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RVP threatens Dutch harmony

JOHANNESBURG, June 29 – The unusually united atmosphere prevailing over a Dutch World Cup finals camp threatens to come apart at the seams ahead of the quarter-final with Brazil after an outburst by Robin van Persie to coach Bert van Maarwijk when he was replaced in Monday's 2-1 win over Slovakia.Journalists from Dutch TV station NOS said it was clear from lip reading van Persie that the Arsenal star had said to van Marwijk – after flashing him a dirty look – ‘It is not me that should be substituted but Wesley Sneijder’, when he was taken off after another insipid individual performance with 10 minutes remaining.

"False!" retorted van Persie. "I didn’t say any name in particular."

However, the 26-year-old Arsenal star, who was defended earlier in the tournament by van Marwijk after coming in for heavy criticism from the Dutch media, admitted he hadn’t been pleased to have to give way to Huntelaar.

"I was very disappointed because I wanted to take advantage of the spaces being left at the back by the Slovaks in the final minutes," said van Persie, who has scored just once in the four matches so far.

Van Persie, whose season for Arsenal was curtailed through a serious injury which saw him on the sidelines from December to April – has admitted that he was getting increasingly frustrated after poor performances against Denmark and Japan in the group stages.

However, he insisted that he was not letting his disappointment overflow into poisoning the atmosphere in the squad, which historically has happened to the Dutch who have ruined their chances by splitting apart, often down the racial divide.

"But I said nothing bad to the coach, nothing that could harm the squad," added van Persie, who was a vital member of both the Dutch squad at the last World Cup and at Euro 2008.

Van Marwijk, who replaced Marco van Basten at the helm after Euro 2008, moved quickly to try and quell the rumours of discontent but he still called a clear-the-air meeting between van Persie and Sneijder after the match.

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"The meeting was to draw a line under the story and so we could now focus on the Brazil match," said van Marwijk.

"Robin played well against Slovakia, and was involved in the first goal.

"I was satisfied with his contribution but I needed to send on a fresh player who could continue to harry our opponents."

Mark van Bommel, the Dutch captain and son-in-law of van Marwijk, also offered van Persie his unqualified support, something which the straight-talking Bayern Munich midfielder would not do unless he really felt worth doing.

"Robin plays in the most difficult position, that of the front man," said van Bommel.

"It is logical that in this position there is some wastefulness in his game. But he still has our total confidence. He has enormous qualities: He is very important for the team."

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