Coach Bert van Marwijk has warned his Dutch squad they must not succumb to arrogance after the Netherlands made a low-key start to their FIFA World Cup™ with a 2-0 win over Denmark on Monday.
The Dutch struggled to live up to their billing as potential FIFA World Cup winners after they needed an own goal by Danish defender Daniel Agger and a tap-in from Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt to win their first Group E match. The Danish defence held firm in the first half as the Dutch showed signs of frustration before Agger diverted a Simon Poulsen header on 46 minutes into his own goal and Kuyt put the matter beyond doubt after 85 minutes.
Much has been said of the Netherlands' star-studded attack which boasts the likes of Arsenal striker Robin van Persie, supported in midfield by Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder, Kuyt and Real Madrid's Rafael van der Vaart.
But van Marwijk says his squad must now live up to their potential by playing the flowing football they are famous for and not allowing complacency to set in. "I have been saying this since I became head coach two years ago. We know what it means to be a favourite, we play good football and are very creative," said van Marwijk. "I have said 100,000 times that sometimes we are arrogant and sometimes that might backfire on us, and I have told my players from day one and we must not fall into that trap."
With his side still to play Japan and Cameroon in Group E, van Marwijk said he was glad to start with a win, but his team must be more patient. "I have been thinking of this game for a long time, because it is always a tough match and it is so important to get off to a good start," said the 58-year-old.
"The players were a little tense and we were frustrated in the first half, we wanted to play beautiful football, but we lost the ball too often. We improved after the first goal and then you saw what we are capable of doing, we could have won by more. It was a huge relief when the second goal went in."
As they showed at UEFA EURO 2008 by beating both France and Italy in the group stages, the Dutch are more than capable of playing eye-catching football and van Marwijk is hoping to have winger Arjen Robben back for the next game. The 26-year-old was left out of Monday's starting line-up to recover from a torn thigh muscle, but the Dutch coach said he is happy to keep him in reserve.
"We won 2-0, so I can hardly say we missed him," said van Marwijk. "We have speed and creativity in our selection. Arjen is an exceptional player, he is creative and super-fast so I am pleased we have him on board.
"It does create some reassurance that we can call him up when the time is right. We felt the co-operation was excellent between Sneijder, van der Vaart and van Persie. We scored 10 goals in two of our warm-up games and we still have plenty of weapons on the bench."
With Manchester City's Nigel de Jong and Bayern Munich's Mark van Bommel shoring up the midfield, van Marwijk said he was happy about their level of control, but not about de Jong's yellow card late in the first half.
"I didn't really think of taking Nigel off, he does a great job alongside van Bommel, but I felt he put in a reckless challenge," said van Marwijk. "We spoke about it at the break and I was sure he wouldn't get a second card. Several players played a good game, van Bommel provided grip and control, he has confidence and power. I think we made a reasonably stable impression and we never panicked, not for a moment."