In 1651, Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck was the first European to land in South Africa, where the Dutch-based language, Afrikaans, is still spoken today. Now, three centuries later, the Dutch are hoping to conquer the continent again. Fittingly, the Netherlands were the first European nation to qualify for the 2010 World Cup - and they arrive in confident mood. A 100% qualifying campaign, just two goals conceded, and the world-class talents of Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben make the Oranje a serious contender.
Of course, Holland have been here before. Four years ago Marco van Basten's side sailed through the 'group of death' only to fall to Portugal in the second round. At Euro 2008, they brushed aside World Cup finalists Italy and France to finish top of their group, only to fall to Guus Hiddink's Russia. But this time coach Bert van Marwijk has stuck with the same core group of players and has tried to instil a greater sense of unity, an age-old problem in the Dutch squad. Much will depend on the fitness of Van Persie and Robben, and the form of a suspect defence that remains their most obvious weakness.
Aim: Following disappointments in their last two tournaments, the Dutch are keeping a lid on expectations, but a quarter-final spot has to be the minimum requirement for this talented squad.
THREE KEY PLAYERS
WESLEY SNEIJDER The midfield playmaker, who has over 50 caps and made the team of the tournament at Euro 2008, has excelled in his debut season with Inter Milan, winning the Champions League, Serie A and Copa Italia treble.
ARJEN ROBBEN Blessed with pace, acceleration and creativity, the winger heads to the World Cup in the form of his life after a superb debut season at Bayern Munich, in which he hit 23 goals and helped his side to the double.
ROBIN VAN PERSIE A key man, though he arrives in South Africa after an injury disrupted season with Arsenal that saw him sidelined for five months with an ankle problem. First choice when fit, Van Persie is a threat across the front line.
BERT VAN MARWIJK In charge since 2008, the Dutchman has followed predecessor Marco van Basten's tactics and core squad, and seen his reputation soar on the back of a 100% qualifying record. Awarded a new deal in March.
ADOPT THEM BECAUSE...
Go Dutch - cheese, beer, pancakes. What's not to like? Plus they invented total football, which is like real football, only better.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
The Netherlands' World Cup qualifying highlights
W 2-1 Macedonia (A) W 2-0 Iceland (H) W 1-0 Norway (A) W 3-0 Scotland (H) W 4-0 Macedonia (H) W 2-1 Iceland (A) W 2-0 Norway (H) W 1-0 Scotland (A) Finished top of group
WORLD CUP BEST
Finalists in 1974 and 1978. On the first occasion, they lost to West Germany despite going ahead in the first minute with a penalty won by Johan Cruyff. Four years later, Argentina shattered their dreams, winning 3-1 after extra-time.
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