Dutch staying grounded

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CAPE TOWN, July 5 – Dutch coach Bert Van Marwijk has warned his players to keep their feet on the ground and ignore the hype as they prepare for Tuesday's World Cup semi-final against Uruguay as firm favourites.
With expectations back in Holland building to a crescendo, Van Marwijk is keen to stress that with the biggest prize in world football at stake anything can happen.

"It will be a very dangerous match. I warned about this on the first day two years ago — there’s always the next game," he told reporters.

"The euphoria at home is massive at the moment and maybe it’s good that we’re so far away and can’t witness it because we really need to focus on Uruguay and that won’t be easy.

"They didn’t reach the semi-final for nothing, so we have to really focus again and not think that we’re already there."

Both sides will be missing key players for the Cape Town spectacle as a final looms against either Germany or Spain, but the statistics speak for themselves.

Under Van Marwijk the Oranje have been one of the best performing teams in the world.

They picked up eight wins from eight games in qualifying and have a 100 percent record from their five games in South Africa, which includes sending favourites Brazil packing.

It is a formidable achievement that should have Uruguay quaking in their boots, especially with the South Americans needing huge luck to overcome Ghana after being pushed to extra-time and penalties in their quarter-final.

Before the tournament, the glory years of Uruguayan football were a fast fading memory, with their last semi-final 40 years ago and just two appearances in the last five World Cups.

But under Oscar Tabarez, who also steered them to the last 16 in 1990 in his first stint as coach, they have been rejuvenated and cannot be written off.

Known as El Maestro in his homeland, Tabarez is reliable, hard working and a man of few words. He, for one, is not ready to throw in the towel.

"We are amongst the four best teams at this World Cup. This is something we would never have imagined before coming to South Africa," he said.

"My players are very united. I don’t know how far we can go in the tournament. The Netherlands have some great players, but we cannot betray this group of players.

"If there is a glimmer of hope we must hang on. We will certainly not throw in the towel before playing that match.

"Holland will be very difficult – but not impossible."

Uruguay though are handicapped by the loss of influential striker Luis Suarez, who misses the game after being red-carded for his deliberate goal-line handball that denied Ghana a famous victory.

Defender Jorge Ciro Fucile is also suspended while skipper Diego Lugano and midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro are injury doubts, heaping even more pressure on the shoulders of Diego Forlan.

In the Dutch camp, Ajax defender Gregory van der Wiel and Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong miss out after picking up their second yellow cards of the tournament against Brazil.

But everyone else is fit, with Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder the danger men.

Ahead of South Africa, Van Marwijk set his team a lofty goal — the final or bust.

It was an optimistic target with the Netherlands last reaching the showpiece match 32 years ago when they lost to Argentina. Their only other appearance was in 1974 and they were beaten by West Germany.

But their confidence is high and Van Marwijk is quietly confident of lifting the trophy for the first time in their history.

"I’m a sportsman and if I go somewhere, I want to win. People might think that’s arrogant, but we have proven we can beat Brazil, one of the best teams in the world," he said.

"If that’s a fact, we should dare to say this, we should go for it."

KEY TO THE MATCH

Robben v Forlan

Both Arjen Robben and Diego Forlan are capable of winning the match single-handedly, such are their abilities. Robben can be devastating with his creative moves and clinical finishing, while Forlan has proven once again in South Africa that he is one of the top strikers in the world with an uncanny eye for goal.

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