Van Marwijk has last laugh

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:51 PM ET

CAPE TOWN - He was ridiculed, toasted and roasted. All for telling the rabid citizens of his soccer-mad country that a World Cup title was within the grasps of their painted orange fingertips.

Now, just two years later, The Netherlands is two victories away from hoisting the coveted trophy. In the end, manager Bert van Marwijk certainly is having the last laugh.

"When I was hired by the Dutch Football Federation (in 2008), I told the guys: 'Listen, we have a mission. We want to go for the World Cup,'" Van Marwijk said.

Nice message. Too bad many didn't buy into it.

"People mocked me for (saying) that, but if you really want something, you really have to believe in it."

They believe him now.

Especially after his team's huge 2-1 victory over pre-tournament favourites Brazil on Friday in a quarterfinal match at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, a win that now has the entire country feeling as if its first ever World Cup title is obtainable.

"I really believe in (the Brazil) match, you have seen everything we have achieved in the last two years," Van Marwijk said. "But you don't have to tell me that I was right all along because we really need to focus on the next match."

That "next match" will be Tuesday, when his Dutch squad takes on a shorthanded Uruguay squad at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town.

The Dutch received some good news Sunday when striker Robin van Persie, who had been nursing an ailing knee, was declared fit to play against Uruguay.

Uruguay, on the other hand, will be shorthanded, with striker Luis Suarez suspended for his hand ball late in the quarterfinal victory over Ghana.

Van Marwijk, however, insists The Netherlands will not take their opponents lightly.

"Uruguay are a team of fighters," he said. "They battle and survive. That is why they have reached the semifinals. We must certainly not underestimate them. Otherwise things will go wrong for us.

"We have been down this road before in the past with other Dutch teams and the Dutch people have been let down time and again. We have to take the duel with Uruguay very seriously because, mentally, it is difficult to get yourselves back into the mix after a victory against Brazil.

"It has now been two years that I have been trying to get the players to understand that. In order to be world champions, they must shine regularly without ever letting up. We haven't succeeded in our mission yet. The target, to be crowned champions, is not yet achieved."

At least they are not mocking Bert van Marwijk any more. Far from it.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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