For a professional footballer, the World Cup can be a euphoric, career making time. This effect is doubled if they are part of a strong team who is peaking, such as the Netherlands. The Oranje however, apart from a European Cup in 1988, have never been able to translate their strength into success. Still, Dutch fans everywhere are painting the town with a hopeful shade of orange, as they always do.
Perhaps not the greatest strategy however, as exemplified by storied teams such as Italy and Brazil. The Azzuri the Seleçao come from skeptic football cultures, which endlessly criticize their teams and demand success. Professional footballers need to be kept aground this way so that they don’t collapse at random points of the tournament. England and the Netherlands are teams that are notorious for falling victim to this.
Just the last European Cup, the Organje went in guns a-blazing and collected famous victories against France and Italy but were promptly humiliated 3-1 by surprise package Russia in the Quarter Finals. Their World Cup record similarly reads as something out of bizzarro world. Their pride, the two finals in the 70’s, are sandwiched between a string of failures to qualify. The 90’s were a little more successful, but as recently as 2002 they again failed to qualify. The theme of erratic implosion has always followed them and nothing seems to suggest 2010 will be any different.
Coaches are the ones who are supposed to change these mentalities, but the current coach’s most notable trophy as a manager was the UEFA cup in 2002 with Feyenoord, hardly something to boast about for Bert van Marwijk. He does not give the impression of a man who will be able to control the egos of attacking players who ply their trade in Europe’s biggest clubs and who do not have a solid backline to support them. Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Robin Van Persie, Dirk Kuyt, Rafael Van der Vaart etc. are names that read like a fantasy football team, and yet, as Real Madrid found out with 3 of them two seasons ago, they can be completely unplayable.
Wim Kieft, ex Oranje player had this to say about the dressing room: “I get so tired of all that optimism. Always when a World Cup is about to begin, the whole nation thinks we will win the cup. Well, we never won one. Why now? Cruyff, Nees and Van Hanegem couldn’t win it. Van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard couldn’t win it. Seedorf, De Boer, Cocu, Davids, Kluivert couldn’t win it. Do you really think we have the best players of the world? Come on!”
Kieft continued: “If we can work together and if all our egos decide to take a backseat, yes we have chance. If not, you’ll see this implode or explode again. It’s good that these guys say they want to work together, but I can see the first set piece coming up. Robben is a specialist now as well! Now we’ll have Rafael, Wesley, Robin and Arjen fighting for the ball. I can’t wait to see what will happen…”
He may be a little tactless in his delivery, but Kieft definitely has a point. Dutch journalists looked at their country’s stumbled 2-1 victory over the USA recently and said something like: “it wasn’t good but we can still win in South Africa.” So don’t believe what you read, the truth is found in the games.
The Dutch performed well in the qualifiers and tend to peak early, so they will surely come out of their group. However, they are unlikely to progress past the round of 16th.
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