Aarjen Robben won’t let Holland lose the World Cup final. It’s as simple as that. Caught with his trousers down (see great Getty Images picture) after an epic 3-2 semi-final win over Uruguay in Cape Town last night, Robben has no intention of dropping his guard in the final at Soccer City on Sunday.
Haunted by memories of their two successive World Cup final defeats at Germany 74 and Argentina 78, losing is simply not an option for Robben, who was unable to prevent Bayern Munich going down to Inter Milan in the Champions League showdown seven weeks ago.
Robben, who scored a glorious header to seal last night’s epic semi, said: “This Dutch team is simply a great squad. We had a good look at each other before the game... and I was convinced we'd win.
"We’re nearly there. We need only one more victory now. I’ve already lost a big final with Bayern and I won't let that happen again.
"If Germany turn out to be our next opponent, I'll be even more motivated. I can't afford to lose against Germany, because my team-mates at Bayern will make fun of me all season."
Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium was awash with Orange by the time Robben scored the third goal, his second of the tournament after his late arrival with a hamstring injury. By then Wesley Sneijder and captain Gio van Bronkhorst had already given the Dutch a slender 2-1 advantage after Diego Forlan’s equaliser.
Uruguay pulled back a late goal but by then forlorn Forlan had been recklessly substituted and Uruguay had given up the fight.
Two of the smallest nations in the world – Holland are ranked 134th in the world on land mass while Uruguay are 90th – contrived to produce a fitting showdown in Cape Town, the city established by Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck in 1652.
South Africa, boasting over ten million people who still speak Afrikaans or “kitchen Dutch”, were unanimously behind the Oranjes after Uruguay’s cynical efforts had deprived both Bafana Bafana and BaGhana BaGhana of an African representative at this glorious tournament.
The last surviving Latin American nation were at it again last night, diving about, falling over, generally making a nuisance of themselves. But credit to Uruguay, who only qualified for this tournament on a play-off against Costa Rica after finishing fifth in the CONMEBOL qualifying group, they gave it a good shot.
With big guns Brazil and Argentina out, they fought hard to end the Dutch record of 25 successive unbeaten outings. But as I said two months ago, this Dutch side – with Sneijder and Robben the form players in Europe last season – were always a good outside bet at 12-1.
Cape Town, treated to awful 0-0 draws between Uruguay and France followed by England and Algeria early in the tournament, can now boast the highest-scoring venue of this World Cup. And the men in orange, unbeaten in qualifying, have now set a new record of 14 games without defeat in a single tournament, not to mention ten wins on the trot.
Unheralded coach Bert van Marwijk said: “Unbelievable. When I took this job two years ago, I said to the players, “we're on a mission, and we just have to believe in ourselves”. We're only a small country but we're through to the final again after 32 years, that's just unbelievable.”
And perhaps most telling of all, with Brazil lying in their wake and Germany or Spain to come, he added: “I love beautiful football, but I also want to win.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez sighed: “It was the right result and it was a match worthy of the World Cup semi-finals. I'm proud of my players. We're disappointed, but we've shown everyone who wrote us off beforehand that we're not very far off the top.
“We gave it our best shot, but it wasn’t quite enough.”
Neal Collins is in South Africa to promote his book A GAME APART. For more details see www.nealcollins.co.uk.