Following their Euro 2016 hangover, the Oranje are set to begin their World Cup qualifying campaign for Russia 2018 on Tuesday, September 6th against the “Ibrahimovic-less” Swedes. Dutch football as a whole has experienced a noticeable dip in form and confidence since their great run at Brazil 2014. However, it’s a new campaign with a new squad looking to prove their worth to the rest of the footballing world. The Dutch National Team have undergone major changes in recent years, including different managers, assistant manager and technical director resignations, new formations, new tactics and even new faces amongst the 24 man squad in contention for their tilt with Sweden. With a qualifying group that includes Euro 16’ runner-up France, the Dutch will certainly need to figure out a plan moving forward to avoid another devastating miss for the program as a whole. Join me as I analyze the current situation of the Oranje before they start their opening round of qualifying.

  • By Michael Doodeman
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neth wjjdMood

It is no secret to international football fans that the Dutch National Team have a history for disputes and attitude problems amongst the players. The reason? No one really knows, and while it could be that world class talents come with big egos, it hasn’t seemed to be a constant problem for other national teams. Whether it’s Davids vs Hiddink or RVP vs Huntelaar, there has always been tension amongst the squad in previous Dutch sides. I believe it takes a strong personality to control this issue, such as Louis Van Gaal was able to do in the last World Cup, a campaign where I was amazed to not hear of any real issues between the players or coaches. In the recent past, there hasn’t been any noticeable feuds occurring, or fists flying, but the Oranje do look short of confidence in their play nonetheless. Perhaps leaving Van Persie out for the past few selections, and now Memphis and Huntelaar is a decision influenced by their attitudes and big egos seen in the past. Although the Fenerbahce striker isn’t playing regularly and doesn’t show the same form he possessed in his Arsenal or early United days, he is still Robin Van Persie and can certainly add a wealth of talent and experience to a rather young Dutch squad. With leaders present in the team such as Kevin Strootman, Wesley Sneijder, Ron Vlaar and Daley Blind, I expect to see a confidence boost on the pitch and in the preparations as well.

 dy blindFormations & Style

The rather new and reoccurring debate: Should the Oranje stick to their past glory and play attractive, fluid, Total Football, or rather adapt to the current player selection available and get the results with a not so easy on the eye style of football. In the last stretch of games, the team has tried out their infamous 4-3-3, eredivisie/total football influenced formation. They have also tried their safety first, 3-5-2 or 5-3-2 defending, physical and counter attacking football, introduced by Van Gaal before Brazil 2014, as a plan B, mainly influenced by the absence of Kevin Strootman. With Strootman returning to the squad nearing full fitness, I would expect Danny Blind to resort to a 4-3-3 type formation with the Roma star in the middle, showing his presence in the attack and defense. As much as I’d like to deny it, the upcoming generation of attacking footballers does not really compare with the current aging generation of players including the likes of Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder, Van Der Vaart and Huntelaar. Goals and offensive dullness may be an issue, however, it is up to Danny Blind to work in a new style that focusses on the team build up rather than individual flare that has worked in the recent past, an example being Robben in the 2014 World Cup. The rise of Virgil Van Dijk, and returns of Strootman, Vlaar, Wijnaldum and young Riechedly Bazoer can definitely add physical strength and stamina to the team to cope with the loss of technical talent available.

 strootman nethPlayers to step up

Jeroen Zoet: Despite Jasper Cillissen challenging for the goalkeeping position at arguably the world’s best club, Barcelona, I feel it is time for PSV keeper Jeroen Zoet to be given the number one jersey for the time being. Zoet has looked impressive for the whole of last season, most noticeable in the Champions League where he proved his worth on the big stage. Cillissen has been guilty of many cost worthy mistakes in the past, and although there is no denying his technical abilities, Jeroen Zoet has well earned his chance to be given a starting birth between the sticks for the Oranje.

Kevin Strootman: The Roma man was amongst the best central midfielders in the world before his devastating knee injury that left him out of the past World Cup and Euro 2016 qualifiers. With the decline of Nigel De Jong, the Dutch have really missed a physical presence to protect their back line, control the middle of the park and set a standard during the match. With the former PSV midfielder rising back to form, there is no doubt in my mind that Blind will utilize his knowledge, hard work and technical ability in the middle of the park for the Oranje. If there is to be a positive turn in attitude and form in this Dutch squad, Strootman is a man capable of making it happen.

Virgil Van Dijk: The tall, strong and confident Southampton man has proven to be one of the English Premiers League’s top defenders. The teams set-play defending hasn’t been steady lately, however, should Blind select Van Dijk in the starting XI, I fully expect to see a commanding presence in both boxes while defending and attacking set pieces.

Daley Blind: As a Manchester United supporter, and in the absence of any bias, I think many would agree with me that Blind is perhaps United’s most underrated player. The former Ajax captain can bring calmness, composure, and world class game reading to any team he plays for. After Louis Van Gaal’s sacking, Blind is still selected by Jose Mourinho alongside Frenchman Eric Bailly in the center of defence. Blind is a great utility player, though as previously stated by his father he is competing for the centre back role, and if indeed the Dutch do opt for possession style football there is no better choice than Daley Blind to start the attack from the back. It appears Blind has also stepped up as the third choice captain at his club behind Rooney and Carrick, which confirms the leadership he brings to the team.

Vincent Janssen: The current Tottenham Hotspur striker is battling for form in the Premier League as he still looks a yard off pace at times. However, this is expected of most players entering the Premier League from the Eredivisie, especially at a young age as we saw with Memphis. The former AZ Alkmaar striker is vital for the Oranje as the team needs to put their faith in a new upcoming striker to replace the past generation of goal scorers. Vincent Janssen fits the transforming style of play within the Dutch squad, and he plays with high energy, holds up play well, and can knock in goals, pretty or not. Without Van Persie or Robben present, Janssen, Dost or Luuk De Jong will need to be a new focal point for the attack.

robben nethknjAbsent Players

The Dutch will have to produce goals without three of their most noticeable attackers: Van Persie, Huntelaar and Robben. Danny Blind must provide a game plan that plays to the strengths of the youthful attack. The absence of Robben, likely the best Dutch player when in form, has proven significant time and time again throughout the Euro qualifiers and friendlies leading up to this point. The team doesn’t possess a world class striker or winger without these front three, and will need to make due. As previously mentioned, the Oranje really need a presence to break up play, protect the back line and add physicality in the middle of the park.

In my opinion, the absence of Nigel De Jong has a left a void in this category. Since De Jong left AC Milan to join LA Galaxy in the MLS, Danny Blind has outwardly said he will not be in contention while playing oversees in America. Since then, Nigel De Jong has recently signed with Galatasaray joining fellow Dutchman, Wesley Sneijder in Turkey. This move will have a significant impact on his chances of making a comeback for the Oranje.

 Memphis Depay: He is one of the players who was expected to replace Robben in the team, although since joining Manchester United he just hasn’t looked anywhere near the player he was in his later years with PSV. The young winger has clearly shown ego and attitude problems, which hasn’t helped his cause. Despite Mourinho leaving Memphis out of the squad for the few Premier League games played, he is still a young player with a big spotlight on him, giving him the chance to shine and regain his confidence.

Stefan De Vrij: Lastly is another player I feel the Oranje have struggled to defend without. The young Lazio defender was remarkable in his first season with the club and in the World cup, yet the Oranje’s injury curse struck once again sidelining the young defender for the majority of last season. Despite De Vrij regaining fitness and starting for Lazio again, he was not selected for the latest squad as Danny Blind admitted the defender still feels pain in his knee while playing, a risk simply not worth taking.

With the Oranje set to take on Greece in a friendly this Friday before taking on Sweden, the fans are still unsure what to expect. However, with the return of Strootman and returns of stars like Robben and De Vrij in the near future, I expect the Oranje to come back into form with a good mix of youth and experience taking the field to qualify for Russia 2018. Hup Holland Hup, it’s SHOWTIME!

Michael Doodeman (12 Posts)