Wednesday night’s elimination at the hands of Argentina ended the Oranje’s hope of World Cup glory. Though the Dutch will have to wait another four years before their next attempt to win the elusive trophy, they can still be very proud of their accomplishments in Brazil.

  • By Adrian Bucher
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As Maxi Rodriguez scored Argentina’s winning penalty in the shoot-out against the Netherlands, another chapter was written in the seemingly never-ending tale of how close the Dutch came to experiencing World Cup glory. Try as they might, Louis van Gaal’s men found great difficulty in breaking down a resilient Argentine defence, as was the case against Costa Rica in their previous fixture. However, unlike the quarter-final tie, the Dutch would not advance to the next and final round following the penalty shoot-out. Though Oranje fans the world over will be devastated with the result, they should, nonetheless, be proud of the effort that the national team put in, not just during the course of the semi-final clash, but also during the entire tournament.

It seems almost a distant memory to think of those that had written of the Netherlands’ chance to make it out of the group before the World Cup even began. There were even those that had labelled the 23-man squad as the worst Dutch team ever. With an average age of just over 26, even former captain Edwin van der Sar had lamented the lack of “world class players”. A semi-final appearance later, with 12 goals scored along the way, there are many that were heart-broken to learn that Germany would not be facing the Dutch in Sunday’s final.

Though guilty of having the opening penalty saved, Ron Vlaar played in what was arguably the best display by of defensive football by any defender during the tournament. The Koggenland-native was in imperious form, denying the likes of Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Serio Aguero during the 120 minutes of action, making crucial tackles and clearance after clearance, restricting the movement and shots of the Argentine attack. His partner at the back, Stefan de Vrij also put in another commanding performance in what has been a highly successful tournament for the young defender. Together, the pair were responsible for making thirteen interceptions and 18 clearances, with a combined passing accuracy of 91% of 166 passes attempted.

Unfortunately, there will be many that will stigmatise Louis van Gaal’s tactics of the World Cup with the controversial decision to substitute Jasper Cillessen for Tim Krul during the quarter-final clash against Costa Rica just before the penalty shoot-out, and the failure of van Gaal to do the same when their semi-final clash headed in the same direction. The Manchester United coach-elect has, in truth, performed well from a tactical point of view since the first day of the tournament, and it was no different against Argentina. The Dutch did well to change tactics and their approach to the game following a woeful first half performance, and were able to maintain a strong shape well into extra-time. If there was, however, one thing van Gaal should take responsibility for is the faith placed in captain Robin van Persie when his form took a turn for the worse.

Arjen Robben told NOS after the match: “From the bottom of my heart, I can truthfully say you can see how everyone was behind the team. I think we can all be very proud of these players.” While the World Cup is not yet over for the Oranje, with Saturday’s third-place play-off against Brazil still on the horizon, Robben and co. will certainly take this opportunity to put a smile on the faces of Dutch fans everywhere. Regardless of the result in Brasilia, fans should be happy with how the team came up against the odds and made it so far in the tournament, in some memorable matches and scoring some truly incredible goals.

Hup Holland Hup.

Adrian Bucher (39 Posts)