Dutch winning machine stays on course for success

PORT ELIZABETH - Netherlands finally put themselves among the favourites to win the World Cup after their impressive 13th straight competitive win knocked towering favourites Brazil out of the tournament.

However, the 2-1 quarter-final victory over the five-time world champions on Friday was more than just the first major scalp the Dutch had claimed during their winning streak.

It also proved that the team in orange had learned lessons from the past.

Four years ago the Dutch were knocked out in the second round by Portugal in a bad-tempered match with 16 yellow cards and four players sent off.

But yesterday against the refined Brazilians, they kept their composure and proved they now knew what was required to win at this stage of the finals.

"If you see the difference compared with the Portugal match four years back it is clear that this team has really developed," Dirk Kuyt told reporters.

"Then, everything ran out of control but now it proved that playing in big competitions, like most of us do, really paid off," he added.

From the side that lost to Portugal in 2006, seven started against Brazil yesterday, while Nigel de Jong and Gregory van der Wiel, who are both suspended for the semi-final against Uruguay, were the only starters who were new to the squad.

The win over Brazil was also the first time that the Dutch had had to come from behind during their winning run.

During their qualification campaign they breezed through a group with Scotland, Norway, Iceland and Macedonia, while so far in the finals Bert van Marwijk's team have eased past Denmark, Japan, Cameroon and Slovakia.

So, the match against Brazil showed the Dutch also had the grit to turn a game around after their opponents had taken an early through Robinho and then had more chances to settle the match before the interval.

"After our poor start in the first half we straightened our back, and then you need some luck like we had with the equaliser," said Kuyt.

"But after the equaliser we felt that something snapped with Brazil, while we just went on playing our own game.

"This team is mentally so strong that even the late change of Andre Ooijer instead of Joris Mathijsen made no difference," he added.

But despite reaching the last four, Kuyt is not getting carried away.

"It feels so unreal reaching a semi-final but it is also just the next match," he said. "So on Tuesday we just have to be ready to play the next match of our lives.

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