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Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, left, is not arrogant but a confident coach who always speaks plainly and without mixing words. (Frank Augstein/Associated Press)

This World Cup has seen many big-name coaches fall flat on their faces.

The likes of Fabio Capello, Diego Maradona and Marcello Lippi have all, at one time or another in South Africa, been out-coached and or suffered defeats because they were too slow to make tactical changes.

At the same time, Bert van Marwijk has quietly gone about his business, leading a hard-working and well-organized Dutch side to the final.

Van Marwijk is not one of the more high-profile members of the coaching fraternity, but what he's achieved since taking over the coaching reins of the Netherlands in 2008 speaks for itself.

A winger of modest talent (he earned one international cap) during his 19-year playing career, van Marwijk rose to coaching fame in 1999 when he led Fortuna Sittard to the Dutch Cup final against Ajax.

Although his squad lost, it was a startling achievement, especially for van Marwijk, who had only previously coached youth teams and amateur sides.

A move to Dutch powerhouse Feyenoord followed, winning the UEFA Cup in 2002. After a two-tear stint in charge of German outfit Borussia Dortmund, he returned to Feyenoord and led the Rotterdam side to a Dutch Cup in 2008.

More accolades

His greatest achievement, though, came in South Africa where he guided the Oranje to their third World Cup final, joining a prestigious coaching club that includes the late Rinus Michels (1974) and Ernst Happel (1978).

What's most impressive about van Marwijk's tenure as coach of the national team is that he didn't feel the urge to re-invent the wheel.

The Netherlands was ripe for change after bowing out in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008. The Dutch swept all before them, including world champion Italy, in the first round, only to bow out meekly once the knockout stage began.

It was further evidence, the critics said, that the Dutch lacked a ruthless edge and were far too concerned with playing attractive and entertaining soccer.

But instead of cleaning house, van Marwijk kept the faith with veteran players such as defenders Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Andre Ooijer, and midfielder Mark van Bommel.

The inclusion of van Bronckhorst in the World Cup squad was somewhat controversial, as the Feyenoord star was coming off a less than spectacular season and his best days seemingly in the past.

But the defender has been one of the Netherlands' best players in this tournament, playing every minute of every game thus far and scoring a spectacular goal in the semifinal against Uruguay.

Van Marwijk also remained true to the tactics used by van Basten, employing a 4-5-1 formation, instead of reverting to the 4-3-3 set-up that the Dutch made famous.

Focus on defence

At the same time, he's introduced pragmatism to the Dutch side and stressed defensive organization, a slap in the face to the legacy of Johan Cruyff, the country's prodigal soccer son, and the Netherlands' greatest contribution to the game — Total Football.

Although he's been portrayed as having sold out Dutch soccer's soul, you can hardly argue with the results, especially if van Marwijk's conservative approach results in a historic first World Cup title for the Netherlands.

Van Marwijk comes across as cold and aloof, and is often misinterpreted as arrogant.

He's not. He's confident, but not overly so, always speaking plainly and without mixing words.

As the reigning European champion, Spain has an aura of invincibility about itself, but van Marwijk insists his side shouldn't be overlooked ahead of Sunday's World Cup final.

"It doesn't interest me even if the whole world says Spain are favourites," van Marwijk 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.

"We respect Spain but we are not afraid."