Ten reasons behind Dutch success
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
Netherlands' Wesley Sneijder celebrates with Giovanni van Bronckhorst after their semi-final match against Uruguay. (REUTERS/Dylan Martinez)
As the only unbeaten, untied side at South Africa 2010, the normally-underachieving Dutch have one pressing question looming.
Why have they been so successful, going 6-0 en route to a date in the final against the equally enigmatic Spanish? Without further ado, here are 10 reasons why:
10. The Orange Nation: Wherever the Dutch are, there fans have followed in a giant orange wave. For a relatively small nation, The Netherlands has shown overwhelming support for the team. It can't help but rub off on the players.
9. The Tactics: Flash and dash has never netted the Dutch a World Cup title so the decision to go the deliberate and methodical route is understandable. It's worked so far, so why change?
8. The Star: Getting through the Group stage while allowing stud midfielder Arjen Robben to heal was a real bonus for the Dutch. With a healthy Robben having started the past three games, they've been on a roll.
7. The Diving: For all the good Robben brings to the table, his flopping is a black mark on this team. Yet the officials continue to allow him to get away with it. The tying goal in a 2-1 victory against Brazil came off a free kick initiated by a Robben dive.
6. The Save: Already down 1-0 to Brazil in their quarterfinal in Port Elizabeth, Dutch goalie Maarten Stekelenburg made arguably the save of the tournament with a diving fingertip stop in midair off Kaka. Had that gone in, Brazil goes up 2-0 and the game is over. Instead, the save allows the Dutch to come back for a 2-1 triumph.
5. The Luck: All championship teams need some, and the Dutch have enjoyed their share. Against Brazil, they got the tying goal from a deflection off the head of a defending player. Against Uruguay, Wesley Sneijder's go-ahead goal appeared to come with Robin Van Persie in an offside position. They are not here because of luck. But a bit always helps.
4. The Humility: Really? From the Dutch? This is the same national team that manager Bert Van Marwijk accused in the past of showing "arrogance" after big victories instead of looking toward the next game. There is swagger in this edition, to be sure, but not enough to sway them from taking their eyes off the prize.
3. The Camaraderie: Former Dutch midfielder Wim van Hanegen once said of the Dutch: "We think there's a problem if we don't have a problem!" And there seemed to be a big problem brewing early on when Sneijder and Robin Van Persie seemed to be at loggerheads. But the issues soon were paved over and, now, all seems lovey dovey, as hard as that may be to believe.
2. The Superstar: Without Sneijder, this team is not in the championship game. When Robben was out of the lineup, Sneijder carried this team. He still is. Where would they be without his five goals? At home.
1. The Coach: When Van Marwijk was hired as Dutch manager two years ago, he said the goal was a World Cup title. Now he's got them within a win of that goal. The man obviously practises what he preaches.
On Sunday, we'll all see if the man can make an entire country's dream come true.