CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Here and now.
That’s all that interests the Dutch as they prepare for Tuesday night’s World Cup semifinal with Uruguay. Those two losses in the finals of 1974 and 1978? Nothing but history — ancient history.
A chance to play for the title again, on Sunday against either Germany or Spain? Too far in the future.
“I don’t want to think about or talk about the final,” coach Bert van Marwijk said Monday in his final news conference before the match at Green Point Stadium.
That sort of matched the mood of his counterpart, Oscar Tabarez, who didn’t want to talk about much of anything — especially who would be on the field for the only South American team remaining.
Mr. Tabarez was livid that some Uruguayan media infiltrated a closed practice Monday. So he wouldn’t address any questions about strategy, nor the status of injured defenders Diego Godin and Diego Lugano.
“I will not reveal the lineup,” Mr. Tabarez said at a news conference at Green Point Stadium. “The intention was to do so, but our plans have changed.
“We had a training session behind closed doors under FIFA regulations, but some journalists were there and they can inform you what happened. You will not get (the lineup) until tomorrow. The journalists have broken an agreement.”
Perhaps Mr. Tabarez was deflecting attention from his players, who are in the unexpected position of carrying their continent’s hopes.
Uruguay won the first World Cup in 1930, then another in 1950 when the tournament resumed after World War II. Now that is ancient history in the world of soccer.
But Van Marwijk and his players apparently believe there is little to be gained from what happened in the past. Maybe that’s because Dutch soccer’s past has too many painful memories and only one major championship, the 1988 Euros.
The last time the Netherlands got this far in the World Cup, they lost to Brazil in the 1998 semifinals.
So they concentrate on the present, and winning in any manner.
“You want to play well every game, but the most important thing is that we win the games,” captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst said. “In the past we started Euros and World Cups well, but in the end we lost. Now we are two games removed from the title. It is so close, we have the confidence to win it.
“You want to bring beautiful football, but the most important now is to win. But we have a team which always wants to play good football and tries; sometimes it doesn’t work.
“If we win with good football, it is beautiful. But winning with something less will please us, too.”
They certainly have been winning in South Africa, the only team left that has no losses or draws.
“We’ve won five times in a row (at this World Cup) and the victory over Brazil gives us such confidence,” Van Bronckhorst said. “Now we’re in the last four, we want to play the final.”
Of course, so does Uruguay, which is a 10-1 shot to take the title; the Dutch are 2-1, as are the Germans, who play overall favorite Spain (9-5 odds) on Wednesday in Durban.
“The history of the World Cup is full of results that nobody could have expected, and they continue to happen,” Mr. Tabarez said. “Why shouldn’t we be able to win on Tuesday?
“I know we have to play a perfect game, and we’re going to approach it with all of our effort.”
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