CAPE TOWN // Robin van Persie intends to replace the giant picture of Diego Maradona cradling the World Cup he has at home with one of himself doing exactly the same thing. Maradona was Van Persie's hero as a boy; the legend he looked up to as he vowed to make a career in the game. Little could the 26-year-old have known, growing up in Rotterdam, that he would one day grace the game's finest stage as well.
But that is what Van Persie will do on Sunday when he will have the chance to replace that picture when he leads Holland's attack against Spain on Sunday. "I have a really big picture of Maradona on the wall at home in my games room," he said. "It is an unbelievable picture of him holding the World Cup. "He is on his teammates' shoulders and he is holding that trophy with passion. If we win I want that picture with me holding the World Cup, having hopefully scored in the final."
It is hard to imagine what Amsterdam, the Dut ch capital, would turn into should that dream become reality. Reports of jubilant Dutchman leaping into the many canals in sheer joy at what the Oranje have achieved in South Africa fit perfectly with Amsterdam's party image. But even the more restrained members of society are expressing their happiness in spontaneous fashion. "I spoke to two friends of mine in Rotterdam and they were trying to explain what it is like," Van Persie said. "Holland is just upside down. It is unbelievable. Everybody is having fun, swimming in the canals. It is crazy. Everyone is so happy.
"That is what is really nice. With the game we all love we can make people so happy. We just need to push on one more time. Then I don't know what will happen." Holland have been here before of course. Twice. The "Total Football" team created by Rinus Michels is widely acknowledged to be one of the best ever. But they were beaten by hosts West Germany in 1974 and four years later, with Cruyff no longer involved, another host nation overcame them in Argentina.
Yet that era remains the yardstick the current Holland side are judged by. For, while they were competing in their ninth major semi-final on Tuesday, they have collected just one trophy, the 1988 European Championships. "It is a bit difficult because you have to fight against the generation of 1974 and 1978," said Van Persie. "They were unbelievable. They are legends, Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and so on.
"You grew up with their names in your face. When those people say anything in the press or on a TV programme everybody listens because of what they have achieved. "But somehow, we have a chance to do it. If we win it for the first time it will be unbelievable because basically it means that we have done better than them." Nigel de Jong sweated his way through the hardest game of his career on Tuesday night - and he was not even playing.
De Jong was a helpless spectator in Cape Town, as Holland beat Uruguay 3-2 to reach the final, having been ruled out through suspension. "That was the hardest game I have ever been involved in," he said. "I am more tired than all the other guys in the dressing room put together. "I was so nervous. I was missing the semi-final of the World Cup because I had picked up two yellow cards. "It just made it a very stressful night. But the guys did a terrific job. They made it possible for me to play in a World Cup final."