Holland coach Bert van Marwijk is predicting a battle royal against the “fighters” of Uruguay in Tuesday’s semi-final but believes his Dutch players have added some steel to their renowned brand of attractive football.
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The Dutch are the clear favourites to make it to Sunday’s final, especially with Robin van Persie declared fit and the South Americans’ striker Luis Suarez suspended following his now infamous hand-ball that led to Ghana’s agonising exit from the tournament.
Like all his predecessors since Rinus Michels, Van Marwijk has had to endure comparisons with the man who invented ‘total football’ for the Dutch, but he believes he has now added to the flair that they have become famous for.
He said: “When I took over this job, my first goal was to teach the team to defend better. Because we haven’t scored that many goals so far in this World Cup, people see it differently as they only associate attractive football with lots of goals. But we still play attractive football.
“Uruguay are a team of fighters. They battle and survive. That is why they have reached the semi-finals. We must certainly not underestimate them, otherwise things will go wrong for us.”
Uruguay will also be without Jorge Fucile, one of the outstanding defenders of the tournament, but Van Marwijk is preaching a message of caution based on bitter memories of past opportunities that brilliant Dutch teams let slip.
He added: “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.”