Dutch on the defensive despite winning start

JOHANNESBURG - Less than 24 hours after becoming the first side to qualify for the knockout phase of the World Cup, Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk found himself defending his team's lack of stylish play at the tournament.

Two wins from two matches have put Netherlands through to the second round but Van Marwijk was on the defensive on Sunday under questioning from Dutch reporters over perceptions their victories had been far from convincing.

"It's difficult to dominate the matches. Patience is the most important aspect in this tournament, waiting for a chance to take control of the game and then impose yourself," he said.

"Patience is not about delaying or being nonchalant but very important at this tournament," he told a news conference the day after they qualified from Group E with a 1-0 win over Japan.

"I thought we played a little too deep in the first game (a 2-0 win against Denmark) and in the second match we didn't play wide enough.

"But we have also left the impression with rival coaches that they have little chance to score against us. And that is a compliment," he added.


"Of course, that is not always attractive football. Everyone looks at the game in his own way and I understand that people want to see attractive football.

"But if you play too expansively, you stand a good chance to lose and then you go home. And that we don't want to do," he responded to persistent questioning about the lack of fluidity in the two matches.

Van Marwijk said he had told his players before the start of the tournament it would be better to be winning first, even if they were not playing well.

The Dutch were sublime at times in a qualifying campaign in which they won all eight games, scoring 17 goals and conceding just two, with a distinctive attacking style.

The country has long espoused a coaching philosophy of passing, wing play and encouraging technical skills, regularly producing players with great ability.

But they have only won one major tournament, the 1988 European Championship, despite so often threatening to impose their talent on opponents before imploding.

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