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Euro 2008

Holland’s Euro ’08 Squad


Dutch coach Marco van Basten just announced his final 23-man roster, leaving ten nations needing to do the same before tomorrow’s deadline. His last cut was former Chelsea and now Sevilla defender Khalid Boulahrouz.

As you’ll see, this team is loaded with attacking players that fit the traditional Dutch 4-3-3 “total football” system, but this emphasis on going forward has come at the price of not producing many quality defenders (aside from Jaap Stam).

GK (3): Edwin van der Sar* (Manchester United), Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax), Henk Timmer (Feyenoord)

DEF (6): Wilfred Bouma (Aston Villa), André Ooijer (Blackburn), Mario Melchiot (Wigan), Tim de Cler (Feyenoord), John Heitinga (Ajax), Joris Mathijsen (Hamburg)

MID (7): Ibrahim Afellay (PSV Eindhoven), Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord), Orlando Engelaar (FC Twente), Nigel de Jong and Rafael van der Vaart (Hamburg), Wesley Sneijder (Real Madrid), Demy de Zeeuw (AZ Alkmaar)

FWD (7): Ryan Babel and Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Ajax), Ruud van Nistelrooy and Arjen Robben (Real Madrid), Robin van Persie (Arsenal), Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (Celtic)


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  1. Lonnie

    May 29, 2008 at 8:49 am

    I neglected to mention Engelaar in my post….he is a big physical presence as well. He has been strong for Twente and has done well in his brief national team appearances. I think the Dutch team will have great flexibility and balance (ie not all-out attack-minded). If they do go with the 4-2-3-1, I suspect the decision will partially be based on the teams they are going up against (France, Italy) who also have tended toward playing formations with a lone striker.

    In their recent friendly win over the Ukraine, Giovanni van Bronckhorst started at left-back, Engelaar was the holding midfielder beside Demy de Zeeuw while Dirk Kuyt was on the right of midfield, Afellay on the left, and Rafael van der Vaart playing as an attacking midfielder in support of lone-striker Huntelaar. They again won 3-0 as they did in an earlier friendly against Croatia when they also played the 4-2-3-1.

    For my money, van Persie (unsure to be fit for the tournament) and Robben are too fragile (i.e often injured) to build a team around them. I think having them as support options from the bench makes much more sense. To me, Babel will be the super-sub, coming on later in the game to try and take advantage of his pace against tiring legs of the opposition.

    I like this change from Holland and I’m looking for them to get out of the group of death along with France.

  2. stoeten

    May 28, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    It’s all still quite up in the air– at least in public– but believe Engelaar will play holding MF, which he’s been doing extremely well at Twente, and was very steady against Ukraine on the weekend. Gio will, in my opinion, be at left back (alongside Heitinga, Mathijsen and probably Ooijer (though maybe that’s Bouma, Melchiot or de Cler)). Robben on the left wing, van Persie or Kuyt on the right (though I’d love to see it be Babel– and he’s the only player who played in all of the qualifiers for Holland). Ruud is obviously up front, and the last two spots could be RVV and Sneijder, though that would leave maybe too much in the hands of Engelaar, and too much of a muddle in the centre, like when England play Gerrard and Lampard simultaneously. Maybe Marco will have to choose one or the other and put in someone like de Zeeuw as another DM.

  3. Michael

    May 28, 2008 at 9:13 am

    I understand the concept and reasoning behind this formation, I just don’t think there’s enough quality in the holding midfield options to play it and be successful. To me, that position is the most important in the 4-2-3-1 because it links the defense and attack, and I think when you’re relying on van Bronckhorst, de Jong, and de Zeeuw to do that job, you’re asking for trouble. You’re also doing an injustice by excluding more talented players like Robben and Babel who give the Dutch more explosiveness and allow Snejider to play in his natural center midfield role.

  4. Lonnie

    May 28, 2008 at 9:01 am

    OK. Here’s my perspective on it.

    The idea behind playing two ‘holding’ midfielders is to allow your full-backs some freedom to get forward and support the wide midfielders especially when counter-attacking. The misconception is that you need two players like a Makelele to be successful with this formation.

    If you look at how a team like AC Milan have played the 4-2-3-1, one of the CMs is usually more attack-oriented than the other (i.e. Pirlo). Milan flip between 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-2-1 depending on what personnel they start.

    The main strength of the 4-2-3-1, at least in the way it has been played by Brazil in the past, is that it offers balance. You can create a 6-man attack and a 6-man defense tactical layout as either the fullbacks or the central midfielders or some combination of the two can move forward and then drop back as the play flows from zone to zone.

    Holland have game-tested this formation — they won their match against Croatia 3-0 — with Gio and de Zeeuw as the CDMs. Yes, it was a friendly but it was still a very positive result.

  5. Michael

    May 28, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Exactly, and I think that’s the problem with playing a 4-2-3-1. Looking at the Dutch squad, there’s no guys like Makelele, Essien, Mascherano, etc; no true holding midfielders that can break up play and help the defenders out. By playing that formation, you have to play two guys in that role and the Dutch barely have one that has much quality, and you also put Snejider in an unnatural position and take away a wing spot from Robben or even Babel.

  6. Ivan

    May 28, 2008 at 2:43 am

    The dutch formation is actually up in the air to a certain degree. During qualifying and prev tournaments the media and players commentated on the problems of playing 4-3-3 most notably RVP who had expressed concerns about playing on the wing of the three. So Van Basten did agreed to a formational change to a alternative of4-3-3 the 4-2-3-1 (4-42mag/worldsoccer) which still allows for individual skill and one on one situations as well as covering what on paper is not a top quality defence.

    On paper the backline looks weak however in reality that hasn’t really been the problem if you look at qualifying. Scoring goals and getting RVV and Sneijder to work well together remains the conundrum for the Oranje. The consensus is the defensive midfielder remains a big problem.

  7. Michael

    May 27, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Hmm, interesting.

    Not sure if I can see it happening though, the breakdown of this roster by position screams 4-3-3 with the natural talent on the wing (not Sneijder) and in the center of midfield, where van der Vaart and Sneijder could roam with either van Bronckhorst or de Jong sitting behind them, not de Zeeuw.

    Let’s take a look at their formation in their friendlies coming up Thursday and Sunday. With their final roster now set, I think we’d get a clearer indication of how van Basten will want to start the Euros.

  8. Chad Looker

    May 27, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    According to World Soccer magazine, the Dutch will actually be playing a 4-2-3-1, not their traditional 4-3-3. Their predicted starting lineup according to the mag:

    GK: Van Der Sar

    Back 4: Melchiot, Heitinga, Mathijsen/Bouma, De Cler

    De Zeeuw and Van Bronckhorst as DMF’s , Van Persie and Sneijder on the sides, and Van der Vaart in the middle.

    Forwards: Van Nistelrooy

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