If there’s one team that deserves redemption at the World Cup, it is the Netherlands. The Dutch eleven reached the World Cup final three times. Each time, it fell tragically as runners-up.
In two of those, the Dutch lost to the host nations, West Germany in 1974 and Argentina in 1978, respectively. Their dominant run as contenders came in an era where the Dutch displayed ‘total football‘ – a free-flowing and fluid soccer style.
That era of the 1970s prompted a Netherlands side that always entered tournaments as a contender. Johan Cruyff, perhaps the most influential player in the history of the sport, revolutionized the game. His ‘Cruyff Turn’ came out on full display against Sweden in 1974. Cruyff bamboozled the defender with a fake and reverse in a single move.
The 1974 final played in Munich was a one-sided second half. The Dutch pressed into their attacking third with a relentless pursuit for the equalizer. Yet, the Dutch lost, 2-1, failing to capitalize on a dozen shot opportunities. Despite the result, the consensus among fans was that the Netherlands was the better team, but they were simply unlucky.
However, that was not the case in Buenos Aires against Oswaldo Ardiles and Mario Kempes in 1978. Argentina dominated the Dutch, 3-1, en route to the country’s first World Cup win.
The Oranje’s third attempt at glory came during South Africa 2010. Spain’s short and quick passing style, and Andres Iniesta’s extra time goal, proved key for La Furia Roja’s first World Cup trophy. In reality, this match was inseparable. Arjen Robben missed a major chance on a breakaway that may have been the difference in favor of the Netherlands.
A bitter rival
The Netherlands certainly holds something of a grudge with Germany, Argentina and Spain for those games. Yet, another South American side is at the center of the Dutch’s most notable battles.
The Netherlands has a tale of bitter dissension with Brazil. In the quarterfinals of USA 1994, goals from Romário, Bebeto and Dunga eliminated the Dutch, 3-2. Just four years later, Philip Cocu and Ronald de Boer missed their penalties as Brazil advanced in their semifinal tie.
However, the tale of dissension became a rivalry in South Africa 2010. The Flying Dutchmen regained honor with a 2-1 win in the quarterfinals. Two Wesley Sneijder goals sent the side to the semis. Then, four years later, the Netherlands bested Brazil again. This time, it came in the third-place playoff with a dominant 3-0 win in Brazil’s capital.
Throughout the highs and lows, the Netherlands is responsible for some of the most famous soccer players in history.
For example, legends like Johan Cruyff, Edgar Davids, Wesley Sneijder and Ruud Gullit played in World Cups for Holland. The latter of those was the forward and captain who led the Oranje to their first and only major championship. That team won Euro 1998 with players like Marco van Basten, Ronald Koeman and Frank Rijkaard.
Russia 2018 served as a turning point for a new generation for Dutch players. The Netherlands failed to qualify for that World Cup. Now, many players on the side enter with a chip on their shoulder with a historical microscope on them.
The Netherlands is the last ‘powerhouse’ country yet to win a World Cup.
The Netherlands looks to break World Cup dud
Throughout the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualification, the Netherlands finished atop its standings. However, due to the format of the World Cup draw, the Dutch actually entered as a ‘group 2’ team. Therefore, it was in the same boat as the USA, Switzerland and Germany, among others.
The Netherlands drew into Group A. The other members of that group are Senegal, Ecuador and the hosts, Qatar. Though the Netherlands is the true headliner of this Group, Qatar was automatically assigned to position A1 as the host nation.
The Flying Dutchmen look to break their dry spell and win Holland’s first World Cup. Led by Liverpool center-back and team captain Virgil van Dijk and the hybrid player Memphis Depay from Barcelona.
Stars lead the way
As a No. 9 for Barcelona, Depay is the go-to goal scorer for both club and country. However, he wears the No. 10 for his national team – a number assigned to a creative distributor. Using this amalgamation of roles, Memphis Depay capitalized by scoring 12 goals in 10 games for the Oranje during qualifications.
Wearing the famed No. 10, Memphis Depay walks in the shoes of predecessors like retired elite midfielder Wesley Sneijder – who led the Dutch to the final in 2010, and former forward Dennis Bergkamp, who was constantly criticized for cowardly behavior on the field. Bergkamp would implement dirty tactics, like advertently stepping on opponents’ toes and clipping their ankles with intention.
The goal-scoring momentum seems to be swinging in Memphis Depay’s favor as the Barça man put the ball in the back of the net 11 times in 24 matches in La Liga’s 2021/22 season. Depay is eight goals shy of breaking the Dutch national record, with Robin van Persie sitting atop the ranks with 50 goals. With a confident goal scorer, the Netherlands have realistic expectations for World Cup glory in Qatar. Louis van Gaal’s Dutchmen are overwhelming favorites to win Group A at -160 odds and +1600 to win the tournament.
Historically, less than 10% of teams advance from their Group after losing matchday one at the World Cup. Therefore, it becomes imperative for the Dutch to beat Senegal – ‘the dark horse’ of Group A. The Lions of Teranga have a roster filled with elite players from the Premier League and will be a force to be reckoned with as they compete against the Dutch XI when the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicks off on Nov. 21 in Doha.
PHOTO: Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images – PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images
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