There appears to be many different players that could fill the striker position for Netherlands at the 2018 World Cup, listed below are who I expect to be some of the top candidates.

  • By Josh Mol
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zivkovic ajaxsIt’s hard to picture the Netherlands playing without a world class striker.  Over the previous 30 years the Netherlands have had many world class strikers at their disposal; this list includes players such as Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert, Ruud van Nistelrooy, and most recently Robin van Persie and Klaas Huntelaar.  Robin van Persie is the current all time leading scorer for the Netherlands with 49 goals and Klaas Huntelaar currently sits at third with 38 goals.  Huntelaar is two goals behind Patrick Kluivert and seems likely to retire as the second leading scorer in Netherlands history.  With two elite level strikers at their disposal it’s tough to believe that that no coach has ever found a way to properly utilize these players together.  Although there is some resentment between these players they both possess different skill sets that could have played off each other quite well.  Robin van Persie and Klaas Huntelaar are both 31 years old and have had some injury issues over the past few years.  It is preferable that one, if not both strikers will be healthy and in form for the 2018 World Cup, but that cannot be counted on.  The Netherlands needs to prepare for life up front without the services of Klaas Huntelaar and Robin van Persie.

The Netherlands has two strikers that would be in their prime in 2018 and seemed destined to replace van Persie and Huntelaar, but both players seemingly are no longer candidates to fill that massive void.  These two players are Bas Dost and Ricky van Wolfswinkel.  Bas Dost was the leading goal scorer for the Eredivsie in the 2011/12 season with 32 goals and the future was looking bright for Dost.  In June of 2012 Dost joined Bundesliga side Wolfsburg.  Dost scored in his league debut for Wolfsburg, but injuries and a dip in form has seen Dost slide in the Wolfsburg depth charts.  Dost has been linked with some potential transfer options outside of the Bundesliga, but without regular first team action and a return to form Dost will not be a part of the Netherlands plans for the future.  Ricky van Wolfswinkel impressed as a young player in the Eredivisie and while playing for the Portuguese club Sporting.  Van Wolfswinkel appeared ready for his next challenge at the club level and ready to stake his claim as a key player for the Netherlands, but he has not lived up to those expectations.  Van Wolfswinkel signed a four year deal with Premier League club Norwich City on July 1, 2013.  Van Wolfswinkel scored on his Premier League debut, which saved Norwich City a point against Everton in a 2-2 draw.  Despite the great beginning, the rest of the season was a disappointment for van Wolfswinkel.  Van Wolfswinkel did not score the remainder of the season and finished with just one goal while making 25 appearances.  On August 5, 2014 van Wolfswinkel signed a season long loan to play for French club Saint-Étienne.  Van Wolfswinkel has declared an interest to stay in Saint-Étienne long term.  Although van Wolfswinkel has found a little success playing in France, his current form does not make him seem like an attractive option for the Netherlands in 2018.

The Netherlands is always developing young talent and there are many young strikers currently being developed in the youth programs that possess a great amount of potential.  Sadly many of these young strikers will not be developed and mature enough to represent the Netherlands in the 2018 World Cup.  If Robin van Persie and Klaas Huntelaar are no longer able to represent the Netherlands in the 2018 World Cup I see several young players that may be able to fill the void.  If the Netherlands does not have a star player to fill the void and play as a “traditional number 9” striker I could see the Netherlands utilizing a “false nine.”  A false nine is a player that will line up as a striker, but will drop back and act like an attacking midfielder.  The false nine can roam the pitch and confuse defenders.  Defenders can have a difficult time understanding when to pick up the false nine and this can help create space for the other attacking players.  The false nine can also roam the midfield and find open spaces to attack as well.  Germany recently deployed the false nine tactic in the World Cup.  Germany frequently utilized Thomas Mueller in the false nine position.  The Netherlands may find themselves without an elite level striker in 2018, but they appear poised to have many attacking midfielder options.  This could lead to the false nine position being utilized and I believe that the Netherlands has a couple players that could fill that position extremely well.

Listed below are the players that I see as the likely top options for the Striker position in 2018.

de jong rinjLuuk de Jong – 24 years old

Luuk de Jong caught the attention of many scouts while playing at Twente during the 2011-12 season where he finished second in the Eredivisie with 25 goals.  De Jong’s future seemed bright and he was chosen to represent the Netherlands for the 2012 UEFA European Championship.  de Jong did not make an appearance for the Netherlands during the tournament, but his inclusion showed that he was a player expected to make an impact for the Netherlands moving forward.  On July 18, 2012 de Jong signed a five year deal to join Bundesliga side Borussia Mönchengladbach.  Expectations were extremely high for de Jong and many wondered if he was, “the new Huntelaar.”  Unfortunately de Jong arrived as Borussia Mönchengladbach sold Marco Reus, Roman Neustädter and Dante.  These transfers were sorely missed by the club and there was no way that de Jong could live up to the expectations placed upon him.  De Jong received very little service on the front line and ultimately struggled to find his form.  De Jong scored only eight goals during his time at Borussia Mönchengladbach.  On January 29, 2014 de Jong completed a loan signing which would send him to Premier League side Newcastle United for the remainder of the 2013-14 season.  At Newcastle United de Jong was played in a deeper role than he preferred and was unable to score in twelve appearances.  Newcastle United did not seek to extend de Jong’s stay and Borussia Mönchengladbach agreed to terms with Eredivisie club PSV.  On July 12, 2014 de Jong singed a five year deal with PSV.  The return to PSV has been a great move for de Jong.  De Jong quickly established himself as the top striker option for PSV ahead of Jürgen Locadia.  De Jong even received a call up the Netherlands national team for the games against Mexico and Latvia.  Luuk de Jong only received the call up due to the injury of Nigel de Jong, but it shows that Luuk is not too far removed from the national team’s plans.  De Jong is exceptional in the air, provides great link up play, has a high work rate, and possess a solid finishing ability when given proper service and support up front.  Despite previous setbacks de Jong seems poised to continue his development. De Jong possesses all the tools necessary to be a solid striker for the Netherlands.

castaignosgvvhLuc Castaignos – 22 years old

Luc Castaignos joined the Feyenoord youth academy when he was fourteen years old.  Castaignos quickly impressed at the youth levels and is currently the Netherlands Under-17 all time leading goal scorer.  Due to his playing style Castaignos quickly became known as, “the new Thierry Henry.”  Castaignos broke into Feyenoord’s first team during the 2010-11 season and scored fifteen goals while making thirty-seven appearances.  Castaignos made the mistake of leaving the Eredivisie too early in his development.  Castaignos was sold to Inter Milan prior the 2011-12 season.  Castaignos’ season with Inter Milan took a negative turn when he spit on an opponent and was banned for three matches.  Castaignos was then sent to the reserve squad of Inter Milan where he ultimately suffered a hamstring injury which ended his season.  Following the disastrous 2011-12 season Luc Castaignos transferred back to the Eredivisie and joined Twente.  Twente needed a replacement for Luuk de Jong who was sold to Borussia Mönchengladbach.  Castaignos became the top striking option for Twente and was a regular first team option for the Netherlands U-21 team.  Twente surrounded Castaignos with players such as Dusan Tadic, Quincy Promes, and Kyle Ebecilo.  With such a quality supporting cast Castaignos has been criticized for not scoring enough goals to be considered an elite level striker.  Castaignos at times has struggled converting his scoring opportunities into goals; some have claimed that he lacks a killer instinct.  Castaignos does more than just score goals however.  Castaignos is a versatile player, with great link up ability.  Castaignos will certainly be rumored to be moving elsewhere, but he must be careful not to repeat the mistake of leaving for another club where he won’t be guaranteed regular first team action.  Castaignos possesses all the necessary skills to be a special player and if his talent can properly be developed he could prove to be an adequate successor to van Persie and Huntelaar.

klaawillDavy Klaassen – 21 years old

Davy Klaassen rose through the ranks of Ajax’s youth academy and made his senior team debut on November 22, 2011 in the UEFA Champions League group stage.  Klaassen looked poised to make the 2012-13 season a breakout campaign, but a serious groin strain ended his season early and temporarily halted his development.  Klaassen returned to fitness and displayed his talent for Ajax and Jong Ajax during the 2013-14 season.  Klaassen has solidified himself as a key play for Ajax moving forward.  Ajax’s director of football Marc Overmars insisted that Klaassen and Ajax Centre Back Joël Veltman are crucial pieces for Ajax moving forward: “We are constantly working on a puzzle and every time you have it almost complete, it can fall apart, because a piece is snapped up….But I’m going to the gate and lie in front of it when they come for Joël Veltman or Davy Klaassen.  I love Ajax being attractive for a transfer, but these guys do not get out of here.”  Klaassen’s skill set, versatility, and ability to command the space between the midfield and attack has seen him compared to Netherland’s legend Dennis Bergkamp.  Klaassen can be utilized as an attacking midfielder and as a centre forward.  Klaassen is player that has great pace, plays with intelligence, possesses great ball control, is a gifted passer, and his effective runs makes him a goal scoring threat from the midfield.  If Klaassen’s development continues he will certainly be an important piece for the Oranje moving forward.

locadia aJürgen Locadia – 21 years old

Jürgen Locadia’s professional career with PSV had a brilliant start.  On September 21, 2011 Locadia made his first appearance for PSV in a KNVB Cup match and scored a goal.  On September 30, 2012 Locadia made his league debut and became the first player to score a hat trick in his Eredivisie debut since 1969.  Locadia’s talent and upside was clear and PSV quickly promoted him to the first team and signed Locadia to a five year deal that ran through 2017.  Locadia is versatile enough to not only play as a centre striker, but also as a winger.  Locadia has been frequently compared to Netherlands international Patrick Kluivert.  Locadia similarly to Kluivert is a tall player with a quality first touch and quick feet.  Locadia may be slightly faster than Kluivert, but so far in his career lacks the aerial presence and killer instinct of Kluivert.  Locadia currently sits behind Luuk de Jong on the depth chart at PSV, but he possesses all the necessary skills to one day become an elite level player.

boetius feypecJean-Paul Boëtius – 20 years old

Jean-paul Boëtius is a product of the Feyenoord youth academy.  Boëtius made his Feyenoord debut for Feyenoord’s first team on October 28, 2012 against rivals Ajax.  Boëtius displayed his talent and scored the equalizing goal.  Despite a knee injury towards the end of the 2012 campaign Boëtius appeared to be on a steady climb towards stardom and a spot on the national team.  Boëtius made his Netherlands debut on March 5, 2014 in an exhibition match against France.  The Netherlands were defeated in this match and Boëtius was substituted off in the 72nd minute.  Boëtius was named to the preliminary Dutch squad for the 2014 World Cup, but ultimately did not make the final squad selection.  Boëtius is deployed primarily as a left winger and during the 2014-15 season the emergence of left winger Elvis Manu has seen Boëtius oftentimes finding a spot on the bench.  Elvin Manu was born in the Netherlands, but ultimately appears destined to represent Ghana at the International level.  Although this campaign has been disappointing for Boëtius his talent and potential are still unquestioned.  Ronald Koeman, who previously coached Boëtius had this to say about his star pupil: “he has an advantage over other young talents, due to the fact that he reads the game better than his peers.”  Koeman also stated that, “Boëtius can become a very big player.”  Boëtius is technically gifted and is a player with great pace, intelligence, remains composed on the ball, and is effective with both feet.  Boëtius understands the game and knows how to find open space which is one reason I could also envision seeing Boëtius playing in a false number nine role.  There are two main areas where Boëtius needs to improve.  The first area where Boëtius needs to improve is his strength.  If Boëtius was able to add more muscle and strength to his frame he would be able to maintain better possession of the ball and would be more difficult to neutralize when facing bigger and stronger defenders.  The second area where Boëtius must improve is in his crossing.  Boëtius is an effective passer in the short game, but oftentimes lacks quality in his crosses.  Due to his pace and elusiveness Boëtius is oftentimes able to beat his defender up the left flank and if he can master his crossing ability he would become a much more dangerous offensive weapon.

kisha hghgRicardo Kishna – 19 years old

Ricardo Kishna currently plays for Ajax and Jong Ajax.  Kishna at times has disappointed this season, but is still seen as one of the biggest up and coming talents in the Netherlands.  Kishna is capable of playing both left winger and in the middle as a striker.  Kishna possess all the physical tools to be a game changer.  In his short career Kishna has already been compared to many of this generation’s great players including Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Angel di Maria, and Dutch International Robin van Persie.  Kishna’s former youth coach Robin Pronk had this to say about Kishna: “When he’s on the ball, you feel that something is going to happen.  He is very creative. A type of van Persie.”  Robin van Persie was also a left winger early in his career, but made the switch to striker when he joined Arsenal.  Kishna is a strong player with excellent dribbling ability and pace and could prove to be a solid piece for the Netherlands in the future as either a left winger or a striker.

zivkRichairo Zivkovic – 18 years old

Richairo Zivkovic is one of the greatest young talents in all of Dutch football.  Zivkovic’s father is from the Dutch Caribbean island Curaçao and his mother is from Serbia.  Zivkovic was born in the city of Assen which is located in northeastern Netherlands.  Zivkovic’s father left when was young and he ended up taking the last name of his mother.  Zivkovic speaks Dutch and Serbian and has frequently visited family that lives in Serbia.  Zivkovic is elgible to represent Serbia internationally, but has so far chosen to represent the Netherlands at the youth levels. Zivkovic is still eligible to switch his allegiances until he represents the Netherlands senior side.   During the 2013-14 season Zivkovic impressed while playing for the Eredivisie club FC Groningen.  On August 3, 2013 Zivkovic scored his first regular season goal for FC Groningen and replaced Arjen Robben as the youngest player to ever score for the club.  On March 17, 2014 it was announced that Zivkovic signed a three year contract to join Ajax at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season.  Zivkovic has displayed impressive form for Ajax’s reserve squad and has even gained some experience with Ajax’s first team.  Zivkovic has frequently been compared to former Groningen standouts Arjen Robben and Luis Suarez.  Although the playing style of Zivkovic is far different than that of Arjen Robben the comparison itself shows just how much potential scouts see in Zivkovic.  Zivkovic is tall, incredibly quick and athletic, gifted in the air, remains composed on the ball, possesses great positional awareness, and is technically sound.  Zivkovic has previously displayed a lack of maturity, but at his age it’s not abnormal.  Zivkovic has all the tools to be a special player and if he matures, continues his development on the pitch, and maintains his allegiance to the Netherlands he could become a very important player for the Oranje in the future.

Josh Mol (12 Posts)

My name is Josh. I am an American with Dutch roots. I have always felt a connection with all things Dutch especially Dutch football. I love the strong rich history of total football and am a loyal supporter of the Oranje. My grandfather was from Rotterdam and for that reason I am also a big Feyenoord supporter. I don’t just love the game for its enjoyment factor, but I also love to study the tactical side of the game. I love watching the future generation and see the unproven players reach their potential.