Johannesburg: Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk made a slight tweak to his usual pre-match preparations ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final against Spain by taking his squad on an afternoon stroll around the zoo.
The 58-year-old, blessed with a healthy squad for the biggest match of his life at Soccer City, said he had tried to keep preparations as normal as possible despite the magnitude of the occasion.
“This is the most important match in my football life and that counts for all players as none of us ever won the World title,” Van Marwijk told a news conference at Soccer City on Saturday.
“Though I approach it like a normal match with the preparation we always have. We walked in the morning but this time we walked through the zoo as it was nearby. Then we rested and went training.”
This will be the Dutch’s third appearance in a World Cup final following back-to-back defeats in 1974 and 78 and although they will go into the match as underdogs they will be confident having extended their win streak to 14 games with victory over Uruguay in the semi-finals.
The 3-2 win over the South Americans was their sixth win in South Africa and despite their smooth run through the tournament the reserved coach said there was no reason to fear that all their confidence might turn into arrogance.
“Especially not for a match against Spain,” Van Marwijk said. “For example, against Japan, Slovakia and Uruguay we proved that we stayed focussed.”
After starting their World Cup campaign at Soccer City on June 14 with a 2-0 win over Denmark, the Dutch are back in the same stadium at a much higher altitude then all the sea level venues they played in between.
After their opener, the Dutch played twice in Durban and Cape Town while their most impressive win over Brazil in the quarter-finals was registered in Port Elizabeth.
“It is good that we had some days to get used to circumstances again, it is necessary you could see that how the ball reacted today,” said the coach, who revealed he was a world champion in klaverjassen, a Dutch card game, after winning the title with his father in 1975.
Captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst, playing his final match before retirement, agreed the change in altitude takes some time to get used to.
“You have to adjust again, especially with long passes through the air as the ball move completely different, but it during the match it just will be a matter of course,” the fullback said.