Over many years, the Oranje have been blessed up front with superb strikers. During the good times and bad times, the Oranje always had players who were a threat up front. However, as the team continues its revival under Ronald Koeman, the lack of quality strikers is a concern. With Euro 2020 on the horizon, can Koeman overcome this concern or will it impact his work in returning the Oranje to international competitions.

  • By Ibrahim Ayyub
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The Oranje have had a great success up front since their glory days of the late 1980’s. Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit spearheaded the attack during Euro 88. Dennis Bergkamp came on the scene during Euro 92 and later on with Patrick Kluivert becoming his partner in crime in the late 90s, they replaced the retired Van Basten and Gullit. The Dutch had such a dearth of talent in the 90s that saw them call up Pierre van Hooijdonk and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink along with Bergkamp and Kluivert for World Cup 1998.

The competition to play upfront was so intense that even the likes of Roy Makaay, 2003 European Golden Boot winner, wasn’t able to get sufficient playing minutes once Dennis Bergkamp retired after Euro 2000. Ruud van Nistelrooy had burst onto the scene following Bergkamp’s retirement, but he along with Kluivert, Hasselbaink and Van Hooijdonk couldn’t steer the team to World Cup 2002. Ultimately, the latter three’s playing time for the Oranje ended as Van Nistelrooy became the top gun for the Oranje. However, his reign would be short-lived after butting heads with the Oranje manager Van Basten during World Cup 2006 and he would not feature for the Oranje after Euro 2008. In the meantime, the likes of Robin van Persie, Dirk Kuyt and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar emerged on the scene for the Oranje as they, along with Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, helped guide the Oranje to their third World Cup Final in 2010.

Unfortunately, the Oranje have struggled to replace Van Persie, Kuyt and Huntelaar prior to and subsequent to Koeman’s arrival as manager. Koeman has relied on Ryan Babel, who is in his early 30s, to lead the charge upfront. Even though he is in mid 30s, Huntelaar has been superb for Ajax during their own recent revival, so it was a surprise to see him left out of the Oranje side that features many of his current teammates.

It is disappointing that this Oranje revival comes at a time when there is a lack of excellent Dutch strikers. This decade alone has seen only four Dutch players lead the Eredivisie in scoring. Bas Dost, Memphis Depay, Vincent Janssen and Luuk de Jong. Only Memphis has been performing well for the Oranje but he is more of a 10 than a striker while the other three have failed to impress when called upon. Bas Dost is 30 now and seems to surplus to requirements, while Luuk de Jong is 29 and about to play in his fourth league in Spain with Sevilla, after playing in Holland, Germany and England. Vincent Janssen is 25 and his career stalled ever since moving to Tottenham in 2016 and is now starting a new chapter in Mexico with Monterrey which probably makes him an afterthought for now.

Time will tell if Koeman will continue to rely on Babel or will he entrust other players such as Wout Weghorst, Quincy Promes, Justin Kluivert to play up front. Who knows, maybe a new rising star, such as Donyell Malen, will appear and shine for the Oranje very much akin to Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong. In the meantime, perhaps Koeman should not ignore Klaas-Jan Huntelaar while he tries to solve this issue.

Ibrahim Ayyub (24 Posts)