, Robben is a diver, defence is not good, van Persie is out of shape etc”.
    Why so negative about the Dutch. Probably everybody is jealous.
    In the history of Football I saw many tough players and divers. We lost the Final in 1974 because of a diver (Holzenbein). I agree, van Bommel is tough, but I saw more tough players this tournament. You need them to win the WC! And I know the English don’t like Robben after he kicked out MU and I know he wasn’t populair in Chelsea. But he scored a great goal against MU & he is much better than his replacement Malouda and against Brazil this tournament, he didn’t dive!!!!!!!
    Let’s talk about England, what did they achieve in football history?
    Always a big mouth, a Media hype before every EC or WC and always under achieving or not qualifying at all. Sure, they won one time in 1966 because of a goal which is still under discussion.
    But everybody in the world knows, the organizing country must be in the final of the WC!!!
    We Dutch have a history with organizing countries. I still remember the Final of 1974 & 1978.
    Holland always had excellent players, better than any country in Europe. And yes everybodies remarks are correct we were never a “team”.
    Now we have “good” players. Together with Spain, Argentina & Brazil, Holland has the best players & we deserve to be in the Final together with Spain.
    If in the past the Dutch players would have played as a team we would have won the WC already 3 times (1974, 1978 and also in 1998). Therefore now it’s our turn.
    Sunday when we will face Spain we will play this Final like we ouplayed France & Italy 2 years ago.
    All our matches so far were about reaching the Final.
    Now in the Final we will surprise the whole World and we will beat Spain 3-1. We will be tough, determined and we will do everything to win the WC.
    And afterwards everybody will say “Holland still is the best team in the World”.
    I regret it however that we couldn’t take revenge on Germany!

  • Comment number 57.

    Isn't it ironic that the ill-conceived idea of the Netherlands being under-achievers appears to prevail only in the UK - the home nations having managed only a measly single appearance in a world cup semi-final between them over the last four decades! Since bursting onto the scene in 1974 (less than 20 years after introducing a professional domestic league!) the Netherlands have featured in three world cup finals (1974, 1978 and 2010), a semi-final (1998) and a quarter-final (1994); a record beaten only by Brasil, Germany, Italy, Argentina and France (and - sooner rather than later - presumably Spain; I'm pessimistic about Oranje's chances in Sunday's final) - much bigger footballing nations. Add to that a victory in the European Championships (1988), a further four semi-final appearances (1976, 1992, 2000, 2004) and a quarter-final in 1996 (again, a record beaten only by Germany, France and arguably Spain) and it is obvious that the Netherlands have had a remarkable and prolonged string of success in the international game. Which country of comparable size can boast such a record? What about other "big" footballing nations (e.g. England, Mexico, Portugal to name but a few)? Add to that the host of world class players their world-leading youth system have produced. These are achievements which have gained them praise and admiration from all over the world. Still the UK press (and general public) can come up with no better qualification than "the game's biggest under-achievers"? OK, winning the world cup may have eluded them up until now, but that qualification is more a reflection of a nation's envy rather than reality.

  • Comment number 58.

    Doubtful start for the dutch if you would ask me. I am dutch and even though my countrymen have been performing well...I have to say that the spanish deserve the world cup more.

    Dutch people should go to jaspas (hanoi)sunday its going to get crazy!

  • Comment number 59.

    The system Van Marwijk is using is not pleasing on the eye, but I don't think he has any other option. It seems as if he is taking a conservative approach based on the talent he has available.

    The current Dutch central defenders cannot be compared to greats from the past like Koeman, Blind and De Boer. Also, they don't have a tradition of great full-backs (except for the legendary Bogarde!). So if they played expansive football they probably would have exited the tournament long ago.

    This style is necessary otherwise the defence will be exposed. And remember, Van Bronkhorst has never been a defender and now that he's old and slow it is easier to attack his side.

    The 2010 Holland team has underwhelmed me but I can understand. On the other hand, I cannot understand why Brazil would play that way when they have such riches of attacking talent. Shame on Dunga. Yes, he is Dopey and he paid the price for it.

  • Comment number 60.

    P.S. Van Bommel is one of the dirtiest, most vile players I have had the misfortune to watch. On top of that he is ugly.

    No opponent that plays against him likes him. You can tell by the reactions he gets from them during games. And I saw how he tried to get cosy with the referee during one of the last games.

  • Comment number 61.

    All credit to this Dutch side & their manager!

    It's alwaysa dangerous way to look at teams but "on paper" I thought this was one of the weakest Dutch squads for years before the tournament began.

    They've not been on the toughest side of the draw it's true, but if you beat Brasil you deserve to make the final I guess.

    If Sneider & Robben can shine they can beat Spain, but you'd still have to make them favourites.

    I just think it's a great story, because it shows what great teamwork & organisation can do when you have the right mix, and that you don't necesarily need a team full of "stars" to achieve success.

  • Comment number 62.

    P.P.S. Van Persie is very fine for the central role. It's not just about scoring goals. He's linking play very well. People forget he missed six months of last season (because of another stupid 'footballer' called Chiellini).

  • Comment number 63.

    The Spanish are great to watch, you can even take the goals of the field and watch them pass in the centre of the pitch because let's be fair they hardly get into the box. Their strategy will be the same with Holland, keep the ball and hope for a goal. Personally I think Holland has too much fire power and will find a way to score. If that's the case this could become a seriously good game.

    Forget the octopus and go with the Singapore parakeet. Hup Holland!

  • Comment number 64.

    @cjewelz: this is a blog about football and most of us will want to see people that know about football participate. If you must vent your frustrations because you had a poor childhood please go and see a shrink.

  • Comment number 65.

    Yes, the Dutch owe a lot to the goalpost and Brazilian and Danish own goals. They play instable with a lot of mistakes in midfield. But they play with their hearts and do not shy away from a fight. This maybe makes Van Bommel look like a Lothar Mattheus but he gives the team what it really needed. Stability in defense and patience in attack. Respect is due and no doubt that in the final Orange will show its true colours. It’s in their DNA.

    And as a Dutch journalist put it: Orange deserves in some sense the World Cup, if only as a prize for its contributions over the years: Cruyff, Van Basten, Gullit, Koeman, Neeskens, Rijkaard, Davids, Seedorf, Bergkamp, Michels, Van Gaal, Hiddink.

    And the first mentioned, Johan Cruyff will enjoy this final. His philosophy of total football in the world cup through the Barcelona players in the Spanish team and the Ajax educated in the Dutch side. Definitely a game to watch.

  • Comment number 66.

    As an Englishman, I'm really looking forward to this Final. In my opinion the key will be if the Dutch can get the ball from Spain. I hope Holland score first as I think this will make for a more enertaining game. I also think that Van Bommel will be key to Dutch success in winning the ball back from Spain. I think he is a great player and so what if he commits fouls, it's up to refs to punish him and they haven't so you can't blame him.

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    cjewelz: if describing a Dutch player as ugly and vile is football then I sincerely apologize.

  • Comment number 69.

    Spain have been so dull at this WC. All anyone ever seems to say in praise of them is 'they keep the ball'. Zzzzzzzzzz. Holland have added lots of drama and spark to this WC. Really hope they do it.

  • Comment number 70.

    Its all about correct tactics and this Dutch team can win.
    They need to press into the attacking third of the pitch and make Spain do all their passing in that area, basically keeping them pinned down in defense.
    If Holland do this then Spain will find it difficult to support their lone striker Villa.
    If Holland hang back and let Spain have the ball they will get beaten.
    Its not rocket science!

  • Comment number 71.

    Can anyone confirm that the Dutch national anthem is a song about killing Spaniards? Now that we're all friends again and nobody's trying to sentence anyone else's whole country to death, shouldn't they have a different anthem? Maybe after they've beaten Spain in the final?

  • Comment number 72.

    68,

    I have seen Van Bommel play for a long time. I still remember the goal he scored against England. There's no doubt he's a good player. But it seems he enjoys riling up opponents. It's a big part of his game (maybe half of it).

    This is the flip side to the beautiful game. The game should be played in the right spirit. Holland are standard-bearers of the beautiful game. That makes Van Bommel a disgrace and his antics are unsavoury.

  • Comment number 73.

    Just came back from lunch, lovely Paul sandwich.
    Living in Norway, flying home this evening to support a united Holland.
    You have no idea how good it feels to be able to say that. United! Agreed, the best football from the Dutch side is still to come and quite possibly it won't. But let's be honest here: would anybody in England have minded if England were to play the final after solid but unspectacular wins? Hardly.
    I rest my case. Hup Holland hup!

    The italian is on his way to Brazil, ensuring they won't win the cup in 2014 either, so who knows England, I for one will be supporting the 3 kittens as well as my own country in 4 years time!

  • Comment number 74.

    We came so often empty handed home from tournaments. Always great attacking play, but no price. I just hope Holland can win this on Sunday as it's my dream to see them once in my life to win the Worldcup. But......Spain is the better side and i really think Spain will win this cup easily.
    I'm so glad we still have Dirk Kuyt. Without him Holland would even not make it to the final. Kuyt can go on and on and on and on and never gives up. Liverpool can be happy with such a striker!

  • Comment number 75.

    @LippyLippo

    No, the anthem isn't about that. Its about our independance (from Spain).

    Our anthem is the worlds oldest anthem and it speaks of 'van Duitschen bloed' which means we are people of 'Dietsen' blood origin. Diets was in those days the territory of The Netherlands and a part of Germany.

    It was those people who were occupied by the Spanish and therefore the lyric 'de koning van Hispanje heb ik altijd geëerd' which means: the king of Spain we always honored. Better is to say: we used to honor.


    We had 80 years of war with Spain for our independance and we WON! We were the first country to do that by that empire. Soon after we become a superpower ourselves. That war costed Spain so much money that they lost their dominance against France and England!

    Our victory was an inspiration for South American countries and our Declarance of Independance was used as a blueprint for the Declarance of the USA!



    You know what is funny? The war took 80 years with five years trouce.
    Guess what? First WC was in 1930, in WW2 it stopped for five years and we are now in 2010. 2010 - 1930 = 80

    Scary, isnt it?

  • Comment number 76.

    71,

    Nothing about killing Spaniards in the Dutch national anthem; it's an old hymn about William of Orange (NOT King Billy b.t.w.) and about the fact that despite him pursuing independence from the Spanish for the Low Countries, he always paid respect to the king of Spain (I think they were even distant rellies): see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Het_Wilhelmus if you're interested.

    Nevermind, I think the Dutch better stick to their old football anthem: Hup Holland Hup!

  • Comment number 77.

    @ Lippylippo,

    I know our nationalanthem is one of the oldest, but mostly in the beginning it says that "ben ik van Duitschen bloed", that means, "Do i have German blood in me". The rest of the anthem i don't know. hahahaha. It's simply way too long.
    Also the German Octopus predicted that Spain will win the final, but when you see the vid then the Octopus seems to be offside ;-)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ya85knuDzp8

  • Comment number 78.

    cjewelz

    I agree Van Bommel is not the prettiest player at the WC not that I could even guess at who that accolade should be directed - perhaps you have some recommendations?

    As for him being physical, this is something Holland have lacked in the past and, as a consequence, they've been kicked out of games fairly often - similar to how Arsenal are in some respects. What he does by 'kicking' the opposition is to let them know they'll get it back twice as hard as they dish it out so dont over step the mark or else. The late Bob Probert was the master of this role (YouTube him for details).

    Its not uncommon for teams to posses a player like this the fact that Van Bommel has appeared in more games, this world cup, than most is why he is getting more attention. But, as others have pointed out, he his also a very capable footballer its just that Holland need the physical side of his game more right now.

    Its good that an English ref is in charge on Sunday as its likely he let a lot more of the physical stuff go than, perhaps, a referee from another nation may have done.


  • Comment number 79.

    Looking at Holland's form in the last few years it should be of no real suprise that they have made it this far. You call them overachievers in your article but I do not see it that way.

    They have a good blend of youth and experience, a settled squad, some World Class match winners and that all important winning habit. It may not always be pretty and they have had their fair share of detractors this World Cup but I think Holland have earnt their Final spot and don't see it as overachieving.

    As far as the final is concerned you may as well toss a coin, Spain will be slight favourites and do play the better football but I really think its too close to call.

    I'll be supporting Holland though as I had a cheeky tenner on them before it started. Mercenary I know!

    http://tptroadtotheworldcup.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 80.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 81.

    Oh no! Dutch media reports that Stekelenburg got an injury and may miss the final!

  • Comment number 82.

    @ redrussian:
    I just read online that the whole team is fit, including Stekelenburg.

  • Comment number 83.

    @71

    Well the first verse is:

    William of Nassau, scion
    Of a Dutch and ancient line,
    I dedicate undying
    Faith to this land of mine.
    A prince I am, undaunted,
    Of Orange, ever free,
    To the king of Spain I've granted
    A lifelong loyalty.

  • Comment number 84.

    Many people seemed so impressed with Spains' match against germany, but I honestly found it the most uninteresting match I had seen so far.
    (Yes, I'm Dytch, but I really-really mean it).

    Lots of talk about this great passing game from Spain, but most everybody seems to forget this was all around the midline.
    How many clear cut chances did Spain get before that goal? Just two. In one hour. That included one header from a corner in the first half and a cross that the Spanish attacker just fell short of tapping in.

    It looks nice, but doesnt't really give off lots of chances.

    The other matches from Spain were also far from easily won, as they have big trouble scoring (7 goals in 6 matches seems hardly fit for a "superteam")


    The Dutch conceded more goals (though at least 2 didn't really matter), true, but they also scored 12 in 6. They will score against anyone, anywhere, anytime and I don't think Spain will be an exception.

    So to sum it all up, I'm just going to reverse a very common perception where Spain is seen as the attacking force:

    Will Holland keep scoring?
    Will Spain keep their nil?

  • Comment number 85.

    ReddRussian (#81): Old data as far as I know. Stekelenburg is supposed to have participated fully in today's training.

    LippyLippo (#71): It has to be taken into account that the Wilhelmus (anthem) is reputedly over 400 years old, dating back to the times when the Spanish ruled a good part of what are now the Netherlands and Belgium. (Eighty Years War). The first stanza (which is the one that gets sung) even talks of honouring the King of Spain. I'm not an expert, but the way I read it, it's about the atrocities that some of Spain's soldiers committed back then and that that has to stop. So yes, there might be some underlying hurt in there, but it's not in the first stanza - which is the one that tends to be known best. Said first stanza is simply an introduction of the 'protagonist' of the entire song. (It's 15 stanzas long).

    In an interesting tidbit (though it's from Wikipedia, so apply as many grains of salt as you may like) - the Wilhelmus has only been the anthem since 1932, despite the Kingdom of the Netherlands in its current incarnation existing since, depending on your views, 1815, 1830 or 1848.(The latter two being the years when Belgium and Luxembourg respectively went independent) Apparently, it remained popular enough to supplant the then-anthem.

  • Comment number 86.

    The dutch anthem is an ancient song about standing up against The king of Spain and is taliban like spanish inquisiton. They won that 80 year war.

  • Comment number 87.

    In my opinion Spain have 55% chance of winning. If Spain scores first, it's game over. For the Dutch to win, they have to
    1.Score First
    2.Defend Better
    3.Avoid a Van Bommel or De Jong red card
    4.Robben and Sneijder must be less selfish.
    5.Kuyt must stop Ramos from joining the attack.

  • Comment number 88.

    78,

    I thought Rijkaard and Davids did that job in previous Dutch teams. And better.

  • Comment number 89.

    We have a great chance, all I read is Spain are a great side, but why have they been beaten by the Swiss, why were they outplayed for 30 minutes (and lucky) versus Chile, they were also very lucky versus Paraguay, so there is a great chance to do it. It's 50/50, yes Spain play brilliant but the real stars of Spain almost never score a goal except for Villa, I really like Xavi an Iniesta but they don't score very often, also Spain managed to beat the mediocre Germans by 1 goal and the Germans don't have the talent of Sneijder, Van Bommel, Van Persie, Van de Vaart and Robben, so I think it will be easy;)

    WE WILL WIN ON SUNDAY, eat your heart out Gary Lineker!

  • Comment number 90.

    In Germany Paul the octopus has gone for Spain, Pauline the other octopus has gone for the dutch in Holland. I am waiting for Paulette the octopus to make a prediction in South Africa before I make up my mind on who will win on sunday.

  • Comment number 91.

    Van Persie hasn't yet justified the hype that is usually attached to him. Kuyt on the other hand is an unsung hero who works tirelessly without any kudos coming his way. Sneijder's headed goal in the s/f wouldn't have been possible without Kuyt's brilliance and anticipation.Van Bommel is another workhorse the team could be thankful to. The goal is well-manned by Maarten Stekelenburg.

    Arjen Robben is very big talent that could land the team a surprise winner but there is real danger he may overdo the histrionics and get an yellow from down-to-earth and a bit humourless Howard Webb. Melo squarely deserved the red card but people tend to remember the exacerbating instigators too.

    Spain do seem to have a subtle edge but this WC will be more remembered for the unexpected failures of the favorites to measure up when the critical moment arrived.

  • Comment number 92.

    In my view this is most evenly matched FIFA final in the recent memory. Logically the game should go to the hated penalty shoot-out.

  • Comment number 93.

    1.Score First: That's difficult. I see Spain as the favorite to win the title and i doubt if Holland will score the first.

    2.Defend Better: Our defenders are not that good, but it's the team who playes great together.

    3.Avoid a Van Bommel or De Jong red card: They played well behaved in the previous matches, so hopefully they also see that getting a red card is the end of the Worldcup for them.

    4.Robben and Sneijder must be less selfish: Hmmm...Sneijder plays ok and not that much selfish, but Robben should play more to a teammate. When passing his opponent not through the inside but outside he should kick the ball a bit more infront of the goal.

    5.Kuyt must stop Ramos from joining the attack: Ooh, that's no problem. You English people know Kuyt and he goes on and on and on and never stops. He also kept Maicon in his pocket.

  • Comment number 94.

    after last wc final,where i changed the chanel middway through the second half,even tho im a huge football fan im realy looking forward to this one.two most entertaining sides and the final you can only wish for.ng it
    i dont mind who wins it,i like both teams,i expect a good entertaiment.
    i was just praying to God before the tournamnet its not Italy in the final this time or i would not be watching it.
    good luck to both teams.

  • Comment number 95.

    @ mirso, EXACTLY my thoughts before the WC start! Although I have to admit that Cannavarro's tears brought some into my eyes too.

    I think I will find out who I support more (Spain or Holland) during the match, instinctively. But right now I am unable to do that.

    Holland needs a long-distance kick (one of those Robben does so brilliantly) to lead the game. And to watch out for their defence. Spain needs Pedro to finally GIVE the pass to Torres who is in a clear scoring position instead of try and score himself.

    Kuyt is always a shadow hero who does a great amount of work from the first till the last minutes... he creates attacks and ruins counter attacks, but Ramos will just play through him, he is simple a class higher, let's admit it.

    Vamos Holanda! hup Spanje hup!

  • Comment number 96.

    Not expecting a great (or even good) final. Likely 2 fairly balanced teams, with one notable exception. If I were the Spanish players, I would be shooting on goal at every opportunity - the Dutch goalkeeper has looked to be very suspect in all the games that I have watched.
    Other than that, it may prove to be a good remedy for insomnia, as long as the volume is muted, to allay the expected cacophony from the accursed vuvezuelas.

  • Comment number 97.

    I am Dutch, and I believe we have a very good chance of winning. Sure, you'I would say tha, wouln't I. But I do believe we have the psychological edge over Spain. Why, well:
    * These players we're kicked out of Real Madrid to make way for Ronaldo. Robben, Sneijder, Huntelaar. All of them will have a personal point to prove.
    * Van der Vaart could stay with Madrid because there was no club interested and he had an contract. He has been on the bench a lot and finally he is half-spanish.
    * Van Bommel more or less failed with Barcelona. He will have a point to prove.
    * Van Bronckhorst, De Boer and Cocu played with Barcelona until recently. They know their system and all of the Barcelona players
    * Kuyt plays with Torres and until recently Xabi Alonso.
    * Every team has changed their tactics because of Robben. Why, beats me, but the Spanish will too and will pay like the Brazilians.
    * It will cetainly be third time for the Dutch.


  • Comment number 98.

    I agree completely with Tony posting 4-47..I live in the Netherlands..I cannot go along with their way of football, simply because of their gamesmanship..van Bommel and Robben being the biggest culprits..
    I have been seething at times whilst watching their games..
    I hope H Webb see,s their going,s on..Roy..

  • Comment number 99.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 100.

    @93

    van bommel played well behaved?
    you didnt see that dark red he should have received against uruguay?
    i really hope he gets found out quickly in the final ,gets red and costs holland the wc
    it is about time the dutch luck ends

    and i never thought i would say this
    but i hope the octopus is right

 

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