Sneijder fails to silence Dutch critics

Holland 1 Japan 0: The 'Oranje' purists want more despite Holland becoming the first side to qualify for the last 16 by beating a stubborn Japan

This game only caught light 30 minutes after the final whistle in Durban when Bert van Marwijk, the Holland coach, was involved in an angry exchange with Dutch journalists.

Holland had won by a solitary goal, Wesley Sneijder's powerful 53rd-minute strike ending Japan's doughty resistance. It took Holland to the top of Group E and after Cameroon's defeat to Denmark, they became the first team to qualify for the last 16.

That seemed pretty impressive from an English viewpoint (and probably from a Spanish, French, Italian and German one too), but in the land of total football winning is not enough. Van Marwijk was informed that viewers back home had deluged the media with text messages asking why the game was so boring, why the Dutch kept passing sideways, why they did not score more goals.

The answer is that it takes two teams to play an entertaining game. Japan, their coach Takeshi Okada admitted, had come for a point. While they were prepared to push forward on the flanks, as soon as they lost possession they retreated inside their own half, presenting the Dutch with a 10-man wall of white. Having seen what happened to Spain on this ground against Switzerland, Holland were not about to take risks to penetrate it.

Thus Van Marwijk's brusque response: "All you want is beautiful football, 5-0 at half-time, but at this level you cannot score immediately. You have to understand the difference. It is the World Cup. The guys like to win with beautiful football but we have to deal with an opposing team that is well organised, that knows everything about us – there are no secrets now.

"At this level no match is straightforward. Look at Germany, Spain, England and France. The same applies to us. Everyone thinks it is straightforward and easy but Japan have been together a long time. They were excellently organised. I enjoyed watching Spain, but they lost 1-0. Barcelona lost the Champions' League semi-final against Inter. My sympathy is with Barcelona. I love that football but as I told the team when I became coach two years ago, we have to be prepared to win ugly games too. We are playing to win, if we play beautiful football too, that is fine."

Such is the credo for most modern coaches. This was confirmed after Sneijder scored. The Dutch immediately drew up the wagons and Japan finally opened up. They then looked a tidy side with an impressive pair of full-backs but a lack of punch in attack. They also very nearly snatched a point, the substitute Shinji Okazaki shooting just over in the final seconds after Joris Mathijsen had been caught ball-watching. The Dutch should have been safe by then, but another substitute, Ibrahim Afellay, missed two late chances after being put through by Eljero Elia and then Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. He was denied both times by Eiji Kawashima which will give the goalkeeper some succour as he ponders Sneijder's goal.

Kawashima yesterday joined the Jabulani victims, beaten from 20 yards despite appearing to get both hands behind the ball. It was hard to tell whether player or ball was at fault and Japan's coach, fitting all the clichés about inscrutable men of the East, was in no mood to clarify matters. "It was a good shot and we did not really expect not to concede against such an opponent. It was really a good shot," he said when asked whether ball or goalkeeper was to blame.

There was also a third party at fault. Sneijder received the ball after Tulio Tanaka, the Japanese centre-half, had headed Gio van Bronckhorst's cross straight to Robin van Persie, who fed Sneijder.

The Dutch were reluctant to play risky passes and prior to Sneijder's strike, Kawashima had been required only to make two regulation saves.

"It is not easy to win matches here, but we deserved to win this one," said Sneijder. "In the first two matches we have done a great job."

Attendance: 62,010

Referee: Hector Baldassi (Argentina)

Man of the match: Van Bommel

Match rating: 6/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent