After taking a look at reigning champions Spain, it is time to talk about the losing finalists of 2010: the Netherlands.
Holland sports some resounding names: Sneijder, Van Persie and Robben. On this trifecta of class and skill lies the hope of a nation praying for a repetition of their team’s success in South Africa, whilst also praying to be spared from the embarrassment of early exclusion they suffered in Euro 2012. Although their age is starting to catch up, most noticeable with Sneijder, who has left the top European tier in favour of sunny Turkey, these three players are the best this squad has to offer, and it is up to them to shine once more, in what could be their last World Cup.
Managers are often overlooked as a decisive factor in a team’s success – only noticed when a team fails to perform – but if there is one man that can bring out the best in the team, it’s Louis Van Gaal. The Netherlands’ most successful manager already has his next job waiting for him at Manchester United, which is all the more reason for him to prove himself to be the struggling Premier League club’s right choice. With his experience and tactical knowledge, he will surely attempt to lift this completely new team to a higher atmosphere, preferring results over attractive football, as we could see in Holland’s friendly 1-0 victory over Ghana.
While Holland’s forward forces are to be reckoned with, their weakness lies in their back four, with either ageing or inexperienced players carry the heavy burden of holding off the opponents’ onslaughts. Having to face off in the group stages against Spain and Chile, who have proven to be more than just Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, is not exactly a free ticket to the next round either. Louis Van Gaal will need to keep his side’s organisation tight, should he want to continue past the group stages.
Speaking of inexperienced players, this Holland squad is one of the youngest to feature in this tournament, with more than half the team not older than 25, while some have yet to blow out 20 candles. This would pose no problem, should there be some slightly older players to support them, or at least some of them who have already played in an international tournament, but many haven’t even played Champions League yet. Present are last World Cup’s key players, as I’ve mentioned as a strength, but they slipped up in the Euro Cup in Poland and Ukraine, failing to qualify for the knock-out rounds.
Although Holland will bring some great players to this tournament, the rest of the team lacks experience, and those who have played internationally have failed to keep up the quality they showcased four years ago, with an early exit in the 2012 Euro Cup as their lowest point. Add to that their opponents in the group stage, and I fear the Netherlands will endure another untimely exit.