James Lawton: Brazil's praise shows this Dutch side has what it takes to win

Lucio tips his Inter team-mate Sneijder to shine in the final

Though they made their date with history, and a place in Sunday's World Cup final, the Dutch team one win away from stepping beyond the legend of Johan Cruyff have run into another wall of doubt.

They may have made a nation exultant back home, and Johannesburg was quickly turning orange yesterday in anticipation of the big game that could finally banish the ache that has nagged at their football psyche since defeats in the finals of 1974 and 1978, but many believe they are still too fragile to leave here world champions.

The charge is that they were close to losing their way against Uruguay in Tuesday's semi-final in Cape Town and that a historic fault line has yet to be removed.

The Dutch, it is being said, still have a fatal capacity to beat themselves.

Maybe, maybe not, but in the circumstances they will no doubt welcome the reassurance that came yesterday from perhaps the leading authority on how it is to play to your limits while also required to exorcise a whole legion of ghosts.

It was supplied by the Brazil who appeared to have taken a stranglehold on the tournament right up to the moment the Dutch nagged them into quarter-final defeat.

Lucio, the big central defender who seemed so impregnable before he was undermined by the second-half goals of his Internazionale team-mate Wesley Sneijder, said he always expected the Dutch to suffer an ordeal of survival against a Uruguayan team who had already exceeded all of their hopes, and thus had nothing to lose.

"You have to realise how ugly a semi-final can be," said the big man. "You have gone so far, played so hard, and yet all of it can come crashing down at any moment. In my opinion the Dutch did very well indeed. Yes, there were times when they seemed weighed down by all the hopes on their shoulders but they never stopped playing and in the end they could have won easily. The important thing was that they did win, they found a way to do it and so much of that was to do with the leaders in the team.

"Before we played them we knew they were very dangerous, and then when they won, we said, 'They can win the World Cup now'. You have to remember an important thing about semi-finals. If you're going to have doubts, they will come when you are so near to the prize."

For Lucio and Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano, Sneijder is most likely to unlock door in the final. "He never rests in a game," says Lucio. "When we won the Champions League he was the one most sure that we could beat Barcelona – and then he did it." Fabiano had an instinct in the quarter-final that the winners would probably go home world champions. "They are a clever team and they also have a lot of confidence," he said. "You cannot dominate them for too long. Sneijder and Robben can hurt you at any time."

There is also the prodigious running of Dirk Kuyt. "He's a horse," one Brazilian said, shaking his head in some awe. Robin van Persie remained a marginal figure against Uruguay in the role of lone striker that he dislikes so acutely, but there were moments, notably when his clever feint preceded Sneijder's goal, when the Arsenal man suggested he might be on the point of reminding the world that he can strike with a sudden venom to match any rival.

At least the coach, 58-year-old, resolute, charisma-free Bert van Marwijk was overjoyed. Compared to such predecessors as Dick Advocaat, Guus Hiddink, Louis van Gaal, the great player Marco van Basten and the father of Dutch football, Rinus Michels, Van Marwijk sometimes looks – and sounds – like a hospital orderly who has been sent in to sort out the psychiatric ward. But there is, you suspect, a cool and lurking pragmatism that may in the end carry him beyond all the men of lustre and panache.

After victory over Uruguay, he spoke of a unity of purpose that had brought a sometimes fractious team to the point of great achievement. Once it was said that a Dutch player rebellion could be provoked by displeasure with the décor of the team hotel. Here, though, the tensions have been smoothed away.

Coming in, the coach declared, "I'm a realist. We know we can beat every country and when you know that you go to a World Cup to win it, not just to try to win one or two games. The way Barcelona played against Arsenal was the best I ever saw; for me the result was not important because as an outsider I enjoyed watching the game so much. But when you are personally involved only the result matters."

The most significant result of his career was virtually guaranteed when first Sneijder, then Robben imposed themselves on the obdurate, quick Uruguayan defence. But he was not inclined to lose his head. He has, after all, also said, "We are a small but creative country and we have what Johan Cruyff always described as 'a kind of arrogance'. We cannot let that arrogance become negative. It must be positive. When Holland is good we are very, very good... and then you can lose."

It is maybe a case of so much for the cautionary reviews. The best guess has to be that this Dutch team, perhaps uniquely among all those who have gone before, already know that they still have something huge to prove. It is that they have the nerve, as well as the talent, to win the greatest prize.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash