Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk is being forced to go back to the drawing ahead of his side's FIFA World Cup™ semi-final clash with Uruguay, with right-back Gregory van der Wiel and holding midfielder Nigel de Jong ruled out of Tuesday night's game in Cape Town through suspension. Both were cautioned for the second time in the tournament during yesterday's 2-1 quarter-final victory over favourites Brazil.
Van Marwijk also had to make a change just minutes before kick-off at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth after central defender Joris Mathijsen picked up an injury in the warm-up. The Hamburg player made his way to the touchline clutching his knee, and was replaced in the starting line-up by Andre Ooijer. Mathijsen's problem will continue to be assessed.
Van Marwijk was delighted with the way his players handled the unexpected twist and will be confident they can cope with whatever is thrown at them as they attempt to realise their dreams.
He said: "When I heard, I said to Andre Ooijer that he would have to play if Joris Mathijsen couldn't and that he had to prepare himself. In the changing room, the medical staff were treating him and we didn't know what was going on. We asked how much time before the game we could make a decision, and it was five minutes before. I went back to see how he was doing, but he wasn't sure, so we couldn't take the risk. I told Andre he would be playing and that that would make us stronger. We had to keep our discipline and get strength from that and not let ourselves lose concentration."
Van Marwijk was well aware of the party which was under way in the stadium and back at home in the wake of their famous win, and while he said it was a pity he and his players were not part of it, he admitted that was probably a good thing with what lies ahead. The Netherlands coach insisted he and his players have believed all along that they have the talent and the organisation to go all the way in the tournament, but he knows words are cheap.
"That is easily said, but it is not so easy to do it," he said. "It sounds very straightforward, but there's a difference between saying something and doing it. I genuinely believe this team can play good football and we have proved we can play good football. If you really want to achieve something, you have to genuinely believe in it. It's very simple and this is the message I have tried to deliver, especially to the players."