Netherlands Head Coach Bert van Marwijk has a great record at in charge of the Dutch so far, winning eight of his 11 games in charge, losing just once. Much will be expected of him and his talented team who will be looking to shed the ‘bottler’ tag that has long been associated with the Dutch.
Holland will be delighted to have a quality keeper between the sticks in Maarten Stekelenburg. The 27-year-old has been in great form for Ajax this season and is continuously rumoured with a move to the Premier League. Acting as back-up to Stelkenburg will be Michel Vorm and Sander Boschker. The weakest element of the Dutch team is the defence with no real stand-out stars at the back. At the heart of their defence they will have the experienced Andre Ooijer, formerly of Blackburn, and Johnny Heitinga of Everton who are steady players but may struggle against world-class opposition. Alongside them will be former Arsenal and Rangers full-back Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Joris Mathijsen, who both have experience of major tournaments but whose best years are probably behind them. Former Chelsea defender Khalid Boulahrouz will provide competition across defence as he has proven he can be versatile as well as being a capable defender. Providing further competition will be Celtic’s Edson Braafheid, Ron Vlaar and Gregory van der Wiel.
The Dutch hopes will rest on their midfield which features some truly world-class players. Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben, formerly of Real Madrid, will look to tear teams apart from the middle and wide areas with their passing ability and eye for goal. Sneijder in particular showed what he can do against class opposition tearing Chelsea apart at Stamford Bridge with one of the most dominant displays in midfield seen this season and his crucial role in Inter securing a prestigious Treble . Robben as well showed how much of a threat he can be with his pace and shooting ability in the Champions League and will be a thorn in the side of any side at the World Cup if given the chance to impose himself on the game. Rafael van der Vaart, like Sneijder, has a range of passing but maybe restricted in playing time if the Dutch employ a central defensive midfielder to play alongside Sneijder. Fighting it out for the other slot in midfield will be Manchester City’s Nigel de Jong and Bayern Munich’s Mark van Bommel. Both are excellent holding midfielders and it will be up to Van Marwijk to decide whether he goes for the experience of van Bommel or the tenacity of de Jong. Other options open to Van Marwijk are Stijn Schaars, Ibrahim Afellay, Orlando Engelaar and Demy De Zeeuw.
Up front the Dutch again have a lot of options. They will hope Robin van Persie will be back to his best despite missing the majority of the season with Arsenal, as when he’s firing he’s almost unstoppable. Alongside Van Persie will be Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt who doesn’t have the goal threat of Van Persie but is very effective at bringing other players into the game. With players such as Sneijder and Robben in midfield Kuyt’s link-up play will be very important to Dutch hopes in the latter stages of the competition. If Kuyt and Van Persie don’t do the trick they can also rely on AC Milan’s Klass-Jan Huntelaar who has a great record at club and international level. He is a different kind of player to Van Persie and Kuyt, more of a poacher who will get goals in and around the six-yard box. If the Dutch need a goal they will be happy to call on a player of Huntelaar’s ability. Ryan Babel is also available for the Dutch if they require him, adding more weight to a formidable attack.