Van Bronckhorst milestone marks Netherlands opener
Preview: Netherlands v Denmark: Today, 12.30pm, ITV1
Giovanni van Bronckhorst, a veteran of half a dozen major tournaments, will begin the latest one by making his 100th international appearance as the Netherlands open Group E against Denmark at Soccer City today.
At 35, it is expected to be his last World Cup, and without wanting to talk up the team's apparently bright prospects, he is desperate that the Dutch should finally win something again, 22 years after romping to success at the European Championships in Germany.
"I suppose it all started at the 1974 World Cup," he said yesterday. "At the European Championship and World Cup we've always shown good football. We've got to make sure we can be consistent and I think we've shown over the last two years that we've a team that desperately want to become champions."
In that period the Oranje joined Spain as the only European team to win every qualifying match, in their case conceding only two goals and winning the group by 14 points. The last two warm-up matches have brought victories over Ghana by 4-1 and Hungary by 6-1, extending an unbeaten run that stretches back to September 2008. Arjen Robben injured a thigh in the Hungary game and will be replaced today by Rafael van der Vaart.
Van Bronckhorst will captain the side from left-back, a position he settled into at Barcelona after moving from the Netherlands to Rangers and then Arsenal, where a bad knee injury hampered his chances of winning a regular place in midfield.
What to watch out for
Denmark coach Morten Olsen is desperate to have Arsenal's Nicklas Bendtner fit after a groin strain, in which case he is likely to play alongside two former Premier League forwards still going strong in Jon Dahl Tomasson and Dennis Rommedahl. It should be both an attacking game and a colourful occasion.