Arjen Robben has announced his arrival proper in the World Cup by given the Netherlands a 1-0 advantage over Slovakia at half-time.
Long range shots from either side were very much the order of the day in the opening few minutes. Slovakia made their presence felt with strong efforts from Vladimir Weiss and Marek Hamsik but it was the Netherlands who ultimately took a hold on the match, despite the initial exchanges being finely balanced.
Wesley Sneijder was heavily involved for the Dutch, as his been his custom in the competition to date. His first contribution was a shot from distance that went over the top, and that was matched by Dirk Kuyt soon afterwards, though the Liverpool man dragged his ambitious strike from range wide.
There could be little doubt that the Oranje were beginning to get into their stride, even if some of their passing was a little sloppy at times. Better opportunities started to be created by Bert van Marwijk’s side, but Robin van Persie wasted a good headed chance from just outside the six yard box and Sneijder finished tamely after being rolled in by the Arsenal forward.
It was Robben, making his first start of the World Cup after injury, who broke the deadlock. Sneijder was the architect, launching a fine long pass for the Bayern Munich winger to scamper onto down the left. As he has done so many times this season, the Dutchman gathered possession 30 yards from goal, advanced to the corner of the box, cut inside and slid a low left-footed shot into the corner of the net.
Prior to the break the Netherlands seemed to ease their effort somewhat, simply content to keep their opponents at an arm’s length. Van Persie tried to inject some life into the Dutch attack after the Oranje had withstood several Slovakian set-plays but the striker’s somewhat mundane right-footed shot from 25 yards was comfortably fielded by Jan Mucha.
A couple of minutes before the half-time interval, Van Persie slid a firm shot by the near post after good work by Mark van Bommel getting down the right.
Slovakia are presently lacking the flair to really threaten a Dutch defence that has looked steady and untroubled in the opening 45 minutes. Vladimir Weiss has significant work to do over the break.