Mark van Bommel has been the rock in the holding midfield position for a pragmatic Netherlands team here at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. Having won their first four matches with a mixture of patience, organisation and the occasional counter-attack, the Dutch now line up against mighty Brazil in the quarter-final in Port Elizabeth/Nelson Mandela Bay on Friday. The Bayern Munich captain sat down for an exclusive chat ahead of this mouth-watering clash...
FIFA.com: You've reached the quarter final against Brazil. This is a wonderful fixture.
Mark van Bommel: Yes. Every time that we play them in a tournament the matches are good, intense and they're always very important as well.
Do you think you will be able to play better football against Brazil than against one of the teams that set out only to defend?
We always try to play our own football, attractive football. But if that doesn't work, you'll have to try to win the match somehow. Definitely in the knock-out phase of a tournament where a single match decides whether you go through to the next round or go home. This means that first of all you have to win the match, and if possible play good football as well.
The last time these two teams met at a FIFA World Cup was in 1998. You weren't there at the time, but how do you remember that match?|
That was a really intense match, the semi-final. At the end of the match Pierre van Hooijdonk was denied a penalty and I think the penalty had to be given. These are moments I witnessed by watching them on the television, and these are also moments that I won't forget easily. That was a unique opportunity to reach the final. The Netherlands have reached the final twice and this was an extra opportunity.
The match ended with a penalty shoot-out. What do you think the chances are of this match ending with penalties as well?
That may well be. I think both squads are equally matched and details decide the outcome of a match. You never know what can happen but there's always a time in the match where both teams think 'there's no point in trying to win so let's hope we get to a penalty shoot-out'. If that happens we'll have to make sure that it will become a penalty shoot-out and then we have to trust on Maarten [Stekelenburg] who can handle that really well.
You have to trust your goalkeeper, but you have to take the penalties yourselves as well. Is that something you guys have practised frequently?
No. We've done it a couple of times. But this is normal. We do the same thing at our club as well when you're playing in a knock-out phase. With Bayern we did it before the quarter final and the semi final. Those are things that are part of the training. It’s nothing special.
What is the secret behind taking a good penalty-kick?
It isn't easy. I think you have to have a good shot – and this you can practice. You can improve your shot. You can pick a side of the goal and try to perfectly place your shot in that corner. But when you are in the stadium, I've experienced some penalties in the national cup and the quarter-finals of the [UEFA] Champions League and afterwards you don't even remember how you walked from the middle of the pitch to the penalty spot. You try to focus, you don't even hear the crowd in the stadium anymore. These are things that are really difficult to train for, but what you can train for is the way you kick your shot.
What do you think is the best way to play Brazil?
That's really difficult. We have to talk with the team about what the best way is to play them. It's just a really tough opponent and they'll also wait for us to make mistakes so they can come out very quickly. Also they have a really strong defence, so overall, they have a really good team.
Can players like Arjen Robben – just back from injury – make the difference for your team?
Yes, I think that every coach in this World Cup would be happy to have a player like Robben in his team – a player who can keep a few defenders busy. And he also has the ability to make the difference in a game on his own. He's proven that against Slovakia once again, and with Bayern Munich he has done that for the entire season.