Dutch put mental strength ahead of skill for final

Netherlands captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst

Netherlands captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst  

After defeat in their country’s two previous World Cup finals, the Netherlands’ players are determined not to put lavish skill ahead of single-minded focus a third time on Sunday.

The Dutch reached the 1974 and 1978 finals with some of the football’s greatest ever players but each time the host nation overturned the strutting Oranje.

After Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Uruguay set up a final against Germany or Spain, coach Bert van Marwijk is determined to make sure that a six-game winning streak at this tournament does not bring out the traditional Dutch weakness of assuming the next victory is a foregone conclusion.

“We know we can play football,” captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst said. “To be mentally strong is now most important.”

Van Marwijk’s memories of the 1974 tournament, when the Dutch thrilled the world only to then be beaten 2-1 by a single-minded German team, are too strong for him to let his players fall to the same weakness.

If they lose at Johannesburg’s Soccer City, it won’t be through lack of preparation.

“Often when we start beating people, we become overly confident and then we are sent home,” Van Marwijk said. “We did lose the match whereas we should have won it because we played wonderfully well.

“Johan Cruyff was the best football player that ever existed.”

Van Marwijk now wears winning ugly as a badge of honour. The Dutch on a record 25-game unbeaten streak that includes 10 straight wins.

And he has the support from players who usually love nothing better than flaunt their skills.

Striker Robin van Persie said the players won’t get carried away by an occasion marked by millions back home painting villages and cities in the team’s orange colour.

“I will only realise it looking back,” Van Persie said. “Now I have this tunnel vision, and you just do what you have to do.”

Forward Dirk Kuyt knows how bad it is to lose a final after going down to AC Milan while playing for Liverpool in the 2007 Champions League showpiece.

“I was there and I know what it is,” Kuyt said. “It is not going to happen to me a second time.”

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 11:33:16 PM |

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