The 2022 World Cup is over and the Netherlands bowed out on penalties in the quarter-finals. Michael Bell takes his crystal ball and tries to look into the future to predict what the Netherlands squad could look like, should they qualify for the tournament in four years.

The 2022 World Cup squad was a mix of younger talents and experienced heads and it is difficult to know what the landscape will be in four years. I expect that a number of the 26-man squad will not be present for the tournament in America, Canada, and Mexico, but the likes of Jurrien Timber and Xavi Simons will be in their prime.

So let’s take a look at what the squad could look like position by position.

Goalkeepers

Possibly the hardest position to predict as the Netherlands is not producing a number of top-quality goalkeepers at the moment. Remko Pasveer will be into his 40s in 2026 and will surely not be one of the names in the squad, while Jasper Cillessen and Mark Flekken are also unlikely to be involved.

Justin Bijlow could be at his peak though and Andries Noppert will only be 32 meaning he should be around if his career continues to rise in a positive direction. So what about the third spot?

Kjell Scherpen (22) is the younger goalkeeper with the most experience at the moment and he has a lot of potential. However, going even younger, Manchester City U21 goalkeeper Mikki van Sas (18) and AZ Alkmaar’s Sem Westerveld (20) are two that could be top-quality stoppers by the time the tournament comes around.

I am going to stick my neck out and say Westerveld will be the one on the plane as his shot-stopping percentage for Jong AZ has been outstanding and he could be involved in the first team shortly.

Goalkeepers in the squad: Justin Bijlow, Andries Noppert, and Sem Westerveld.

Right backs

One of the positions that the Netherlands are producing a number of players at and selecting two is going to be a difficult task for the head coach in 2026.

Denzel Dumfries played an up-and-down tournament in Qatar and by the time the next World Cup comes around he will be 30. He could still be an excellent option but if the Netherlands are going to play with a back four again he may be overlooked for someone with more defensive qualities.

Jeremie Frimpong did not make his debut for the Netherlands at the World Cup but the Bayer Leverkusen star is certainly a top prospect. He plays in a back five for Leverkusen and is an attacking full-back. However, he could be an excellent player in four years’ time.

Feyenoord’s Lutsharel Geertruida is being overlooked at the moment in Oranje but he is an excellent defender, capable of playing in the centre or at right-back. He is 22 at the moment and will be in his prime at the next World Cup. He may get the nod to be the starter if he continues to develop.

Denso Kasius of Bologna is intriguing along with Milan van Ewijk, whose career will surely take off when a top club comes calling to pick him up from Heerenveen. Devyne Rensch also comes into contention but it is currently unclear just how good the Ajax youngster can be, so I am leaving him out.

Right-backs selected: A very tough choice but I will go with Lutsharel Geertruida and Jeremie Frimpong, but Milan van Ewijk may push them hard.

Left-back

Daley Blind has played his final World Cup and now it is time for a new left-back to take on the position. There is plenty of options for the position, including Manchester United’s Tyrell Malacia, who was part of this year’s World Cup squad without making an appearance.

Ajax’s Owen Wijndal is ready to take Blind’s position in Amsterdam and he could also take it in Oranje if he can maintain fitness and find some top form.

Malacia and Wijndal will both be experienced left-back’s by the time 2026 comes around and the smart money is they will be in the squad, but there are others coming through at the moment.

Mitchel Bakker of Bayer Leverkusen is a strong challenger but his end product and ability on the ball has been questioned before. Club Brugge’s Bjorn Meijer is definitely one to watch in the coming years too.

Left-backs selected: Tyrell Malacia and Owen Wijndal.

Centre-backs

By far the Netherlands strongest position and in four years it is unlikely to be any different with the number of central defenders being produced.

Virgil van Dijk will be 35 by the next World Cup but his experience and ability could see him selected if he is still playing at a top level.

Jurrien Timber and Matthijs de Ligt will likely be two of the stars in Oranje, while Nathan Ake will only be 31. All three will probably still be in the Oranje squad by 2026.

Stefan de Vrij is unlikely to be around, though, meaning that Sven Botman or Micky van de Ven could get their chance. Botman and van de Ven are both developing rapidly and it is likely both will be playing in the Champions League by 2026.

Who would be the wildcards to be included? Jan Paul van Hecke, Mees Hilgers, Sepp van den Berg, Jeremiah St Juste or maybe even younger talents such as Jorrel Hato, Dean Huijsen, Thijmen Blokzjil and Milan Hokke could be brought in.

The number of centre-backs in the squad will depend on the type of formation that Oranje are playing. I am basing this squad off a return to a 4-3-3.

Centre-backs in the squad: Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt, Nathan Ake, Jurrien Timber, Sven Botman

Midfielders

Will Frenkie de Jong still be a world-class midfielder in four years? Of course, he will and that is why he will be in the squad for 2026.

However, trying to decide on the other midfield slots is a lot more difficult but I do not see a place for Davy Klaassen, Steven Berghuis, Marten de Roon and even Teun Koopmeiners by the time we are at the next World Cup comes around.

I may be wrong about Koopmeiners but he needs to offer more and at the moment he has not proved that he is at the level expected at Oranje. Another player that will be hoping to get his career back on track by 2026 is Donny van de Beek, but there are a lot of question marks now over his ability.

So who will be there? Well, Ryan Gravenberch seems an obvious choice if he can finally break into the Bayern Munich line-up and live up to his potential. Xavi Simons will be reaching his full potential too and at 23 he may be the Oranje star in the ten position.

PSV Eindhoven midfielder Joey Veerman is another I expect to break into the Netherlands squad and he would offer some technical ability. In the 6 positions, Quinten Timber of Feyenoord and Azor Matusiwa of Stade De Reims are two to watch in the coming years.

However, the Netherlands has a brilliant number 6 coming through in the U18 squad at the moment with Silvano Vos, who is already making waves for Jong Ajax. He will make his first team debut in the short term and a place in the Oranje midfield in 2026 could be his if he continues his development. I expect Vos will be a star by the time the next World Cup comes around.

Kenneth Taylor made this World Cup but will he develop into a star by the time 2026 comes around or will he be usurped by someone with a bit more to his game? Tijjani Reijnders (AZ Alkmaar), Tim van den Heuvel (PSV), Mike Kleijn (Feyenoord), Kian-Fitz Jim (Ajax), Fedde de Jong (AZ Alkmaar) and Antoni Milambo (Feyenoord) are ones to keep an eye on in the coming years.

Midfielders in the squad: Frenkie de Jong, Silvano Vos, Ryan Gravenberch, Xavi Simons, Joey Veerman, Quinten Timber

Wingers

The problem area of Oranje according to Louis van Gaal is on the wings and that is why they are unable to play 4-3-3.

Steven Bergwijn was awful in Qatar, while Steven Berghuis will be coming towards the end of his career by the time 2026 rolls around. Noa Lang is unpredictable and it remains to be seen whether he will thrive if given a move away from Club Brugge.

Arnaut Danjuma was unlucky to miss out on the World Cup and if he continues to impress he should be back into contention for 2026. Cody Gakpo was a star in Qatar and he will only be 26 by the time the next one comes around.

On the right, Xavi Simons could be used from the wing, but there is also the huge talent of Jaden Slory coming through at Feyenoord. He is currently a part of their U21 squad but training with the first team.

The star of the show could be PSV Eindhoven’s wonderkid Isaac Babadi, who is an excellent dribbler and a leader. He led Netherlands to the final of the U17 European championship last year and he has made his professional debut for Jong PSV.

Babadi and Slory look like generational talents, but the same could be said for Amourricho van Axel Dongen if he can stay injury free for a period of time.

Calvin Stengs should be part of the squad but injuries seem to have wrecked his ability to run with the ball and he has struggled with Royal Antwerp. At Borussia Dortmund, Jayden Braaf could reach his potential, while Crysencio Summerville is thriving at Leeds United. AZ Alkmaar’s Myron van Brederode is another that could come into contention, but there are now doubts about the ability of Ajax young duo Naci Unuvar and Sontje Hansen.

Danjuma and Gakpo would provide some experience while Slory and Babadi could be breakout stars.

Wingers in the squad: Arnaut Danjuma, Cody Gakpo, Jaden Slory, Isaac Babadi

Strikers

Another problem area for the Netherlands is up front with the nation unable to produce the likes of Robin van Persie, Dennis Bergkamp and Marco van Basten again.

Memphis Depay will most certainly be the all-time leading Netherlands top scorer by the time 2026 comes around and he will almost certainly make the tournament if fit and at a top level.

The other striker positions are anyone’s guess but it is likely that Vincent Janssen and Luuk de Jong will not be there. Donyell Malen’s star has fallen at Borussia Dortmund and it remains to be seen if he can turn it around. Wout Weghorst will be 33 by the time the tournament rolls around and hopefully, Oranje will have other options by then.

Ajax’s Brian Brobbey seems the most exciting of the current generation but he is back at Ajax after failing at RB Leipzig and he is yet to nail down a starting spot. He does have the ability and strength to add something different to the Oranje attack though and I expect he will be making his debut in the national team soon.

Joshua Zirkzee (Bologna), Daishawn Redan (PEC Zwolle), Joel Piroe (Swansea City), Thijs Dallinga (Toulouse) and Fode Fofana (PSV Eindhoven) are all strikers with potential but may just lack the real quality to make a difference in Oranje.

Myron Boadu has not had a great time at AS Monaco but he has pace and he is still only 21. If he can remain fit and find some form then he is certainly one that I believe has the ability to make a jump to Oranje. He has one cap so far and scored on his debut.

Then we look to the future and there is one striker standing head and shoulders above the rest at youth level and that is Julian Rijkhoff who is an absolute goal machine at Borussia Dortmund. In four years time he could be a superstar.

Others to watch include Jason van Duiven (PSV Eindhoven), Fabian Rust (Feyenoord), Jayden Banel (Ajax), Ernest Poku (AZ Alkmaar). Intriguingly, Robin van Persie’s son Shaqueel will be 20 by the time of the tournament and he is currently banging in the goals for Feyenoord’s U17 side.

Strikers in the squad: Memphis Depay, Brian Brobbey, Myron Boadu, Julian Rijkhoff

So there we have it. The 26 players that I think will be in the squad in four years time. A number of young talents in there, but Netherlands will need that in order to take them to the next level.

Goalkeepers: Andries Noppert, Justin Bijlow, Sem Westerveld

Right-back: Lutsharel Geertruida, Jeremie Frimpong

Left-back: Owen Wijndal, Tyrell Malacia

Centre-backs: Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt, Nathan Ake, Sven Botman, Jurrien Timber

Midfielders: Frenkie de Jong, Silvano Vos, Xavi Simons, Quinten Timber, Joey Veerman, Ryan Gravenberch

Attackers: Cody Gakpo, Arnaut Danjuma, Jaden Slory, Isaac Babadi, Memphis Depay, Brian Brobbey, Myron Boadu, Julian Rijkhoff




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