ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Robin van Persie scored his second goal in as many pre-World Cup friendlies as the Netherlands beat Ghana 1-0 on Saturday.
On the day Louis van Gaal announced his final 23-man squad for Brazil, the Netherlands coach looked to have picked his strongest side for the match at Feyenoord’s De Kuip stadium, with the vastly experienced striking partnership of Van Persie and Arjen Robben fed by playmaker Wesley Sneijder.
It was that trio who teamed up to unlock the Ghana defense in just the fifth minute.
Sneijder played a one-two with Robben and then cut back the ball past the advancing goalkeeper to Van Persie who only had to tap into the open goal for his 43rd international goal.
Robben should have doubled the lead seven minutes later but scuffed a close-range shot over the bar after a cross from left back Daley Blind set him free in front of goal at the end of a flowing attack.
The Bayern Munich winger squandered another great chance when goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey blocked his shot when Robben was again on his own in front of goal after a cross from right back Daryl Janmaat.
“I should have scored two. I’m saving them up,” Robben said.
Both final passes came from backs functioning almost as wingers in Van Gaal’s new 5-3-2 formation.
The defenders — seen by many as the team’s Achilles heel — also ensured Jasper Cillessen kept a clean sheet.
“In the second half, we created less but we gave away absolutely nothing,” Van Gaal said.
Ghana, which has a tough draw in Brazil together with Germany, Portugal and the United States in Group G, never looked like breaking down the Dutch back five.
Coach James Kwesi Appiah’s team stayed in the game thanks to Robben’s misses and aggressive tackling and pressure that broke up the fluency of Dutch build-up play.
“Ghana pinned us back and that makes it difficult,” Van Gaal said.
But he expects the attacking fluency to come as the squad continues to train together.
“It will get better,” Van Gaal said. “We’ve only just started.”
The Netherlands plays Wales on Wednesday in Amsterdam and flies to Rio de Janeiro the following day. It is in Group B with Spain, Chile and Australia.
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