Hol­land

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPASTIMES -

ONLY few coun­tries can match the Nether­lands for its foot­ball qual­ity, but the na­tion of Jo­han Cruyff, Ruud Gul­lit and Marco van Bas­ten is yet to taste World Cup suc­cess.

Run­ners-up twice in 1974 and 1978 and close to the fi­nal as well in 1998, ex­pec­ta­tions are huge around a team fea­tur­ing the likes of Arse­nal's Robin van Per­sie, Bay­ern Mu­nich winger Ar­jen Robben, In­ter Mi­lan's Wes­ley Sni­jder and Real Madrid play­maker Rafael van der Vaart.

“We have a mis­sion. We want to be­come even bet­ter and will aim for the best pos­si­ble re­sult in South Africa,” said coach Bert van Mar­wijk.

The Dutch had a per­fect qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign with eight wins in as many matches to pre­vail ahead of Nor­way and Scot­land.

No one dis­putes the Dutch skill and class, but it has rarely come to­gether when it mat­tered.

The last three friendlies against Aus­tralia, Italy and Paraguay all ended in 0-0 draws.

Th­ese games took place without sev­eral stars and Van Mar­wijk ad­mit­ted that trou­ble could be loom­ing when some big names are miss­ing.

“We have the qual­ity, but when the big names are out we do have dif­fi­cul­ties. The Nether­lands doesn't have the depth as the big foot­ball na­tions do,” he said.

How­ever, op­ti­mism re­mains high over­all, as he added: “The team is sta­ble and doesn't give away a lot.”

A key to pos­si­ble Dutch suc­cess in South Africa will also be har­mony, as past big tour­na­ments have been marred by in-house fight­ing and crit­i­cism from out­side by the many foot­ball leg­ends.

The star: Ar­jen Robben, 25, is the lat­est ex­am­ple of a clas­sic Dutch winger. He has four do­mes­tic league ti­tles with PSV Eind­hoven (2003), Chelsea (2005, 2006) and Real Madrid (2008) be­fore join­ing Bay­ern Mu­nich in 2009. The speedy Robben can play on the left and the right wing, with the 2010 World Cup his fourth ma­jor event fol­low­ing Euro 2004, 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008. Robben has been prone to in­juries through­out his ca­reer, how­ever.

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