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, having been ruled out of Holland's World Cup semi-final with Uruguay through suspension. Thankfully for the Manchester City star, the Dutch emerged triumphant thanks to second-half goals from Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben, and he can now look forward to the game of his life at Soccer City on Sunday.
"That was the hardest game I have ever been involved in," said De Jong. "I am more tired than all the other guys in the dressing room put together."
He added: "I was so nervous. I was missing the semi-final of the World Cup because I had picked up two yellow cards. The guys did a terrific job. They made it possible for me to play in a World Cup final."
Holland have never won the World Cup, losing both their previous final appearances - in 1974 and 1978.
Indeed, Tuesday night represented their ninth major tournament semi-final and so far their reward stands at one single triumph, at Euro 88. It has often been suggested Holland are the best team never to have won the most prestigious tournament the game has to offer.
That assessment is one De Jong agrees with.
"That is right, but it is not a problem," he said. "The energy we get from it is positive, not negative.
"Those teams in the past put Holland on the map. But that was 32 years ago. This is a new generation.
"We cannot go into the game with any memories of the past. This is our squad and our time. With all due respect, they had theirs."
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