There appears to be many different players that could fill the Winger positions for Netherlands at the 2018 World Cup. listed below are who I expect to be some of the top candidates.

  • By Josh Mol
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depchiThe Netherlands has a rich history of producing world class wingers such as Coen Moulijn, Piet Keizer, Johnny Rep, Rob Resenbrink, Marc Overmars, and most recently Arjen Robben.  In the most recent World Cup, Robben showed his world class talent and was viewed as one of the top players in the tournament.  Robben is a dynamic and explosive playmaker that typically has been deployed as a Right Winger.  Robben heavily favors his left foot and although he is typically deployed up the right flank he will frequently cut inside to his dominate foot where his pace, elusiveness, and dangerous left foot can wreak havoc on an opposing defenses.  Robben is arguably in the form of his career, and in the latest version of the FIFA video game franchise Robben’s player ranking is only behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Netherlands has at times struggled to find another dynamic playmaker to pair opposite Robben.  The Netherlands have had many great players, but none that could come anywhere near matching the explosiveness and destructive abilities as Robben.  Two players that showed great potential as the Left Winger for the Oranje were Ibrahim Affelay and Eljero Elia.  Ibrahim Affelay played for PSV and was named as the Dutch Football Talent of the Year for the 2006-07 season and seemed destined for future success.  During the winter transfer window of the 2010-11 season Affelay transferred to FC Barcelona.  Over the next several years Affelay struggled with various injuries and his game was unable to progress and he has not been the key member of the Oranje as many expected he would be.  Affelay has recently rejoined the national team, but now seems more likely to fight for a position in the midfield instead of as a winger.  Eljero Elia was a player who possessed a great deal of talent and many saw him as the man who could be deployed on the flank opposite Robben.  Elia was named as the Dutch Football Talent of the Year for the 2008-09 season.  In July of 2009 Elia left FC Twente and signed a 5 year contract with the Bundesliga club Hamburger SV.  Elia struggled to find his form at the new club and has also been unable to find his form with Juventus and Werder Bremen.  Players such as Dirk Kuyt and Rafael van der Vaart have been deployed opposite Robben, although both players were highly gifted midfielders, neither player could duplicate the pace and dynamism of Arjen Robben.

The Netherlands may have seemingly found a player suitable to start opposite Arjen Robben.  Memphis Depay is clearly the top prospect in all of Dutch football right now and proved his worth by scoring two goals for the Oranje in the 2014 World Cup.  Depay has already impressed current Netherlands Coach Guus Hiddink.  Hiddink has praised Depay and even stated: “Depay has the potential to become Netherlands best player.”  Although Depay may indeed be the Left Winger of the future it is not so clear who the Right Winger will be at the 2018 World Cup.  Robben will be 34 when the 2018 World Cup arrives and it is unclear whether or not the Netherlands star will still possess the pace and electric playing style that made him the elite player that he is.  Thankfully the Netherlands have many young Wingers that could develop into key players in the future.

Listed below are the players that I see as the likely top options for the Winger positions in 2018.

lens oranjeJeremain Lens – 26 years old

Jeremain Lens signed a four contract with PSV in 2010 and immediately impressed.  Lens showed an ability to not only play as a winger, but also in a centre striker role.  Lens was called up to the Netherlands senior team during the preparations for the 2010 World Cup, but ultimately was not part of the official World Cup squad.  Lens made his debut for the Netherlands on August 11, 2010 where he scored a goal in a 1-1 draw in a friendly with Ukraine.  Lens became an important player for the Netherlands under Louis van Gaal.  Lens typically played as a left winger for the Netherlands, but at times was also deployed in the middle.  During the qualification for the 2014 World Cup Lens scored five goals in nine appearances.  On June 18, 2013 Lens transferred to FC Dynamo Kiev which is a part of the Ukrainian Premier League.  This move appears to have been detrimental to the further development of Lens.  In an August interview Lens even admitted concern over the political turmoil in Ukraine and feeling some fear when flying back to Ukraine.  Lens certainly would have been better suited staying in the Eredivisie or playing for a club in another league such as the English Premier League.  Lens has admitted being interested in playing elsewhere, but will honor his contract if he remains a member of FC Dynamo Kiev.  The move to Ukraine and the emergence of Memphis Depay has made Lens the secondary option at Left Winger.  If Lens is able to secure a move outside of the Ukrainian Premier League he could once again be an important piece for the Netherlands.  As Robin van Persie and Klaas Huntelaar age it is possible that Lens could see more potential playing time in the middle.


narsingh psvLuciano Narsingh – 24 years old

In the summer of 2012 Luciano Narsingh’s future looked bright and a future with the Oranje seemed certain.  During the 2011-12 season at Heerenveen, Narsingh led the Eredivisie with 22 assists and added an additional 7 goals.  Narsingh also made the Netherlands squad for the 2012 European Championship.  Narsingh did not play any games during the 2012 Euro’s, but scored a goal in his Netherlands debut in a friendly against Belgium in August of 2012.  Louis van Gaal is famous for developing young talent and seemed confident in the ability of Narsingh.  In the summer of 2012 Narsingh transferred to PSV and it seemed like a perfect match.  The coach of PSV was Dick Advocaat and he immediately gave Narsingh the starting position at right winger.  PSV won 11 out of their first 13 matches and seemed ready to compete for the Eredivisie title, but then injury struck.  In the last game of the 2012 calendar year Narsingh suffered a knee injury against NAC Breda.  The severity of the injury was not know until a few weeks later when it was discovered that Narsingh suffered ligament and meniscus damage.  Surgery was necessary and Narsingh would not return until October of 2013.  When Narsingh returned, the PSV coach was Phillip Cocu and Cocu was quick to sit Narsingh.  Narsingh had difficulty returning to form and since his game relied mostly on his pace and quick movements it was understandable.  Narsingh complained about right knee stiffness and although he had hoped to make the Netherlands squad for the 2014 World Cup his injury and lack of playing time post injury doomed his chances.  Many would question if Narsingh would ever again play for the Netherlands.  Narsingh has recently regained his starting position at right winger for PSV and Netherlands coach Guus Hiddink added Narsingh to the Netherlands squad for the Euro 2016 qualifiers.  It appears as though Narsingh is finally healthy and is ready to once again be an important player for the Netherlands.


promes spaQuincy Promes – 22 years old

The 2013-14 season was a season to remember for Quincy Promes.  Following a season spent on loan to Go Ahead Eagles, Promes returned to FC Twente and impressed.  During the 2013-14 season Promes scored 11 goals and added 8 assists.  Promes made his Netherlands senior team debut on March 5, 2014 in an exhibition match against France.  Promes did not make the Netherlands squad for the 2014 World Cup, but continued to impress while playing for the Netherlands Under-21 team.  In June, the Netherlands Under-21 squad faced the Under-21 squad of Scotland and Promes impressed by scoring three goals.  In August, Promes completed a transfer to Russian Premier League side Spartak Moscow.  Spartak Moscow president Leonid Fedun had great things to say about the addition of Promes: “He has already shown that he has a lot of huge potential.  Maybe he’ll grow into one of the leaders of Spartak.”  Promes has great pace, is proficient at finding space, and is dangerous from long range.  The Russian Premier League is not typically viewed as a league when talent is harvested and developed, but if Promes can find regular starting time and continue to develop he could prove to a big part of the Netherlands squad when the 2018 World Cup rolls around.


john bOla John – 22 years old

Ola John is a product of the FC Twente youth academy.  Ola John debuted for FC Twente’s first team in 2010 and the 18 year old immediately impressed.  John was wanted by several top European clubs, but ultimately made the decision to continue his development at FC Twente.  John admitted the interest when he stated: “Manchester United and Arsenal wanted me but I think that I am still young and can learn a lot at Twente.  If you are that good, the opportunity will come again and when you are older.  Playing in England is my dream of course.”  On February 29, 2012 John was chosen by Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk to represent the Netherlands in a friendly.  John did not enter the game, but it was a big honor for the then 19 year old.  Following a great 2011-12 season FC Twente accepted an offer for John from the Portuguese club Benefica.  John was originally hesitant about the move, but after visiting the club and seeing how highly regarded he was at the club John agreed to the move.  John has had a difficult time establishing himself at Benefica and spent the second half of the 2013-14 season on loan to the Bundesliga side Hamburger SV.  John has had some opportunities to showcase his talent at Benefica, but must find consistent first team action in order to further develop his game and once again be considered for the a spot on the Netherlands senior team.  John is a player that offers great pace, remains composed on the ball, and is an excellent crosser.


depay dhfjMemphis Depay – 20 years old

The 2013-14 season was a breakout campaign for Memphis Depay.  Depay’s raw talent has always been recognized, but Depay has matured and developed into one of the most sought after young players in the world.  In the past Depay has struggled with inconsistency, selfish play, impatience, and lack of effort on the defensive end.  Depay has matured and is now more willing to help on the defensive end, is looking for his teammates, and has shown a desire to learn.  Depay is beginning to not rely solely on his athleticism and skill, he is beginning to develop a higher football IQ.  Depay has all the tools to be a world class player he just needs the opportunity to develop in the right situation.  Depay combines world class pace, elusiveness, strength, technical ability, and a desire to become among the world’s best.  Depay is also beginning to develop a more effective passing game and is a dangerous shot taker from set pieces.  Depay won the UEFA Under-17 Championship with the Netherlands in 2011.  Depay raised his profile in the 2014 World Cup where he scored two goals and was nominated for the Best Young Player award.


boetius jhdjbJean-Paul Boëtius – 20 years old

Jean-paul Boëtius is a product of the Feyenoord youth academy.  Boëtius made his Feyenoord debut for Feyenoord’s first team on October 28, 2012 against rivals Ajax.  Boëtius displayed his talent and scored the equalizing goal.  Despite a knee injury towards the end of the 2012 campaign Boëtius appeared to be on a steady climb towards stardom and a spot on the national team.  Boëtius made his Netherlands debut on March 5, 2014 in an exhibition match against France.  The Netherlands were defeated in this match and Boëtius was substituted off in the 72nd minute.  Boëtius was named to the preliminary Dutch squad for the 2014 World Cup, but ultimately did not make the final squad selection.  Boëtius is deployed primarily as a left winger and during the 2014-15 season the emergence of left winger Elvis Manu has seen Boëtius oftentimes finding a spot on the bench.  Elvin Manu was born in the Netherlands, but ultimately appears destined to represent Ghana at the International level.  Although this campaign has been disappointing for Boëtius his talent and potential are still unquestioned.  Ronald Koeman, who previously coached Boëtius had this to say about his star pupil: “he has an advantage over other young talents, due to the fact that he reads the game better than his peers.”  Koeman also stated that, “Boëtius can become a very big player.”  Boëtius is technically gifted and is a player with great pace, intelligence, remains composed on the ball, and is effective with both feet.  Boëtius understands the game and knows how to find open space which is one reason I could also envision seeing Boëtius playing in a false number 9 role.  There are two main areas where Boëtius needs to improve.  The first area where Boëtius needs to improve is his strength.  If Boëtius was able to add more muscle and strength to his frame he would be able to maintain better possession of the ball and would be more difficult to neutralize when facing bigger and stronger defenders.  The second area where Boëtius must improve is in his crossing.  Boëtius is an effective passer in the short game, but oftentimes lacks quality in his crosses.  Due to his pace and elusiveness Boëtius is oftentimes able to beat his defender up the left flank and if he can master his crossing ability he would become a much more dangerous offensive weapon.


kishna kdRicardo Kishna – 19 years old

Ricardo Kishna currently plays for Ajax and Jong Ajax.  Kishna has had a disappointing season so far, but is still seen as one of the biggest up and coming talents in the Netherlands.  Kishna is capable of playing both left winger and in the middle as a striker.  Kishna possess all the physical tools to be a game changer.  In his short career Kishna has already been compared to many of this generation’s great players including Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Angel di Mario, and Dutch International Robin van Persie.  Kishna’s former youth coach Robin Pronk had this to say about Kishna: “When he’s on the ball, you feel that something is going to happen.  He is very creative. A type of van Persie.”  Robin van Persie was also a left winger early in his career, but made the switch to centre forward when he joined Arsenal.  Kishna is a strong player with excellent dribbing ability and pace and could prove to be a solid piece for the Netherlands in the future as either a left winger or a centre forward.


el gahsdhAnwar El Ghazi – 19 years old

Anwar El Ghazi was a member of the youth programs of BVV Barendrecht, Feyenoord, Spartaan ’20, and Sparta Rotterdam before ultimately joining the Ajax youth program in July of 2013.  El Ghazi impressed during the preseason of the 2014-15 season where he scored eight goals in 150 minutes of play.  El Ghazi was expected to play for Jong Ajax this season, but due to his impressive form he was promoted to Ajax’s first team.  El Ghazi came on as a substitute for Ajax vs. Barcelona in a recent UEFA Champions League game and El Ghazi scored Ajax’s only goal in a 3-1 defeat.  In the rematch against Barcelona El Ghazi was a starter.  El Ghazi is comfortable with both feet, has great pace, has the ability to dribble past defenders, and has a good header.  One area where El Ghazi needs to improve is his willingness to help on defense and backtrack to help when the team is under pressure.  El Ghazi is a young and talented player that could become an important piece for the Netherlands if he continues to develop and improve.


ould chikh ffBilal Ould-Chikh – 17 years old

Bilal Ould-Chikh is a left winger for the Eredivsie club, FC Twente.  Despite his young age Ould-Chikh has already been linked with several big clubs.  The young winger confirmed the interested when he stated: “It’s flattering that Bayern and Dortmund are keeping an eye on you and it’s a sign that you are on the right track.”   Ould-Chikh has oftentimes been compared to Netherlands International Arjen Robben and if he continues to develop and progress Ould-Chikh could potentially be the player to take over on the right wing when Robben’s International career comes to an end.  Ould-Chikh, like Robben, is a tricky and elusive right winger with great pace that likes to cut inside and favors his left foot.  Ould-Chikh impressed during the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, where the Netherlands finished second and if his development continues he could be a key piece for the Netherlands in the future.


bergwijn aSteven Bergwijn -17 years old

Steven Bergwijn is a player with immense talent and a player that could be a key contributor for the Netherlands in the future.  Bergwijn began his youth career with Ajax and moved to PSV when he was thirteen years old.  Bergwijn could prove to be a very important player for PSV in the 2015-16 season if players such as Memphis Depay, Luciano Narsingh, and Georginio Wijnaldum are sold following the current campaign.  Bergwijn possess the necessary skills to play on either flank as well as in the middle.  Bergwijn plays with flair and has a low center of gravity which allows him to maintain balance despite his eccentric and fast paced playing style.  PSV was wise to extend Bergwijn’s contract through the 2016-17 season prior to the UEFA European Under-17 Championship.  Bergwijn shined for the Netherlands and despite the Netherlands finishing in second, Bergwijn was named as the player of the tournament.  Bergwijn had three goals and three assists in the tournament.  Bergwijn is certainly a player worth keeping an eye on.

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.