Our list of the greatest Dutch players to appear at a World Cup continues with midfielder Wesley Sneijder coming in at number four.

2010 sneijder4.Wesley Sneijder

Tournaments played: 2006, 2010, 2014

As a 22 year-old Sneijder was taken to the 2006 World Cup as one of Netherlands big up and coming talents, but the Ajax star failed to make a big impact as the Dutch were knocked out in the first knock out round by Portugal.

However four years later, Sneijder was in his prime, and as one of the best midfielders in world football, he took the 2010 finals in South Africa by storm.

Going into the tournament, Sneijder was in terrific form as he guided Inter Milan to the treble of league, cup, and Champions League, but nobody really saw Netherlands as real challengers for the World Cup. They were wrong.

Sneijder started the tournament excellently, and in his position just behind striker Robin van Persie he was able to create havoc in the opposition’s half with his superior passing, and movement. The midfielder was named as man of the match in the first two games, and netted the winner in a 1-0 win over Japan with a fierce strike from just outside the box.

In the first knockout-round Sneijder set up Arjen Robben to open the scoring against Slovakia with a stunning forty yard pass before netting the crucial second goal himself to send the Dutch into a quarter final meeting with Brazil.

The Brazilian’s were heavy favourites to progress but Sneijder had other ideas, as he netted twice to drag the Dutch back from 1-0 down, and put them into the semi-finals. The second goal in the game was typical Sneijder as he popped up in the right place at the right time to head into the net.

Another goal against Uruguay took Sneijder’s tally for the tournament to five, and set Netherlands on their way to the final with a 3-2 win.

The stage was set for Sneijder to complete his perfect season with a World Cup win as Netherlands came up against Spain, but it was not to be. The Dutch, who had played such great football through the tournament, decided to play brute tactics in the final with Nigel de Jong, and Mark van Bommel attempting to kick the Spanish off the park.  Sneijder tried his best to lift his Dutch side, and in the second half with the score at 0-0 the midfielder played the perfect through ball for Arjen Robben to race one on one with Iker Casillas, but the winger couldn’t score, and Spain would go onto lift the trophy in extra time.

Sneijder had lit up the tournament, like he did for Inter Milan all season, but he was beaten to player of the tournament by Diego Forlan, and was criminally overlooked in the top 3 for the season’s Ballon D’or.

Since the 2010 final, Sneijder’s career has been on a steady downhill curve, but going into the 2014 World Cup there where signs that he is coming back to his best. Two wins out of two so far have given Dutch fans hope that they can once again go far in the tournament, but they need 2010 Sneijder if they are to once again compete in the final.

Never since Cruyff in 1974 had a single player inspired Netherlands in a World Cup, and that’s why Wesley Sneijder is number four on our list.

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