Saturday’s victory against hosts Brazil ensured that the Oranje would go home with at least a Bronze medal to show for their efforts. Key to their run to the semifinal was Arjen Robben who was in fine form for the Dutch over the course of the tournament.

  • By Adrian Bucher
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If you had asked football pundits and analysts a month ago if they thought that the Netherlands were capable of reaching the semifinals of the World Cup, you would have likely received a resounding ‘no’ as your answer. What’s more, the general consensus was that Louis van Gaal’s men would inevitably face, and succumb to, the hosts, Brazil, in the round-of-sixteen, and thus ending the Oranje’s stay in Brazil before the end of June.

Fifteen goals and a bronze medal later, though the Dutch did not earn a spot in the final they proved many doubters wrong, impressing many with a well-organized team that played as though they possessed the level of experience that doubters believed they were lacking.

Undoubtedly, the breakout performers of this young squad were the defenders, notably Stefan de Vrij and Ron Vlaar, that created a cohesive unit at the back, making clearances, tackles and interceptions, much to the frustration of players such as Diego Costa, Alexis Sanchez and Lionel Messi.

However, what was not up for debate was the fact that Arjen Robben would be crucial to the Dutch cause. Looking back at the Bayern Munich player’s performances over the course of the tournament, few can argue against his status as one of the World Cup’s star players.

Used as a striker under coach Louis van Gaal, rather than in a wider position as he has done at club-level, the Groningen-native terrorised defences with his blistering pace, accurate shooting, and incisive passing. The first match against Spain, in a rematch of 2010’s, saw Robben score two goals in what was, without question, his finest performance during the tournament. The goals that he scored showcased the skills that make him one of the most finest players in the game: expert control, incredible pace, calm when on the ball, and deadly finishing.

From a tactical point of view, Robben fit the role of the modern striker very well, coming deep to retrieve possession, whilst also gravitating opposition players towards him in order to bring his team-mates into the match. Robben’s link-up play was also excellent, often distributing the ball to dangerous positions in the final third, taking few touches, so as to maintain the intensity of the Oranje attack, but still taking the shot when the opportunity presented itself.

This was particularly highlighted during Saturday’s third place play-off against Brazil. From already the second minute of play, the Dutchman proved too much to handle. After making a run and being put through on goal, from a delightful Robin van Persie pass, Thiago Silva was forced into committing the foul that resulted in the penalty and one that should have seen the Brazilian captain sent off. Completing 92% of the 37 passes made, the Brazilians simply had no answer for the former PSV player that was winning possession back a great number of times – all the more impressive given his role as a striker. For his efforts, Robben was awarded his third Budweiser Man of the Match Award, following recognition for the matches against Australia and Chile.

However, football is by no means an individual sport, as Robben’s efforts alone would not have allowed the Dutch to get as far as they did. The entire team must be congratulated for an outstanding tournament. From de Vrij’s and Vlaar’s towering presence to de Jong’s ubiquity, all 23 players contributed in what has been a successful tournament.

Though it would have been the romantic choice to see the Netherlands defeat the Argentines and go on to face Germany in the final – the team that defeated the Oranje in their first appearance in a World Cup final, and end the cycle against Joachim Löw’s men, the Dutch can be proud of the achievements of this team that remained undefeated in Brazil.

What is clear is that, despite Louis van Gaal stepping down as head coach, the foundations are in place to build a strong Dutch team. The future certainly has a tint of orange in it.

Hup Holland Hup!

Adrian Bucher (39 Posts)