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Dutch promise to peak

JOHANNESBURG, June 10- Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder insisted on Wednesday his country's impressive pre-World Cup form counted for little, as Holland embark on another major tournament praying that their high hopes do not evaporate.A 2-1 win over Mexico, an impressive 4-1 victory over fellow World Cup qualifiers Ghana and an emphatic 6-1 mauling of Hungary have indicated that the Dutch are in the form to launch a concerted bid to win the first World Cup in their history.

But Sneijder, fresh from winning the Champions League with Inter Milan, told AFP in an interview that the only match that mattered now was the first Group E clash against Denmark in Johannesburg on Monday.

"We’re not interested in being the world champions of friendly matches," he said at the team’s training camp in the city. "What we want to do is confirm our current good form when it comes to competitive matches."

The Dutch have past form in coming into major tournaments with all guns blazing only to disintegrate when the meaningful action begins.

Bitter memories of Euro 2008 remains fresh in Dutch minds. After a smooth pre-tournament preparation, the team then coached by Marco van Basten roared through the group stages, thrashing Italy and France and disposing of Romania.

But as soon as people started to talk of them as favourites, they crashed out to Russia in the quarter-finals, a 3-1 defeat in extra time exposing all their old frailties.

"We have learned our lessons from that experience, especially when it comes to handling the physical demands of a tournament," said 26-year-old Sneijder.

"Above all else, we are all more experienced now – we have been playing together for six years. I am not saying that it is now or never for us to become world champions, but the time has come."

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Coach Bert van Marwijk said everything possible had been done to ensure his players will be ready for action when it matters most.

"All the preparations have been planned so that the players reach peak fitness during the tournament and not before," he said.

"After our preparation at altitude (in Austria) we are staying at an altitude of more than 1,500 metres (in Johannesburg). In terms of physical preparation, I think that is a plus."

And the former Borussia Dortmund and Feyenoord boss insisted that his side had taken confidence from their warm-up goal bonanza — but warned he would not let it go to their heads either.

"Our confidence is a strong point, unless it turns into arrogance," he said.

Meanwhile, the Dutch continue to wait anxiously to see if Bayern Munich and former Chelsea striker Arjen Robben can recover from a thigh injury to play any role in the first round. He is already out of the opening match against the Danes.

Midfielder Rafael van der Vaart said the Dutch have the talent to win the World Cup.

"We have Sneijder, we have Robben, we have a quality side," said the Real Madrid play-maker. "When we get into shape, we definitely have a chance of winning the title."

Van Marwijk gave his players a break on Wednesday night by cancelling the scheduled evening session after Holland had a hard run-out in the morning.

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"We trained so intensely in the morning that I do not think the players needed a second session," he said to justify the decision.

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