Full-strength Dutch have learned a lesson


CAPE TOWN — Already-qualified Netherlands will be at full strength against out-of-contention Cameroon in their final Group E match today in a bid to avoid a hat-trick of early knockout exits after fielding weakened teams.
In the 2006 World Cup and at Euro 2008 the Dutch qualified after their first two group games. Both times then-coach Marco van Basten rested big names for the final match and in both tournaments they were beaten in the first knockout round.
This time, on six points after wins over Denmark and Japan, there is still top place to play for as a defeat by Cameroon coupled with a healthy win for either of the other sides who meet in Rustenburg could relegate them to second place.
Coach Bert van Marwijk is not taking any chances. “I don’t plan to make many changes,” he told reporters, saying he wanted to maintain the team’s rhythm.
“It will be a different story when players are not completely fit and we also have to see when Arjen Robben is ready to play. It could be that he plays Thursday (today).”
Robben has been on the sidelines so far as he recovers from his latest injury, this time a hamstring problem, but he has hardly been missed as the Dutch started strongly against Denmark and looked even more clinical against Japan.
“Every match is a step to a higher target,” said holding midfielder Mark van Bommel. “That is why we can’t let it go against Cameroon as the next match will be the knockout phase and then you have to be ready again.”
Cameroon have nothing to play for but pride after defeats by Japan and Denmark meant they had got through to the knockout stage only once – in 1990 when they lost to England in the quarter-finals. —Reuters