Following a vintage performance against World Champions Spain yesterday, the Dutch national team must be careful not to ride the wave of euphoria as the World Cup progresses.

  • By Adrian Bucher
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Droomstart. That’s the headline being used in several newspapers across the Netherlands this morning referring to the manner in which the Oranje began their 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign with a crushing 5-1 victory over Spain in a repeat of 2010’s final. A collection of fabulous strikes from Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Stefan de Vrij cancelled out Xabi Alonso’s opening penalty to ensure that celebrations would go on well into the night for the Dutch faithful. Confidence is high in the Dutch camp, but the team must be aware of the perils of resting on their laurels going into their remaining group stage fixtures.

In several ways, this summer’s tournament shares some parallels with the Netherland’s UEFA Euro 2008 campaign. Ahead of the finals, the Dutch had been placed in the same group as both of the 2006 FIFA World cup finalists, Italy and France. Along with Romania, pundits did not expect the Netherlands to advance past the group stages – much like they were claiming before the Spain game yesterday. However, following some devastating displays of attacking football, the Oranje topped their group, with three wins out of three, dismantling the Italians, French and Romanians 3-0, 4-1 and 2-0, respectively. The Netherlands would then exit the tournament in disappointing circumstances at the hands of Russia in the first knockout stage, after extra-time (which would not have gone that far, had it not been for Ruud van Nistelrooy’s equalizer, four minutes from regular time). Marco van Basten’s men were reminded that day that football can be a cruel sport – and that is why experience really counts.

Currently, there are six men in van Gaal’s 23-man squad that experienced 2008’s disappointing defeat to Russia in Switzerland, 2010’s heartache in South Africa and 2012’s underwhelming group stage exit in Ukraine. The lessons learnt from those tournaments are crucial to the team if they are to avoid the repeating the mistakes of yesteryear. These six players know what it’s like to have the cards stacked against them and come out on top, whilst also knowing the feeling of failing to deliver when victory was expected. It will be up to Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Nigel de Jong, Dirk Kuyt and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to communicate this to the team, and it does seem that this is certainly the case.

Arjen Robben, scorer of two of the five goals told reporters “We haven’t won the cup, it’s not 2010. We have to keep our heads cool.” “We should take advantage of this win…maybe it will give us a good boost of confidence but it’s just the start.” Robben’s words ought to be taken with considerable weight, as this is the man that was able to help Bayern Munich win the 2013 UEFA Champions League, following his penalty miss the year earlier, and more relevantly, putting in a masterful performance against Spain yesterday, following the infamous one-on-one against Casillas in the Spanish goal four years earlier.

The Oranje produced a fine display of football last night, one that will live long in the memories of fans everywhere. The team has proven doubters wrong in their ability to match Spain, and while there’s still plenty of football left to play, there is plenty to suggest that the Netherlands can produce another strong campaign. However, even after such an explosive start, it’s essential to remember that the World Cup is a marathon, and not a sprint.

“We still have nothing.” coach Louis van Gaal pointed out following the victory. “If we don’t beat Australia, we have nothing. If we do beat them then we’ll have a good start.”

Enjoy the victory, men. Take some time to bask in the glory of a generation-defining performance – but just remember to keep looking forward, and take it one game at a time.

Adrian Bucher (39 Posts)