The first stage of Bert van Marwijk's FIFA World Cup™ mission is complete, Saturday's 1-0 victory over Japan in Durban have taken the Netherlands through to the last 16. But Van Marwijk's side still have to negotiate their final group game with Cameroon, who will be looking to end their tournament on a high after defeat by Denmark left their FIFA World Cup dream in tatters. Despite taking a maximum six points from six so far, the Netherlands coach tells FIFA that that there is still room for improvement in his side, and he will be looking to see evidence of that in the final group game.
FIFA: Bert, you have won both of your games so far. As a coach, could you wish for anything more?
Van Marwijk: It is always nice to win twice in a row, and we've already managed to get through the group phase. You always hope that it is going to happen, yet it is not as easy as it sounds. So, if you achieve that, you can be quite satisfied.
Do you think there is still room for the team to grow during the tournament?
Yes, I think so. We can do better. For example, in the qualifying matches against Mexico, Ghana and Hungary, we played a much more attractive match, and we scored a lot more often. But you can see that at the World Cup it is a lot harder. Everyone wants to score once or twice within the first five or ten minutes, but it is not that easy. The opposition is always very well organised. In general, they play very defensively against us, so there is less space in the opponent's half of the field.
They have to respect each other's qualities. They need to be able to tell each other the truth.
You have a very experienced player as your captain, Giovanni van Bronckhorst. How good is that for you as a coach?
I've known Giovanni for a long time. I also worked with him at Feyenoord for a year, and he is a really good captain, but in his own way. He is not someone who bosses people around and yells. He is a very quiet guy who has the respect of all the players, and that is very important.
You have Giovanni in defence, Maarten Stekelenburg in goal, and Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie in the centre. How important is it to have such a strong spine in the team?
That is always important, but it is just as important to have a strong team, a team that knows what it is about and does not necessarily have to be each other's friends. They have to respect each other's qualities. They need to be able to tell each other the truth. Those are usually the teams that are able to bounce back when it really matters, and I think that we are able to do that.
You still have to play Cameroon in Group E, but do you already have an eye on the Round of 16?
I haven't done that yet, because the first match was the most important; and after that the second one. However, since we already have a place in the next phase, of course, you now look out for that. Nevertheless, I do take the match against Cameroon very seriously because it is in that match that the team has to show that they have learned. We want to improve in every match.
So there is no reason to bring in different players for that match.
I take into account the fitness of the players. I might have to think about the situation with the cards, however, you shouldn't expect me to suddenly line up a completely different team.