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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » Dutch learn some hard lessons

Dutch learn some hard lessons

June 26, 2006 19:54 IST

Netherlands unbeaten streak in competitive matches stretching back 15 games and two years ended in near anarchy with a 1-0 World Cup second-round loss to Portugal but they depart confident about the future.

Russian referee Valentin Ivanov handed out four red cards -- two for either side -- and eight other players were given yellows to set the wrong kind of World Cup record on Sunday.

It ruined a highly anticipated game between two leading lights of European football and ended Dutch progress in a tournament they had graced with snatches of delightful football.

Afterwards, Netherlands coach Marco van Basten understandably railed at the referee's zealous handling of the game but will have seen enough to know his side could easily have advanced to a quarter-final meeting with England.

As winger Robin van Persie said: "I just never had the feeling we would go out in this phase."

The omens look bright, though, for the 2008 European Championship in Switzerland and Austria.


The Dutch have a stock of young, talented players now blooded at the highest level and, among the Orange party in Germany, only midfielder Phillip Cocu, who won his 101st cap, looks likely to retire in the near future.

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Van Persie, 22, is a shining example from the Dutch treasure trove of talent that includes Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Johnny Heitinga, Arjen Robben and Dirk Kuyt.

He finished his season as a deserved first choice on the right flank for the Dutch having shone as they survived a tough group phase and finished runners-up to the impressive Argentina.

He admitted weeping at the Netherlands' exit afterwards but will return to contest many more high profile matches.

Defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst said their progression could be measured against their last big tournament exit, also to Portugal in the Euro 2004 semi-finals when they were deservedly beaten 2-1.

"It was a different match than two years ago," Van Bronckhorst said. "We created more chances then we gave away but if you fail to score it gets tough."

Dirk Kuyt, Mark van Bommel, Van Persie and Cocu all had gilt-edged opportunities to keep the Dutch run going but spurned them.

"This gives mixed emotions," Van Bommel said. "The first three matches of this tournament we could have lost but this one never."

They have learned the hard way but this young Dutch squad surely will remember to stay cool and focused if a 'battle' of Nuremberg is ever repeated.

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