Johannesburg: Even without injured Arjen Robben - the last player to arrive at the World Cup – the Dutch will seek to underline their potential to win football’s biggest prize for the first time by kicking off with an impressive victory over Denmark.
The two teams who won their qualifying groups with a combined one defeat in 18 games go head-to-head at Soccer City tomorrow with both trying to show they can make an impact on the first World Cup on African soil, despite the expected absence of key players.
Robben is definitely out with a hamstring injury and Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner is likely to be missing with a groin problem.
While the Danes are realistically out to reach the last eight, two-time runners-up Netherlands is aiming higher.
“We should reach the semifinals at least,” striker Robin van Persie said. “That’s a must for us, especially when you look at the 23 players and the clubs they play for.”
Man for man the Dutch should have the edge over the Danes. Even with Robben arriving at the World Cup trying to shake off a hamstring injury, the likes of Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder, Bayern Munich’s Mark van Bommel, Real Madrid’s Rafael van der Vaart, Arsenal’s Van Persie, AC Milan’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Liverpool duo Ryan Babel and
Dirk Kuyt have the ability to beat better teams than Denmark.
Bendtner has been struggling for several weeks to get over his injury and there are major doubts he will take any part in tomrrow’s opening Group E game.
Both teams go into the match confident that, whatever the result at Soccer City, they should both beat the other two rivals, Japan and Cameroon, who meet later tomorrow in Bloemfontein.
The Dutch are in top goalscoring form, beating Ghana 4-0 in a World Cup warmup match and then routing Hungary 6-1 after falling behind in Amsterdam.
But that was the game where Robben went on as a second-half substitute, scored twice in a Dutch scoring spree and then got injured trying something which was at best risky and at worst plain stupid.
Cutting in from the right in his customary way, he tried to feed the ball to an overlapping teammate with some fancy footwork and collapsed with a hamstring injury.