Sneijder: Champions League better than World Cup

JOHANNESBURG - The quality of football in the Champions League is far better than that on display in the first round matches at this year's World Cup, Netherlands playmaker Wesley Sneijder told reporters on Thursday.

"So far the favourites didn't show what they are capable of and only Germany really impressed," said Sneijder who arrived at the finals having won the Champions League with Inter Milan.

"I think everyone has to get used to the circumstances, like the ball and altitude, and it all will start from now on."

"Besides that I enjoyed watching countries like North Korea and New Zealand playing their games, but then you realise the Champions League is far better," he added.

Inter's treble was the first by an Italian club and Sneijder is now desperate to add a fourth winners' medal to his haul as the Dutch bid to become world champions for the first time after twice finishing runners-up - in 1974 and 1978.

After a season at Inter under Jose Mourinho, who has since departed for Real Madrid, Sneijder is now part of a close Dutch squad, though he is in touch with several of his club colleagues playing for Brazil, Argentina, Serbia, Ghana and Slovenia.

The 26-year-old was not surprised by the outstanding goal scored by Maicon for Brazil in their opener against North Korea, when the defender scored from an almost impossible angle.

NEW THINKING

"I know him and he does these sort of things in training so, for sure, he meant it," Sneijder said, adding that several of his club mates were following the Dutch in South Africa.

"I received several text messages and they all enjoyed our match. I understand the Dutch media and crowd didn't enjoy our match but in internationals it's the result that counts."

Sneijder's remark showed how his thinking has changed after his experiences in the Spanish and Italian leagues.

For decades the Dutch were praised for attractive football but players like Sneijder and Mark van Bommel, whose Bayern Munich side lost the Champions League final 2-0 to Inter, have stressed that it is only results that really count.

That pragmatic approach has not met with the approval of the Dutch media or the team's hordes of orange-clad fans despite a convincing 2-0 win in their Group E opener against Denmark.

That put the Dutch top of Group E on goal difference ahead of Japan, who they meet next in Durban on Saturday.

"In Spain and Italy they like it when you win with good football but winning without is appreciated," said Sneijder.

"Two years ago at the Euro finals we were expected to pick up the trophy after two impressive wins (over Italy and France) and the whole team got carried away with the euphoria."

"We know what is expected of us and that we can do much better but I can't remember a World Cup or Euro in which a team plays six or seven fantastic matches," he said.

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