Netherlands tops Slovakia to advance

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This time, Sneijder sent Robben sprinting upfield with a long, accurate pass and the winger did what he’s been doing all season with Bayern — scoring with long shots from beyond the area.

“I was pretty free in my game,” Robben said. “I know I’m not yet at my top level, but I was pretty confident today and that was a great pass by Wesley.”

The Moses Mabhida Stadium was filled mostly with orange-clad Netherlands fans and they blasted their vuvuzelas on Robben’s first touch. After the goal, the sound became deafening.

“It’s fantastic,” Van Marwijk said. “After such an injury that he has the touch to score a goal like that.”

Weiss said he has been preparing his team specifically for Robben for three days.

“But he’s a total genius, and when I saw him in the starting lineup I thought he makes the Dutch team 50 percent stronger — and I was right,” the Slovakia coach said.

With a sharp breeze blowing in from the nearby Indian Ocean, Robben nearly doubled the lead in the 50th but goalkeeper Jan Mucha deflected his shot just wide of the goal. A minute later, Robben sent a dangerous cross inside the area and Mucha blocked a close-range effort from Joris Mathijsen.

In the 71st, when he was replaced by Eljero Elia, Robben exited to a standing ovation.

Sneijder sealed the victory when Dirk Kuyt drew Mucha out of his net and had nobody to beat for his second goal of the tournament, also having found the target in a 1-0 win over Japan.

Slovakia was awarded a penalty in the third minute of injury time, when substitute Martin Jakubko was taken down inside the area.

Otherwise, Slovakia’s two best chances both came in the 67th. Stekelenburg leaped to tip a powerful shot from Miroslav Stoch over the crossbar and then Vittek, who scored twice against Italy, directed his shot too close to the Netherlands goalkeeper seconds later.

The Netherlands also won all three of its group games, with its last loss coming to Australia in September 2008, a run of 18 wins and five draws.

The Netherlands reached consecutive World Cup finals in 1974 and 1978 but lost both — to Germany and Argentina, respectively. Its only major tournament victory was the 1988 European Championship.

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