TEST Holland used a goal in either half from stars Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder to dispatch fellow European side Slovakia and book a ticket to the quarterfinals with a 2-1 win in Durban on Monday.
After upsetting Italy in group play, Slovakia could not repeat the feat as the Dutch advance to face Brazil or Chile on July 2 in Port Elizabeth.
It was an efficient if not spectacular performance by the Oranje, who were content to stifle their opponents and manage the game after Robben’s goal in the 18th minute. After Slovakia missed a rare chance to equalize in the second half, Holland put the game out of reach with Sneijder’s goal in the 84th minute although Slovakia pulled one back on a Robert Vittek penalty kick at the final whistle.
Holland were buzzing early in the match and Robin van Persie served up Wesley Sneijder with a good look at goal after just 11 minutes. The Inter Milan midfielder was wide open on the left side of the box and fired a low right-footed shot which was blocked by Slovakia goalkeeper Jan Mucha.
The Dutch used a counterattack to net the opener seven minutes later. Sneijder turned provider with a precise long ball from deep in his own half which fell into the path of a sprinting Robben down the right wing. In what has become his patented move, Robben cut inside toward the center and with three defenders converging, he sent a low, left-footed shot inside the right post and past an oustretched Mucha.
Robben was making his first start in this World Cup after missing three weeks with a calf injury. He came on as a late sub in the last Group E match against Cameroon.
Slovakia, who were slow and predictable in attack, failed to muster many dangerous attacks. Aside from a few free kicks and long distance blasts, the Dutch thwarted their opponents time and again, shutting down Vittek, who was tightly marked and rarely able to turn at goal in the first half.
Robben nearly repeated his first-half feat four minutes after the break with another move cutting inside from the right side. This time his low, left footed shot was destined for the inside of the far left post but Mucha went full extension to deflect it wide for a corner. Just moments later Mucha came up big again as he stopped a point-blank shot from Joris Mathijsen, who was served in the box by Robben.
Holland goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who was rarely called into action, did his part to secure the result with two key saves in the 67th minute. Miroslav Stoch did his best Robben impersonation and danced his way from the left wing to the top of the Dutch box before rifling a powerful right-footed shot which Stekelenburg parried away.
Seconds later the ball was poked through to a wide open Vittek, who beat the Dutch offside trap. However, his point-blank left-footed shot was palmed away by Stekelenburg for Slovakia’s golden opportunity of the match.
Holland eventually put the game out of reach with six minutes remaining as Sneijder scored a sitter. Mucha came off his line to intercept a ball into the box destined for Dirk Kuyt, and the Liverpool forward beat Mucha to the ball on the left side of the box. With the ‘keeper off his line, Kuyt served Sneijder near the penalty spot and the Inter Milan star slotted home for his second World Cup goal.
Slovakia got some consolation in stoppage time as Vittek was judged to have been tripped up by Stekelenburg. He stepped up to convert the spot kick to become Slovakia’s all-time leading international scorer and the joint top scorer at the World Cup with four goals.
HOL – Robben 18’
HOL – Sneijder 84’
SVK – Vittek 94’+ (PK)
Lineups (right to left):
Netherlands (4-5-1): #1 Maarten Stekelenburg – #2 Gregory van der Wiel, #3 John Heitinga, #4 Joris Mathijsen, #5 Giovanni van Bronckhorst – #11 Arjen Robben (71’ #17 Eljero Elia), #8 Nigel de Jong, #10 Wesley Sneijder (92’+ #20 Ibrahim Afellay), #6 Mark van Bommel, #7 Dirk Kuyt – #9 Robin van Persie (80’ #21 Klaas Jan Huntelaar)
Slovakia (4-5-1): #1 Jan Mucha – #2 Peter Pekarik, #3 Martin Skrtel, #16 Jan Durica, #5 Radoslav Zabavnik (88’ #14 Martin Jakubvko) – #7 Vladimir Weiss, #15 Miroslav Stoch, #17 Marek Hamsik (87’ #10 Marek Sapara), #18 Erik Jendrisek (72’ #20 Kamil Kopunek), #19 Juraj Kucka – #11 Robert Vittek
Referee: Alberto Undiano (Spain)
HOL – Robben 31’
SVK – Kucka 40’
SVK – Kopunek 72’
SVK – Skrtel 84’
HOL – Stekelenburg 93’+