World Cup: Second Teams

Second Team: The Netherlands

Editor’s note: This post is part of PSP’s World Cup series, in which PSP’s writers and a few honored guests make the case for which team you should root for in the World Cup after the United States. Read the full series here.

If you’ve followed this installment of the World Cup thus far, The Netherlands needs no introduction.

The Oranje are keen to ride the space between favorite and dark horse, though they never do it quite well enough. After being runner-up in 2010, this year was supposed to be the beginning of a transition year. Their most recent wave of world-class players are hitting that age where the sport starts to catch up to the body.

But on Friday, they gave the world a big, “Not so fast…” moment. They shocked, no, utterly drubbed FIFA’s No. 1 ranked country and reigning champion Spain 5-1 in Salvador. The 3-2 defeat of Australia in the second group game allowed the Dutch to become the first team to punch their ticket to the Knockout Round, setting themselves up for another chance to lift the trophy that’s slipped through their fingers 3 times before.

The hard-luck Dutch

The last four years have been a real up-and-down windmill-ride for Holland. Finishing second in South Africa four years ago put a bulls-eye on their back, and it was tough for them to live up to the expectation. At the 2012 European Championship, they were as close to a “favorite” as they may ever get.

Then they were drawn into the “Group Of Death.”

Finding themselves in Group B against Germany and Portugal was a nightmare scenario. As a favorite, the Dutch lost to the “other” team in that group, Denmark, and that was all she wrote. Turmoil ensued within the team, and they finished last in the group with no points. Head Coach Bert van Marwijk resigned immediately as a result.

Netherlands crest(And as this series assumes first and foremost that you are an American fan, this scenario may sound all too familiar…)

New leadership, new life

The disaster led to the ascension of Louis van Gaal as Head Coach. That name ought to sound familiar, as he will be taking over the helm at Manchester United after Holland’s campaign in Brazil. van Gaal has a solid track record of managing, winning titles with clubs like Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

After Holland’s self-destruction at the 2012 Euro, van Gaal led the Oranje to an outstanding World Cup qualifying campaign. It’s true that they were drawn into one of the easier groups in UEFA qualifying, but Dutch managed to only dropped points in 1 of their 10 matches.

But Friday’s masterpiece against the vaunted Spaniards was a statement. Down a goal, the Dutch hung in there and exposed woeful defending and a goalkeeper who wasn’t in top form. They wore down Spain, with a similarly stuck-in tactic to what they used in 2010. This time, they finished their counterattacks, bringing back an air of confidence they lost in the 2012 debacle.

So, why root for Holland?

Most people would point to their storied history as the reason to root for them. Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff revolutionized the sport with Total Football, a beautiful attacking style that inspired generations (which, ironically, evolved into the Spanish/Catalonia Tikitaka system that defeated the Dutch in 2010). For all of that visionary innovation, the team still has never lifted the World Cup.

They also have some big names in their squad list. Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie are still deadly in attack, each netting two goals against Spain. Nigel de Jong, Wesley Sneijder, Ron Vlaar, Dirk Kuyt, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar are also familiar names if you follow European leagues. But they have a host of newcomers in defense such as Bruno Martins Indi, Stefan de Vrij, and Daley Blind who are looking to gel with the old guard in the hopes of being the last country standing. Blind has stood out in particular – the Ajax left back delivered the brilliant cross that resulted in van Persie’s headed equalizer against Spain.

Last Chance Saloon?

No doubt, this is a team whose biggest stars are aging, and are likely making their last appearance in their prime. Having one last shot to prove your critics wrong can be a great source of motivation, and it was well-apparent in their opening match.

This is a team that is always one critical play away from something huge. In the biggest moments, they haven’t quite gotten it right. Can this be the year they finally overcome the expectation and the weight of their past failures? If you hop on board and sing “Hup Holland Hup!” alongside their loyal fans, your Second Team might just finally find their World Cup glory.

2 Comments

  1. I would be perfectly fine with the dutch winning a world cup. they have been far too good for far too long. They have certainly waited in vain and suffered plenty along the way.

  2. If you wish for to get a good deal from this article then you have to apply such strategies to your won blog.

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