Mark van Bommel and Arjen Robben may have tasted the bitterness of defeat in the final of the UEFA Champions League in May, but just seven weeks later these Bayern Munich team-mates have the chance to put that disappointment behind them with victory over Spain in the Final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ at Soccer City on Sunday.
"It was our aim to finally reach a World Cup final after 32 years of disappointment. We've all worked very hard to get here, and we knew had the quality to do so," said Robben in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. "The most important thing was that we all believed. We all believed that we could do it. Now we'll be doing everything we can to win the match."
An incredible feeling
The Netherlands will be competing in their third FIFA World Cup Final, and after losing in 1974 and 1978 to Germany (2-1) and Argentina (3-1) respectively, the Oranje are hoping it will be third time lucky in Johannesburg. "We have one clear goal, which we outlined two years ago," said Van Bommel. "Everyone knows why they're here. We're not here for the sake of it."
"An incredible feeling" and "indescribable" was how Van Bommel attempted to explain his emotions ahead of Sunday's epic showdown. "The last time the Netherlands were in the World Cup Final, I was just one year old. We have a good team. We won all our games in qualifying and now at the tournament as well. I'm proud to be a part of this team," continued the 33-year-old midfielder.
Along with team-mate Robben, Van Bommel won the German league and cup double with club side Bayern Munich, but went on to lose the final of the Champions League 2-0 against Inter Milan, ending any hopes of an unprecedented treble. That has made the Dutch duo all the more determined to secure their country's first ever FIFA World Cup trophy. "It's my last World Cup, my last chance. I don't want to waste this opportunity."
It's my last World Cup, my last chance. I don't want to waste this opportunity.
In contrast to the 'total football' propagated by the famous Dutch teams of the past, calmness and efficiency have been the cornerstones of the Netherlands' performances so far at South Africa 2010, and Van Bommel has a simple explanation as to why: "It's because all our lads play with top European clubs, where success is a requirement. Playing pretty football comes in a close second. We all have that winning mentality. We know that we can play better, but at this tournament we have to be successful, and we have been so far."
Three 'finals' before the Final
Robben echoed the combative midfielder's sentiments, telling FIFA.com, "If you want to win the World Cup, playing nice football isn't the most important thing. The result is what counts. Things really get going after the group stage. You have to win three 'finals' if you want to actually reach the grand finale. If we can win it, it would be legendary."
Of course, Van Bommel and Robben have international colleague Wesley Sneijder to consult on exactly what it takes to win a major tournament. The Inter Milan playmaker himself celebrated a triple-haul of silverware as the Italian giants emerged victorious in the final of Europe's premier club competition just over two months ago.
"I'll be trying to bring some of my experience from last season into the squad," Sneijder told FIFA.com. If the Dutch can muster another match-winning performance against the European champions on Sunday, all three will be no doubt be celebrating long into the Johannesburg night.