A confident Dutch side strolled to a 2-1 victory over a Cameroon side playing for pride. Goals from Robin van Persie and Klaas Jan Huntelaar were enough to settle the tie, as the Netherlands made a clean sweep of their group.
Cameroon, Africa’s biggest disappointment in the tournament so far, started the game with four changes to the side that lost to Denmark, while Holland surprisingly made only one change in the form of Boulahrouz in a game that was effectively the footballing equivalent of a dead-rubber to them. Cameroon, looking to play for pride, were coming across a Dutch side famed for its miserliness – they hadn’t conceded a single goal in the current edition of the World Cup. Any hopes the Africans may have had that the Dutch would treat the tie lightly, were soon put to rest as the men in blue-and-white brought on their typical take no prisoners attitude from the first minute on.
Despite the initial promise of attacking football from both sides, the game quickly settled into a tame training-session fest; the game’s first true chance came courtesy van Persie in the 19th minute but he could only shoot straight at Souleymanou Hamidou. A free-kick in the 26th minute, saw the Cameroon custodian make a spectacular save, diving low to his right.
Cameroon finally threatened the Dutch goal in the 30th minute, with a special delivery from Jean Makoun that proved, ultimately, to be just a bit too high for any of his compatriots to connect with. Netherlands, perhaps spurred on by that Cameroon chance on goal, went to work almost immediately, with Kuy finally scuffing a shot wide as the goal beckoned. The deadlock was finally broken in the 36th minute, as the troika of Kuyt-Van der Vaart-van Persie combined to devastating effect, with the Arsenal FC striker slotting the ball through the legs of Souleymanou Hamidou. Cameroon’s better chances of the first half, were almost inevitably created by Geremi who supplied his teammates with quite a few decent scoring opportunities, that they might have converted on a luckier day.
The second half started off in the same unexciting fashion, with both sides merely testing each other’s strengths. Around the hour’s mark as both managers rang in their first changes, and as goal-scorer van Persie was taken off, Eto’o sent in a splendid shot that van Bronckhorst did well to stop. As Cameroon piled on the pressure, Makoun’s shot too was saved by Maarten Stekelenburg. Soon enough, the seemingly inevitable happened, as a Cameroon free-kick from Geremi hit van der Vaart on the arm and referee Pozo showed little hesitation in pointing to the spot. A calm Eto’o smashed the ball past a flailing Stekelenburg, and gave his side a much deserved equalizer.
A flurry of substitions later, including the highly-anticipated arrival of Arjen Robben, the game remained a stalemate – till the 83rd minute when Sneijder delivered the pass of the night to Arjen Robben, whose initial touch seemed to put the ball out of his control. He recovered soon enough to smash the ball straight into the goal post, but his compatriot Huntelaar stepped in, on the rebound, to complete another Dutch goal created by another magical trio.
TheHardTackle’s Player of the Match
Easily the best player for the Indomitable Lions in the first half, Geremi sent pass after pass and cross after cross to his teammates who were just as capable of wasting them, as he was at creating them. His free-kick off the edge of the penalty area struck Van der Vaart on the arm, earning his side a penalty that was duly converted.
TheHardTackle’s Referee Report Card
Pablo Pozo (Chile) – Grade: B+ (Good)
In all fairness, Pozo was barely called upon to exercise his authority. He was however quick on his feet, and ever-ready to show a card if any of the players warranted it. While aided in great part by two teams playing the game in the right spirit, Pozo did nothing wrong – till he waved away a penalty appeal from Huntelaar in the dying minutes of the game.
NETHERLANDS 2-1 CAMEROON
Venue: Green Point Stadium, Cape Town
Cameroon Line-up: Souleymanou Hamidou, Stéphane M’Bia, Nicolas N’Koulou (Rigobert Song 74′), Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Geremi, Aurelien Chedjou, Jean Makoun, Gaetan Bong (Vincent Aboubakar 56′), Landry N`Guemo, Samuel Eto’o, Maxim Choupo-Moting (Mohamadou Idrissou 72′)
Manager: Paul Le Guen
Caution: Nicolas N’Koulou, Stéphane M’Bia
Scorers: Samuel Eto’o (pen)
Netherlands Line-up: Maarten Stekelenburg, Joris Mathijsen, John Heitinga, Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, Khalid Boulahrouz, Mark Van Bommel, Nigel De Jong, Robin Van Persie (Klaas Jan Huntelaar 59′), Wesley Sneijder, Rafael Van der Vaart (Arjen Robben 73′), Dirk Kuyt (Eljero Elia 66′)
Manager: Bert van Marwijk
Caution: Dirk Kuyt, van der Vaart, Bronckhorst
Scorers: Robin van Persie, Huntelaar