Another World Cup has come to an end, and once again, it ends in disappointment for the Oranje. There is no moral victory when it comes to the World Cup. It’s either win or bust, and for the Oranje, it was another tournament that ended in disappointment and left many wondering with what ifs.

  • By Ibrahim Ayyub
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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of our Football-Oranje followers. On behalf of everyone from, we wish you a joyous holiday season!

The 2022 World Cup came and went, and once again, the Oranje came up empty-handed. There is no moral victory when it comes to the World Cup. It’s either win or bust, and for the Oranje, it was another tournament that ended in disappointment and what-ifs. That has been something that has plagued them after every World Cup exit.

What if the Oranje weren’t distracted by calling their significant others to debunk false German stories about them the night before the 1974 World Cup Final?

What if the Oranje had Johan Cruyff with them for the 1978 World Cup?

What if Johan Cruyff, and not Leo Beenhakker, coached the Oranje at the 1990 World Cup? What if Frank Rijkaard kept his cool against Germany, and Marco van Basten was fit during that summer?

What if Johan Cruyff, and not Dick Advocaat, coached the Oranje at the 1994 World Cup? What if Ruud Gullit decided not to retire from the Oranje right before the World Cup? What if the referee had blown the whistle on the foul that Brazil’s Branco committed on Marc Overmars seconds before he was felled by Wim Jonk, before scoring from the ensuing free kick?

What if the referee had awarded a penalty to the Oranje in the 1998 World Cup Semi-Final against Brazil after Pierre van Hooijdonk had his shirt pulled by Brazil’s Junior Baiano? What if Phillip Cocu was the last penalty taker instead one of the first five in a penalty shootout?

What if Holland versus Portugal during the 2006 World Cup Round of 16 clash didn’t turn into an audition for Cobra Kai?

What if Arjen Robben had chipped the ball over Iker Casillas and Bert van Marwijk opted not to go defensive against Spain in the 2010 World Cup Final?

What if Louis van Gaal didn’t get it wrong against Argentina by setting his team up to defend in the 2014 World Cup Semi-Final against a tired Argentina before falling to them in a penalty shoot-out?

After the 2022 World Cup, what if Louis van Gaal didn’t get it wrong against Argentina yet again with his lineups and approach? Why did he opt to start with Memphis and Steven Bergwijn instead of Wout Weghorst or Luuk de Jong who are 6′ 6″ and 6’2” against the Argentina backline whose tallest player was Cristian Romero (6’1)? It was no surprise that Weghorst scored a header against the 5′ 9″ Lisandro Martinez. Why did he opt to have the team sit back and defend in extra time, when the momentum had completely shifted after Weghorst scored that last gasp equalize? The pressure was always on Argentina, so the Oranje had the upper hand. Yet, the Oranje sat back and defended and were lucky not to concede during those extra thirty minutes.

When the referee blew the final whistle, I dreaded the upcoming penalty shootout. A brief word about the referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz. I have never been a fan of his and look forward to the day he hangs up his whistle for good. He is more interested in being the center of attention and will ignore the most obvious bookable offenses. However, he shows no hesitation to book you if you dare to open your mouth and say something he will not like. The fact he didn’t send off Leandro Paredes after his reckless challenge and for subsequently blasting the ball at the Dutch bench is not surprising. Yet, all that time he spent trying to defuse tension, resulted in ten minutes of stoppage time that helped the Oranje grab the equalizer.

If van Gaal was planning for penalties, then why didn’t he call up Jasper Cillessen? Surely, if you’re going to face Argentina in the World Cup, then why not call up someone who trained with Messi for years? It’s well known that Cillessen isn’t great at stopping penalties, but wouldn’t you prefer he be the one giving Andries Noppert advice on facing Messi instead of Frenkie de Jong? Speaking of penalties, seeing Virgil van Dijk step up and take the first penalty was admirable. Leaders lead by example but seeing him step up to take a penalty brought back bad memories of Frank de Boer, Jaap Stam, and Paul Bosvelt taking penalties for the Oranje. I prefer not to see defenders take penalties for the Oranje unless their name is Ronald Koeman.

Speaking of Ronald Koeman, he returns to the bench that he vacated a few years ago. Hopefully, the transition from van Gaal to Koeman is a smooth one. We are already had to go through with what if Dennis Bergkamp hadn’t retired and Louis van Gaal didn’t get it wrong during the 2002 World Cup Qualifiers? Also, what if the KNVB didn’t try to go back in time with the hiring of Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat during the disastrous 2018 World Cup Qualifiers? Here’s hoping the Oranje will qualify for the 2026 World Cup and maybe, just maybe, we won’t be left asking what if anymore.

Ibrahim Ayyub (24 Posts)