It is fair to say that Holland’s complete demolition of Spain on Friday shook the footballing world.
Prior to the game there were few who gave the Dutch much hope of even competing with the reigning champions, let alone beating them, which was reflected by the pre-match odds of around 4/1 with most bookmakers.
Then in just 90 minutes of football, the pessimism that surrounded the Dutch in the build-up to this World Cup was completely swept away, as their 5-1 victory was the heaviest defeat the previously all-powerful Spain had ever experienced at a competitive international tournament.
Consequently, this ultimate display in incisive counter-attacking football has led many to believe that Louis van Gaal’s boys may well be ready to finally conquer the world. Now with qualification assured the question remains – is this going to ultimately end in disappointment again, or this the year where Holland finally become World Champions?
After their anti-football display in the 2010 World Cup, which only shook Xabi Alonso’s sternum, the revolutionary style of football that the Dutch gave to world was almost eradicated from our memories.
However since the complete capitulation in the 2012 Euros, where they suffered defeat in all their matches finishing bottom of the group, the Manchester United boss in waiting has attempted to restore the pride and admiration that the total football style of the 1970’s brought to the nation.
In spite of an impressive qualifying record of nine wins and one draw this was not enough for people to consider Holland as a major threat for the World Cup. This was largely due to the perceived lack of quality with the Dutch ranks, with far less household names occupying starting positions within the team compared to previous tournaments.
Their star players either had poor seasons, Robin van Persie (Man Utd), or are considered past their best, Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray) and Klaus-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke 04). The loss of influential midfielder Kevin Strootman (Roma), who has been strongly linked with joining Van Gaal at United, through injury only reaffirmed these beliefs.
Nevertheless, their annihilation of Spain and to a lesser extent the victory over Australia has meant that Holland are now being talked of as potential victors. This inevitably leads to the question, how is this possible?
First of all, even though this may be a transitional period for the Dutch there is still a well-thought out mix of experience and exciting potential in the squad. The undoubted ability of the newly dubbed ‘world’s fastest player’, Arjen Robben will always cause any defence problems – which has already been well demonstrated.
Robben will be paramount to any success that Holland have in this world cup and has already been voted as the best player in the tournament so far after the first round of games by the BBC.
Even Phil Neville’s unbelievably dull monotone voice couldn’t tarnish his early scintillating performances. Add in RVP’s return to his clinical best and there are most certainly goals in this side, demonstrated by the fact they have already amassed eight goals in just two games.
In spite of these Dutch legends being crucial in shaping the performances of the side, some of the perhaps lesser known players within the squad are starting to display their potential. In particular the Feynoord threesome of Bruno Martins Indi, Stefan de Vrij and Daryl Janmaat make up three of the back five that helped the Dutch to concede only five goals in ten qualifying games.
All under the age of twenty-four, these three have the potential to play for top European clubs in the future, with particularly Martins Indi being linked with a host of Premiership clubs. Hopefully his injury picked up in the game versus Australia isn’t as serious as it first seemed.
Finally, a player that is well-known to fans of the Premier League will be as, if not more important, than any of the Dutch players – Nigel De Jong.
The much maligned De Jong often splits opinions with fans; there are some who believe he is nothing but a thug with limited ability masquerading as a football player (basically Joey Barton), whereas some believe him to be the linchpin that holds the whole team together. Van Gaal certainly believes the latter.
Having amassed 73 caps for Holland whilst always being crucial to the success of his domestic clubs, De Jong will be that all important balance between the attacking flair of Sneijder, Robben and Van Persie and the lack of international experience amongst the back five and goalkeeper.
Although there has certainly been a lot to admire about this new-look Dutch team so far, there seems to be sense of deja vu. After all, how many times have we seen the mesmerising brand football that Holland have often been associated with during the group stages of major tournaments, only to then fall apart due to internal quarrels during the later stages of the tournament.
For instance, in the 2008 Euros they were not expected to get out of their group with the pre-tournament favourites Italy and France alongside them. However, the exciting expansive football that Holland produced in defeating France 4-1 and Italy 3-0 led them to be considered potential winners, however a 3-1 defeat in the quarter-finals to unfancied Russia but an end to this.
Throughout almost every major tournament this has been recurring theme for them. Predicted to fail, dismantle favourites, thrill neutrals, become favourites, and yet never win.
The whole of Holland will be hoping that Van Gaal will be the man to turn this around, although it is more than likely that once again history will repeat itself and the Dutch will return home empty handed.
How far do you think Holland can go? Let us know your thoughts below or tweet us @LaFootyettes.