Own goal gets Holland off the mark

It was not a vintage Oranje performance but Holland marked their entry into the 2010 FIFA World Cup with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Denmark. Bert Van Marwijk’s side endured a difficult first half in which they failed to create many opportunities but were gifted the lead less than a minute into the second half courtesy of a Daniel Agger own goal. The Netherlands doubled their advantage in the 84th minute with Dirk Kuyt converting a rebound from Eleandro Elia’s effort.

The Dutch, characteristically, enjoyed the majority of the possession in the first half but seemed unable to break down a rugged Danish outfit. Opta’s statistics showed that they were only able to have control of the ball in the Danish penalty area three times before the interval.

The tedious nature of the game was emphasised by several rounds of Mexican waves that circled the pitch at Soccer City. The fans seeking some enjoyment in the beautiful weather in Johannesburg.

The best chance of the half fell to Denmark’s Nikklas Bendtner. The Arsenal striker faded off the shoulders of Mathijsen and Heitinga as he attempted to head goalwards. Denis Rommedahl’s cross reached him at an awkward height and the Arsenal striker’s attempt bounced harmlessly wide.

If Holland were to live up to their exciting reputation they would need to improve in the second half. The breakthrough came almost immediately. Van Persie whipped a cross in towards Dirk Kuyt but it was met by Simon Poulsen’s attempted clearance. The defender, who plays his football in the Dutch Eredivisie for AZ Alkmaar, turned his head too soon before meeting the ball. The ball rebounded off the back of his compatriot Daniel Agger and into the goal.

The goal did little to open up the game as chances remained scarce at either end and the game appeared to be petering out until Eljero Elia was brought on to replace Rafael Van der Vaart.

The twenty-three year old instantly lit up an otherwise dull encounter. He sprang an expertly performed turn to elude two encircling Danes before setting up Robin van Persie who failed to capitalise.

Elia was once again involved with yet more craftiness on the left-wing. The Hamburg winger sending in a challenging cross which eventually found its way to Mark van Bommel who crashed a shot towards Thomas Sørensen. The Danish goalkeeper equal to the effort.

Holland began to attack with more conviction in the latter stages. Wesley Sneijder’s long range attempt ricocheted off Agger and onto the crossbar.

In the 84th minute the Dutch finally claimed the second goal. Wesley Sneijder played an excellent pass through the Danish defence where Eljero Elia was poised to cap his cameo with a goal. He opened up expertly but his shot was denied by the post. Fortuitously it rolled into the path of Kuyt who applied the easiest of finishes.

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