NETHERLANDS coach Bert van Marwijk has taken inspiration from former Dutch greats but insists comparisons cannot be drawn between his World Cup finalists and the ‘total football’ legends of the past.
Van Marwijk has taken advice from Johan Cruyff and Ruud Gullit among others, while Rudi Krol has been a constant presence at training sessions.
Neither the 1974 nor 1978 sides were able to take that last step to become World Cup winners, but Van Marwijk believes this Netherlands side can overcome Spain to take the crown. He said: “This is the third time that we have reached the final but we live in another time.
“I thought about that during the semi-final and the Netherlands in ‘74 and ‘78, they are an inspiration.
“At that moment I thought the chance was very great that we will win the final.
“But you cannot compare this team with something that happened 28 and 32 years ago. We just play for everybody in the Netherlands.
“Over the last five weeks I’ve talked with Ruud Gullit and for a long time with Johan Cruyff, and from the first day we started to train here Rudi Krol has been here.
“He’s been here every training session, sitting on the bench and we have talked a lot about the past and the way we play now. I have had a lot of contact with those guys.”
Forward Dirk Kuyt has said that while Spain have the better individual players the Dutch have the better team, and though Van Marwijk rates the Spanish as the best side in the world over the last 12 months he insists the Dutch have no fear of facing them in the final.
He also admitted there was a slight irony in the fact that the Dutch influence at Barcelona – Rinus Michels, the creator of total football, was coach there in the 1970s and took Cruyff, who later became manager, there as a player – could now be seen in the Spain line-up.
Van Marwijk added: “Spain deserved to win against Germany, they were the better side and in my opinion they are the best team in the world in the last year.
“I like the way they play. We want to do it in our way but a little bit the same – we respect Spain but we are not afraid of them. We know it’s a big challenge to play against Spain and to beat them.
“There are seven Barcelona players in the Spain side and I’ve often said that Barcelona and Spain are almost the same – the style is the same, the way of playing the same.
“Maybe Spain is influenced by Barcelona, and Barcelona influenced by Johan Cruyff and Rinus Michels, that’s a big compliment for Dutch football. Maybe that’s a bit ironic but we respect them and we want to do it in our way.”
Van Marwijk refused to detail how he planned to combat Spain’s famed ball retention – “I will tell the players but I will not explain it here” – and claimed he was not concerned if the Netherlands were viewed as underdogs.
“It doesn’t interest me even if the whole world says they are favourites,” he said. “It’s a game of two countries against each other and both want to win and can win, and we have confidence in ourselves.”
Neither Spain nor the Netherlands have ever won a World Cup but Van Marwijk insisted that fact was of no importance either.
“I don’t think in that way – I only think of the game we play in the final. Whatever happened in the past is not important. Spain holds no secrets for us – and we are not afraid.”
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