The Netherlands advanced to a second-round meeting with Slovakia in ominous style on Thursday when they beat Cameroon 2-1 to make it three wins out of three and secure top spot in Group E.
After wins over Denmark and Japan, the Dutch were already assured of progress and the victory secured with goals by Robin van Persie and Klaas Jan Huntelaar guaranteed top spot.
They also had the bonus of a return to action for winger Arjen Robben, who missed the first two games with a hamstring problem but delivered a 17 minute cameo off the bench to add extra zest and invention to their attack.
Nicely balanced throughout the team, The Netherlands have qualified without ever needing to hit peak form and at present are flying the flag as Europe’s most impressive nation.
Cameroon finished last in the group and failed to achieve their goal of not going home pointless although they can hold their heads high after a spirited second half display.
The Netherlands had to be on their mettle in the early stages as Cameroon, somewhat unlucky to lose 2-1 to Denmark, made a positive start but the precise passing of the Dutch always made them look the more dangerous side.
Van Persie should have put The Netherlands ahead after 19 minutes when he chested down a lovely 40-metre ball by Giovanni van Bronckhorst but shot meekly at keeper Hamidou Souleymanou.
After Dirk Kuyt had dragged another effort across the face of goal, Van Persie eventually broke the deadlock in the 36th minute when a quick-fire one-two with Rafael van der Vaart put him through and he slotted the ball through the keeper’s legs.
The goal settled the Dutch down and they began to fizz the ball around sharply on Green Point stadium’s high-speed surface.
Cameroon kept pressing though as Samuel Eto’o, Landry Nguemo, Jean Makoun and Aurelien Chedjou, a late change to the starting lineup for Alexandre Song, all had second-half chances.
Their pressure was rewarded when Van der Vaart handled a Geremi free kick in the area and Eto’o equalised with a 65th-minute penalty.
Substitute Huntelaar struck seven minutes from time after Robben made an immediate impact when his shot from edge of the box hit a post and rebounded into the path of the striker who scored to give the Dutch a 100% record. – Reuters