Nine wins and one draw in the World Cup qualifiers, an attack speared by the topscorer in the European part of those qualifiers accompanied by one of the most unstoppable dribblers in the world and entering the tournament in Brazil as vice-World Champion.
However, the defence lacks recognised talent and in Kevin Strootman, Van Gaal’s proposed midfield general, is absent through injury. The lack of a similar player in the Dutch national squad has forced Van Gaal to drop his princples. Usually a defender of the ‘Hollandse School’, he has now changed the system from a 4-3-3 into a 5-3-2.
Just as four years ago, the Netherlands heavily rely on the trio of Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder to make the difference. But whereas in 2010, the Dutch were mainly making headlines for gritty performances embodied by the duo of Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong, Louis van Gaal has now put the emphasis on playing a more expansive brand of football.
With attacking wing backs, a more creative holding midfielder next to the ever industrious Nigel de Jong and more pace in the backline than in South Africa, Oranje is set up to play aesthetically pleasing, counter-attacking football.Usually, (former) Ajax players form the backbone of the Dutch national team, but as things stand it seems that six of the starting eleven will have a Feyenoord background. The most eye-catching of them all is Robin van Persie. The Dutch captain and all-time top goalscorer of Oranje is poised to show that he is one of the best attackers around and not only has he a season at Manchester United to avenge, the left-footed striker has a mediocre World Cup in 2010 to make up for as well. At age 30, this is likely to be Van Persie’s last World Cup as a starter and the same goes for football heavyweights Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Nigel de Jong.
With 15 players in the squad having played under 20 caps when the tournament starts, it is these four who bring the experience. The Netherlands will be bringing their youngest selection to the World Cup in 76 years and Van Gaal has his hopes set on these youngsters their eagerness and willingness to work for the team.
Forty years ago, it was the so-called Clockwork Orange that wowed crowds and won hearts, only to be stopped by German pragmatism. This time around, it is exactly that pragmatism in which Oranje have stored its hope of making the World Cup in Brazil a success.
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