Beau­ti­ful Dutch are ea­ger to learn how to win ugly

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODHANGOUTS -

BART VAN MAR­WIJK has been in­volved in foot­ball for far too long not to have heard all the old say­ings.

Some may be more valid than oth­ers, but few can be more en­dur­ing than the idea that ex­pe­ri­ence is needed to win tro­phies, par­tic­u­larly the World Cup.

It was per­haps with that in mind that he placed his faith in a pair of vet­er­ans af­ter fol­low­ing Marco van Bas­ten as Nether­lands coach in 2008.

Ap­pointed in the wake of the Oranje’s dis­ap­point­ing Euro 2008 bid, the for­mer Feyeno­ord trainer quickly dis­played a strong de­sire to build from the back.

The ev­er­green Gio­vanni van Bron­ck­horst was the most reg­u­larly used player dur­ing the Nether­lands’ his­toric 2010 World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion cam­paign, for ex­am­ple, and, af­ter Joris Mathi­jsen, fel­low stal­wart An­dre Ooi­jer was third on the list. It was surely no co­in­ci­dence that all three pil­lars of the side op­er­ate in de­fence.

“In this team, the play­ers who can make the dif­fer­ence on their own are all for­wards,” ex­plained Ooi­jer, now 35.

“We have enor­mous tal­ent up front, but our real out­stand­ing qual­ity is that every­one has the same at­ti­tude, which is that first of all we must not con­cede goals.

“We play as a unit, very com­pact, and we’ll have to stick with that phi­los­o­phy in South Africa.”

Does this mean that the Nether­lands are ready to sac­ri­fice their com­mit­ment to at­tack­ing verve in or­der to fo­cus on re­sults alone?

“Our first in­ten­tion re­mains to play beau­ti­ful foot­ball,” said the PSV Eind­hoven stop­per. “But we also have to learn how to win without play­ing well.

“In a Euro or a World Cup, if you want to go all the way, you need to find other means of winning when the team is per­form­ing less well.

“It doesn’t mat­ter how: some­times you just need to win. Our am­bi­tion has been to in­stil this way of think­ing and so far it’s worked.

“Looking back, some might say we had an easy qual­i­fy­ing group be­cause we won all eight matches,” the for­mer Black­burn Rovers player added.

“That’s not how it was at all, though. We just played very well. This team has a fab­u­lous mix be­tween young play­ers and se­nior ones; it’s per­fect. There are a lot of tal­ented play­ers but that’s not al­ways enough.

“Right now, I’m re­ally en­thu­si­as­tic be­cause we’ve built up a lot of con­fi­dence and for the last year the sta­bil­ity in the team and the hi­er­ar­chy the coach wanted have borne fruit,” he added.

“Our roles are clear and well-de­fined and if we can keep the same at­ti­tude while fo­cus­ing on the quar­ter-fi­nals as our first tar­get, I think we can go far.”

Fresh from fir­ing 17 goals and con­ced­ing just two in their fault­less qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign, the Nether­lands have un­der­stand­ably been in­stalled as favourites in Group E.

“We want to live up to that stand­ing,” said Ooi­jer, now en­joy­ing his sec­ond spell at PSV. “That’s go­ing to be dif­fi­cult as Den­mark, Ja­pan and Cameroon aren’t just

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