Van Persie brings artistic touch as Dutch concentrate on winning with style

The Dutch do two things at World Cups – they fight among themselves and captivate the tournament with their football. But until their arrival in Cape Town on Friday they had done neither of those two.

They are still not bitching about each other, but with the arrival of Arjen Robben and the return to full fitness of Robin van Persie, the football is starting to flow.

Cape Town may be the World Cup's most attractive venue but until Van Persie opened his account – after a beautiful triangle of passes against a Cameroon team in a barely declared state of civil war – the football on show had been as grey and grim as Moscow under Stalin.

Van Persie, whose torn ankle ligaments undermined Arsenal's season and threatened to ruin his World Cup, hoped "it might be the start of something".

As befits the son of artists from Rotterdam, Van Persie was among the most adamant that Arsène Wenger should not compromise Arsenal's style of play in search of trophies, and he feels the same way about the Netherlands. He was not born when total football came to the 1974 World Cup and was barely at primary school when Marco van Basten drove the Dutch to their only major trophy in 1988, but he is their spiritual successor.

"The Dutch public are very quick to criticise if we don't play well and, to be honest, I don't mind that because that is the way we are," he said.

"We need to lift our sights and play like we know we can. It is the same target that we have at Arsenal, where we want to win but we want to win with style.

"We have some really talented people and I know that, if I don't score, we have someone like Arjen Robben on the bench, or Klaas Jan Huntelaar. Physically and mentally, there is more to come from me. When you start a tournament having played 60 games you can be very tired but I have played 25.

"You will have to see in the next couple of weeks whether my being injured was a blessing in disguise but I feel very, very fresh.

"I know some of the boys have been tired with all the travelling around South Africa but I don't mind waiting around for two hours or staying in a hotel for a long time because I am back with the team."

The irony is that the team is managed by Bert van Marwijk, with whom Van Persie fell out so badly at Feyenoord that it was a major factor in his decision to move to London. And yet Van Marwijk may be just what this team requires – a man forever guarding against complacency and arrogance.

Holland do group games very well – they have only ever lost two; once to an Archie Gemmill-inspired Scotland in Cordoba in 1978 and then further north in Orlando in 1994 to Belgium, of all teams.

But they have been here before. In 2006 and again in Euro 2008 under Van Basten, they were eliminated the moment the knockout phase began – by Portugal in a brutal match in Nuremberg in the former and then by Russia two years later.

And this may be why, when asked to comment on Van Persie's wonderfully taken goal or Robben's gorgeous turn and shot on to the post, Van Marwijk grumbled about sloppy play and boys taking their feet off the pedal. He wasn't satisfied, and for those who think it appropriate the Dutch might triumph in a nation they did much to build, that was as comforting as the sound of contented silence coming from their training camp.

Holland v Slovakia

Today, 3pm, BBC1

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor