After the Euro 2016 failure a new era for the Dutch national team starts on Friday with a trip to face Wales in Cardiff.

  • By Michael Bell
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neth dndjdnA month after the end of the 2016 European Championships qualifying campaign, a host of nations begin their preparation’s for the tournament in France with friendly matches over the next week. Sadly this is not the case for the Oranje, who are still in a state of shock after becoming the most high profile absentee from next years competition.

Coach Danny Blind, who is still in charge despite many calls for his head, is now tasked with leading Netherlands into the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup, which starts next September in Sweden. Before then four friendly matches are scheduled, starting in Cardiff on Friday.

After the defeat to the Czech Republic in Amsterdam last month Blind promised changes, and the first major one in the squad is the absence of all-time leading scorer and former captain Robin van Persie, who has been dropped after a decline in both form and fitness. Also missing from the squad are Ibrahim Afellay, Bruno Martins Indi, Gregory van der Wiel, Luciano Narsingh and Jeremain Lens who have all failed to impress Blind, while Davy Klaassen, Jairo Riedewald, Kenneth Vermeer and Anwar El Ghazi are out injured.

However a boost ahead of the friendly is a return to form and fitness of captain Arjen Robben, who missed most of the failed qualifying campaign, but he will only be available to face Wales and not Germany on Tuesday after an agreement with Bayern Munich. Feyenoord midfielder Marko Vejinovic and Ajax youngster Riechedly Bazoer are two players in line for their first caps, while under-fire Manchester United star Memphis Depay scraped into the squad after initially being left out.

Blind is also set to take aim at his side’s formation with Algameen Dagblad reporting that a return to Louis van Gaal’s 5-3-2 is a possibility, while the coach has also experimented with two holding midfielders in a 4-3-3 as he looks to solidify Netherlands leaky defence that conceded 14 goals in 10 qualifiers.

Possible Netherlands line-up (5-3-2): Cillessen, Tete, Pieters, Van Dijk, Blind, Veltman, Clasie, Wijnaldum, Sneijder, Robben, Huntelaar

Opponents Wales, unlike Netherlands, are a nation currently on the rise after they reached their first ever European Championships. Chris Coleman’s side have been inspired by Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, but the winger has been forced to miss the tie against Netherlands, along with Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, and Burnley striker Sam Vokes.

Wales are set to experiment with their line-up on Friday with Blackburn Rovers defender Adam Henley and Walsall striker Tom Bradshaw hoping for their first caps.

Head to Head

The two nations have met seven times since 1988 with Netherlands coming out on top in every game. The most recent tie came in 2014 when Louis van Gaal’s side triumphed 2-0 in a pre-World Cup friendly. Arjen Robben and Jeremain Lens netted the goals that day.

Netherlands biggest win came in the qualifying campaign for the 1998 World Cup when a Dennis Bergkamp hat-trick inspired the Oranje to a 7-1 win.

Prediction

Netherlands would usually be heavy favourites to comfortably beat Wales, especially since the home side are missing several key players. However the decline of the national team over the past year means a win is no longer guaranteed, and Blind is facing a thankless task regardless of Friday’s result. Failure to win will continue calls for his head, while a comfortable victory will beg the question on why that form wasn’t shown when it mattered.

A new era is beginning for the Dutch national team. One that needs to depend on results rather than fancy football and hopefully it all starts with a good night in Cardiff.

Wales 0-2 Netherlands.

 




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