Cup 'victory' perfect build-up for Dutch

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 August, 2008, 12:00am

We are in good shape and can go forward with confidence, says coach De Haan

They didn't wear their famous orange strip. But the fans said they didn't care as long as their favourites won.

The Netherlands didn't quite win - drawing 1-1 with Ivory Coast - but it was enough to see them spirit away the ING Cup in an entertaining encounter at Hong Kong Stadium last night.

The toss of the coin was kind to Ivory Coast. They won the right to be called the 'home' team last night and as such it was the Dutch who had to change shirts. Ivory Coast wore orange, which is their national colour as well.

'It is quite strange to watch our team play in blue. But as long as they win we don't mind whether they play in stripes or crosses,' said ardent Dutch fan Tyrone Kochheim, one of the many in the 6,728-strong crowd who wore orange.

Kochheim, a pilot with Dutch Airlines KLM, would have left happy despite the draw.

The 2-0 victory against Cameroon on Wednesday, plus last night's result, was enough to give his Olympic team bragging rights in this crucial build-up to the Beijing Games. More importantly, Foppe de Haan's Dutchmen were easily the best team on show in Hong Kong.

The last two games have been a huge morale-booster to De Haan's campaign as he prepares to take on the United States, Japan and Nigeria in Tianjin this week.

'We have achieved a lot this week and I'm very happy with how we progressed in this tournament. We are in good shape and can go forward with confidence to play Nigeria in our first game,' De Haan said.

'Of course we can play better and we will have to grow as a team as the Olympics progress. But I'm very satisfied right now. We will be going to the Olympics with the aim to win.'

A lovely free kick by Urby Emanuelson gave the Netherlands an early lead in the first half. The Ajax midfielder unleashed a powerful left-foot strike from 25 metres into the right top-hand corner to give his team the lead.

The Ivorians easily looked the better team in the first half but Dutch resistance held firm despite sniping runs from the African team's captain Gervinho who was an ever-present danger and constant thorn in the Dutch defence.

Gervinho came close to equalling just on half-time but a header off a cross from Pascal Wawa went just wide. But Gervinho made up for that lapse when, a minute into the second half, he latched on to a rebound off a Sekou Cisse header and knocked the ball in.

'We squandered a lot of chances throughout the match. But it was an excellent performance from the guys and it will do our confidence a great deal of good before the Olympics,' said Ivory Coast coach Gerard Gili.

One chance in particular, late in the match, could have wrapped up the game for Ivory Coast. That man Gervinho was involved again, floating a lovely cross to substitute Abraham Guie Guie. But with an inviting open goal, Guie Guie somehow managed to place his shot wide from eight metres out.

'We had a lot of problems and we could have lost,' admitted De Haan.

Dutch fan Kochheim had the last word. 'I don't think we will win the gold medal. We will play well, but somehow, I don't see this side winning in Beijing.'

He was feeling blue yesterday.

In the earlier game, Cameroon beat the United States 1-0.