Durban: Arjen Robben and Wesley Sniejder fired the Dutch team to a 2-1 victory over Slovakia here on Monday to set up a World Cup quarter-final against either Brazil or Chile.
Robben made a 20-minute appearance against Cameroon in the Netherlands’ final group game after recovering from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the opening two matches.
But coach Bert van Marwijk started the Bayern Munich winger here and he repaid his faith by scoring a textbook goal in the 18th minute against a side that roundly failed in their bid to repeat their giant-killing 3-2 group win over defending champions Italy.
Robben latched onto an excellent long ball from Sneijder, cut back in past the retreating Jan Durica and Radoslav Zabavnik, and drilled a left-footed shot in at the near post past the despairing dive of Jan Mucha.
Sneijder was on hand to convert a clever Dirk Kuyt cross in the 85th minute after the Liverpool striker had robbed an out-of-position Mucha of the ball with the Slovak defence in disarray.
With the last kick of the game, Robert Vittek scored a penalty for Slovakia after Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg brought down Martin Jakubko in the area.
The fact the scoreline was kept to a respectable margin fell in large part to Mucha, who produced three excellent saves in the second-half prior to Sneijder’s goal.
An early chance fell to Slovakia’s Eric Jendrisek who blasted a shot just over the crossbar and skipper Marek Hamsik shot wide after being given too much space.
Robin van Persie had an excellent chance in the eighth minute, his header from a Kuyt cross just ricocheting off Zabavnik for a corner.
The Arsenal player then laid off Sneijder in the box, but the Inter Milan midfielder could only drill an underpowered shot at Mucha.
Mucha was on hand to make two great saves in a matter of minutes early in the second period, firstly parrying a Robben cutback and drive, and then brilliantly fending off a close-range Gregory van der Wiel stab.
The keeper, who has signed for Everton from Polish outfit Legia Warsaw, then punched away an in-swinging free-kick from van Persie, with the Dutch looking very dangerous on the ball.
Having spent the first hour not having made a save of note, Stekelenburg produced two fine efforts in quick succession to keep out efforts from Miroslav Stoch and Vittek.
Kuyt went close with a header from a Sneijder free-kick and then forced Mucha into a good save with a low 25-yard shot.