Patient Dutch win again
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
Wesley Sneijder proved to be the difference maker for the Dutch, rocketing a volley in the 52nd minute. (REUTERS/Michael Kooren)
DURBAN -- The guy's head needs watering.
At least his lid does.
The Dutch have just squeezed past Japan 1-0 on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at the beautiful Moses Mabhida Stadium and one jubilant fan, clad in orange from head to toe, is sporting a unique look.
He is wearing a hat that has flowers growing out the top of it.
Live tulips, if you must know.
If that's not creative, what is?
When it comes to doing things with flair, the Dutch fan base is second to none.
The Dutch team, on the other hand ...
We'll say this much about the 2010 Dutch national side: their orange jerseys are overwhelmingly bright.
When you dissect it, that's about the only flashy resemblance you'll between those high-flying Netherlands squads of yesteryear and this deliberate bunch that recorded its second win in as many outings at South Africa 2010.
Certainly this Dutch side does not have the razzle-dazzle element that players such as Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Frank Rijkaard and the great Johan Cruyff brought to the table during their respective impressive eras with the Netherlands.
But it does have star midfielder Wesley Sneijder.
And on this day, the gifted Dutch playmaker was more than enough to put the Netherlands on the verge of qualifying for the Round of 16.
Schneider proved to be the difference maker, rocketing a volley in the 52nd minute that seemed to catch Japanese goalie Eiji Kawashima diving too far to his right. The ball glanced off Kawashima and went into the net, giving the Dutch a 1-0 victory and putting them atop Group E with six points.
The Dutch played a conservative game for much of the 90-minute match and it almost cost them. Japan stayed with them throughout and at times had the Netherlands just clearing the ball down the field for dear life.
"Why do we focus on good football instead of winning?" Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said. "Let me assure you that we really, really want to win and if we can do that in style then great. But you have to be able to win ugly games."
He then quickly pointed out how both the mighty Germans and staggering French were doing.
"It shows you there are no easy games. Look at France and Germany," van Marwijk said, referring to the recent losses suffered by the two big boys in a 24-hour span.
There is an urban myth about the Dutch that suggests they are artists every time they step onto a pitch, seeking new creative ways to slice through opponents. In reality, after absorbing a seemingly endless assembly line of devastating defeats that earned them a rep as underachievers, the choice has become clear: Winning ugly is preferred over losing with style.
Of course, with stud winger Arjen Robben set to come back from a hamstring injury, there might soon be a little more artistry in the Dutch game plan moving forward.
Robben declared himself fit to play this week but was kept on the bench by van Marwijk. Smart move as hamstrings can be nagging ailments that never really truly heal without the proper time, so why rush him?
With the Netherlands having gained the maximum six points in two games, the logical decision for the Dutch might be to hold Robben out of action until the Round of 16 in order to allow him to get stronger.
As for Japan, the Netherlands has never lost to an Asian team before. The unblemished record remains intact, even if they didn't come by it pretty.
Anyway, that's enough talk about stats. There are more important things to do. Like watering the hat before all the flowers die.