We continue our countdown of the top 5 Dutch talents to emerge from this year’s World Cup, with Ajax shot stopper Jasper Cillessen coming in at no.4. 

  • By Harry Taylor
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cillessen nedJust 9 months ago Jasper Cillessen was plying his trade in the Eerste Divisie, playing for Jong Ajax. Only in his wildest dreams would he of imagined playing in a world cup semi-final, but it happened. He made the jump from the Ajax reserves to the first team and never looked back since, managing to get a call up for the national team and solidify his place as his nation’s no.1, all in the space of 9 months. It has been one hell of a journey for the former NEC keeper.

The decision to make Cillessen no.1 choice for the Netherlands was one that seemed a surprise decision for many Dutch supporters, with many thinking Tim Krul of Newcastle was a more fitting choice. However considering that when playing for Ajax, he kept 14 clean sheets in his 25 games in the league and only conceded more than one goal on one solitary occasion. I think these stats alone support that Van Gaal made the right decision, and Van Gaal’s trust has been paid back as Cillessen has grown in confidence from every game and has impressed everyone with his skills on the deck as well as his shot stopping ability.

Cillessen’s world cup campaign started with the 5-1 annihilation of previous winners Spain, in this game Cillessen put in a solid performance, only being beaten by an Alonso penalty kick. If it wasn’t for Cillessen the Oranje may never have made that incredible comeback, as in the 43rd minute David Silva broke through the Dutch defence and the Spaniard went for a cheeky chip, but Cillessen stood tall and diverted the ball away for a corner. Moments later the Dutch equalised and were back in the game, it was the defining moment of the game. As the game went on Cillessen had little to do, but when he was called upon he made two comfortable saves against Pedro and Iniesta, which rounded up a sound performance from the Dutch no.1.

The Australia and Chile games were ones that Cillessen looked comfortable in, despite conceding two goals against Australia there was not much he could do about them, with one being a penalty and the other Tim Cahill’s rocket of a volley, a shot that very few if any goalkeepers could have kept out. As for the Chile game, it saw Cillessen keep his first clean sheet of the competition after he only had one save to make for the whole game, in which he had no problems in dealing with. His passing ability played a more vital role in the game against Chile as he was often required to build play up from the back, and his calming presence on the ball relieved a lot of pressure for the Oranje and helped to secure a 3rd group win.

After helping his side progress to the group stage, Cillessen had somewhat of a quite round of 16 match, throughout the whole game he remained relatively untroubled, making 3 saves and claiming the odd cross. But yet he was unable to deal with Dos Santos’s low and powerful shot into the corner, although it was a good strike from the Mexican, Cillessen maybe should of done better as he looked to have reacted late, showing that he still has a bit to learn in order to reach his full potential.

The next game, against underdogs Costa Rica, was one were Cillessen’s concentration levels were tested to the max. The Ajax keeper went 118 or so minutes before he was called into action, and when he was it was absolutely critical that he could produce a fine save to prevent the Costa Ricans from advancing, fortunately for the Dutch Cillessen showed his quality in making a crucial save to deny Ureña. And so the game went to penalties and despite Cillessen being subbed off for Krul, if it wasn’t for him the Oranje would of never got this far, once again was he responsible for keeping his side in this competition. But yet Cillessen was not to be put into the limelight, all the praise went to Krul for being the penalty shoot-out hero.

The final two games were filled with emotion for the Groesbeek native, he was once again a saviour for the Dutch in normal time, with him making a number of important saves, most notably keeping out Palacio’s header in the dying moments of extra time. But it wasn’t just his shot-stopping ability that was impressive against Argentina, his footwork was also spot on as he showed off his skills by completely outwitting the on-rushing Higuain with a classy Cruyff-turn. However despite keeping his side in the game for 120 minutes he couldn’t save his side when it came to penalties, as he let in all 4 penalties taken by Argentina, meaning his record of never saving a penalty continues, although this is not a particularly meaningful stat, despite the media making it out to be, as this was only his 2nd season with first team football. But alas it wasn’t to be for Cillessen or the Netherlands as they fell agonisingly short once again. 

However despite being knocked out by Argentina the Dutch still had a chance to go out on a bang, by playing a deflated Brazilian side in the 3rd place play-off. This was a game that Van Gaal got his players fired up for and their desire to win the game was shown by their fast start as they led just after 3 minutes. And once they took the lead they never really looked back as they swept Brazil aside 3-0. The game didn’t really involve much action for Cillessen as the opposition struggled to break past the Dutch back-line.

This ended up capping off an impressive tournament for Cillessen as he left the game with yet another clean sheet, taking his total to 4, meaning he tied with Neuer and Romero as the keepers with the most clean sheets in the competition, a brilliant achievement for the world cup debutant. As well as this, Cillessen only ended up conceding two goals from open play, with one of them being Tim Cahill’s scorcher of a volley, highlighting what a talent this young-man is. The future definitely is bright for this young man and the experience he would of gained from this tournament will be invaluable, getting to train with world class players as well as being under the guidance of Van Gaal and more importantly Frans Hoek, one of the best goalkeeping coaches in the world, responsible for developing talents Van der Sar and Victor Valdes into world-class keepers. Most importantly Cillessen has proven that he is capable of performing on the biggest stage and he has the ability to become one of the greats to wear the no.1 shirt for the Oranje.

Stats courtesy of Squawka

Harry Taylor (30 Posts)