There are several different players that could fill the Right Back position in 2018, listed below are what I expect to be some of the top candidates.

  • By Josh Mol
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vdwBeing a defender in Dutch football is no easy task.  The ideal defender must possess stamina, pace, proper defensive technique, ball control, intelligence, offensive skill, and must be able to mark the proper opponent when his team loses possession.  Legendary Dutch coach Marinus “Rinus” Michels had this to say concerning the requirements of Dutch defenders in the “Total Football” system:  “One of the considerations here is the actions of the free defenders who must be trained when to push up and go for offside and when to drop back and cover.  The free back must determine this as pressing football has great demands on the player.  In our system our fullbacks must mark wingers.  In pressing football the right back must be prepared to move into the midfield and to join the attack.  He joins the midfield to provide a safe backward outlet with support from behind.  In the moment we lose the ball our RB must immediately mark the opponent’s free player in the midfield.  This is the point where bad technique becomes more apparent, if one our player’s makes a bad pass while attacking it leaves us open to the quick counter attack”

In the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 European Championship the first choice option to fill the Right Back position was Gregory van der Wiel.  After the disastrous 2012 European Campaign the Dutch national team head coach Bert van Marwijk resigned and was ultimately replaced by Louis van Gaal.   Louis van Gaal’s first game back in charge of the Oranje was on September 7, 2012 in a game against Turkey.  In van Gaal’s first game back in charge he installed Daryl Janmaat as his first choice at Right Back.  Gregory van de Wiel was no longer the first option at Right Back, but still likely would have made the World Cup roster if not for a persistent knee injury.  In the 2014 World Cup there are three players that filled the role of RB/RWB.  Those players were Daryl Janmaat, Paul Verhaegh, and Dirk Kuyt.  I do not see either Paul Verhaegh or Dirk Kuyt as likely options at this position in 2018.

Listed below are the players that I see as the likely options for the Right Back position in 2018.


van der wiel aGregory van der Wiel – 26 years old

Gregory van der Wiel is a product of the Ajax youth system.  Van der Wiel’s talent was seen at a young age and in 2010 he was awarded the Johan Cruyff award for “Young Player of the Year” in the Netherlands.  Van der Wiel made his first senior appearance for the Netherlands on February 11, 2009 when he came on as a substitute for John Heitinga.   Later that year van der Wiel established himself as Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk’s first choice selection at Right Back.  Van der Wiel remained the first choice at Right Back through the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 European Championship.  Following the 2011/12 season at Ajax, van der Wiel moved on to Paris Saint-Germain.  When Louis van Gaal took over the managing duties of the Netherlands national team from van Marwijk in 2012, van der Wiel was no longer the first choice selection at Right Back.  Although Daryl Janmaat became the first choice selection at Right Back, van der Wiel still appeared as a likely choice for a roster spot in the 2014 World Cup until he was forced to withdraw from the team due to an injury.  Van der Wiel returned to fitness, but suffered another injury setback in the second game of the season with PSG.  Van der Wiel suffered a fractured vertebrae, but should return to full fitness.  Van der Wiel is an attack minded Right Back that is excellent in running up the flanks and crossing the ball.  Although offensively proficient, van der Wiel’s defensive prowess has been seen as an area of weakness.  Van der Wiel can be poor in marking, late in challenging, and has been known to make the occasional errant pass.  Van der Wiel is an athletic and talented player, but must work improve on the defensive end to have a chance or regaining his starting position for the Oranje.


janmaat nufcDaryl Janmaat – 25 years old

Daryl Janmaat was a product of the Feyenoord youth system, but began his senior career at the age of 18 with ADO Den Haag in the second division. (Eerste Divisie)  The following year Janmaat joined the Eredivisie by signing with SC Heerenveen, where he would play for four seasons before ultimately rejoining Feyenoord.  In 2012 Janmaat not only rejoined Feyenoord, but also made his first appearance for the Netherlands senior level.  On September 7th, 2012 in a game versus Turkey, Janmaat became Louis van Gaal’s first choice selection at Right Back.  Janmaat remained the first choice at Right Back through the 2014 World Cup and afterwards secured a transfer to the Premier League club Newcastle.  Janmaat is a versatile two way player that will certainly be given a chance to maintain his position at the ride side of the Dutch back line.  Janmaat has the offensive capabilities to push forward and overlap the winger or cut inside depending on what the opposition gives him.  Janmaat is quick and is an expert passer that is able to make key crosses into the box.  Janmaat is also a skilled defender that coves a great deal of ground.


van rhijn aRicardo van Rhijn – 23 years old

Ricardo van Rhijn joined the Ajax youth squad at the age of twelve and rose through their rankings until ultimately being the replacement for Gregory van der Wiel at Right Back.  Van Rhijn represented the Netherlands through all youth levels and made his first team debut on August 15, 2012 in a friendly vs. Belgium.  Van Rhijn is player with great athleticism, pace, stamina, and is an asset on the offensive side of the ball.  Van Rhijn makes solid runs and is a gifted passer.  Although effective on the offensive side, van Rhijn can be inconsistent on the defensive side. Van Rhijn is a solid one on one defender, but has struggled with positioning at times in the past.  Van Rhijn is a talented player and is also able to fill in at Centre Back.   With additional experience and maturity from first team playing van Rhijn could develop in an important piece with the Oranje.


van dijk celtic aVirgil van Dijk – 23 years old

The former Groningen man joined Celtic F.C. on a transfer on July of 2013.  Van Dijk made an immediate impact and was named the Celtic player of the year.  Van Dijk was part of a defense that went 1,215 minutes without conceding a goal.  Although van Dijk is recognized for his immense talent, he was unable to secure a spot with the Dutch squad in the World Cup in Brazil.  It is widely believed that it was due to the inferior quality of play in the Scottish Premier League that led to van Dijk being excluded from the squad.  Former Netherlands International Giovanni van Bronckhorst had this to say about van Dijk: “Virgil is a very exciting player. I think we are potentially looking at the best central defender in Europe in the next few years.”  Standing at 6’4” (1.93 m) van Dijk is a physically gifted athlete and is exceptional in his aerial defense and on set pieces.  Van Dijk remains composed when handling the ball, is a sound passer, and possesses a dangerous shot from long range.  Although van Dijk’s main position is Centre Back, he does have experience playing as a Right Back.  Van Dijk does not have the pace to be a Right Wing-Back, but if the Oranje move back to the traditional 4-3-3 formation van Dijk could be an option on the right side of the defensive line.


bruma akdJeffrey Bruma – 22 years old

Jeffrey Bruma’s talent was recognized at a young age.  Bruma was acquired by Chelsea when he was 15 years old and was making appearances for their reserve team by 16.  Although Bruma represented the Netherlands at all youth levels, he had difficulty finding his place at Chelsea.  Bruma spent a loan spell with Leicester City followed by spending two seasons on loan with Hamburger SV.  Bruma wanted regular first team action and a deal was struck between Chelsea and PSV in June of 2013.  Chelsea still realized the ability that Bruma possess and insisted on a buy black clause in the four year contract that Bruma signed with PSV.  Centre Backs Jeffrey Bruma and Karim Rekik have formed a successful partnership at PSV.  Bruma possesses great dribbling skills, is excellent in aerial duels, and is a capable passer.  One area where Bruma could improve is in his crosses.  Although Bruma’s main position is Centre Back, he does have experience playing Right Back.  Bruma does not possess the necessary crossing skills to play as a Right Wing-Back, but could be effective as a Right Back.


ligeonRuben Ligeon- 22 years old

Ruben Ligeon is a product of the Ajax youth squad and has represented the Netherlands at various youth levels.  Ligeon is the current back up Right Back to Ricardo van Rhijn.   With van Rhijn currently recovering from a hamstring injury, Ligeon has been a solid replacement and some have questioned if Ligeon should continue to get first team action once van Rhijn returns.  Ligeon is athletically gifted, is effective moving forward, and remains composed on the ball.  Ligeon has performed well defensively, but must obtain more first team action and face tougher competition, before an accurate judgment of his skill level can be made.  With more first team action and further development Ligeon could be a player to be considered at Right Back in 2018.


karsdorpRick Karsdorp – 19 years old

Rick Karsdorp is a current player for Feyenoord that typically plays as an attacking midfielder, but is also capable of playing Right Back.  Last year Karsdorp played for Feyenoord A1, who won the cup, and Karsdorp was voted the best A junior in the Eredvisie.  Karsdorp practiced with Feyenoord’s first team several times during the 2013/14 season and seems destined to receive some first team action this season.  Karsdorp is seen as the next big thing to come through Feyenoord’s youth academy and if given more time at Right Back, he could be seen as an option at that position in 2018.

Josh Mol (12 Posts)

My name is Josh. I am an American with Dutch roots. I have always felt a connection with all things Dutch especially Dutch football. I love the strong rich history of total football and am a loyal supporter of the Oranje. My grandfather was from Rotterdam and for that reason I am also a big Feyenoord supporter. I don’t just love the game for its enjoyment factor, but I also love to study the tactical side of the game. I love watching the future generation and see the unproven players reach their potential.