Final focus: Dutch ready to play smart game

No style points. Winning is what matters.

After losing in their two previous trips to the World Cup final,

the Netherlands is determined not to let its flashy play get ahead

of going home with the big prize.

“We know we can play football,” Dutch captain Giovanni van

Bronckhorst said. “To be mentally strong is now most


The Netherlands reached the 1974 and ’78 finals with some of

soccer’s greatest players, but each time the host nation – West

Germany and then Argentina – beat Oranje teams with a reputation

for overconfidence.

After Tuesday’s 3-2 semifinal win over Uruguay, coach Bert van

Marwijk is determined to make sure that his team’s 10-game winning

streak – including six at this tournament – does not create the

same problem.

Van Marwijk’s memories of the 1974 tournament, when the Dutch

thrilled the world only to fall 2-1 to the Germans, are too strong

for him to let his players fall to the same weakness.

“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


Dutch great “Johan Cruyff was the best football player that

ever existed.”

The Netherlands could face Germany in the final – or Spain,

depending on the outcome of Wednesday’s semifinal.

Assistant coach Frank de Boer was a defender in 1998 when the

Dutch last reached the semifinals – only to be eliminated by Brazil

in a penalty shootout. He says the character of the Dutch team has

changed over the years.

“In ’98, we were happy just to get in the semis and could play

Brazil,” he said.

He noticed the same attitude among the Uruguay players Tuesday

night and felt a win was coming from the moment the Netherlands

players first stepped on the field.

“Let me give you a small example: I knew we’d win when a saw a

half dozen of their players come onto the field with their cameras

– and I am talking starting lineup players. They filmed the

stadium, filmed the players.”

“Then I knew our approach was much better,” De Boer said.

“That is why it is important to keep that focus.”

The Dutch coaches have the support of a talented group of

players who would love nothing better than flaunt their skills.

Striker Robin van Persie said the team won’t get carried away by

an occasion marked by fans back home painting villages and cities

orange in honor of the Dutch jersey color.

“I will only realize it looking back,” Van Persie said. “Now

I have this tunnel vision, and you just do what you have to


Forward Dirk Kuyt knows how bad it is to lose a final after

falling to AC Milan while he played for Liverpool in the 2007

Champions League.

“I was there and I know what it is,” Kuyt said. “It is not

going to happen to me a second time.”