Arjen Robben feels the Netherlands must improve on their most recent FIFA World Cup™ showing if they are to succeed in the tournament, after Australia threatened to spring a surprise upset on them.
The Dutch had to come from behind to beat the Socceroos 3-2 in Porto Alegre, an outcome that clinched a spot in the next phase of the tournament but one that also showed how precarious a team's balance can be.
"The first half, we just played really bad," Robben said to nieuws.nl. "We were just sleeping. We made a lot of mistakes in possession. Actually, everything just went wrong, we weren't in the game."
The Oranje had looked sharp in their 5-1 demolition of Spain but struggled against a defiant Australia. "We had a lack of focus and concentration," Robben said. "This should not happen during a match. We wanted the confidence that we got from the Spain game to take the win. We had to realise that this was a whole different game than against Spain. We had to start again, start again from 0-0."
We had to realise that this was a whole different game than against Spain.
Robben, who was voted Man of the Match by FIFA, hailed Australia's resilience. The forward put the Dutch ahead in the 20th minute but a stunning volley from Tim Cahill allowed Australia to equalise and then, after half-time, Mile Jedinak put Australia ahead from the penalty spot. Goals from Robin van Persie goal and Memphis Depay handed the Dutch three points.
"We had to work very hard for the victory," Robben said. "The Australians fought hard as it was their last chance. Their equaliser affected us but we were able to react."
The Netherlands and Chile each have six points and will face each other in a battle for group supremacy in Sao Paulo on Monday. While the European team has already assured itself of a spot in the knockout round, Robben knows a good performance is needed against Chile, who won their game against Spain 2-0.
"We have take a big step forward," Robben said. "We have six points, which is the maximum we could have taken. Now we have one more group game and we want to play well."
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal will be without Van Persie against Chile with the Oranje captain having picked up his second booking on Wednesday. Australia coach Ange Postecoglou, meanwhile, says his team will leave the competition with their heads held high.
Beaten 3-1 by Chile in their opener, the Aussies made things very interesting on Wednesday. "I just wanted the players to get the reward for the way they went about things against the Dutch," Postecoglou said to the Sydney Morning Herald.
"I have put a lot of pressure on the players...to be a certain type of team, to take it to a world class opposition. We did it but we didn't get the reward. I am massively disappointed."
Postecoglou believes that Australia have a good future ahead of them. "We came to this World Cup and we are playing against three of the best nations in the world," he said. "People were saying we were not going to score a goal, that we were just going to try to survive. We have only just started on this journey, the goal is that we come back in four years time and they fear us as much before we go on the pitch as much as they fear us on there now.
"I said all along that I was not going to discount this World Cup. We came here to make a mark, and we have had opportunities in both games to do so."
Postecoglou hailed 34-year-old striker Cahill, who played his last World Cup game against the Netherlands and scored a wonder goal. Cahill picked up his second booking against and will miss Monday's game against Spain in Curitiba.
"Timmy was Timmy," Postecoglou said. "He was outstanding. I told him I wanted this to be his best World Cup. I said he was going to be a handful for any opposition.I am really delighted for him."