Netherlands – World Cup 2014 – Group B

NETHERLANDS

13-June Spain (9pm GMT Salvador)

18-June Australia (5pm GMT Porto Alegre)

23-June Chile (5pm GMT Sao Paulo)

Beaten finalists in 2010, a more attractive Holland side will be looking to go one better this time around. Sean Duffy takes a closer look at those flying Dutchmen

Coach: Louis Van Gaal

A former Coach of Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and AZ, Van Gaal returned to the national bench in 2012 after a previous two-year stint ended in failure to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. An advocate of attacking football, the no-nonsense 62-year-old’s many honours include domestic championship wins in Holland, Spain and Germany. He also won the European Cup at the helm of Ajax in 1995.

Why they could be dangerous

They are a team with a point to prove. At the last World Cup, the Dutch faced off against 2014 group opponents Spain in the Final. The 1-0 defeat drew criticism from all corners of the football world. The cynicism and brutish performance in that game was said to have been a betrayal of the country’s footballing values. Coach Louis Van Gaal is familiar with many of the Spanish squad from his time at Barcelona, and will be hoping his insider knowledge will make a difference.

The world on his shoulders: Robin Van Persie

A player that has suffered an extremely frustrating season at Old Trafford. Rumoured to be unhappy with the coaching methods of David Moyes, Van Persie has spent much of the season sidelined by injury. It means he will arrive in Brazil looking to re-establish his reputation as one of the finest strikers in the game. Van Gaal will be praying that his leading marksman can stay injury free for the duration of Holland’s involvement, with the back-up options looking slightly unconvincing.

Did you know?

The ‘Total Football’ espoused by the Dutch in the 1970s became the inspiration for Spanish ‘Tiki-Taka’. Johan Cruyff’s influence at Barcelona changed perceptions in Spanish football about the way the game should be played. Similarly, Van Gaal is credited with handing first team debuts to current stars Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, underling the interwoven stories of two great footballing nations.

Country legend: Johan Cruyff

The greatest exponent of the ‘Total Football’ philosophy of Rinus Michels, Cruyff was instrumental in Holland reaching the 1974 World Cup Final. Sadly, the Dutch were to come up short, but Cruyff’s contribution was acknowledged in the form of a Golden Ball for player of the tournament. A player who secured three Balon d’Or awards during his career, Cruyff went on to lead Barcelona to their first ever European Cup as Coach, with a side that featured a young Pep Guardiola.

Formation: 4-3-3

Van Gaal chose to switch between 4-3-3 and 4-5-1 during the qualifying stages. The Coach used those games as a means to assess a multitude of possibilities, with an incredible 36 different players featuring. It shows a desire on Van Gaal’s part to have a range of options when he arrives in Brazil. Adam Maher and Kevin Strootman have been ruled out through injury, so the tactician may yet have to turn to some of the old guard to get through a tricky group.

Netherlands versus…

…Spain P10 W4 D1 L5 F11 A16

…Chile P0 W0 D0 L0 F0 A0

…Australia P3 W0 D2 L1 F2 A3

Stats

Population: 16.7 million

World Cup appearances: 9

Best finish: Runners up in 1974, 1978 and 2010

Famous for: Introducing the world to ‘Total Football’, the Oranje had to wait until 1988 to win their first ever tournament, with Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard leading the side to victory at the European Championship.

Top Division: Eredivisie

How they got to the World Cup: Emphatically disposed of all comers in qualification, winning an impressive nine out of 10 games in Group D.

FIFA World Ranking: 15

Last World Cup Appearance: South Africa 2010 – Lost the Final with a shameful display against Spain. They will be hoping for redemption this time around.

Continental Honours: 1988 European Champions

Most Capped Player: Edwin Van Der Sar (130 caps)

Leading International Scorer: Robin Van Persie (41 goals)

Nickname: The Oranje