'Famous four' take a back seat as team spirit wins the day

Dismiss, for a moment, all thoughts of Wesley Sneijder's pomp, or Arjen Robben tormenting Felipe Melo to the point when rationale gave way to rage and he weighed in with the full force of his studs.

The abiding images of Europe's first golden moment of this tournament include Andre Ooijer forcing Kaka to go outside and on a road to nowhere when he threatened to deliver another twist in the script towards the end. Then Dirk Kuyt, almost setting up a third Dutch goal before his lap of honour, in which he didn't quite know what to do with his hands.

Ooijer didn't make it at Blackburn and Kuyt's name has become synonymous with an unspectacular work ethic at Anfield but it is testament to Bert van Marwijk's management that they played such a part when Holland came up against a Brazilian side which had seemed an unstoppable force. Everyone knew the Dutch had the creative players – Sneijder, Robben, Robin van Persie and Rafael van der Vaart are known in the Netherlands as the "famous four" – but it was how they would relate to the more prosaic talents around them which was always going to be key.

The famous quartet were summoned to a meeting with Van Marwijk before the tournament, at which they were told to respect the rest of the team and told not to discuss their superior salaries. "Accept everybody," they were told. It has not entirely worked that way. The "kind of arrogance" which Johan Cruyff spoke of in the finest Dutch players has still been evident and Kuyt was less than pleased with Van Persie's claim before the tournament that the 'famous four' might all play together (presumably without him). He responded with words to the effect that "Van Persie doesn't pick the team".

But the team ethic has been nurtured – and in ways which England can look at rather ruefully today. While England were restless in Rustenburg, Van Marwijk decided to base his players at a hotel in busy, central Johannesburg. "I remember when I was a player how it felt being cooped up in a hotel for just two days," he said before the tournament.

They have advanced steadily, if not spectacularly, towards last night, though the free spirit in the side appeared to have been vanquished when real opposition surfaced. If England's domination of a poor World Cup qualifying group can be seen in its true perspective, so could Holland's at the top of a group in which they only conceded twice – to Macedonia and Iceland.

The real state of the defence was exposed when Luis Fabiano drifted into a deep lying role and Johnny Heitinga was lured into following him, leaving the gaping hole through which Melo threaded the 60-yard ball that Robinho latched on to and swept home. The weakness was reinforced as Robinho jinked around two defenders and eased in the ball to Fabiano which, one effortless flick later, was ready for Kaka to curl in the 22-yard shot which was superbly tipped away by Maarten Stekelenburg. That's the same Stekelenburg – the first choice since Edwin van der Sar's retirement – whose uncertainty at crosses had created a concern but who reached beyond expectations when his moment came.

It meant that half-time arrived with a narrow deficit and that the Dutch creative forces still had a part to play. Robben started to cause worry to Michel Bastos and then began Sneijder's own extraordinary contribution; one that might have ended with a hat-trick. One of that "famous four" he might be, but the indignity of a free transfer from Real Madrid to Internazionale – to allow Kaka and others in through the front door – is firmly in the past today.

Robben, who departed through the Bernabeu tradesman's entrance too, also felt he had something to prove at this tournament. It was he who waited back to intercept Kuyt's euphoric lap of the stadium last night. They left the arena as equals, with a real belief that a final lies in wait.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
The video, titled 'A Message to America', was released a day after Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that has overrun large parts of Iraq, threatened to attack Americans 'in any place'. U.S. officials said they were working to determine the video's authenticity
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape