The Dutch finished the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as runners up but the bookmakers clearly don’t fancy their chances in 2014. A switch to South American conditions has seen Louis Van Gaal’s team plummet down the list and currently, you can back the Netherlands at 33/1 with Coral to win the tournament outright.
There is a theory that an outgoing manager has an unsettling effect on the squad: Van Gaal leaves the international side at the end of the World Cup but history tells us that there have been some notable exceptions to that rule. At Italia 90, Bobby Robson took an unfancied England to the semi finals and they were unlucky not to progress further. Van Gaal is an established coach with an established squad and there’s no reason why they can’t offer a repeat performance and make it to the final once again.
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The Dutch are in Group B and will kick off their campaign with a mouth-watering tie against 2010 winners Spain. It’s a repeat of the final from South Africa and if that game is an indicator, it should be a very feisty and bad tempered affair. The Netherlands picked up more bookings in the 2010 finals than anyone else and are at odds of 14/1 with BetVictor to do so in Brazil.
Holland’s remaining fixtures are against Chile and Australia and providing they can keep their discipline, a place in the knockout phase seems assured.
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Holland Line up for World Cup 2014
Van Gaal’s men conceded just five goals in ten qualifying matches and that’s a remarkable statistic when you consider that the coach used no less than five different goalkeepers in that period. Tim Krul, Michael Vorm, Kenneth Vermeer, Jasper Cillessen and Maarten Stekelenburg all featured during that campaign but the coach will have to decide on an established number one ahead of the finals.
Ahead of the goalie, the defence has been solid but it is a little inexperienced. Gregory van der Wiel has 37 caps while Ron Vlaar has 22 but the remainder of the squad have not been with the national set up for too long. Van Gaal may decide to recall Fulham’s John Heitinga who hasn’t featured for Holland since June 2013.
Like many of the best World Cup sides, Dutch teams of the past have been built on creative flair and the midfield is an impressive one. This is one area where Van Gaal has an experienced and settled side with Rafael van der Vaart, Nigel De Jong and Wesley Sneijder boasting over 250 caps between them.
There is a cynical side to this midfield however and few will forget De Jong’s chest high challenge on Xabi Alonso in the 2010 final. The AC Milan player was lucky to stay on the pitch and Van Gaal will have to ensure that midfield discipline is maintained.
Robin Van Persie finished as the joint highest scorer in all qualifying with 11 goals and he will be joined in Brazil by Schalke’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Both man average at least a goal every other game at International level and the Dutch will be among the most prolific scorers in the competition.
That firepower should be enough to lift Holland out of a tricky group and then it’s the lottery of the knockout rounds. The key to further success lies firmly in that front line and if Huntelaar or Van Persie aren’t fully fit and in the best of form, it’s unlikely that the Netherlands will progress any further. However, one look at that impressive squad suggests that Louis Van Gaal’s Holland are an outstanding price bet at 9/2 to make the semi-finals.