Johannesburg: Strong contenders the
Netherlands launched their FIFA World Cup campaign with a
scrappy 2-0 victory over a fighting Denmark in their Group E
opener here on Monday.
While the Dutch were gifted a self-goal in the 46th
minute to forge ahead, striker Dirk Kuyt produced a goal just
five minutes before the final whistle to give his team full
points at the majestic Soccer City stadium.
The Dutch, boasting of a star-studded line up, were
hardly convincing in their win in a match which seldom rose to
The Netherlands rode on a huge slice of luck to go into
the lead barely a minute after the interval, courtesy a self
goal from Denmark`s Jakob Poulsen.
It turned out to be a bizarre goal which was the result
of a move initiated by Robin van Persie who managed to dribble
past a few defenders and cross the ball from the left wing.
Poulsen got his head to the ball, which hit the back of his
teammate Daniel Agger before going into the goal.
The goal came as a big let down for the Danes who put up
a spirited display to keep their much superior opponents,
ranked fourth in the current FIFA rankings, on a leash for
most part of the opening half.
The Dutch sealed the fate of their opponents in the 85th
minute, capitalising on a defensive lapse.
The goal-bound move was initiated by Eljero Elia whose
10-yard shot was tipped to the post by the Denmark custodian
Thomas Sorensen. Off the rebound, Kuyt tapped in from close,
much to the delight of his teammates.
Both the teams appeared a trifle tentative in the early
stages of the proceedings as they gauged each other`s defence
with a few exploratory raids.
But after 10 minutes of so, both the teams accelerated
the pace of the game and the barren opening session was more
or less evenly contested with brisk attacks and counter
Denmark, ranked 36 in the FIFA rankings, could have
opened their account as early as the sixth minute of the
contest when captain William Jorgensen initiated a brilliant
move from the flanks to find the dangerous Thomas Kahlenberg
inside the box. However, the Wolsburg player could not
capitalise on the chance.
After a series of exchanges, the Dutch had a close look
at the goal in the 24th minute when medio Mark van Bommel
darted down the right and crossed to Rafael van der Vaart.
However, the Real Madrid player failed to control the
ball first time and then shot wide much to the disappointment
of the Dutch supporters at the magnificent stadium.
Four minutes later, the Dutch goal had a close shave as
the hard-working Dennis Rommendahl found space down the right
and centred to an unmarked Nicklas Bemdtner but the Arsenal
striker`s header flies over the crosspiece with Netherlands
custodian Maarten Stekelenburg out of position.
Denmark saw another chance go abegging in the 36th minute
when Rommendahl`s volley went wide.
Netherlands got a chance to take the lead just two
minutes before the breather when Persie managed to break
through the defence with deft footwork but could not control
the ball close to the goalmouth.