Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Netherlands: A Team On The Rise Despite Recent Results

Juan Pablo Aravena in Editorial, World Cup 1 Nov 2017

Embed from Getty Images

One of the biggest disappointments during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers were the Netherlands. Despite having players such as Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Bas Dost and Virgil van Dijk, The Flying Dutchmen finished third in the Group A standings of the UEFA World Cup Qualifiers. And since they sat behind France and Sweden, the Dutch side were eliminated from the competition.

Missing out on the World Cup meant the Ditch missed the second straight big tournament since they also failed to reach the European Championship last year. And in case football fans have not found out, it’s time for the Netherlands to make a change. They are way too big to keep missing out on important tournaments as they are doing right now.

And the change should also include the players. Robben (33) already announced his retirement. Sneijder (33) and Robin van Persie (34) are too old to potentially remain on a high level ahead of the 2o22 World Cup. And the Netherlands need to start thinking towards the future. They must plan accordingly if they want to be a competitive side in the next five to 10 years. Fortunately for them, there is enough talent on both ends of the pitch to bounce back from the bad years they have had of late.

Let’s take a look:

Goalkeepers & Defenders

Common sense would indicate that Jasper Cillessen should be the goalkeeper of the future for the Netherlands. Maarten Stekelenburg will be too old for the upcoming events, and Jeroen Zoet is a few steps behind Cillessen when it comes to talent and international experience. None of these players are remotely close to someone like Edwin van der Sar, but Cillessen certainly looks like a solid bet going forward.

The defence should have some interesting names as well. van Dijk plays for Southampton, but will likely sign with a top Premier League side sooner than later. He is expected to become a force at the back the Dutch team has lacked since the days of Jaap Stam. Matthijs de Ligt could easily be his partner for years to come. The 18-year-old Ajax prospect already has two call-ups under his name, and many scouts believe he has enough potential to be one of the best centre-backs in the world.

The full-back roles might be a bit harder to fill. Kenny Tete (Olympique Lyon) and Daley Blind (Manchester United) seem to have the inside track to earn regular starting roles going forward. Both players have settled as starters in their respective clubs, and Blind offers experience and versatility since he play on several roles at the same time.

There is a lot of depth – and options – to choose from, so it’s not like the Dutch team will have to deal with those four defenders going forward. The centre-back depth includes Nathan Ake, Jeffrey Bruma, Bruno Martins Indi and Stefan de Vrij. Meanwhile, the full-back positions name interesting alternatives such as Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Rick Karsdorp, and Jetro Willems. Those are lots of options to choose from.


The midfielders group will be divided into two. On one section we will analyse the defensive players, and in the other one we will look at attacking-minded players.

If we analyse the potential alternatives for central midfield, two names stand out: Georginio Wijnaldum, from Liverpool, and Kevin Strootman, from AS Roma. Both are key players on their respective teams, and are used to play in two of the best leagues in the world. Blind can operate as an alternative, and Donny van de Beek represents the future option. The 20-year-old Ajax playmaker was quite a star for the Eredivisie giants last season, and should be brought slowly into the National Team setup. Tonny Vilhena, Marten de Roon and Leroy Fer have decent experience as well.

If we look at attacking options, then Davy Klaassen seems like the best option to replace Sneijder. The Everton player has not adjusted properly to the Premier League, but no one can doubt his talent. And as soon as he adjusts to the pace of England, then he can take the next step in his development. Marco van Ginkel was a former Chelsea prospect who, even though has not progressed as many expects, remains a capable talent. And he is a name worth watching in the next few years. If the spark goes on, he can definitively become the country’s top playmaker. And Davy Pröpper has shown some good things in his Premier League debut with Brighton, too.


Once again, we will divide this section in two groups of players. One will feature wingers, and the other will feature strikers and central forwards.

Netherlands’ history is filled with quality wingers, and that is no different in the current times. Memphis Depay, Jürgen Locadia, Jeremain Lens, and Quincy Promes can play on either flank, while Dost and Janssen should remain as strikers for the coming years. Netherlands could certainly use a more prolific goalscoring presence. But Dost has enjoyed great years at Sporting Lisbon in the past few seasons. If anything, he has won the battle to become the starting forward in the next few games.

How Would This Time Line-Up?

Making a basic example, we will analyse how this time could line-up if all the players we mentioned are healthy. And if we select a 4-3-3 tactic, this team could look like this:

GK: Jasper Cillessen

RB: Rick Karsdorp

CB: Virgil van Dijk

CB: Stefan de Vrij/Bruno Martins Indi

LB: Daley Blind

CM: Kevin Strootman

CM: Georginio Wijnaldum

AM: Davy Klaassen

RW: Memphis Depay

ST: Bas Dost

LW: Jeremain Lens

Granted, that’s not the best team in Europe. But it’s a nice step forward to, at least, battle for both the European Championship and a 2022 FIFA World Cup berth in the next few years. If these players progress as expected, then we can easily see the Netherlands as a top European side in the new few years. Just like they were in the past.


Juan Pablo Aravena

A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.



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