Dutch goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann (right) celebrates after the match against arch-rivals Germany in the Group B World Cup match at The Hague on Friday. Holland won 1-0 to top the group with three wins in as many matches. - EPA
THE HAGUE: Goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann is the reason why hosts Holland are almost through to the semi-finals of the World Cup here.
Although Jeroen Hertzberger scored the only goal in the Dutch’s 1-0 win over Olympic champions Germany in the crucial Group B tie at the Kyocera Stadium on Friday, it was Stockmann who stood out with his outstanding saves.
Three-time champions Holland now lead the group with nine points from three matches while Germany have only three points after suffering their second defeat.
New Zealand and Argentina have six points each and are second and third respectively while South Korea and South Africa, with one point each, prop up the table.
The Dutch need just one more win from their two remaining matches – and they are likely to get it on Sunday when they entertain bottom-placed South Africa.
The Holland-Germany match was an absorbing, high-tempo game with end-to-end action.
Although Hertzberger’s 19th minute goal settled the issue, it did not go all the Dutch’s way.
The Germans, after a shaky first half, almost camped themselves in the Dutch half after the break and had plenty of chances to get the equaliser.
But one man – Stockmann – stood firm.
Stockmann, 29, acknowledged that “games between our two countries have always been close and none of us like to end up the loser”.
“It would have been good if we had taken a two- or even a three-goal lead. Yes, I was under a lot of pressure in the second half because the Germans are dangerous when they are behind ... luckily we prevailed.”
German coach Markus Wiese was disappointed with the result and rued the fact that his players failed to finish off their moves.
“It was a tough game,” he said. “We created chances ... had penalty corners, which we failed to convert. But I’m not going to find a tree and hang myself.”