CAPE TOWN - Netherlands' 2-1 victory over Cameroon was not the stroll many people expected it to be and for the Dutch players, management and fans that is a good thing.
All too often the Dutch have cruised the early stages of tournaments, convincing themselves that everything was on song, only to come unstuck when the opposition went up a notch.
It happened at the last World Cup and in Euro 2008 when, just at this tournament, they secured qualification with a game to spare. Four years ago they were knocked out by Portugal in a bad-tempered second-round match while two years ago it was Russia who brought their progress to an abrupt halt.
For long spells on Thursday the Dutch were under pressure and Cameroon fully deserved to equalise through Samuel Eto'o's 65th-minute penalty before Klaas-Jan Huntelaar secured the win.
"When we went 1-0 up I expected us to play professionally, finish the match and score more," said coach Bert van Marwijk.
"But in the second half we started too easily, it was sloppy, and then you're bound to end up having problems. You cannot afford that period of negligence and we have to get rid of it, whatever it takes."
Next up for the Dutch are Slovakia, who shocked the world - but not Van Marwijk - by beating world champions Italy 3-2.
"They impressed us in qualification and I said before the game it would not surprise me if they beat Italy," he said.
"That showed you just cannot underestimate an opponent. If we just concentrated on the previous two matches and some good moments from today then of course that's when you see our best, but you cannot afford to have 20 minutes where you are so nonchalant."
Robin van Persie, who opened the scoring after 36 minutes, said he felt the current squad were better prepared for the latter rounds, which could include a Brazil quarter-final.
"Most of our guys have two, three or even four tournaments in their legs now and we've got to show we've learned from that," he said.
Van Persie's goal, following one in 2006, made him the fourth Dutch player to score in two World Cups, joining an illustrious trio of John Rep, Rob Rensenbrink and Dennis Bergkamp.
"Winning three out of three is definitely good for confidence," he said of his side's 100 percent first round. But we still need to improve and play better and for longer.
"Slovakia have to have a good team to beat Italy. I saw some of the game and they showed really good spirit and hung in there to get a great result so we need to be really sharp."