Heitinga highlights quest for perfection
If the manner in which the Netherlands disposed of Serbia and Montenegro was mildly impressive, then their reaction to the victory has been hugely so.
No-one, after all, would have blamed Marco van Basten and his players had they reacted with a measure of self-satisfaction to beating, and deservedly beating, a team which had conceded just one goal en route to qualifying for Germany 2006 from a preliminary section that also included Spain and Belgium.
As it was, however, rather than accentuate the game's many positives, such as their own defensive solidity and the scintillating contribution of Arjen Robben, the Dutch camp opted instead for a strange, if refreshingly self-critical approach.
Robin van Persie may have accused Robben of "making decisions for himself and not the team", but he also conceded: "I didn't have a great game apart from my assist for the goal." Phillip Cocu, meanwhile, reflected: "We gave the ball away too much and should have scored the second goal to make it all easier."
When one considers that even the irrepressible Robben admitted to being dissatisfied with aspects of his performance, and that the coach himself hit out at an "imbalance" in the Netherlands' dynamic attacking play, the conclusion that Van Basten has engendered a passion for perfection in his squad would appear inescapable.
Listening to John Heitinga establishes this thought beyond doubt. The 22-year-old Ajax defender might have been among the most accomplished performers on show in Leipzig's Zentralstadion, but in an exclusive interview with FIFAworldcup.com, he made it clear that his report card for both the Netherlands and himself would definitely read: Must do better.
"Our confidence is high, our spirit is good and I'd say we are all quite pleased with the result," he said. "But, yes, I think it's right to say that everyone feels that we can play a lot better, and I think we also need to learn to be more ruthless with the chances we create. The manager has an idea, a vision, of how he wants us to play and we still haven't achieved that yet.
"The good thing is that we won against a good team without reaching our top level. That will hopefully come against the Ivory Coast, and if it does, I will be very positive about our chances in this tournament."
Strength in unity
The Dutch certainly possess the talent to advance to the competition's latter stages, but it is worth remembering that it is not the quality of their individual players that has prevented successive Oranje outfits from realising their undoubted potential in years gone by. If those talented teams had a shortcoming, it was in their collective spirit and mental toughness, and it is certainly no accident that these are just the qualities Van Basten has attempted to instil in his young side as a matter of priority.
The result is that, already, the Dutch have established a foothold alongside Argentina at Group C's summit, and Heitinga's message to Serbia and Montenegro and Côte d'Ivoire is simple: Catch us if you can.
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"Before the Serbia game, we were all feeling under a lot of pressure," he admitted. "This is such a tough group that one bad result could have left us in big trouble, and the fact that Argentina had won the night before just increased the pressure on us to take all three points.
"But the fact we did that means we can now focus on the next game with clear minds, relax a bit and play our football. Winning our first game has taken the pressure off us a little bit and put it on to other teams. Now it's down to them to try and catch us."
The Netherlands' rivals will need to score against them first and, if the Dutch defensive performance against Serbia and Montenegro is anything to go by, that looks likely to prove no easy task.
"Defensively, I think we can be very happy," admitted Heitinga. "They (Serbia and Montenegro) have two top-class strikers in (Savo) Milosevic and (Mateja) Kezman, but I don't think between them that they had a single chance during the whole game. We have to be happy with that.
"It will be tough again against Ivory Coast, though, and we're ready for what's coming. They also have some good strikers, and (Didier) Drogba in particular will be very tough to play against. I thought, as a team, they were a bit unlucky against Argentina and we know that they will be fired up for playing against us."