Bert van Marwijk is happy at the helm of one of the most successful squads in Dutch football history, so much so that he’s extended his contract for four years. The 59-year-old will now lead Oranje until the 2016 European Championship in France.
It was all smiles when Van Marwijk signed his new contract on Thursday at an end-of-year party organised by the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) in the central town of Zeist. The Holland manager told Radio Netherlands Worldwide that there was a mutual desire to continue his relationship with the KNVB over the long haul.
“The feeling is good and I’m thoroughly happy here. I’m working with the best Dutch players and we’ve had a fantastic period during the past three and a half years. I feel confident about the future too. So for both sides, it was only natural that we broached the subject. The KNVB wanted me to stay, preferably as long as possible for the sake of continuity. There’s plenty of talent on the horizon, too, providing a big enough challenge for me.”
However, the former Feyenoord and Borussia Dortmund coach revealed there is a clause in his contract that allows him to leave if a European top club makes an offer he cannot refuse.
“Everyone knows that I want to have the freedom to take the opportunity to move on, should it arise, and that they'll let me go.”
At present, though, Van Marwijk’s sights are firmly set on next year’s European Championship, for which Holland comfortably secured direct qualification early this year. His aim is to perfect his current squad and infuse it with new talent.
“Last year’s World Cup experience was very important, particularly because we went all the way to the finals. And that experience will be crucial at the upcoming European Championship and the period leading up to it. In the meantime, several new players have come through who we’ve fitted into the squad. So the team is changing, slowly but surely, but we have this World Cup experience to build on. And all this shows to me that this team is still growing.”
Van Marwijk has the support of Holland’s impressive array of star players, who’ve praised his leadership style. With the likes of Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Rafael van der Vaart, there’s plenty of pedigree and potential in the current Dutch squad.
Nonetheless, the Holland coach refuses to compare the current generation with the legendary Holland squads of the 1970s and 80s, which featured such stars as Johan Cruyff and Ruud Gullit.
“That’s not the way I think. I mean, I was part of that 74-78 generation, which was a tremendous period in Dutch football. But we live in a different world now and we’ve done remarkably well with this group in recent years and our aim is to try to make it even better.”
Van Marwijk assumed leadership of the Netherlands in 2008, succeeding Marco van Basten, and has enjoyed an impressive spell in charge. Under his stewardship, Holland won 31 out of 45 matches, which briefly earned them pole position in the FIFA world rankings this year.
'Group of death'
The last three matches were something of a disappointment, however, with defeats against Sweden and Germany and a home draw against Switzerland. So how does Van Marwijk rate his team’s chances at the Euro 2012 finals, where they will face arch-rivals Germany, Portugal and Denmark in Group B?
“With our track record, we have created a lot of euphoria and high levels of expectation and that’s only logical. But during the last couple of matches, we’ve shown ourselves to be very vulnerable too, particularly when it comes to our potential. We used to be the big favourites for the title, now we’re just one of the favourite teams. I think that’s more realistic, too. Of course that doesn’t mean that we won’t go for the title. On the contrary.”