Yesterday’s win against Chile ensured that the Oranje would progress to the knockout stages of this summer’s World Cup as group winners, with the younger players of the squad putting in an assured performance.

  • By Adrian Bucher
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It was not a vintage performance by any means. In a drawn-out fixture in São Paulo, the Netherlands were eventually able to overcome their Chilean counterparts, prevailing 2-0, with goals courtesy of second half substitutes Leroy Fer and Memphis Depay. Heading into the match, both teams knew that their progression to the latter stages of the competition was ensured, and all that was left to determine was the group winner. As such with a fairly young and inexperienced line-up, one may have been forgiven to believe that, with qualification already guaranteed, the Netherlands would lack the necessary focus to earn the status of group-winners. However, it was largely thanks to the organization and concentration of the young players that allowed them to push on towards the victory.

Though Arjen Robben was undoubtedly the star performer last night, constantly terrorising the Chilean defence, a lot of the credit should also be given to players such as Daley Blind, Daryl Janmaat and Stefan de Vrij. Up until Leroy Fer broke the deadlock, the Oranje demonstrated much confidence in their ability to absorb the Chile’s advances, which is a skill that typically more experienced sides are more capable of doing.

A closer look at the defensive performances of Blind, Janmaat and de Vrij, of whom are, at most, just 24 years-old, reveals some impressive feats. Between the three players, they were responsible for 16 of the Netherlands’ tackles, 7 interceptions and 14 clearances. Janmaat was even able to provide a perfectly-placed cross for Fer to score the first goal of the night.

Though the tenacious match may have been largely forgettable by fans, as much of the possesion was stuck in the midfield during the course of the 90 minutes, what is largely underappreciated is the skill required to remain calm when the opposition advances. With 68% of the possession, Chile were only able to manage a single shot on target, thanks in no small part to the organized defensive unit, led by Ron Vlaar. The victory over Chile was a performance of veterans, which is a feat all the more impressive considering both the fact that the average age of the starting lineup was just under 27 years of age, and the odds that were stacked against the Oranje by the media before the group stages even began.

With top spot now ensured, van Gaal’s men will be looking to extend their stay in Brazil, and, subject to the results of other group stage matches, can enjoy a slightly more favourable draw. However, if this summer’s tournament has taught us anything, it is that there are no clear favourites, and that the traditionally larger teams ought to be wary of the many surprises that this World Cup has already produced.

Adrian Bucher (39 Posts)