Who is Netherlands greatest ever World Cup player? We begin our countdown to the no1 with numbers 20-16.

rijkaar net20. Frank Rijkaard

Tournament played: 1990, 1994

One of Netherlands greatest ever players, and a part of the side that won Euro 1988 to end Netherlands long wait for an international trophy.

However Rijkaard never had the impact at a World Cup that he should have had, and is mostly known for the nasty incidents with West Germany’s Ruud Voller in the 1990 tournament, which saw the Dutchman twice spit in the German players hair. Both were sent off early in the match that West Germany eventually won. The tournament in all was a major disappointment for the Dutch, who drew all three group games before going out to West Germany in the first knockout round.

Although he was mainly a defensive midfielder for his clubs, Rijkaard formed a centre back partnership with Ronald Koeman in the Dutch team. Both of them were excellent on the ball, and would look to bring the play out of defence, and link up with the midfield at all times.

In 1994 the partnership was excellent as Netherlands qualified out their group as winners, after wins over Saudi Arabia, and Morocco, although a 1-0 defeat to Belgium put them in trouble.

The quarter final defeat to eventual winners Brazil proved to be Rijkaard’s final ever appearance for Netherlands national team, with the defender replaced by Ronald de Boer after 64 minutes.

It was a disappointing end to the players national team career.

rob wc19. Arjen Robben

Tournament played: 2006, 2010

The first of only two players on this list that will feature at the World Cup in Brazil this summer, Arjen Robben’s performances in previous tournaments have been a mixture of joy and despair.

Robben’s first appearance in the World Cup came against Serbia and Montenegro in the Dutch’s opening game of the 2006 tournament. Playing on the left wing, it would be Robben that would net the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win. In the next game against Ivory Coast, Robben was voted man of the match in a 2-1 win, after dazzling with his pace on the wing, and setting up Ruud van Nistelrooy for what would prove to be the winner. Netherlands would qualify from their group following a 0-0 draw with Argentina, but a 1-0 defeat to Portugal saw them knocked out in the first round. Robben would emerge from the tournament as one of Netherlands stars though.

Onto 2010, and the tournament that could have made Arjen Robben a hero in his country, but instead it became one that will possibly haunt him for the rest of his career.

Wesley Sneijder was the star of the Dutch squad, but Robben also played a key role in the team that would go on to reach the final. The winger netted the opener in the first round win over Slovakia, whilst also scoring the decisive 3rd goal in the 3-2 semi final victory over Uruguay.

Onto the final against Spain, with the game balanced at 0-0, Arjen Robben was Netherlands biggest threat to the Spanish defence, and on 61 minutes the winger raced onto Wesley Sneijder’s perfect slide through ball. Robben was now one on one with Iker Casillas, but the usually so clinical Robben, who you would have banked your house on scoring, saw his shot hit the goalkeepers leg, and bounce wide.

Robben’s face after the miss summed it all up, that was the chance to win the World Cup, and as we all know the match went onto extra-time, and Andres Iniesta volleyed Spain to the win.

As if by fate, Netherlands have been drawn against Spain in the group stages of 2014, and expect Robben to be looking for revenge.

van bronckh18. Giovanni van Bronckhorst

Tournament played: 1998, 2006, 2010

After impressing for Feyenoord at left back, Guus Hiddink named Giovanni van Bronckhorst in his squad for the World Cup in 1998, but the defender failed to make an appearance as Netherlands went out in the semi-finals.

With the nation failing to qualify in 2002, Van Bronckhorst would then have to wait until 2006 to eventually make his debut at the World biggest tournament. The then Barcelona player, played the full ninety minutes in both the 1-0 win over Serbia and Montenegro, and the 2-1 win over Ivory coast which saw the Dutch safely through the group stages. The left back was impressive, bombing up and down the left wing, and linking up well with Arjen Robben.

However the tournament would end sourly for Van Bronckhorst as Netherlands would be knocked out in the first round by Portugal in a game which saw 16 yellow cards and four reds. One of these reds would be for Van Bronckhorst who was shown his 2nd yellow in the 5th minute of injury time.

Going into the World Cup in 2010, most people were dubious about Gio’s involvement in the tournament, but coach Bert van Marwijk included the then 35-year-old, and made him captain of the squad. The tournament would turn out to be his last matches in professional football.

Any doubts over Van Bronckhorst going into the tournament would quickly be quashed, as the left back was excellent, and played every minute leading up to the final. His finest moment came in the semi-final against Uruguay when Van Bronkhorst rifled an unstoppable shot into the top corner from distance, in what is now considered one of the greatest World Cup goals of all time.

In the final against Spain, in what would be his final ever game in football, Van Bronckhorst hardly put a foot wrong, and it was only after he was replaced in the 105th minute by Edson Braafheid that Iniesta found the space to rifle in Spain’s winner.

A great servant to the national team, the 2010 World Cup was a fitting end to his career.

jansen17. Wim Jansen

Tournament played: 1974, 1978

A key member of what is still considered to be one of the greatest football sides of all time, Jansen played every game of both the 1974 and 1978 tournaments.

Jansen was the holding midfielder in Rinus Michel’s great 1974 team, starting alongside Johan Neeskens and Willem van Hanegem. His role would be to cover in front of the back four, or drop into the defence when either of the two wing back’s would venture forward.

The short, but strong number six was not the dazzling box-to-box player such as Neeskens, or an exquisite passer like van Hanegem, but Jansen was an excellent ball winner, which was crucial to the side’s gameplan. Jansen’s play allowed the rest of the team to express themselves going forward.

Netherlands breezed through the group stages, with Jansen winning a penalty during the 4-1 hammering of Bulgaria which sealed the Dutch’s place in the next round as group winners. Dominant wins over Argentina, East Germany, and Brazil followed, with Jansen’s bullish midfield play key in all the games.

The final proved to be a mark of Jansen’s career, as with the Dutch 1-0 up on West Germany through Neesken’s spot kick, the midfielder brought down Hölzenbein in the box, allowing the Germans to equalize, and shell-shock the utterly dominant Dutch side, who would go on to lose 2-1, in what has gone down in history as one of the biggest final upsets in history.

Onto the 1978 World Cup and Jansen was once again called into the squad to line up alongside Neeskens, and now Willy van der Kerkhof, after Van Hanegem pulled out of the tournament. Jansen was again key in his role as Netherlands would again reach the final in 1978.

Mostly used in midfield, Jansen would also slot into the wing back position during games, as the team switched between a 4-3-3 and 3-4-3 formation. Jansen hardly put a foot wrong as Netherlands made their way through the two group stages and once again found themselves in the final against hosts Argentina.

However the final was again disappointing for Jansen, who looked tired throughout the match and would eventually be taken off after 75 minutes. Netherlands would go on to lose 3-1 in extra time.

Jansen’s name will forever be in Netherlands footballing history, but not in the same lights as Cruyff, Neeskens, Rep and co.

suurbier16. Wim Suurbier

Tournament played: 1974, 1978

Netherlands greatest ever right back was one of the star men in Rinus Michels team of 1974, while injuries meant he was subjected to a bit part role in 1978.

The Ajax star was almost like a right winger in the team, as he would bomb forward at every opportunity to link up with Cruyff and Rep. Suurbier was strong, quick and could cross with either foot making him a nightmare for opposition defenders.

It was Suurbier who supplied an excellent left footed cross for Johnny Rep to head Netherlands into the lead in their opening game of the 1974 World Cup against Uruguay.

This would set the tone for the right back’s tournament, as he was involved in a countless number of attacks, and would even pop up in the box to take a shot. However Suurbier was also a strong tackler, and was one of the reasons behind Netherlands keeping five clean sheets in their seven matches.

Suurbier, who had made the move from Ajax to Schalke, was also a part of the Netherlands 1978 squad in Argentina. The then 33-year-old wasn’t as influential as in 1974, but played the full ninety minutes in the opening three group games, as Netherlands qualified for the next round.

However after suffering from a nasty challenge during the defeat to Scotland, Suurbier missed the next three matches, and only returned with 75 minutes gone in the final defeat to Argentina.

The final would prove to be Suurbier’s last appearance in the Dutch national team.




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