Netherlands begin their World Cup preparations with a friendly match against Ecuador at the Amsterdam Arena on Saturday.

  • By Michael Bell
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van g netherlandsIts less than a month until Netherlands face Spain in the opening game of Group B at the World Cup in Brazil, and coach Louis van Gaal has three friendly matches between now and then to assess his squad, beginning with Ecuador.

Van Gaal named his 30-man provisional squad for the tournament on Tuesday, although not all the players will be available to use on Saturday, with Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder, Nigel de Jong, Arjen Robben, and Jeremain Lens all still needed by their clubs, while Tonny Vilhena, Jean Paul Boetius, Karim Rekik, and Quincy Promes have been allowed to join the U21’s for their upcoming matches with Luxembourg and Scotland.

Netherlands are also set to try out a new tactic against Ecuador, shifting away from their regular 4-3-3 formation to a more defensively solid 5-3-2, which was used by Feyenoord to good effect at the end of the Eredivisie season. Van Gaal states the loss of Kevin Strootman, and the lack of reliable left back’s available to him have made him change tactics.

The coach, seemingly bound for Manchester United, also confirmed on Friday that Memphis Depay will definitely start the game, alongside Robin van Persie, who should complete the 90 minutes, as he looks to up his fitness.

Possible Netherlands line up: Cillessen, Janmaat, De Vrij, Veltman, Martins Indi, Kongolo, Clasie, Blind, Wijnaldum, Depay, Van Persie

Bench: Krul, Zoet, Vorm, Vlaar, Van Aanholt, Verhaegh, Fer, De Guzman Huntelaar, Kuyt

Ecuador have also qualified for the World Cup, and they will face Switzerland, France and Honduras in their group. Their squad features mostly players who ply their trade in South America or Mexico, but also features Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia, and Vitesse star Renato Ibarra.

The South American country go into the friendly in poor form having won only two of their last eleven matches, although they beat Netherlands World Cup opponents Australia 4-3 in their last outing.

The last time the two countries met was in 2006 as a Dirk Kuyt goal just after half time handed Marco van Basten’s Dutch side a 1-0 win at the Amsterdam Arena.

Things to look out for:

  • How Louis van Gaal’s 5-3-2 formation works out. Will it be defensive, or has it been turned into a more attacking 3-4-3 formation?
  • Memphis Depay, and Terence Kongolo are two of the countries biggest talents. How will they fare against Ecuador? Can they cement their place in the final 23 with a good performance
  • Will we get to see at some point what most Dutch fans want, Klaas jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie playing up front together?
  • Can three Dutch centre backs keep a clean sheet?
  • Clasie and Blind are both battling to replace Kevin Strootman in the midfield, who will shine on Saturday?

Netherlands should expect a comfortable victory on Saturday, but the game will be a huge insight into how the Dutch will line up come June 13th v Spain.

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