Dirk Kuyt marked his 100th appearance for the Netherlands with an energetic performance against Mexico, and played a large role in Sunday afternoon’s victory, winning plaudits and raising questions regarding future Dutch tactics.

  • By Adrian Bucher
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What a way to mark 100 caps. When coach Louis van Gaal revealed that Dirk Kuyt would be the starting left back in the final group game against Chile, many eyebrows were raised, as the Fenerbahçe man is typically associated with more attacking positions higher up the field. Though his performance against the Chileans was not spectacular by any means, Kuyt impressed many in Sunday’s round-of-sixteen match against Mexico, covering much distance over the course of the match, and was often the man that initiated many of the Oranje’s attacking plays.

Though the step from winger to fullback is, arguably, not a hugely dramatic change of position, it does require the player to take on more proactive defensive duties. Kuyt demonstrated his defensive capabilities, as he was the Netherlands’ most effective defensive player overall behind the centre back pair of Stefan de Vrij and Ron Vlaar. As the Oranje fell behind to Giovanni dos Santos’ goal, shortly after half-time, the sight of Dirk Kuyt recovering the ball and charging down the flanks, making passes and crosses, became common sight. Even as time was running out for the Oranje, the man from South Holland was as unrelenting as ever, working tirelessly in the drive forward as the Dutch eventually ran out 2-1 winners. Kuyt had attempted a total of 59 passes in Fortaleza – a figure more than the combined total of Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, and made 87 touches over the course of the match – at least 15 more touches than any other Dutch player. It was almost a revolutionary role for a fullback, as it is not often that the attacking play is orchestrated by a player in defence.

His performance against Mexico now gives added confidence in Louis van Gaal’s tactical flexibility. Though the head coach has shown his ability to successfully adapt formations, there are still question marks surrounding the starting formation. van Gaal’s decision to drop Janmaat in favour Verhaegh can be considered as being reflective of Janmaat looking suspect defensively. However, Verhaegh’s performance would likely not have done much to convince van Gaal to overlook the Feyenoord man again. If Janmaat is indeed welcomed back into the XI, van Gaal will have three wide players at his disposal, namely Janmaat, Blind and Kuyt – in addition to the young PSV attacker, Memphis Depay. With Nigel de Jong predicted to miss out on Saturday’s Quarter-Final clash against Costa Rica, Blind may be used in the centre of the park, a role not unfamiliar to him – as his time at Ajax will attest to, with Kuyt being utilised on the wing in a 5-3-2, 3-5-2, or 4-3-3 formation.

Though much of the media attention is focused on Arjen Robben’s brilliant performances thus far in the tournament for the Oranje, less attention has been given to the rest of the squad. In the case of the tightly-contested match against Mexico, after compliments are awarded to the two goal-scorers, Huntelaar and Sneijder, as well as Robben, for yet another fine display, Kuyt deserves his share of plaudits for a truly inspiring performance on his 100th appearance for the national team.

Adrian Bucher (39 Posts)