Netherlands 2, Denmark 0

The Netherlands surged into the World Cup with one of the

globe’s fiercest attacks. It took some luck to get that offense on

track.

The Dutch got an own goal in the 46th minute and beat Denmark

2-0 on Monday at Soccer City, failing to break through on their own

until the 85th, when Dirk Kuyt tapped in a rebound off the post

from close range.

Well, whatever works.

“We wanted to play beautiful soccer but we lost the ball,”

said Netherlands coach Bert Van Marwijk, whose team did not lose a

game in qualifying. But “from time to time you could see how good

we can be.”

The Netherlands took the lead when Denmark defender Simon

Poulsen headed a ball off the back of teammate Daniel Agger and

into the net. Poulsen had been trying to clear a cross from Robin

van Persie.

Denmark had frustrated the Dutch until then with a compact

midfield, and the Netherlands never came close to the free-flowing,

high-scoring type of play their fans have become accustomed to,

despite several other chances.

Still, the Dutch ended the day tied for first place in Group E

with Japan, which beat Cameroon 1-0.

The Netherlands’ gift goal came as Van Persie beat an onrushing

Thomas Sorensen to a long through ball down the left flank, then

squared up and sent a cross into the area. Poulsen had plenty of

time and space to clear the ball, but his off-balance header

bounced off Agger’s back and into the net.

“That was like a bucket of cold water over our heads,” Denmark

coach Morten Olsen said. “Simon Poulsen was one of our better

players but he was unlucky. It’s one of those things that happens

in soccer.”

Poulsen said he saw the ball too late, and that it “practically

hit me in the face.”

“I was just thinking, this can’t be happening,” Poulsen

said.

After wasting a number of chances to double the lead, Van Persie

sent Eljero Elia a nifty through ball and the substitute shot’s

went past Sorensen, hitting the post. But the ball bounced straight

out toward Kuyt, who beat his marker to tap the rebound into an

empty net.

“I don’t think we played that well in the first half, but in

the second we really deserved to win,” playmaker Wesley Sneijder

said. “The Danes in the first half did an excellent job, because

they studied us very thoroughly.”

Nicklas Bendtner, expected to miss the game with a groin

problem, started as a lone striker up front for Denmark, which

employed a five-man midfield to stop the Netherlands’ trademark

quick passing game.

Those tactics worked well in the first half, as the Dutch

struggled to thread the ball through the midfield. Instead, it was

Denmark that created the best scoring chances on counter attacks.

Dennis Rommedahl’s cross from the right wing found Bendtner

unmarked in the area in the 27th, but the Arsenal forward headed

wide from six yards.

Bendtner then sent Thomas Kahlenberg clear into the left side of

the area in the 37th, but his shot was pushed out to a corner by

Maarten Stekelenburg.

Bendtner was pulled out of the game in the 62nd minute, with

Olsen saying he “wasn’t supposed to play” but a late injury to

Jon Dahl Tomasson forced him to change his mind.

The Dutch continued to press forward after the own goal but

struggled to create clear chances. Van Persie had an opportunity to

double the lead in the 52nd after being sent clear into the area by

Kuyt but Sorensen rushed out and got a hand on the ball.

The Arsenal striker then set up Rafael van der Vaart with a

cross into the area in the 59th, but his well-placed volley

produced a two-handed save from Sorensen.

Van Marwijk opted to keep star winger Arjen Robben on the bench

as he recovers from a hamstring problem.

“We won, 2-0, so there you go. You can hardly say that you

missed him,” Van Marwijk said. “Arjen is an exceptional player

who on his own can make a difference. … But we’ve got a couple of

them. And I’m really pleased that we have them on board.”