The modern game demands many things of its footballers: Physicality, touch, technique and dynamism to name but a few. But often overlooked are the attributes of versatility and tactical flexibility.
The immersive statistical analysis that’s now available at the touch of a button has channeled the game towards a host of different philosophies and as such, managers are more reactive than ever in their approach to games; a style that is currently in vogue amongst the very best teams.
It’s something we’ve seen in earnest at the 2014 World Cup with Louis van Gaal and his Netherlands side. For those who pen match previews and likely line-up pieces, covering the Oranje has been something of a nightmare. Van Gaal has chopped and changed his personnel, tweaked his systems and shifted players around regularly, making it a logistic nightmare for journalists and opposition bosses alike to know quite exactly how the Dutch are going to set up.
Van Gaal has got a crop of adaptable players that are capable of playing in a host of different positions and that are able to change systems with ease mid-game. It’s these astute, subtle changes that have turned this Netherlands campaign from a good one into a great one and potentially, a very special one indeed.
Next up for the Oranje is a clash against Argentina in the semi-final. Here, we do our best to outline what to expect from the Netherlands team in what promises to be an encapsulating contest.
Here’s how they could line up for the clash with Argentina:
What have they done well?
They’ve faced adversity and they’ve reacted superbly. In three of their five games in this tournament the Netherlands have fallen behind, but they’ve been able to claw themselves back into the match to win four of their five games inside the 90 minutes. And that’s down to a few different factors.
The first being the patience and acumen of the manager. Van Gaal has wrung every little bit of an edge he can possibly find out of the games, whether that’s substituting a goalkeeper into the match solely for a penalty shootout, or using a water-break to drill key tactical instructions into his players.
The manager’s substitutions have also been outstanding so far in this tournament. Leroy Fer, Memphis Depay and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar have all scored winning goals coming off the bench; the latter actually came on against Mexico for captain Robin van Persie, a clear indicator that Van Gaal cares not for the reputation of the biggest names on his team.