Goals from Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder were enough to secure the win over a limited Slovakia side who replied with a late consolation goal from the penalty spot from leading scorer Robert Vittek.
Functional, but lacking flair, this atypical Dutch side can now look forward to a quarter-final encounter against either Brazil or Chile.
From the moment the fit-again Robben fired Holland in front there was little doubt as to the outcome, but there will be concerns for coach Bert van Marwijk about his side’s continued inability to finish off opponents. Against defences less generous than that of Slovakia, this may turn out to be a costly flaw.
Holland brought Robben into the starting line-up for the first time at this World Cup. He started on the right with Dirk Kuyt moving to the left to replace injured midfielder Rafael van der Vaart. Gregory van der Wiel returned, the right-back replacing Khalid Boulahrouz.
Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss made just one change, bringing in his son – also called Vladimir Weiss – to replace Zdeno Strba in midfield.
The first chance of the game came on 2 minutes when Robben lost possession and Weiss carried the ball to the edge of the Dutch penalty area before finding Erik Jendrisek. The Schalke-bound striker took aim but his well-struck shot sailed just over the bar.
At the other end, a neat passing move created space for Wesley Sneijder but the Inter playmaker shot weakly and Jan Mucha in the Slovakia goal was untroubled. A better chance fell to Robin van Persie, but his close range header went wide via a deflection.
The game was being played at a decent tempo with Holland in the ascendancy and they created another good opening on 10 minutes when van Persie spun away from his marker before teeing up Sneijder who shot straight at Mucha.
Dutch pressure finally told on 18 minutes when Sneijder sent a long diagonal pass towards Robben, who, showing no ill effects from his recent hamstring injury, sprinted down the right wing before cutting inside on to his favoured left foot and unleashing a powerful low drive into the corner of the net.
The game entered a quiet period with Holland content to soak the sporadic Slovakian attacks, but five minutes before the interval van Persie was given a rare glimpse of goal but he fired weakly at Mucha after engineering the chance for himself.
After the break Robben almost produced a carbon copy of his first goal when he cut infield from the right, but this time his drive was well saved by Mucha. Moments later the Slovak keeper was his side’s saviour again when Van Bommel’s close range effort rebounded off the stopper’s face.
Holland were moving in for the kill and Mucha again had to be alert just before the hour mark when dealing with a fiercely-struck free-kick from van Persie.
With 20 minutes remaining Slovakia appeared to realise that their World Cup hopes were ebbing away and they finally began to take the game to Holland. Miroslav Stoch cuts inside but sees his rising shot tipped over the top by Maarten Stekelenburg.
From the resulting corner, the ball was only half cleared and reached the unmarked Robert Vittek, who turned and shot, but again Stekelenburg pulled off a superb save.
It was to prove an expensive miss as shortly afterwards Holland extended their lead. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst took a quick free-kick which found the energetic Dirk Kuyt nipping in ahead of the onrushing Mucha and the Liverpool man showed great composure to set up Sneijder, who calmly stroked the ball into the empty net.
There was still time for Slovakia to score a consolation goal when substitute Martin Jakubko was brought down by Stekelenburg. Vittek stepped up to convert the spot-kick with the final kick of the game.
Holland 2-1 Slovakia
Goals: Robben 18, Sneider 84.
Slovakia: Vittek 90+4.
Holland: 01 Stekelenburg, 02 Van Der Wiel, 03 Heitinga, 04 Mathijsen, 05 Van Bronckhorst, 06 Van Bommel, 08 De Jong, 10 Sneijder (Afellay, 90+2), 07 Kuyt, 09 Van Persie (Huntelaar, 80), 11 Robben (Elia, 71).
Slovakia: 01 Mucha, 02 Pekarik, 03 Skrtel, 05 Zabavnik (Jakubko, 87), 07 Weiss, 15 Stoch
16 Durica, 17 Hamsik Captain (Sapara, 87), 19 Kucka, 11 Vittek, 18 Jendrisek (Kopunek, 71).
Referee: A Undiano Mallenco (Spain).Like Angler´s Mail blog? Subscribe to our magazine and you will be able to access our latest comprehensive content!