On the same day as Netherlands Coach Bert van Marwijk announced his final 23-man squad for the
The Oranje ran out with a 4-1 victory over Milovan Rajevac’s side, who were helpless to stop the Dutch extending their unbeaten run to 18 matches. Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt opened the scoring and started in the place of Arjen Robben, who has been suffering with a slight hip problem. But van Marwijk insists that his recent omissions are merely precautionary: “Arjen has a little bit of a problem with his hip. It is not serious, but in the run-up to the World Cup we want as little risk as possible.” The news will be a relief for the Dutch fans as Robben was tipped to be one of the stars of the tournament and it is likely the player will be wrapped up in cotton wool as he is pivotal to their hopes of success after winning a league and cup double with German club Bayern Munich.
Aside from Liverpool’s Kuyt there was another Premier League player to get on the score sheet as Arsenal’s Robin van Persie, who scored a brace in Holland’s last friendly, added a fourth goal against Ghana from the penalty spot after Rafael van der Vaart was brought down in the box by Ghana keeper Richard Kingson. The Netherlands’ second came after van der Vaart netted following a successful one-two with Mark van Bommel while Wesley Sneijder, who gave a man of the match performance, scored the third Oranje goal with a volley. Sneijder was involved in everything good the Netherlands did on Tuesday night and had a hand in three of the four goals they scored. One worry for van Marwijk will be his side’s slightly shaky defence which is prone to a few mistakes here and there, never more apparent than when John Heitinga almost gave away a penalty and poor communication between the Everton man and Joris Mathijsen led to the Black Stars’ only goal.
Six British based players have made van Marwijk’s final squad which includes Heitinga (Everton), Edson Braafheid (Celtic) Nigel de Jong (Manchester City), Ryan Babel, Kuyt (both Liverpool) and van Persie (Arsenal). Notable omissions from the squad are Orlando Engelaar, Vurnon Anita, Ron Vlaar and Jeremain Lens. PSV Eindhoven’s Engelaar’s failure to make it into the final 23 is the most surprising as he played in Holland’s run into the quarter finals during Euro 2008.
Arsenal hitman van Persie could be one of the stars of the tournament if he keeps up his current goal scoring form and would be a decent bet for the golden boot, if the Netherlands end up going into the latter rounds of the finals. He has revealed that he believes an attacking quartet of himself, van der Vaart, Sneijder and Robben could set the finals alight this summer.“I heard their opinions and it pleases me that we appreciate each other’s qualities,” said van Persie. He added: “It is a party to play with them. They all are good players who are creative and think offensive.” This would of course mean van Persie would rather Kuyt was omitted from the attack which led the Liverpool forward to retort: “van Persie does not pick the team.” Could this be another example of the famous Dutch in-fighting which has dogged them so many times on the international stage? The Holland fans will hope not and van Marwijk will be able to rule with an iron fist and stamp these issues out as soon as possible.
Netherlands World Cup squad
Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax)
Sander Boschker (FC Twente)
Michel Vorm (FC Utrecht)
Khalid Boulahrouz (Stuttgart)
Edson Braafheid (Celtic)
Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord)
John Heitinga (Everton)
Joris Mathijsen (Hamburg)
Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax)
Andre Ooijer (PSV Eindhoven)
Mark van Bommel (Bayern Munich)
Nigel de Jong (Manchester City)
Stijn Schaars (AZ Alkmaar)
Wesley Sneijder (Inter)
Rafael van der Vaart (Real Madrid)
Demy de Zeeuw (Ajax)
Ibrahim Afellay (PSV Eindhoven)
Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool)
Eljero Elia (Hamburg)
Ryan Babel (Liverpool)
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan)
Robin van Persie (Arsenal)
Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)