Runners-up in the previous edition and a dismal showing at the Euro 2012 put immense pressure on the Dutch FA and in such a time-of-need they turned to the vastly experienced Louis van Gaal for a change and a renaissance of sorts. The Dutch looked to build from scratch once again and van Gaal was the man they chose to overlook this rebirth in Dutch National Football.
The Dutch – the inventors of Total Football, the original pass-masters at the international stage did make it to the finals in the previous edition but did so playing some of the dirtiest football the Oranje fans have seen from their side in generations. The 62 year old van Gaal took over as Dutch boss in 2012 and immediately set out on revamping the entire team. Identifying Manchester United striker Robin van Persie as his focal point, the former Bayern Munich boss began building a team around the left-footed Persie.
Known to stamp his authority over the teams he manages, van Gaal did so with his squad selection. Picking a rather young and inexperienced side for the showdown in Brazil, van Gaal has opted for players who have performed for their respective clubs consistently over big names.
Between the sticks, van Gaal – soon to be Manchester United boss has the choice of two proven Premier League keepers in Tim Krul of Newcastle United and Michel Vorm of Swansea City. Jasper Cillessen of Ajax was second choice keeper at the start of the season, having done more than just to seize his opportunity the young Dutchman makes the cut ahead of Fulham’s Marteen Steklenberg.
Aston Villa’s experienced central defender Ron Vlaar aged 29 years and 24 national caps leads a rather inexperienced defence for the Dutch. A huge Feyenoord contingent heads to Brazil with the likes of centre-backs Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi, most probable to start for van Gaal. Full-back Daryl Janmaat and Terence Kongolo complete the Feynoord contingent in defence. First-choice left back and son of assistant coach Danny Blind – Daley Blind of Ajax makes the squad. With Paul Verhaegh of Augsburg and Ajax’s Joel Veltman providing cover for the defence in the heat of Brazil.
AC Milan’s Nigel de Jong and former Madrid pair Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder are only survivors in midfield from the team that played the final in South Africa. Creativity and pace in midfield is taken care by the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum of PSV and Jordy Clasie of Feyenoord. The Premier League duo of Swansea City’s Jonathan de Guzman and recently relegated Norwich City’s Leroy Fer make the squad too.
Robin van Persie leads the line for the Dutch with able support in the form of veteran Fenerbahce attacker Dirk Kuyt and Schalke’s frontman Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Jermaine Lens of Dynamov Kiev has been included in the squad too. The talented and fearless Memphis Depay of PSV Eindhoven will look to continue his good form from the friendlies into the Finals in Brazil.
The Talisman – Robin van Persie
Robin van Persie leads the Dutch charge as they look to go one better after their almost World Cup winning performance in South Africa, 2010. Already the leading goal-scorer of all-time in national colours for the Dutch, van Persie will look to inspire his team leading from the front, quite literally in Brazil. After an injury ravaged campaign under former Manchester United manager David Moyes, Persie will be up for a battle as he gears up to remind all his doubters the unprecedented talent he possesses in that left foot. The 30 year-old Dutch skipper says that he’s ‘never had a relationship with a coach like I have with van Gaal’. Dutch fans and Manchester United fan will only hope that the former Premier League Golden Boot winner will impress the boss who is going to follow him back to Manchester. After having featured in Germany, 2006 and South Africa, 2010; it might just be third time lucky for Robin van Persie.
A New System : 5 – 3 – 2
However, an unforgiving task-master and a brilliant tactician – Louis van Gaal, in the past few weeks, decided to alter his team set-up on the pitch to shore up the defence and counter-attack quickly. Changing from the regular 4-3-3 that the Dutch deployed in the qualifiers, van Gaal has resorted to the sturdy 5-3-2 with attacking full-backs in the friendlies leading up to the World Cup. In the new system, the former Barcelona coach expects his full-backs Daley Blind and Daryl Janmaat to bomb on and support the attack down the flanks. The pair of van Persie and Arjen Robben up-front looks likely to be the one van Gaal will stick with even in the World Cup with the creative Wesley Sneijder sitting in the hole behind the 2 strikers. An innovative and unorthodox formation nowadays, the Dutch boss is adamant on playing his way as he looks to finally bring the elusive World Cup to Holland for the first time.
The 30 year-old van Persie realizes that this might just be his last chance at the World Cup with his injury ravaged past. Leading the line for the country and wearing the captains armband draws comparisons with one – Johan Cruyff. It’s down to can Persie and his beaten finalists in South Africa to go one better than one of Football’s greatest ever players.