Both men have enjoyed some highs and lows during this summer’s World Cup. With a semi-final date against Argentina edging closer, the Oranje faithful will be hoping that Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder will simultaneously put in a strong showing.

  • By Adrian Bucher
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Five games into the World Cup, and the fortunes of two of the men thought to be crucial to the Netherlands’ bid for World Cup glory have been markedly contrasting. Captain Robin van Persie had an explosive start to the tournament, scoring twice in the opening match against Spain, before adding another versus Australia, and temporarily topped the goal-scoring table (alongside other players, including, compatriot, Arjen Robben). The Manchester United man has since been largely quiet, playing a further two games without scoring, and missing a couple of golden opportunities to score against Costa Rica before the Dutch eventually went on the win, courtesy of a penalty shoot-out.

Wesley Sneijder, on the other hand, had a largely underwhelming group stage campaign. Though he did manage to grab an assist in the 5-1 thrashing of the defending champions, his performances soon deteriorated, which saw calls for the midfielder to either step up, or risk being benched. After scoring the equalizer in the Oranje’s dramatic victory over Mexico in the round-of-sixteen with a blistering shot, the goal has seemingly given the Utrecht-native a timely confidence boost, as he played his best game so far in the tournament against Costa Rica, proving to be a constant thorn in the side of the stubborn Costa Rican defence with his passing (managing 85 passes) and seeing two well-taken shots crash of the frame of the goal.

Coach Louis van Gaal has shown that he’s not afraid to take off either men, with both having been substituted off when they were ineffective, as was the case for Sneijder against Chile, and van Persie against Mexico – in both instances, the Dutch went on the win both matches after the substitutions had taken place, with both substitues who took their place going on to score the goals that led the team to victory.

From a tactical point of view, the form of Sneijder may be considered as being more crucial to the Oranje. While it is true that van Persie possesses a highly valuable set of skills, and lethal finishing, there are alternatives to the former Feyenoord striker. Sneijder, on the other hand, is, alongside Robben, the only creative force of the team. With the Bayern player being deployed in attack, Sneijder is tasked with unlocking defences from the midfield, linking up play between defence and attack. In short, there are no direct substitutes for the Galatasaray player, and van Gaal would thus need to alter formations in order to work around a Sneijder-less side.

With the semi-final clash against Argentina on the horizon, the Netherlands will need both men to perform.  Much like the Dutch, the Argentinian’s strengths lie in their attack relative to their defence, and with this in mind, outscoring Alejandro Sabella’s men stands between the Oranje and a place in the final. The question is who will show up alongside Arjen Robben? Will it be van Persie? Sneijder? Both? Or neither?

Adrian Bucher (39 Posts)