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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
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.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism