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Dutch start at favourites


marciadottin, [email protected]

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DURBAN – The Netherlands have been more substance than style so far at the World Cup and Bert van Marwijk’s team is happy to stay that way to beat giant killers Slovakia and secure a spot in the quarter-finals.The Netherlands start as favourites to win, but will not be taking anything for granted today in Durban after Slovakia’s 3-2 defeat of Italy in group play which sent the defending champion home.Slovakia also boasts one of the tournament’s leading scorers in Robert Vittek, whose three goals place him at the top of the scoring table with five other players.Despite Vittek’s scoring record, Van Marwijk yesterday called Slovakia “a very tough team without real stars”.There were signs in the last group game that the famous Dutch “clockwork orange” attacking style of quick passing and running off the ball is finally starting to click.    Robin van Persie’s opening goal in his team’s 2-1 defeat of Cameroon was a case in point – the Arsenal striker played a one-two with Rafael van der Vaart and Dirk Kuyt stepped over the ball to let it run to Van Persie, who gratefully buried his first goal of the tournament in the back of the net.    The Netherlands, losing World Cup finalists in 1974 and 1978, beat Denmark 2-0 and Japan 1-0 in their first two games for a perfect record in the group phase.Slovakia drew 1-1 with New Zealand and lost 2-0 to Paraguay before their decisive victory over Italy sent them into the Round of 16.Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss said his team would play with the same spirit against the Netherlands as it did against Italy.“They are the favourites but you never know,” Weiss said. “They have attacking players like (Wesley) Sneijder and Van der Vaart. It’s not easy to play against these guys. They won all their matches at the group stage. They are a fantastic team with fantastic players.” (AP)

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