The Hamburg forward has been omitted from the 26-man training squad and it now looks unlikely that Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk will include the veteran in his provisional squad, which is due to be named on May 11. Like England’s Fabio Capello the Dutch Coach van Marwijk does not suffer fools gladly and prefers form and fitness over reputation, so van Nistelrooy will have some work ahead of him if he is to prove worthy of a plane ticket to South Africa. Marwijk insists that the door is not closed on the former Manchester United hitman’s World Cup and he remains in contention as long as he can prove that he is sharp and has until May 11 to force his name into the Dutch Coach’s thinking.
“I am leaving him until that date to convince me that he is sufficiently in shape to take part in the World Cup,” said van Marwijk, who then added: “I have seen a lot of Ruud playing recently and found that I did not have to call on him for a training camp.” Van Nistelrooy has been capped 64 times by his country and had originally retired from the international game post Euro 2008, but he has since stated his desire to get back into the Dutch squad and offer his services once again. The 33-year-old is not the only big name who was not name in the training squad as Inter’s Wesley Sneijder and Bayern Munich pair Arjen Robben and Mark van Bommel were also left out, but this is because they are due to play in the Champions League final on May 22.
The Dutch trio have been in superb form in UEFA’s flagship tournament this season and the Oranje faithful will hope that they can bring their big game mentality into the Netherlands squad and replicate their form in the World Cup. Robben and Sneijder are particularly important after playing a big part in scalping Manchester United and Chelsea respectively, but the Dutch will hope they will not pick up any knocks between now and the tournament (especially the usually fragile Robben).
The Dutch have always been known to have a flair and prowess, but van Marwijk has instilled a hard working defence which has been something they have arguably lacked in the past. Johnny Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen and Andre Ooijer all add steel and a defensive understanding as the trio have played together throughout Euro 2008 and in World Cup qualifying. However, their lack of pace can sometimes be a worry. It would not be a surprise to see younger defenders like Ron Vlaar and Gregory van der Wiel included in the squad to add much needed freshness and a quicker turn of pace to marry with the aforementioned experience.
The Netherlands also possess a tough-tackling and tenacious midfield as van Bommel and de Jong look to be certainties for the final squad and their stopping power lets the likes of Robben, Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart do what they do best. Although he is playing in a position which is somewhat overloaded (wingers) Ibrahim Afellay could be one to watch out for in this year’s World Cup . The wide-man has recently attracted the eyes of big name Premier League clubs such as Arsenal and Liverpool, who have been impressed by the young man’s form for club (PSV Eindhoven) and country. At the moment he could go for around £10m, but should he impress in South Africa the stock and valuation of the player could soar much higher.
Like any other nation the main thing for the Dutch fans is that their best players actually make it into the tournament unscathed and they will be boosted by Robin van Persie’s recent return from injury lay-off. They will hope he can maintain his fitness as he seems to be very much a glass man just like his compatriot Robben. There are still many places in the squad up for grabs as the absolute shoo-ins are few in number. They possess many talented players amongst their ranks and although unfancied by the bookmakers, can give the likes of Brazil, England, Italy and Spain a run for their money. But are the Oranje good enough to go gold?