The Oranje Dream - Can 2014 be the magic year for Netherlands?
As we get closer and closer to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, The Clockwork Orange will flock in droves to the Brazilian cities of Rio and Sau Paulo in order to support their team to achieve the impossible dream. The colourful Dutch fans will be hoping that 2014 will be the year when the curse on them is lifted and they are no longer labelled as the best footballing nation to have never won a tournament.
The Dutch emerged on the International scene in the 1970’s with the revolutionary idea of total football which was established at the Dutch club, Ajax Amsterdam. With great players like Johan Cryff and Rob Rensinbrick, the Dutch managed to reach two back to back world cup finals in 1974 and 1978 and yet lost out on both occasions.
Netherlands managed to compete on the International level for a number of years and finally earned some respite when they won Euro 1988 under Captain Ruid Guillit and legend Marco Van Basten. With that victory, they seemed set to explode on the International stage and take the world by storm. But after several disappointing tournaments, they finally managed to reach the final of the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa only to lose to Andres Iniesta’s extra time winner.
This time around, the Dutch squad has seen severe revamping with new manager Louis Van Gaal replacing several of his predecessor’s players and including youngsters such as Memphis Depay and Jordie Classie in his squad. Furthermore, Van Gaal has not only disposed of several older players but has also completely changed the system of playing, reverting to the original 4-3-3 system which is well known as the staple formation in Netherlands instead of a 4-3-2-1 formation.
The Clockwork Orange will be hoping for a better performance this time around after a dismal Euro 2012, which saw them fail to qualify for the round of 16. The Netherlands ace-in-the-hole, Kevin Strootman seems set to miss the World Cup with a long term injury which he picked up in March while playing for As Roma. Strootman is highly regarded by the manager Louis Van Gaal, and his system of play for the finals seemed to revolve around Strootman’s ability to play as a holding midfielder, allowing for a quick transition from defence to attack.
Apart from Kevin Strootman, two areas of concern for the Netherlands lie in their defence area with the Goalkeeper and the defence lacking in world class quality. Van Gaal’s first choice goalkeeper, Cillessen, who plays for Ajax Amsterdam is seen to be an average shot stopper at best and is fighting for his place with Swansea’s Michael Vorm and Newcastle’s Tim Krul.
The defence seems to be an even greater area of concern as there isn’t even a single world class defender who plays at a top club in the squad. The predicted back four consisting of Stephan De Vrij, Daley Blind, Bruno Martins Indi and Ron Vlaar all play their football in the Netherlands with the exception of Vlaar who plays for Aston Villa in England. Van Gaal hopes that the fact that most of his back four play in Nethelands will add some much needed stability to a shaky defence. In a television Interview, star midfielder Van Der Vaart admitted that the defence was a vulnerable area but he was confident that organization and compact defending would make up for the lack of world class defenders.
Though the Dutch side seem to have some gaping holes in defence, their attacking prowess is well regarded and feared across the world with the likes of Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben and Rafael Van Der Vaart in their ranks. Though Van Persie has had an injury plagued season with Manchester United, Van Gaal is confident that the star striker will be fit enough to carry the Dutch side to victory around. Furthermore, with Kevin Strootman’s recent injury, Louis Vaan Gaal might switch to a 5-3-2 formation with two wing backs, two centre midfielders and a number 10 behind the top 2. This switch in formation would allow Wesley Snejider a place in the squad in his desired role and with this formation, Van Gaal hopes to get the best out of the Galatasaray midfielder.
Though the Netherlands side has several notable attacking talents, a lot of hope will be residing on the midfield trio of Jordie Classie, Memphis Depay and Jermain Lens. Classie in particular seems to be the centre of Van Gaal’s plans as he plays in the holding midfield role.
Though this Dutch squad has far less experience than the squad which competed in Euro 2012, the lack of expectation on the side seems set to become a blessing in disguise as they will be allowed to unleash their attacking potential without any worries. Though defensive frailties mean that the Dutch aren’t realistic competitors to win the crown this time around, don’t be surprised as they put up a magnificent footballing spectacle which could even take them as far as the semi finals.