As the Dutch continue their elusive quest to win the FIFA World Cup trophy this summer, we take a look at the obstacles that stand in their way from realizing this dream.

  • By Adrian Bucher
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van p v ecuaEver since the draw for the finals tournament was made back in December, most of the discussion has been about the group stages and the fixtures that it has produced – notably a mouth-watering rematch of 2010’s final between the Netherlands and Spain in Group B. However, if the Dutch are to finally win the World Cup at their tenth attempt, they will need to look beyond merely the group stage and towards the knock-out rounds.

What is immediately clear, from how the draw has played out, is that the Oranje need to do their best to top their group. While this is not an easy task, by any means, in a group containing Chile, Australia and, the defending champions, Spain, the runners-up of Group B will progress to face the winners of Group A – which is more than likely to be Brazil. There are of course a number of reasons why this is an undesirable scenario – not least because the Brazilians will be playing in front of their home crowd. A much more favourable round-of-16 tie would be against the runners-up of Group A, which could be any one of Croatia, Mexico or Cameroon.

For the sake of argument, let us imagine that indeed Louis van Gaal’s men finish runners-up in Group B, and are able to defeat Brazil for a spot in the quarter-finals. What happens next? The Dutch will then have to face the winners of the match featuring Group C’s winners (possibly a Colombia team featuring Juan Cuadrado, Jackson Martinez, and, of course, Radamel Falcao) and Group D’s runners-up (a group featuring Italy, Uruguay and England). Group D’s status as the death group makes it irrelevant of who finishes winners and who finishes runners-up. Nevertheless, should the Oranje win Group B and get placed in the bottom half of the draw, the potential quarter-final match-up would be against Group D’s winner or Group C’s runners-up. As we’ve established, it does not really matter who tops Group D, but with a non-zero probability that the Netherlands can play the runners-up of Group C (likely to be Greece or Japan), it is still a more attractive prospect than facing the Colombians. Once again, it becomes important for the Dutch to win their group.

As a further incentive, should Germany top their group, they will be placed in the top half of the draw and can benefit from a favourable draw that can see them with a fairly straight-forward path to the semi-finals. If things go in the way of Joachim Löw’s side, they may find themselves with a spot in the last four having battled past opponents in the form of Russia, Bosnia or Switzerland. In the bottom half of the draw, a semi-final spot looks likely to favour Argentina or Portugal. While both these teams are of course strong sides, neither are typically considered as being on par with the Germans in recent times.

To summarize, should the Oranje finish Group B as runners-up, their path to the final could be a round-of-16 tie against Brazil, a quarter-final match against Italy, and a semi-final encounter with Germany. On the other hand, finishing as group winners, van Gaal’s men could see a round-of-16 fixture against Croatia, a quarter-final dual with Uruguay and a semi-final spectacle against Argentina.

Of course, it is true that all such fixtures are subject to change if the teams in the other groups do not finish as expected (such as Brazil finishing in second place in Group A), but as the draw is structured, the Netherlands will want to avoid the top half of the draw. In this respect, starting on the right foot against Spain, come June 13th will not only avenge the defeat in Johannesburg, but will also go a long way in securing an arguably desirable path to the final.

Adrian Bucher (39 Posts)