Netherlands host Bulgaria in Amsterdam on Sunday needing a victory to keep their hopes of reaching the World Cup alive.

  • By Michael Bell
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Confidence in the Dutch national team has once again been rocked after the shameful 4-0 defeat in Paris on Thursday which leaves Netherlands now sitting fourth in Group A, with only three games left.

The chances of automatically qualifying for Russia are dead, but there is still a chance of finishing second and a possible play-off spot. However, to do that Netherlands need to win all of their three remaining games, beginning with Bulgaria in Amsterdam on Sunday.

That will be no simple task, though, especially with the way Dick Advocaat’s side looked against France. Bulgaria won the reverse fixture 2-0 in Sofia last March and head to Amsterdam full of confidence after a 3-2 win over Sweden. Bulgaria currently sit third in the group and know a win would put them in a great position to take the second spot themselves.

During his press conference on Saturday, Advocaat called on his players to forget the defeat to France and keep their¬†World Cup hopes alive,¬†“We must stop talking about France now. It’s Sunday. Can you still give a hundred percent gas after three days? We just have to make sure we win. And how? Totally unimportant. ”

Team News

With Kevin Strootman suspended, Feyenoord midfielder Tonny Vilhena will come into the starting eleven and more changes are expected. Kenny Tete is fit again and should come in for Timothy Fosu-Mensah, while there is doubts over whether Wesley Sneijder will start after such a poor performance against France. Robin van Persie injured his knee and won’t feature, meaning Vincent Janssen will remain up front.

Probable Netherlands line-up: Cillessen, Tete, Blind, Hoedt, De Vrij, Wijnaldum, Vilhena, Van Ginkel, Robben, Promes, Janssen

Luckily for Netherlands, they won’t be coming up against Spas Delev again, with the attacker who netted both goals in the reverse fixture not in the squad. Bulgaria are likely to line up in a 5-4-1 formation with Spartak Moscow forward Ivelin Popov the danger man in attack.

Probable Bulgaria line-up: Lliev, Popov, Chorbadzhiyski, Bozhikov, Zanev, Manolev, Slavchev, Milanov, Kostadinov, Chochev, Popov


Netherlands: 3/10 Draw: 19/4 Bulgaria: 11/1

Previous meetings

Netherlands don’t have a good record against Bulgaria, with five defeats in eleven meetings and only four wins. The last two meetings have gone in Bulgaria’s favour including the 2-0 win in March which lost Danny Blind his job as national team boss.

Record: Netherlands wins: 4 Draws: 2 Bulgaria wins: 5

What we want to see

An effective Wijnaldum

Georginio Wijnaldum has earned plaudits in England for his performances in a Liverpool shirt, but he, much like Kevin Strootman, can’t seem to replicate his form for the national team. Against France, Wijnaldum was bullied and harassed off the ball constantly by a stronger midfield and Oranje need him to put in a much better performance on Sunday. Wijnaldum has the ability to run the midfield for Netherlands and its about time he stepped up to the plate.

Robben further up the pitch

Arjen Robben is at his best when running at the full back and darting into the box but against France he was having to drop deep to receive the ball and couldn’t influence the attack. Against Bulgaria, Robben needs to be much further up the pitch and receive the ball where he can do the most damage. One idea from AD, was to move Robben into a number ten slot and allow him to play off Janssen, which may be a great idea, especially considering how bad Sneijder was on Thursday.

A solid defence

Bulgaria will come to Amsterdam looking to frustrate Netherlands and are likely to sit deep in their own half, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be looking for a victory themselves. A key to win for Netherlands will be to avoid giving silly free kicks away around their own area, and prevent Bulgaria from using their height and strength from set pieces.

Against France, it was also clear that Netherlands are struggling without a defensive midfielder to help out the back four, with Kevin Strootman a disaster in that area. Tonny Vilhena will add some bite to the middle and should be able to offer more protection to Hoedt and De Vrij.

Above all else a victory

Sunday really is do or die for Netherlands in this World Cup campaign. A good performance would be nice but above all else a victory is needed to keep hopes of reaching Russia alive and restore some confidence heading into the crucial games against Belarus and Sweden this October.

Anything else but three points on Sunday and you can kiss Russia 2018 goodbye.

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