CAPE TOWN, June 22 – The Netherlands hope to welcome back star winger Arjen Robben when they meet a Cameroon side playing on Thursday to salvage their pride.The fortunes of the two World Cup Group E teams could not be more stark — the Dutch have already qualified for the round of 16 while the Africans have been knocked out.
The Netherlands are one of the form teams in South Africa, convincing in their 2-0 victory over Denmark and a 1-0 win against Japan and they are keen to make it three-out-of-three against Cameroon.
Coach Bert Van Marwijk is not concerned how his team play, as long as they collect at least a point to top the group.
If they do, they will face the second team in Group F for a berth in the quarter-finals, which could be either Paraguay, Italy, New Zealand or Slovakia.
"We really want to win and are playing to win. If we can do that playing a beautiful game, fine, but we also have to be able to win ugly games. We’ve shown ourselves to be much more stable, conceding fewer goals," he said
Van Marwijk added that his team have big ambitions in South Africa.
"We came here to win a prize, to become world champions, but it’s far from easy," he said. "If we continue to show winning form and retain confidence, we might get far. The target is to go for the prize."
The coach is hoping to see the influential Robben back in action, but his appearance on Thursday is still not certain.
"We will see how he evolves before taking a decision over whether he plays or not." he said.
Robben, the Bundesliga player of the season and instrumental in Bayern Munich reaching the Champions League final, has played no role so far after suffering a hamstring injury in a warm-up victory over Hungary.
But he feels he is ready to make his bow.
"These last few days I have trained normally without any problems. Now I feel like I need to play a game to rediscover my rhythm," he said on Monday.
The only other player causing some concern is Real Madrid midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, who is suffering from a painful neck.
Cameroon have confidence issues to deal with, having become the first team eliminated from the tournament after losing 2-1 to Denmark and 1-0 to Japan.
Superstar striker Samuel Eto’o, the team’s captain and a three-time African player of the year, said they must lift their spirits and play for pride.
"I want to finish with dignity in the last game," Eto’o said. "That is very important.
"We need to go out with some pride, above all for the people back home, though it won’t be easy."
The match could be the last in charge for coach Paul Le Guen, with reports in Australia saying he is favourite to take over the Socceroos job when Pim Verbeek quits after the tournament.
The Frenchman said he felt the team had played well, but had been unlucky.
"I’ve been happy even though things have been difficult, I recognise that we’ve had a failure here at the World Cup but I’ve sought to do my best for the team," he said.
"I think the team have shown a great deal of spirit but, as we are eliminated, I’m not particularly consoled in knowing that."
KEY TO THE MATCH
Confidence – The Dutch are on a high knowing they have qualified while Cameroon are clearly down in the dumps.
Much could depend on how senior players like Eto’o and coach Le Guen can lift the African nation. If they come out determined to salvage some pride then they should run Holland close. But if their focus has gone, it could be a rout.