Blog: Dutch Lions thrilled with Ron Vlaar's World Cup impact
27th Jun 2014
That's the view of Dutch Lions chairman Simon Robb, as he reflected on the influence of the Villa skipper for the Netherlands in Brazil.
Vlaar was vital in helping Villa stay clear of trouble in the previous campaign and now he has a 100% record so far for the Dutch in the World Cup - three wins and three appearances.
Holland have beaten Spain 5-1, Australia 3-2 and Chile 2-0 in their push to the final 16 of the competition.
They now face competition dark horses, Mexico on Saturday June 29 in the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza.
Robb is a huge fan of Vlaar - and showed that support in front of 10,000 fans in the Main Square in Breda as Netherlands beat Spain to set the tournament alight.
He said: "It's a sea of orange over here. Everyone is so excited - especially after that initial 5-1 win over Spain.
"It was unbelievable to spank the world champions and the way we did it was incredible.
"The fans were cheering every goal that was going in, which I did, of course.
"But I was cheering every time Ron made a good tackle too - which, let's be honest, was pretty regularly.
"There was one moment, in that first half, where Ron made a fantastic saving tackle, in fact he kicked the ball against the opponent and it ended up being a throw-in for the Netherlands.
"I jumped to my feet and screamed approval. I remember that I was thinking: 'Go on Ron. Show them what you're about.'
"He is showing everyone that he can handle the very best players in the world on the biggest stage.
"All my Dutch friends said after the game how well Ron had played. His nickname over here is 'Beton Ron' - 'Concrete Ron' - and he's been living up to that billing.
"We're so proud here at the Dutch Lions of having the Villa skipper in the Netherlands team at the World Cup.
"You couldn't ask for any more. And we couldn't be happier for him. He's been outstanding.
"And confidence in Ron is growing all the time, massively so.
"He's clearly the one who knits everything together at the back. The defence seems to be growing together.
"The last group game - against Chile - we kept a clean sheet and they are notoriously ambitious and dangerous going-forward. That shows how Ron is performing. That was a confidence boost for him and the rest of the team."
Birmingham-born Robb has lived in the Netherlands for 12 years - and set up the Dutch Lions in 2006.
He was shocked that the country which hosted the club's finest moment - the 1982 European Cup win - didn't boast a supporters network.
So he set about forming one, which has gone from strength to strength these past eight years.
While his affiliation to England still runs strong, he admits he has "more than a strong tint of orange" - and he'll undoubtedly be supporting Louis van Gaal's elegant side.
He's confident - and he says the "usually reserved" people of the Netherlands are too.
Robb expects over 10,000 fans "crammed in like sardines" to converge on the Main Square once again on Sunday for the big knockout clash with Mexico.
He continued: "I am so confident with the Netherlands in this tournament.
"We've got a couple of young lads at the back but Ron has kept things very solid with his quality and his leadership.
"That lack of experience hasn't really been evident with the reassurance of Ron back there.
"My belief is strong because of Ron - and the attacking quality of Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie.
"Johan Cruyff used to come out with deadpan comments like: "The team that wins is the one that scores one more goal." That's how I feel with this team.
"We have a strong backline but if we do happen to concede, I have great faith in our forward line.
"They always that ability to score "one more goal."
"I believe we will go all the way.
"I was gutted and frustrated last time, losing to Spain in the 2010 final in South Africa - but I think we can go one better this time.
"It won't be Spain this time, of course. I wouldn't mind Brazil or Germany - that would be a fitting climax.
"I really expect to be there. I fully expect Ron to be in there representing Holland in the final - what a moment that would be for all of us of claret and blue blood.
"It's the vibe throughout the Netherlands. It's not arrogance. It's great, great belief in a group of exceptional players who are performing as a team.
"People were worried about us in the Group Stage. There was Spain who are world champions, Australia who are unpredictable and Chile who made England look very silly in the warm-up games.
"But that first game galvanised everyone. The mood is building with every passing day. You can say 'we gaan ze slopen' which means 'we can take everyone to the cleaners'.
"The atmosphere is just tremendous throughout the country. It's just like England. You can't move for seeing orange - and loads of it. It's amazing to witness - a true sea of orange.
"The people of the Netherlands normally play things down. There's an expression 'doe normal' which translates as 'be normal'.
"But with every passing day, it's hard for even the most cautious Dutchman to not be won over with the anticipation."
If the Netherlands beat Mexico, they would face the winner of Costa Rica-Greece in the quarter-final.
Then it could get interesting, with Brad Guzan's USA or Philippe Senderos's Switzerland potential opponents in the semi-final.
Robb is delighted to see another one of his heroes - Guzan - progress to the knockout stages - but he believes expectation is greater in the Netherlands.
He added: "I am thrilled for Brad. He's not playing, I know, but he will be buzzing about progressing to the last 16.
"He deserves it for how well he's played for the Villa these past two seasons. He's been phenomenal.
"The USA, to me, have done great. Perhaps, they have already exceeded expectations?
"What they do have is a very wise coach in Jurgen Klinsmann. He has great respect. It looked like Germany were relived to win by that narrow margin in the final game of their group. USA played strongly and could have levelled it towards the end.
"But every step for USA is a bonus. Expectation here in the Netherlands is growing.
"Mexico will be immensely difficult. But if we can get through that, we'd fancy our chances of going all the way.
"People will point to Brazil, but they look very nervous. They look like they have the weight of the country on their shoulders. Argentina, even with Lionel Messi, haven't fired on all cylinders yet.
"In an ideal world, I'd love a Netherlands v Germany final because it would give us the chance of revenge for 1974.
"But let's get past Mexico first - and let's keep our fingers crossed that nothing gets past 'Beton Ron'."
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