Can the Dutch recover at the World Cup?

Robin van Persie, left, in action for the Dutch. (Ermindo Armino/AP)

Shock and awe is the best way to describe the utter humiliation suffered by the Dutch at Euro 2012 as they exited the tournament in dead last after three humbling defeats to Denmark, Germany and Portugal. After four years in charge, manager Bert van Marwijk fell on the sword and handed in his resignation. The arrival of Louis van Gaal–his second stint at the helm—wiped the slate clean. The 62 year-old guided Netherlands to an impressive 16-match unbeaten run and a World Cup spot, and now the Dutch are looking to make amends in Brazil


Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen (Ajax), Tim Krul (Newcastle), Michel Vorm (Swansea)
Defenders: Daley Blind (Ajax), Daryl Janmaat (Feyenoord), Terence Kongolo (Feyenoord), Bruno Martins Indi (Feyenoord), Joel Veltman (Ajax), Paul Verhaegh (Augsburg), Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa), Stefan de Vrij (Feyenoord)
Midfielders: Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord), Leroy Fer (Norwich), Jonathan De Guzman (Swansea), Nigel de Jong (AC Milan), Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray), Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV Eindhoven)
Forwards: Memphis Depay (PSV), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke 04), Dirk Kuijt (Fenerbahce), Jeremain Lens (Dynamo Kiev), Robin van Persie (Manchester United), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)


Louis van Gaal, who has won everything at the club level, will be looking to end his tenure with the national team at the top of the pile before he moves to Manchester United. His methods have been criticized, as many players can attest to, and he’s not the nicest bloke, as many journalists can attest to. But for all the criticism, the man wins silverware wherever he goes.

Possible formation

4-3-3: (GK) Cillessen – (D) Janmaat, Vlaar, Martins Indi, Blind – (M) Sneijder, de Jong, De Guzman – (F) Robben, van Persie, Lens

Group B schedule

June 13: vs. Spain in Salvador
June 18: vs. Australia in Porto Alegre
June 23: vs. Chile in Sao Paulo

How they qualified

Rather easily. Undefeated, with nine wins from 10 matches, netting 34 goals (second-best in European qualifying) and conceding five. Netherlands very rarely struggle in qualifying, and for the most part cruise into every major international tournament. The only blip on the radar was a surprising 2-2 draw against Estonia in Tallinn, with Robin van Persie’s injury-time equalizer saving face in what would have been a historic victory for their opponents, who were ranked 99th in the world by FIFA.

Team strengths

Striker. Debating the merits of Robin van Persie against Klaas Jan Huntelaar is becoming an exercise in familiarity. The sense of déjà vu one gets when this debate emerges is a good one – both are excellent strikers. It’s a sure-fire position of strength.

Team weaknesses

No standouts at the back. A substandard Dutch defence dug deep in 2010, but expecting this backline, led by Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar, to do the same would be a stretch. Van Gaal has been experimenting with three and five defenders to compensate for the lack of quality. This group could ship goals aplenty.

Players to watch

Wesley Sneidjer: The star of the 2010 World Cup has fallen out with Van Gaal. Van Gaal’s grievances lie with Sneidjer’s club form. With Kevin Strootman set to miss out with injury and creativity at a premium, this is a storyline worth watching.
Robin van Persie: Van Persie has had an awful year by his incredibly-high standards. Struggling for form and fitness, the striker looked a shadow of himself under David Moyes and bar a hat trick against Olympiakos, hasn’t really taken control of a game.
Daley Blind: Nicknamed the “Dutch Lahm,” the Ajax full back has impressed on the left and in midfield. He should play at left back in Brazil, and his battle with Spain’s Alexis Sanchez could have a big say in who emerges from this group.

Burning question?

Is there enough talent? In previous years the Netherlands have sent star-studded teams to tournaments and come up empty handed. This year, however, the individual ability amongst the squad isn’t reaching those heights, especially in midfield and at the back. Getting out of the group will be a challenge.

Prospects in Brazil

The Netherlands received an extremely tough draw and get to open the tournament against Spain. Chile is an excellent team while Australia will be expected to finish last. It looks to be a battle between Chile and the Dutch to progress. Don’t be surprised if the Netherlands head home after three matches.

World Cup history

Often viewed as the best nation to have never won a World Cup, the Netherlands nearly won the big prize last time out. Had it not been for Iker Casillas’ crucial save on Arjen Robben’s shot in extra time, it might have been Giovanni van Bronckhorst lifting the trophy instead of the Spanish keeper. The Oranje also reached back-to-back finals in 1974 and 1978. Unfortunately, the masters of Total Football fell short on both occasions.

• 1930 – Did not enter
• 1934 – First round
• 1938 – First round
• 1950 – Did not enter
• 1954 – Did not enter
• 1958 to 1970 – Did not qualify
• 1974 – Runners-up
• 1978 – Runners-up
• 1982 – Did not qualify
• 1986 – Did not qualify
• 1990 – Second round
• 1994 – Quarterfinals
• 1998 – Semifinals (fourth)
• 2002 – Did not qualify
• 2006 – Second round
• 2010 – Runners-up

Algeria || Argentina || Australia || Belgium || Bosnia and Herzegovina || Brazil || Cameroon || Chile || Colombia || Costa Rica || Croatia || Ecuador || England || France || Germany || Ghana || Greece || Holland || Honduras || Iran || Italy || Ivory Coast || Japan || Mexico || Nigeria || Portugal || Russia || South Korea || Spain || Switzerland || Uruguay || United States

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