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FIFA World Cup Prospectus: Netherlands

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For the next 32 days, I will countdown the remaining time leading up to the World Cup with a 32-day preview of each team that will be participating. For those of you who want to know each team inside and out, the 32-Day 2014 FIFA World Cup Prospectus is the World Cup preview. If you think my comments or opinions about a certain team is incorrect, feel free to email me at youngelikim90@gmail.com and I will respond to your questions on a mailbag post before the first day of the World Cup.

Previous Teams:

Group A: BrazilMexicoCameroonCroatia

Key Info

Nickname: Clockwork Orange

Previous World Cups: 1934, 1938, 1974, 1978, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010

FIFA Ranking: 15

How Did They Get Here?

Netherlands had no trouble in their qualifying group, facing the likes of Estonia, Andorra, Hungary, Romania, and an underperforming Turkey team. They won nine matches and drew once.

Group: B

Opponents (Match Date): Spain (6/13), Australia (6/18), Chile (6/23)

Finish in Group: Second

Why They’ll Finish In Second?

The Dutch would’ve looked at contending if they had Kevin Strootman from AS Roma, but the injury has kept out the versatile central midfielder who played a crucial role in qualifying. Without any players capable of playing his role, head coach Louis Van Gaal opted for a tactical overhaul and has told the press that he’ll be experimenting with a 5-3-2 formation, which can transition to 3-4-3 during the match. LVG has only kept eight players from the 2010 team that finished runners-up in his 30-man provisional squad, opting for a new generation of young talent to feature on this team. With an outside chance of making it to the World Cup finals, despite boasting world-class talents like Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben and Manchester United’s Robin Van Persie, this is a transition year for the Clockwork Orange.

Although Group B was considered the group of death, Juventus’ Arturo Vidal’s injury hurt Chile’s chances at making a shocking upset. The Dutch can, without a doubt, escape their group with at least a second place finish. Their opening match against Spain will be a crucial test since that’ll measure how well the young players in their lineup can play against the previous champions. A draw will be an encouraging sign.

Grading each position:

Keeper:

Netherland’s should be in good hands with Swansea City’s Michel Vorm as their first choice keeper. Also known as “The Penalty Killer”, Vorm has blocked 10 out of 38 (26.32%) penalty attempts this season. Although he’s only had 10 clean sheets in 33 matches and is seemingly undersized for a keeper, Vorm isn’t shy of making the big saves with his wide range of coverage and hands that make an NFL wide receiver jealous. He’s not the ideal world class keeper for this high tier team, but he’s a much better option than the stone-footed Tim Krul of Newcastle United. Vorm won’t be considered the best keeper in the tournament, but he’s guaranteed to be on several highlight reels.

Grade: B (Give him an A- if he helps Netherlands advance after a penalty shootout)

Defense:

In the 5-3-2, the projected back line would likely predominantly feature the Feyenoord boys with Daryl Janmaat at left back, and Bruno Martins Indi and Stefan de Vrij at center back. Unfortunately, the Clockwork Orange will be sorely missing Paris St. Germain’s Gregory van der Wiel, who was expected to hold the right flank, due to injury. Instead Patrick Van Aanholt, who is rumored to become the next Ashley Cole at Chelsea, will play the right back position while Ron Vlaar of Aston Villa will be the additional center back.

Although it’s tempting to underestimate this backline since none of them come from major clubs, the Dutch’s defense has the potential to play better than what most people would expect. The three young defenders from Feyenoord are said to have a high ceiling and are currently being scouted by top European clubs. Their cohesion as a unit together at Feyenoord is expected to translate on the national team. Moreover, the Dutch are blessed to have Janmaat who has the speed and technical ability to overlap the wings and help out on the attacking end. Although a top class team like Brazil or Belgium will be able to expose the Dutch backline through their sheer talent difference, expect teams in the group matches and the early stages of the knockout round to have trouble with this tight unit.

Grade: B-

Midfield:

AC Milan’s karate master Nigel De Jong will be screening the defense at central midfield and is rumored to pair up with Feyenoord’s Jordy Clasie who boasts the versatility to help win the ball in defense and mobilize the ball on the offensive end. Neither of them is world class, but they should get the job done. Galatasaray’s Wesley Sneijder is the most sensible decision at attacking midfield due to his familiarity with Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie. There have been concerns about Sneijder’s tendency to disappear back in Galatasaray; however, his form in Turkey has been affected by his teammates taking up his space. This shouldn’t be much of a problem on the national team.

Grade: B

Forwards:

The combination of Arjen Robben as a second striker and Robin Van Persie at striker will be a beauty to watch. Depending on who will supply them from the attacking midfield, consider Robben and RVP to be instant death in the box. Much clinical, such shooting, wow.

Grade: A

Coaching:

I really hope LVG produces a better than expected result. I really do. A coach is defined by his actions in the face of adversity. Losing Strootman proved to be LVG’s first test, and how he manages to build a team that can successfully mobilize the ball forward without Strootman will determine how good of a coach he is. Lets hope he succeeds…so that every Manchester United fan can let out a sigh of relief once he’s brought on as manager next season.

Grade: B

How Can They Win The World Cup?

If Nigel De Jong somehow doesn’t do kung fu and stays disciplined on the pitch and the Feyenoord backline live up to their full potential, the Netherland could see their chance of winning the whole thing increase. That is a very big if though. That means having Daryl Janmaat become the next Dani Alves, and Bruno Martins Indi and Stefan de Vrij become the next Rio Ferdinands. Meanwhile, Sneijder will have to play like he actually cares about the game*. He plays like he is one of the best attacking midfielders in the world at times, but he has not done that consistently as of late. Perhaps he’s been stalling up until this moment when he saw his second opportunity to get the Cup in front of him. If he decides to show up on the pitch, Netherlands will put opposing defenses to work. Gosh if only Strootman was healthy.

* After a draw against Kasimpasa in December 2013, Sneijder was criticized for disappearing in matches.

What’s There To Like About The Netherlands?

I would kill for an unlimited supply of Dutch Stroopwafles. These caramel-filled, brown sugar-flavored waffle snacks are chewy at first but manages to melt in your mouth. The irresistible combination of brown sugar, caramel syrup, butter, and cinnamon make this one of the best snacks that can’t be found in American markets. I actually wish I had a bag of these with me right now.

The Dutch street soccer culture is recognized in the soccer world. Known to rival the likes of Brazil, the Dutch street soccer players love to flash their magnet-like touch with the ball and their unworldly dribbling. While most soccer fans admit that professional soccer matches can be dull due to over-cautiousness from both sides, street soccer never fails to entertain. They are the soccer counterparts to the And-1 streetballers.

Kit unveil

Opting for the classic orange shirt on the home kit, Nike made one notable to Netherland’s kit, which is redesigning and enlarging the lion patch on the top right section of the shirt. The same thing applies for their royal blue away kit, except the lion is orange instead of white. If there’s one thing I like about the Dutch shirts, it’s that both of them are great to wear casually.