JOHANNESBURG, (Reuters) – Netherlands striker Robin van Persie had saved his best for last and was set to shine in the World Cup final against Spain, said coach Bert van Marwijk.
Van Persie, who is being deployed as a lone front man, has failed to meet expectations having netted just once while Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder is joint-top scorer at the finals with Spain’s David Villa, both having struck five goals.
But for Van Marwijk there is no reason to doubt Van Persie’s qualities as his form has got better during the tournament.
“Robin has really improved during the last few matches and I still have a lot of confidence in him,” he said yesterday. “I think he will show his best football in the coming match.”
Van Marwijk has a full squad to choose from for Sunday’s final at Soccer City with all his players fit and Gregory van der Wiel and Nigel de Jong, who were both suspended for the semi-final against Uruguay, also available again.
The coach revealed that after they went 3-1 up in Tuesday’s match he began thinking they were close to reaching their third World Cup final, three decades after the 1974 and 1978 finals.
But despite the eventual 3-2 victory putting him in the same bracket as the late Rinus Michels and Ernst Happel, he was not thinking about his own appearance as a coach in the final.
“I’m not the type who thinks about his own presence in such a match, I just approach it as the most important match in my life,” he told yesterday’s news conference.
“We (the technical staff) talk a lot about it but we’re not overreacting. Actually, we handle it like we always did although we notice through all the media attention we’re talking about a World Cup final but that does not change our preparation.”
Netherlands have now won 14 competitive matches in a row but have still never really produced the trademark entertainment that earned them so much critical acclaim in the past.
Van Marwijk believes there is still room for improvement and more consistency in his team, however.
“We’ve won six in a row this campaign and also had some phases of good football but sometimes we were too sloppy… when we didn’t reward a good fluent attack with a goal,” he added.