When the World Cup draw was finished many thought that the Netherlands was placed into the second toughest group. Regardless of the draw, the 2010 World Cup runner ups have high expectations ahead of Brazil. Coach Louis van Gaal has the task of mixing his veterans with a batch of younger, unproven players. The Oranje will be expected in the final eight if not more, but as it stands there are a lot of distractions that make it hard to focus on the World Cup.
Perhaps the biggest is the gap between van Gaal and the 2010 star Wesley Sneidjer. Sneidjer has gone from a hero to the bench and now van Gaal is threatening to leave him off the squad altogether. The Holland coach issued a bit of a warning last week in an interview with Netherlands-based NRC saying the Galatasaray midfielder is not doing enough to justify his inclusion.
“What if that one through-ball doesn’t happen? Would we just say: too bad for the Dutch national team? In that case, our chances of being eliminated in the first round are quite big. You should be able to deliver at club level every week. If you can’t deliver at your club, then you most definitely can’t deliver at the national team. He will play in Turkey until the middle of May, so I will wait and see. There is no need to decide [who will be in the World Cup-squad] before then.”
Another storyline outside of the World Cup is that van Gaal is out as coach when the competition ends. He will be replaced by Guus Hiddink who will bring on Ruud van Nistelrooy and Danny Blind as assistants. Hiddink will only stay on through the 2016 European Championships, and Blind will take over for the 2018 World Cup. Meanwhile van Gaal has been linked to a move to Tottenham or even Manchester United.
There are concerns over injuries as well. Kevin Strootman is often considered a part of the big three for the Netherlands, but now he is out for six months. Strootman suffered an anterior cruciate injury that required surgery while at AS Roma. Jetro Willems is also out of the World Cup.
The attack is led by Robin Van Persie who is dealing with an injury-riddled season at Manchester United. He is expected to be fit for the World Cup. Second in line for the striker role is Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Huntelaar has returned to the Schalke lineup to score 11 goals in 15 games.
Arjen Robben will be counted on to fuel the attack. He is part of the big three along with Van Persie and Strootman. These were the only players van Gaal has guaranteed a roster spot to for the World Cup.
Strootman’s absence and the perplexity of the Sneidjer situation means there are questions in the middle. There are still a few veterans to call on with Rafael van der Vaart and Nigel de Jong expected to be on the plane to Brazil.
There will be younger players called on to hold down roles in the midfield. Memphis Depay and Jordy Clasie are some of the candidates. There is no doubt that the midfield is one of the biggest issues two months out from the start of the World Cup.
The biggest question in the back end is the goalkeeper. Maarten Steklenberg is out as he has been relegated to a substitute at Fulham. The leading candidate is Ajax keeper Jasper Cillessen. Other candidates include Michael Vorm, Tim Krul and Jeroen Zoet.
The back line is led by Ron Vlaar and Gregory van der Wiel. Van der Wiel is an incredible physical specimen who features at right back for Paris Saint-Germain. Daley Blind, son of Danny Blind, is expected to have a big role.
Spain and Chile will challenge Holland in the group. This team needs to find common ground in training, but it will not happen. Wear and tear to Van Persie and Robben have to be a concern. It is a disjointed organization. Chile will surprise the Netherlands and move out of the group with Spain.