Kuyt happy for Dutch to win ugly as star Robben nears return
Two years ago the Netherlands wowed the world as they began Euro 2008 with stunning victories over France and Italy. But they watched the final on television after being knocked out by Russia.
This time their players insisted, after becoming the first team to secure a place in the second round of the World Cup, it will be different.
Their slim, but generally comfortable, defeat of Japan, coupled with Cameroon's evening loss to Denmark, ensured that the Dutch would progress while many of their rivals stutter.
Nevertheless, the manner of their victory was criticised by the Dutch media. With Japan pulling everyone behind the ball, large parts of the match consisted of the Dutch back four passing sideways.
Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt was unrepentant. "The result is the most important thing," he said.
"We know we have a lot of attacking talent so it is disappointing we haven't scored more goals but the two teams we've played (the Netherlands beat Denmark 2-0 in their opening game) have been very defensive. It's difficult to get through them."
Two factors suggest the Dutch will continue to improve. One is the impending return of Arjen Robben.
"Arjen is close to fitness now," said Dutch captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst. "He trained with us on Friday, he looks very good and feels good."
Robin van Persie should also gain in match sharpness as the campaign goes on.
Netherlands' victory against Japan --one of the surprise teams of the tournament -- came through an error by goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, who who misjudged the flight of a belter from Wesley Sneijder that went in off his wrist in the 53rd minute.
For Japan, the tournament now comes down to a shoot-out with Denmark in Rustenberg, on Thursday. A draw will take Takeshi Okada's side through to the second round for the first time on foreign soil.
The danger is that they will play for a draw, but they showed enough, after going behind to Sneijder's 20-yard drive, to suggest they should do more than just invite pressure. (© Independent News Service)
Netherlands -- Stekelenburg; Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Van Bronckhorst; Van Bommel, De Jong; Kuyt, Sneijder (Affelay 83), Van der Vaart (Elia 72); Van Persie ( 88).
Japan -- Kawashima; Komano, Nakazawa, Tanaka, Nagatomo; Matsui (Nakamura 64), Hasebe (Tamada 77), Abe, Endo, Okubo ( Okazaki 77); Honda.