The Netherlands' coach Albert Suivenberg greeted his players with warm handshakes as they made their way to breakfast at their team hotel in Morelia, while those players already seated welcomed their colleagues with less formal high fives. Indeed, such was the air of calm about the group, you could be forgiven for thinking they had just won their opening match at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011.
Appearances can be deceiving, however, as the Oranje actually kicked off their Group A campaign with a surprise 1-0 defeat by Congo. So where does this strikingly laid-back atmosphere come from? “We lost a match, not the chance to progress in the tournament,” Dutch right-back and captain Daan Disveld, who hails from the village of Lent, told FIFA.com.
“In 1988, the Netherlands lost their European Championship opener against the USSR and went on to win the title. Last year, Spain lost to Switzerland and also ended up as world champions. So we know it’s in our hands.
“Of course, if I could go back and play the Congo match again, I’d do it in a flash. That said, when we watched the match video back we saw that we didn’t play badly, but there’s no doubt this team can do better. Unfortunately, we didn’t put away our chances and they scored with their only opportunity.”
Disveld is clearly somebody who prefers to see the glass as half full. “The defeat taught us a lesson and it will help us when we play against Korea DPR," said the player who operates at centre-back for his club, NEC. "They will almost certainly play a similar style, keeping it tight at the back to deny us space. How are we going to deal with it? By believing in our system, the one that brought us success in the European (U-17) Championship.”
The young Oranje skipper is a keen admirer of England’s fearless centre-back John Terry, and is not fazed by the challenge facing his side. “We know we have to win, but this doesn’t create any extra pressure. It was very quiet in the changing room the other day, but that’s normal after a defeat. We’re still very positive and trust in each other’s abilities.”
With his cool head and measured approach, it is easy to see why Disveld was chosen to wear the captain’s armband. “People don’t seem to realise that we’re in a very tough group,” he concluded.
“We’re up against the hosts, the Asian champions and one of the best teams in Africa, which is a very strong continent. However, as I said earlier, our chances are still intact and our goal remains unchanged: to reach the semi-finals at the very least.”