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

News
Pro-Russia rebels guard a train containing the bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 crash in Torez, Ukraine
i100
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
News
people
News
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
news
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
theatre
News
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
tvWebsite will allow you to watch all 522 shows on-demand
Arts and Entertainment
filmThe Rock to play DC character in superhero film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Damon Albarn is starting work on a new West End musical
artsStar's 'leftfield experimental opera' is turning mainstream
Life and Style
Paul and his father
artsPaul Carter wants to play his own father in the film of his memoirs
Sport
Ben Stokes trudges off after his latest batting failure for England as Ishant Sharma celebrates one of his seven wickets
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
Members of the public are invited to submit their 'sexcapades' to Russell T Davies' new series Tofu
tv
News
Sky's Colin Brazier rummages through an MH17 victim's belongings live on air
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
arts + ents'The Imitation Game' stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor