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World Cup: Look Out For – Holland


By Paul Downey.

The second in our ‘Look Out For’ series for the World Cup in South Africa brings forward the perennial under-achievers – Holland. More the nearly-men even more than England, the Dutch have thrilled and excited many in past tournaments but failed to deliver when the chips are down.

Their finest performance of recent times was at France 98, where they arguably played the best football of the entire tournament only to come unstuck against the Brazilians on penalties at the semi final stage. How can we forget the superb Dennis Bergkamp goal which eliminated England’s conquerors Argentina at the Quarter Final stage?

That is over a decade ago now, and the complexion of Dutch football is very different. Gone are the talents of Bergkamp, Kluivert, Seedorf and the De Boer brothers, but in their place could be the surprise package of the tournament.

The squad boasts quality in abundance with another Champions League winner in Wesley Sneijder, who has rediscovered his form at Inter Milan under Jose Mourinho’s tutoring. Add Arjen Robben and Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie to that attack, and you can certainly see goals in this Dutch side.

Much like the Argentinians though the Dutch have been accused of shying away when the going gets rough. When teams have sweated blood, sweat and tears for the cause the Dutch have been found wanting on too many occasions.

Lest we forget how they bamboozled World Cup holders Italy in Euro 2008, only to come unstuck against a well drilled Russia side in the latter stages. Also as recently as last year against England, seemingly cruising 2-0 at home the Dutch surrendered to blow the lead and were fortunate to end up with a 2-2 by the final whistle.

In qualifying though they were ruthless under coach Bert Van Marwijk, with a 100% which will give the squad a boost of confidence and make them hard to beat. Defensively they were sound as well, conceding just two goals, and with the experience of Andre Ooijer (former of Blackburn Rovers) and Gio Van Bronckhorst they will be hard to break down.

With regards to their group, there are potential banana skins in Denmark and Cameroon but the Dutch should be able to secure a safe passage into the knockout stages. If they were to top Group E they could also face a beatable opponent in the second round in the likely shape of Paraguay, Slovakia or even Italy. This could in theory also lead to a massive quarter final with Brazil, but we are getting ahead of ourselves, remember this is Holland.

So in theory strong defensively, goals from attack and midfield, could the Dutch finally break their tournament hoodoo and deliver on the big stage, you just never know.

How do you think Holland will get on in South Africa?

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