Confederation: UEFA (Europe)
Head coach: Louis van Gaal
Asst coach: Danny Blind, Patrick Kluivert
Captain: Robin van Persie
Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen (Ajax), Tim Krul (Newcastle), Michel Vorm (Swansea)
Defenders: Daley Blind, Joel Veltman (both Ajax), Stefan de Vrij, Daryl Janmaat, Terence Kongolo, Bruno Martins Indi, (all Feyenoord), Paul Verhaegh (FC Augsburg), Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa).
Midfielders: Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord), Jonathan de Guzman (Swansea), Nigel de Jong (AC Milan), Leroy Fer (Norwich), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray), Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV Eindhoven).
Forwards: Memphis Depay (PSV Eindhoven), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke 04), Dirk Kuyt (Fenerbahce), Jeremain Lens (Dynamo Kiev), Robin van Persie (Manchester United).
Holland are one of those teams that you can never dismiss as a potential World Cup winner. They might not have managed to capture the biggest prize in world football, but they have reached 3 finals, which only Brazil, Italy, Germany and Argentina have beaten. Their squad might not be as strong as it was four years ago when they were runners-up, and they may have a tough group, but Holland boast a team that is capable of causing real menace to the top sides in the tournament.
Holland’s Footballing History
Until the 1970s, Holland were not an established footballing country. They made two World Cup appearances in the 1930s, but when qualification became tougher after World War II they did not appear again until 1974.
It was in that tournament in West Germany where Holland became a force within the game. Their “total football” philosophy helped them take the tournament by storm, beating Brazil and Argentina to a place in the final, where they lost 2-1 to the hosts.
They managed to repeat their performance 4 years later in Argentina, where they once again reached the final but this time lost 3-1 in extra time to the hosts. Their only defeat in normal time of the tournament came against Scotland in the group stage, with Archie Gemmill’s famous goal helping us to a 3-2 win.
The side underperformed during much of the 80s, failing to qualify for major championships, but managed to earn their first ever international tournament win at Euro 88. Despite being defeated by them in their opening match of the competition, Holland defeated the USSR with a Ruud Gullit header and a sensational Marco Van Basten volley.
The Dutch last proved themselves on a world stage in the last World Cup where they reached the final only to be defeated by Spain. Holland played with a great attacking flair throughout the competition, but came unstuck in the final as they tried to contain the tiki-taka football of the Spanish that tore other teams to shreds. In a poor game marred by fouls and negative football, the Dutch defence broke down in extra time to an Andreas Iniesta strike making the wait for Holland’s first World Cup at least four years longer.
Holland’s Road to the Finals
Holland once again proved their strength in qualifying competition as they went undefeated on their road to Brazil with 28 points from a possible 30, only equalled by Germany in Europe. With an incredible goal difference of +29 from just 10 games, the only blip for the Dutch was a 2-2 draw away to Estonia, where Robin Van Persie scored an equaliser four minutes into injury time to spare them a defeat.
Holland’s Key Players
The Holland team has changed since their 2010 final appearance, but the main players remain the same. Arjen Robben is one of the most feared wingers in Europe, even just for his penalty-winning abilities, and has had some great seasons for both club and country since the last World Cup. He may not have had as prolific a season for Man Utd as last year but Robin Van Persie will be a goal threat in every game he plays in the World Cup. The side’s defence is perhaps the side’s weakest link, but keeper Jasper Cillessen could help them out. He kept clean sheets in over half of his games for Ajax this year and is noted for being a great shot stopper.
Holland’s path to the knock-out stages will be tough, with their first match on the 13th of June (8pm, BBC) being against the team that beat them in the final four years ago, Spain. Their next opponent is Australia, a team that is very unlikely to be going places in this tournament, on the 18th (5pm, ITV) before facing a strong Chile side on the 23rd of June (5pm, ITV) who will be looking to do well in a tournament so close to home.
I think Holland will make it out of their group, as I think their experience will see them beat Chile to second place. It’s hard to see the Dutch emulating their sensational run to the final, though. They could well be in line to face hosts and favourites Brazil in the last 16 if they do finish second in the group, and I doubt they will be able to cope with such a strong attacking team with their inexperience at the back. Holland are always in with a chance of doing well, but I think that chance is slim this time around.