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Holland

2018 FIFA World Cup contenders – Netherlands

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Considering that the Netherlands recently failed to qualify for the upcoming European Championship after finishing fourth in their qualifying group behind the Czech Republic, Iceland, and Turkey, it would sound a little premature to talk about their chances at the World Cup in Russia. However, hanging on to their recent failures would be missing the fact that they are one of the powerhouses of world football.

The Orange have played three World Cup finals. They first reached the summit clash of the most prestigious football tournament in 1974 when riding on the brilliance of Johan Cruyff and his comrades they treated the world to some truly once-in-a-lifetime football and their playing style saw them being labelled “A Clockwork Orange”. They were the favourites to take home the Jules Rimet trophy in the final against West Germany; however, things didn’t quite work out their way. After going 1-0 up in the first two minutes of the game – no West German player had even touched the ball in the final until then – they failed to score anymore and the Germans became the world champions with a 2-1 win.

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Four years later, they again reached the final, but again lost to the host nation, this time it was Argentina. Their third final came in 2010. The Netherlands’ playing style in South Africa was in stark contrast to their predecessors of their previous two final appearances. And a nation that prides itself in playing attractive, attacking football was uncharacteristically physical against Spain in the final. Under the management of Bert van Marwijk, they trusted their physicality more than their technical ability. Nonetheless, they managed to stretch the game into extra time, but a late, late goal by Andres Iniesta proved their undoing as they lost their third World Cup final.

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In Brazil last summer, under the stewardship of Louis van Gaal, they made it to the semi-final, but came up short against Lionel Messi’s Argentina as they lost to the South Americans in a penalty shootout to bow out of the competition. Although they did defeat the hosts Brazil 3-0 in the third place playoff to take home the bronze medal.

The Orange started their Euro qualifying campaign under the management of vastly experienced Guus Hiddink, but he had to leave his post after a series of poor results undermined the team’s chances of make it to France next summer. He was replaced by his assistant Danny Blind, but the former Ajax coach failed to take the Dutch to France as they finished fourth in their group. And not just that, Blind has been widely panned for his tactics and team selections in the few games he has managed.

Heading into the World Cup, the Dutch would do well to reenergise their team and make a strong case for qualification to Russia in three years’ time. It is worth mentioning that their lead up to the competition in Brazil was not good either, but they proved to be great in the tournament proper.

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If they manage to make it to Russia – and the smart money is on them to do it – they will be among the contenders to take home the coveted trophy. The Dutch have a strong core of players with the likes of Jasper Cillessen, Daley Blind, Virgil Van Dijk, Daryl Janmaat, Daley Blind, Jordy Clasie, and Memphis Depay in the current first team as well as youngsters like Davy Klaassen and Anwar El Ghazi amongst the youth players ready to break into the first team.

With a strong manager at the helm, the Dutch will be wowing the football world with their skills in no time.