Netherlands returns to World Cup quarters
The Netherlands scored in each half on Monday, reaching the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in 12 years with a 2-1 victory over Slovakia in Durban, South Africa.
Arjen Robben scored in the 18th minute in his first start of the tournament due to injury, and Wesley Sneijder was the recipient of a perfect pass from Dirk Kuyt in the 84th minute at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
The Netherlands will next face Brazil, which beat Chile 3-0 on Monday in Johannesburg. The quarter-final match takes place Friday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 9:30 a.m. ET).
"We had a good first half hour. And we started well in the second half," Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said. "We should have scored 2-0, 3-0, maybe 4-0 there."
Slovakia did not have a shot on target in the first half, but had two strong bids in the span of a minute in the second. Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg was up to the task, stopping Miroslav Stoch and Robert Vittek, who scored twice in Slovakia's upset over Italy.
Vittek scored his fourth of the tournament on a penalty shot in injury time, the last play of the match.
'Played with heart and courage'
It was the first appearance in the tournament for Slovakia. Czechoslovakia competed in eight World Cups before its dissolution in 1992, including the 1962 final.
"We played with heart and courage, and we are proud that we made it to the second round, but the better team advanced," coach Weiss said. "The penalty [will make] us feel a little better on the flight home."
The Dutch team has allowed just two goals so far, both on penalties. It has won the first four games, something not even their finalist squads of 1974 and 1978 accomplished.
Robben injured his left hamstring June 5 in the national team's final warmup match against Hungary in Amsterdam. The 26-year-old Bayern Munich winger played for the first time since the injury when he came on as a second-half substitute against Cameroon in the last group match.
"We played a difficult match," he said. "Main thing is, we are through. Probably the perfect game has still to come."
Kuyt moved to the left side to replace injured midfielder Rafael van der Vaart.
Gregory van der Wiel also returned after sitting out the last match for the Dutch. He replaced Khalid Boulahrouz.
Dutch in control
Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss made just one change to his lineup, bringing in his son, also called Vladimir Weiss, to replace the suspended Zdeno Strba in midfield.
The Dutch were well in control other than the lapse early in the second.
Robin van Persie set up Sneijder in the 11th minute, but his shot was easy for Jan Mucha to handle.
After Robben scored from the edge of the box with a shot that saw its way through a pair of Slovakian defenders and inside the right post, van Persie was foiled in his attempt to put the Netherlands up by a pair.
Robben nearly had his second just after play resumed, but Mucha deflected the shot just wide of the left post.
It was then Stekelenburg's time to shine beginning in the 67th minute.
First, he nudged Stoch's powerful volley over the crossbar. After Slovakia's ensuing corner kick was pushed back, they regrouped and Vittek got in behind the last line of defence. Stekelenburg came out and smother Vittek's shot.
"At a crucial stage, Maarten Stekelenburg saved us," van Marwijk said.
Kuyt provided breathing space, helping to draw Mucha out of the net on the left side and crossing to the middle of the box for Sneijder to deposit into an empty net.