Robin Van Persie was not the only Dutchman who looked eager to make up for lost time. The Arsenal striker, who lost five months of the domestic season to an ankle ligament injury, scored his first goal of the World Cup finals against a doomed Cameroon team who did manage to show some fight in the second-half.
But it was Arjen Robben, on as a 73rd minute substitute for his first action here in South Africa after a hamstring problem, who provided the greatest tonic for his country, who advance as Group E winners to face Slovakia in the last 16.
If the Netherlands are going to compete for the trophy, they need Robben to fire and the Bayern Munich winger offered a tantalising glimpse of what could be to come when he laid on the winning goal. Having seemed to err with his first touch from Wesley Sneijder's fine throughball, Robben cut back inside and curled an unstoppable 25-yard shot past the Cameroon goalkeeper Hamidou Souleymanou. Only the inside of the post denied him but his fellow substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was on hand to sweep assuredly into the empty net.
Cameroon, already out of the competition, had been determined to restore pride. More Abominable Lions in the first-half, they rallied to equalise through a Samuel Eto'o penalty but they go home without a point and the inquests are sure to be lengthy. "It's a disgrace that they lost all three games," said Van Persie. "I was taking to Alex Song [his Arsenal teammate] and he can't believe it either."
Dutch thoughts now turn to Slovakia. "We started too sloppily in the second-half," said the manager Bert Van Marwijk, "and we cannot afford this period of negligence against Slovakia. I was relaxed in the first-half and in the second, I thought we might even lose."
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