After performing admirably against Spain in the Netherlands’ opening game, Wesley Sneijder’s contribution to the Dutch’s World Cup campaign has since been largely anonymous. With the Netherlands set to take part in the knockout stages, the attacking midfielder needs to start putting in consistently better performances, or risk being exiled from the starting XI.

  • By Adrian Bucher
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sneiThere was a clear division of opinion regarding the inclusion of Wesley Sneijder in Louis van Gaal’s 23-man squad ahead of this summer’s World Cup. While some sections believed that it was a mistake to include the midfielder whose footballing career has fallen off the radar since his heroics in South African four years ago, there were still plenty who felt that Sneijder still had what it takes to make a real difference for the Oranje in Brazil.

Leading up to the tournament, Sneijder looked good on and off the ball in the Netherlands’ pre-tournament friendlies against Ghana and Ecuador, and was a key player in the memorable 5-1 thrashing of Spain, making some crucial passes, winning fouls and even registering an assist for Stefan de Vrij in the second half. It seemed that the Utrecht-native had proven doubters wrong, and that he could once again lead the charge to paint Brazil orange come July 13th. Since then, however, Sneijder has failed to match his earlier form as the Oranje saw out the rest of their group-stage campaign.

Sneijder’s passing accuracy has seen a steady decrease over the course of the past two games. After an initial passing accuracy of 80% against Spain, these figures were reduced to 75% and 56% against Australia and Chile, respectively – a figure upwards formerly upwards of 80% for the 102-times capped Sneijder. Though his lack of goals could be overseen as the Dutch are not lacking in this respect, his lack of shots on target is concerning, having only managed a single shot on target since the tournament began, and that was against the Spanish. His latest performances against Chile was undoubtedly his most disappointing, and his first, and perhaps only, on-screen contribution to the match arrived on the 17th minute when he was seen complaining to the referee about a free kick that had been given against the Dutch. It was no coincidence that the Oranje were able to break the deadlock against the Chileans after Sneijder had been substituted off for Leroy Fer, who eventually scored the opening goal.

All is not lost, however, for the playmaker. What is currently working in his favour is still his ability to make some key passes into the area, but ultimately this may not be enough to earn him a spot in the starting XI. Prior to selecting his preliminary 30-man squad for the World Cup, head coach Louis van Gaal had warned that  it was not enough to produce one through ball per match at Galatasary: “What if that one through-ball doesn’t happen? Would we just say: too bad for the Dutch national team? In that case, our chances of being eliminated in the first round are quite big…if you can’t deliver at your club, then you most definitely can’t deliver at the national team.”

With progression to the knockout stages ensured, Sneijder must definitely step up his game. Against Spain, he proved that he can be a key contributor to the Oranje, but his most recent displays are again raising doubts as to whether it is worth the risk to have him in the starting line-up. van Gaal is certainly not lacking in his attacking options, and as such, Sneijder should consider himself expendable, in favour of another player that is willing to help out in both attack and defence, something that the former Ajax man has been lacking.

On his day, Sneijder can be the decisive factor, and with a team consisting of Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, the results can be devastating, but how long are we willing to wait? How much faith should van Gaal place in the play-maker, hoping that it will not be the case that “that one through-ball doesn’t happen.”

Adrian Bucher (39 Posts)