The Oranje. The Royal Netherlands Football Team (KNVB), aka Netherlands or Holland, is a team well known for its moments of brilliance, but so often eclipsed by moments of madness. Their fans can always be seen wildly cheering on their team decked out in orange with a smattering of red, white, and blue. Well known for their raucous celebrations, but also for their ability to recognize and appreciate good soccer.
A Brief History Lesson
The Netherlands is a country that is well known for its open society and acceptance of others, yet there is still an arrogance and patriotism that is embodied by the national team. The country itself is known as the Netherlands, yet they are willing to allow their national team to be referred to as Holland. In actuality, Holland is just a portion of the country itself with North Holland and South Holland being two of the provinces within the country of the Netherlands.
The color orange, which they are so famously associated with, comes from the royal line of Orange-Nassau going back to William I of Orange in 1544. This remains prominent in the country with their current King, Willem-Alexander, carrying on the Orange-Nassau lineage.
In continuing with the history lesson, the Dutch national team has become something of an enigma. The Netherlands is a small, but densely populated country, but has managed to produce some of the world’s greatest players and teams. They have played some of the most beautiful soccer, yet so often they seem to implode and fall short, particularly in the World Cup. Three times they have finished as runners-up (the most for any team that has not won the World Cup), yet their failings with some of the greatest players in the world is what has defined them ever since the days of Johan Cruyff and Total Football in the 70’s.
This 2014 team is not short on star power, but there are a number of lesser known, younger players that round out this squad. Most fans know about Robin van Persie (30), Arjen Robben (30), Wesley Sneijder (29), as well as Rafael van der Vaart (31). These four, along with Dirk Kuyt (33), are the veteran players that make up the core of the team. They are joined by several younger players like Jeremain Lens (26), Daryl Janmaat (24), Patrick van Aanholt (23), Jordy Clasie (22), and even Terence Kongolo (20) and Tonny Vilhena (19). This is a squad that has a large contingent from the Dutch Eredivisie, with 16 players from the league including 7 from Feyenoord.
In Louis van Gaal’s first stint as the Dutch coach, from 2000-02, his hard-headed, no nonsense, direct approach led to rebellion and poor results from a group of individually talented players who just couldn’t play as a team. As a result they failed to even qualify for the 2002 World Cup.
This year’s squad is much more of a team built by van Gaal, for van Gaal. They are mostly young and impressionable, meaning that he can be the teacher he prefers to be and guide them as their coach and leader. It has certainly helped that this is a team whose captain, Robin van Persie, has a very close relationship with van Gaal.