Holland: World Cup 2014 Team Preview
Best Ever Finish: Runners Up (1974, 1978, 2010)
Captain: Robin Van Persie
Manager: Louis Van Gaal
After a disastrous EURO 2012, in which Bert Van Marwijk’s Holland team lost all three of their group games, the Dutch have bounced back in style. They qualified for the World Cup after winning nine and drawing one of their ten group games and will be desperate to put the nightmare of 2012 behind them.
The failure at EURO 2012 wasn’t an anticipated decline. Coming off the back of a superb World Cup in 2010, many expected the team to go one better in their more localised major tournament. But the Dutch crumbled both on and off the pitch. On the pitch in group games against Germany, Portugal and Denmark; off the pitch as a fractious, volatile atmosphere developed within the squad.
But that is in the past, and as we head towards the finals, the squad as a whole looks to be in very good shape. Louis Van Gaal has ushered out a chunk of the 2010 squad and has stumbled upon an encouraging blend of established squad members and blossoming youngsters. It means that world-class players like Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben still remain key figures, but they are supported by lesser-known burgeoning talents like Kevin Strootman, Bruno Martins-Indi and Jordy Clasie.
Despite their rip-roaring qualifying performances, there is a sense that this tournament might be too much too soon for this redeveloping outfit. The defence – whilst it is full of highly rated younger players – is crying out for an authoritative, experienced head. That could hinder them in the big, big pressure games but with players of the calibre of the aforementioned Robben and Van Persie performing at their very best, the Oranje have it in them to beat anyone on their day.
Key Player - Arjen Robben
For all his obvious talent, Robben was a player who’d developed a reputation as something of a ‘bottler’ not too long ago. He missed a penalty that could have won the Champions League for Bayern and he missed a one-on-one that could have won the World Cup for his country.
But last season, he made those questioning his mental strength look a little silly. The Bayern flyer scored in both legs of the Champions League semifinal against Barcelona before bagging the winning goal in the final late-on against Borussia Dortmund. Next summer, he will be itching to show he can perform on the biggest stage of them all and eradicate the heartache of 2010’s final defeat.
Since the last World Cup, Robben has made big improvements to his game. Primarily, he has become a selfless worker for the team, a trait instilled in him by former Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes. As one of the senior members of this Dutch squad, it will be up to the rampaging winger to set an example to the younger players and with his new found work-rate and indisputable quality, he certainly has it in him to do so at the 2014 World Cup.