Every major tournament has the Group of Death, and Group B is just that.
Holland have been one of the best sides in the world in recent years, but haven’t yet got the silverware to prove it.
Despite briefly eclipsing Spain at the top of the World rankings, Bert van Marwijk’s team are still looking for a follow up to the European Championships which they won in 1988.
FIFA Ranking: 4
Elo Ranking: 2
Best Performance at European Championships: Winners (1988) The Netherlands won the 1988 European Championships, and in doing so created one of the most enduring images of the tournament. Things had not started well, as they were defeated 1-0 by the Soviet Union in the opening match. However, they bounced back and a Marco Van Basten hat-trick killed off England 3-1. Needing to win the final match with Ireland to reach the semi-finals, a late Wim Kieft goal allowed them to do just that.
Ronald Koeman and Van Basten scored in the semi-final to defeat West Germany and give the Netherlands a chance at revenge against the Soviet Union. Ruud Gullit gave the Dutch the lead in the final, before Marco Van Basten scored that goal to confirm Holland as champions.
How they qualified: Winners of Group E Only a defeat to Sweden in the final match of qualification prevented the Netherlands from a perfect record in qualification. They also broke their own record for their most comprehensive victory ever; beating San Marino 11-0.
The Boss: Bert Van Marwijk After a relatively low-key playing career, Van Marwijk began his coaching career in the lower divisions of his home nation. He first caught the public imagination by creating a youthful, talented Fortuna Sittard team. He took them to the Dutch Cup final, which earned him a move to Feyenoord, where he won the UEFA Cup in 2002. A poorly received stint in charge of Borussia Dortmund meant that he could return to Feyenoord in 2007, but even that was short lived as he left to replace Marco Van Basten as coach of the national team.
Van Marwijk has created one of the greatest Dutch teams ever. Under his tutelage they have lost just four times in four years, finishing runners up in the World Cup.
One to watch: Kevin Strootman is the latest in a long line of powerful, visionary Dutch midfielders. Despite being only 22, he has the tactical discipline and awareness to be a hugely effective deep-lying playmaker. It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to suggest that he is a similar player to Xavi Alonso, which is why the likes of AC Milan, Manchester United and Tottenham have all shown an interest in his abilities. For the moment he plays at PSV Eindhoven.
Likely line-up: The Netherlands play their own variation on the 4-2-3-1, almost a 4-2-1-3 formation. Maarten Stekelenburg has been the regular first-choice under Van Marwijk, despite a difficult first season at Roma. Gregory van der Wiel usually occupies the right-back berth, with permission to attack along the flank. Johnny Heitinga and Joris Mathijsen are the regular centre-back partnership. Erik Pieters is the regular left-back but is going to miss the tournament with a foot injury. Vernon Anita, Khalid Boulahrouz or the uncapped Jetro Willems are options for cover.
The midfield is equally stable. Mark Van Bommel will definitely anchor the midfield and disrupt attacks. He is likely to be accompanied by Nigel de Jong, with Wesley Sneijder the creative midfielder ahead of them. Arjen Robben is usually deployed on the left, with Dirk Kuyt on the right of Robin Van Persie.
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