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The 33-year-old says the team spirit in the Oranje squad during the World Cup is the best he has ever experienced with the national team

By Greg Stobart in Brazil

Dirk Kuyt has defended Netherlands captain Robin van Persie and believes the team spirit during the World Cup has been the best he has experienced.

Van Persie has been criticised by sections of the Dutch media following his subdued performances in the knockout stages of the tournament, particularly in Wednesday’s semi-final defeat to Argentina on penalties.

But Kuyt has backed Van Persie and says the Manchester United striker has been the leader in the dressing room.

Asked about Van Persie’s role in the team, Kuyt said: “I think we were a genuine team and I can say that on behalf of several players.

"This group had the best team spirit I’ve worked in in five tournaments and Van Persie was the leader.

“Robin was injured for two months and fought so hard to come back. The way he returned to the tournament was fantastic and he led the team.”

Holland will face hosts Brazil in Brasilia on Saturday in the third-place play-off, a fixture criticised by Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal as pointless.

Kuyt, 33, has urged the team to remain professional and to finish the World Cup on a high point.

He added: “In football there is always a next match. We want to win here, return unbeaten and with a feeling that we have given everything here.

“We want to leave this tournament with a good feeling. We still won’t be satisfied but this is the way we have to look at things as top athletes. Third place will feel a lot better than fourth place.”