Dutch do best to deflate controversy

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:26 PM ET

PORT ELIZABETH -- Here in the breezy oceanside community that calls itself "The Windy City," it's time to see if the Dutch once again are full of hot air.

Leading into their huge quarterfinal showdown with five-time World Cup champions Brazil at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Friday, there were howls once again that infighting was flowing through the Dutch squad, one the players were quick to reject.

Keep in mind that the Netherlands have pieced together an impressive legacy of sniping and griping within the walls of their dressing room dating back more than three decades.

As Wim van Hanegen, a midfielder with the 1974 Netherlands team that lost the World Cup final to Germany, once said of the Dutch: "We think there's a problem if we don't have a problem!"

According to current Netherlands star Wesley Sneijder, the 2010 Netherlands squad does not have a problem. Does that mean there actually is a problem? It's all very confusing.

What is clear, however, is that Sneijder has gone out of his way to dismiss any suggestions that he and Dutch striker Robin van Persie might be at loggerheads.

According to various reports, a frustrated Van Persie, having just been substituted in the Netherlands' 2-1 victory over Slovakia in the Round of 16, allegedly told Dutch manager Bert van Marwijk that Sneijder was the one who should be yanked.

A heated exchange between coach and player ensued, but Van Persie insists he said nothing bad to the coach or anything that might be "harmful" to the team.

Van Persie subsequently met with Sneijder to make sure there were no rifts within the team. Whether it is legit or not, it really does appear as if the Dutch are actually attempting to play nice together, something that hasn't always been the case.

"Robin assured me that he had not said those words and I have no reason to doubt him," Sneijder said. "I don't have a problem with him and I never have done. He was disappointed to come off, that one I can understand and it really isn't a serious matter.

"We will be united as never before against Brazil. We have already drawn a line under the last 16 match and we will be 120% raring to go against Brazil."

Give Van Marwijk credit for attempting to put out the fire before it became a full-scale inferno. He acted quickly in bringing Van Persie and Sneijder together to air any dirty laundry that might have been lingering.

"The meeting was to draw a line under the story and so we could now focus on the Brazil match," Van Marwijk said.

Maybe this is the Netherlands' new philosophy. Maybe they finally have their house in order. Maybe they have managed to avoid getting the Brazilians cranked up for this game. Then again, maybe not.

Not after former Dutch legend Johan Cruyff took shots at Dunga's team earlier this week. "I don't think any spectator would pay to watch them," Cruyff told the British publication The Daily Mirror earlier this week.

"I would never pay for a ticket. Brazil need to play with more intensity, more bite on the pitch, because they are not special. Always the fans want to enjoy Brazil, enjoy their fantasy at World Cups, but they do not have that this summer."

So much for the Dutch holding their tongues.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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