The Netherlands have earned an unwanted reputation as the nearly men of world football, having twice reached the FIFA World Cup™ Final in the 1970s. In 1974 they lost out famously to neighbours and fierce rivals Germany before once again falling at the final hurdle to the hosts, this time Argentina in 1978. On both occasions the Oranje were considered favourites to take the crown, playing a sumptuous and fluid style known as Total Football.
"We’ve come here for one reason and one reason only: to win the World Cup," was the sharp and direct assessment of Eljero Elia, the 23-year-old sensation who has lit up the Dutch attack as a substitute. "If you come to a World Cup thinking about making it to the quarter-finals or just making up the numbers, there’s no point," the Hamburg wide man told FIFA.com, with the coolness of a youngster keen to take over the world. Elia wasn’t even born the last time the Dutch reached the final stage of a FIFA World Cup, and he was only six months old when won their only major international crown: UEFA EURO 1988 in Germany. "We’re here to show we can do it," he added.
The Final against Spain in Johannesburg’s Soccer City on 11 July will be the Netherlands first time vying for a world crown for 32 years, and the team ethic instilled in Bert van Marwijk’s side could prove a vital weapon. "We are all as one; we are a single unit working together, playing together and fighting together," said captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who will hang up his boots after Sunday’s game with Spain, with the Spaniards also looking to overcome a reputation for underachievement in the hunt for a first FIFA World Cup crown. "No one is above anyone else in this team, and this is our strength."
Dirk Kuyt’s tireless running and commitment have come to define this new Oranje, a side once synonymous with style, panache and worldly cool. "Of course everyone wants to play beautiful football, score bags of goals and win by huge scores," the Liverpool star told FIFA.com. "But I am more pleased with results," he continued, pointing to the Netherlands’ 100 per cent record of six wins in six games here in South Africa.
"Nothing is handed to you at a World Cup," chimed in Arjen Robben, whose return from injury has given the Dutch a big boost in attack. He has scored twice in four games since returning to the starting 11 in the Round of 16. "You have to battle and scrape for everything you get, and we have done that in our games." In the Final, the Dutch will be up against a side that has managed to meld stylish football with the right results and fight, European champions Spain. But Kuyt has the final word, pointing to his side’s new backbone: "We are a patient and calm team. It has served us well so far, and we hope it still will."