A Glimpse of the Favourites: Part 5 - The Netherlands

By Gabriel Cazotto

Profile: There is a Wagner opera that tells a story of redemption and second chances, about the commander Bernard Fokke and its world famous ship the Flying Dutchman, and how all of his crew became reborn after an error of the captain that caused the death of his companions. No story can be more suitable for the current situation of the Dutch squad. Second chance is all that the runner-up generation in 2010, and the Euro 2012 fiasco needs. Sneijder, van Persie and Robben, deserves a final consecration in Brazil. The Cup, that were almost taken to Amsterdam twice in the 70s, and turned out to be so cruel to their fans in the overtime of the last World Cup, can give in Brazil 2014 another chance to these heroes. A second chance that their coach will also have, after returning to the Oranje command 10 years later. Van Gaal took over the Dutch team in 2000, just after the Euro played at home, and with a team undergoing a renovation, without Bergkamp, Overmars and Stam, saw the dream of reaching as favorites in 2002 collapsed in an afternoon in Dublin against Ireland, and being executed by Portugal. Perhaps the epic of Wagner and the lowlands folklore can mirror the story and give them the same fate as the ship crew: immortality, with the long awaited Cup.

Goalkeeper: This is the most critic situation inside the Van Gaal squad. The Dutch head coach managed to test no less than 6 goalkeepers. Krul, Stekelenburg, Cillessen, Veermer, Vorm and Zoet. And couldn’t reach a conclusion on his starter till today. Stekelenburg and Krul are the favorites, the two World Cup experience of the first one, and the fantastic displays of the Newcastle keeper prevailed over the others, with the younger Ajax’ Cillessen keen to take the third spot. The starter? Van Gaal has not a clue, I imagine. I think he will go by the form of Krul, who has been outstanding and the central pillar in Newcastle defense in Premier League this year.

Defenders: Forget completely the tough and sometimes violent defenders of 2006 and 2010, like Boulahrouz, Ooijer and Heitinga. Van Gaal manages to find younger and more quality defenders inside the Dutch league itself. Only the right defender starter van der Wiel has some experience in the tournament and international football, despite also being young. The PSG may lead a core with de Vrij, Martins Indi and the left defender Daley Blind, son of van Gaal assistant Danny Blind, veteran of 1994 World Cup. But don`t get the wrong idea. Blind is a gifted leftsided defender and the best defensive midfielder you can think of. The use of him as the left defender is crucial, to allow Robben a free roaming in the left space of the field.

Midfielders: Here is the great question mark not only under Van Gaal, but also during the Van Marwijk spell, even with the runner-up in 2010. Will Netherlands play as Netherlands? With control of the ball, quality and vertical movements of the wingers? In 2010, van Marwijk eliminated that; he used the force of two defender midfielders, the tougher Nigel de Jong and van Bommel. During some matches Van Gaal also used this 2 DM style with Nigel de Jong and Strootman (who had a better pass quality than the retired van Bommel). But the supporters want him to play the famous Dutch 3 line man midfielder. All the supporters of the Oranje expect that Van Gaal takes off De Jong and put Van der Vaart, with a three-man line Strootman-Van der Vaart-Sneijder. With the Oranje Brain, Sneijder in front command the midfield as he did in 2010.

Forwards: Together with Bosnia the best attack styling football of the qualifiers. Well you can expect that when the diamond of the attack is formed by Sneijder, the Bayern Munchen star Robben, the prolific goal scorer Van Persie and the not so known, but as deadly as its predecessors Jeremain Lens, who can also be replaced by the younger Dutch golden winger, Memphis Depay. A reason I think the Dutch can lead the group if they manage to tie Spain is the quantity of goals that they can acquire if compared to La Roja, as a more attacking minded team, Netherlands can escape a second round match with Brazil by the goal average that they might take in Australia. However, on contrary to Spain, they are keener to a defeat against the also attack-minded Chile. Which can be one of the most amazing World Cup games in history, as both of them have an attack-minded mentality, a strong offence, and a regular defence.

Tactics: Van Gaal changes the 4-2-3-1 used by Van Marwijk in Africa by the traditional 4-3-3 Dutch system with the three midfield men in a row. The team’s focus is to disarm quickly through Schaars, de Jong or Strootman, handing the ball to Sneijder or Van der Vaart, who works as a brain for the Oranje, arming dangerous counter-attacks, to the feet / head of Van Persie, in a side wing ball for Blind or on a long throw for Lens and Robben. If the ball reaches Robben we already know what movement he will do, a dribble to the inside left with a powerful shot in the right side of the net, even as well known, is still deadly. But the main concern is if the “Man of Glass” will be ready for the World Cup.



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