Arjen Robben has said that he would be delighted to win ugly in the FIFA World Cup™ Final on Sunday. The present Dutch squad has been described by some oberservers as the least attractive of the three that have reached the game's greatest stage.
Their first attempt came in the 'Total Football' era of Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff, and, as will be the case this weekend, also featured an English referee in Jack Taylor. However, defeat to a technically inferior but tactically more astute West Germany was followed by a similar outcome in Argentina four years later, when Michels and Cruyff were no longer around but legends such as Johan Neeskens and Ruud Krol still were to bring a sense of flair to the Oranje.
So, having won plaudits but no prizes all those years ago, Robben is quite happy to have the workmanlike tag attached to the present side. All he cares about is the result. "I would much prefer to win a very ugly game than lose a beautiful one," said the former Chelsea star. "We can still play attractive football but we can always rely on our good organisation as well. If you are organised, you know one goal could be enough, which has been the case so far.
"The point is, we are in a World Cup final. From now on how you actually play no longer matters. Of course, the intent is there to play good football but the result is far more important. We have heard enough of talk about how our football is very nice. But it gets you nowhere. We want to achieve something."
We have heard enough of talk about how our football is very nice. But it gets you nowhere. We want to achieve something.
That is not to say the Netherlands are without talent. Wesley Sneijder has enjoyed an outstanding tournament and is now on the brink of emulating Pele's achievement in 1962 by adding the FIFA World Cup to a treble achieved on club duty with Inter Milan. Little wonder Manchester United are so interested in the midfield schemer.
As United found to their cost in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, Robben still packs a powerful punch too, although the 26-year-old continues to be plagued by a hamstring injury picked up before the tournament began.
"I don't think I have been quite at my best because occasionally I still suffer some pain," he said. "It doesn't stop me playing, but it would not be truthful to say I am pain-free. It is getting better, however, it is not perfect and I am just doing as much as I possibly can."
There are connections between the Dutch and Spanish camps. Pepe Reina has already revealed he has been in text contact with Liverpool team-mate Kuyt. It seems Robben is not as close with Spain skipper Iker Casillas, who until last summer he shared a dressing room with at Real Madrid. "I have had no contact with him," said Robben. "It is something that is not important. I do not need friends. I want to be world champion."
History beckons and Amsterdam is waiting to party. Having won all eight games to reach South Africa and six more to reach the final, the men tasked with wearing those distinctive orange shirts are determined not to let anyone down now.
"We won every qualifying game and then every game since we have been here," said Sneijder. "We are not going to allow Spain to beat us now."