CAPE TOWN, July 7 – Elated Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk fulfilled a 32-year dream on Tuesday by steering his team into the World Cup final for the first time since 1978.It was a long time coming but Van Marwijk said the wait was worth it.
"Of course I am very, very happy and proud that such a small country is in the final of a world championship, it is hard to comprehend," he said after his team overcame Uruguay 3-2.
"It is something I started working on two years ago and I always said that to achieve something you really have to believe in it and do it. It’s been a long process."
Veteran Dutch captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst gave his side the lead on 18 minutes with a stunning 35-yard strike and two goals inside three second-half minutes from Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben proved enough.
They must now wait to find out whether they face Germany or Holland, who play the other semi-final in Durban on Wednesday, to find out who awaits them in the July 11 showpiece in Johannesburg.
Van Marwijk said he had worked hard to instill not just belief but consistency in his side, who have now won all six of their World Cup games as well as all eight of their qualifiers.
"We have so often proved we can win matches against good opponents — if you really believe in something it can come true," he said.
"At some point the members of the team started believing it and then we had to create the mentality of not being complacent. The players have started to understand this.
"Then, as now, you get an atmosphere in the team and I told them ahead of the match: ‘don’t let them get away with it’."
But while Holland progressed, it wasn’t the easy ride that many predicted with Uruguay putting up a rearguard action that saw the match go to a thrilling finale.
Van Marwijk admitted they lost their way in the first-half but showed their backbone by putting that right.
"We started well and had excellent organisation then got the confidence to play a bit more freely and be a bit braver," he said.
"We did lose grip in midfield in the first-half but at half-time we corrected that.
"Things went wrong every now and then but we took the initiative a bit more and when we scored for 2-1 I had full confidence.
"But then Uruguay suddenly scored a goal and it became really exciting. We didn’t make it 4-1 or 5-1 as it should have, but we survived and we were just so relieved in the dressing room."