From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.33 :: NO.24 :: Jun. 17, 2010

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WORLD CUP BUMPER / TEAM ANALYSIS/ NETHERLANDS (GROUP E)

A mix of flair & discipline

The Dutch, who are always competitive, have a good frontline and midfield, but the defence and goal give room for concern.

As the country which gifted the concept of ‘Total Football' to the world, the Netherlands has a special place in the global scene. Yet, it is a pity that the Dutch have never won the game's showpiece event despite coming close to it twice, losing to West Germany and Argentina in 1974 and 1978.

The current generation may fall short of the standards set by the legendary Johan Cruyff and his contemporaries or by Rudd Gullit, Marco van Basten and their peers. But, given the advantage of the historic links that the Oranje country has had with the ‘dark' continent over the years and thus ensured of crowd support, the Dutch should fancy their chances as they set out on their ninth World Cup campaign.

The perennial dark horses did enjoy, perhaps, the easiest of qualification campaigns among the 32 teams in the fray. The Dutch team comfortably topped Group 9 of the European qualifiers, winning all its matches and conceding just two goals, its opponents being Norway, Scotland, Macedonia and Iceland. And in South Africa, it has been lucky to be drawn against Japan, Cameroon and Denmark, all relatively low-placed in present-day world football, in Group E.

The highly ambitious side also possesses a string of classy players in Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben who, when on song, can be particularly dangerous in attack. To supplement the trio, the Dutch have Mark van Bommel, Nigel de Jong, Rafael van der Vaart and Eljero Elia, all of whom can provide a definite influence in the midfield or upfront. Known to combine the flair of the Brazilians and the ruthless discipline of the Germans, the Dutch, however, are expected to face some problems with their defence.

They were quite adequate in the qualifiers, but still doubts are cast on the capability of the backline consisting of skipper Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Joris Mathijsen, John Heitinga and Andre Ooijer to shut out marauding forwards.

The Dutch have also failed to find a suitable replacement for the retired Edwin van der Saar in goal. This could become a crucial factor once the Dutch move into the second stage.

The Netherlands is managed by Bert van Marwijk, who took over from Marco van Basten soon after Euro 2008. Though he has had only modest success as a player, Marwijk is quite an experienced coach, having served leading clubs such as Feyenoord with distinction.

THE TEAM

GOALKEEPERS

Sander Boschker (FC Twente), Maarten Stekelnburg (Ajax) and Michel Vorm (FC Utrecht).

DEFENDERS

Khalid Boulahrouz (Stuttgart), Edson Braafheid (Celtic), John Heitinga (Everton), Joris Mathijsen (Hamburg), Andre Ooijer (PSV Eindhoven), Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) and Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax).

MIDFIELDERS

Ibrahim Afellay (PSV Eindhoven), Nigel de Jong (Manchester City), Demy de Zeeuw (Ajax), Stijn Schaars (AZ Alkmaar), Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan), Mark van Bommel (Bayern Munich) and Rafael van der Vaart (Real Madrid).

FORWARDS

Ryan Babel (Liverpool), Eljero Elia (Hamburg), Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan), Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) and Robin van Persie (Arsenal).

Coach: Bert van Marwijk.



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