The Newsroom reviews each team in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Team: Netherlands.
Falling at the final hurdle for the third time in 2010, it’s fair to say the Netherlands are sick of being the bridesmaid. Given licence to attack, the Dutch, under Louis van Gaal, are set to challenge in one of the strongest groups.
The Netherlands may have been strong in qualifying but they were largely untested. With just five goals conceded and nine points ahead of nearest rival Romania, they booked their tickets to Brazil with no trouble. They won nine of their 10 fixtures, but their 2-2 draw against Estonia raised questions about the quality of their side. Only a Van Persie equaliser in stoppage time saved the Dutch from embarrassment in Tallinn.
FIFA World Ranking: 15th
Strengths: The Oranje are masters of style, employing the tactical theory of “total football” – whereby any outfield player can take the position of any other player on the team. Since Van Gaal’s appointment in 2012, the Dutch have advocated more attacking football. The big names in their attack will be tough to stop.
Weaknesses: Perhaps the only reason the Netherlands have been excluded from conversations involving Spain, Germany and Brazil is their reliance on their old guard to pull the team through. This is surely the current generation’s last chance to hold aloft the trophy; the likes of Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie are unlikely to make the 2018 competition.
Key player: Robben, still the spark of club side Bayern Munich and his national team, has proved over the years that he can provide moments of magic to decide a game. Had Iker Casillas not brilliantly repelled two Robben efforts in the 2010 final, Holland could well have been the reigning champions. The Netherlands are a far more difficult and imposing proposition when he plays.
Manager: This is Van Gaal’s last spell at the head of the Oranje, and there is no way he would be happy to finish it prematurely. The former Ajax boss places emphasis on creativity and cleverness in the fluid 4-3-3 formation he employed during his time with the Eredivisie heavyweights.
Prediction: A Round of 16 fixture should await Holland, but a likely match against hosts Brazil should end the Dutch campaign. – Patrick Boddan