Louis van Gal has the small matter of the World Cup to take care of before he takes over the reins at Old Trafford to help Manchester United find their feet in the post-Ferguson era. The Dutch were the inventors of ‘Total Football’ but van Gaal has taken some stick for experimenting with a 5-3-2 formation to give his young Dutch side the best possible chance to replicate their final appearance in 2010. Easier said than done, though. But with talent like Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie at his disposal, the Dutch are more than capable of mounting a strong challenge to progress to the latter stages of the tournament.
Let’s put ourselves in Louis van Gaal’s shoes and predict what his likely line up will be against Spain in their World Cup opener.
Louis van Gaal has the likes of Michel Vorm and Tim Krul in his squad and both men have bags of Premier League experience, but Jasper Cillesen is likely to get the nod thanks to his sizzling form with Ajax.
Just google the Dutch line-up from the 2010 WC final, and you wouldn’t find a single defender who has survived the last four years. Dutch football has undergone a major transition in recent years, and van Gaal has placed his faith in his youngsters to guide the Oranje to glory in Sambaland. Feyenoord star Daryl Janmaat and Ajax left back Daley Blind will don the roles of attacking wide full backs pushing on to provide the attacking thrust. Ron Vlaar is the most experienced center back in the team and will serve as the anchor of the center of defence while Feyenoord teammates Bruno Martins Indi and Stefan de Vrij will slot in alongside the Aston Villa man.
Jonathan de Guzmán and Nijel de Jong aren’t known for their playmaking abilities and are expected to sit in front of the back five. It will be interesting to see whether van Gaal would trust Feyenoord midfielder Jordy Clasie with a starting berth, given that he has the vision and the passing range to unlock the best of defences. Wesley Sneijder still remains their most creative player and van Gaal would turn to the Galatasaray playmaker to instigate the offensive play for his side. Sneijder is likely to play just in front of the center midfield duo of de Jong and de Guzmán.
Nothing short of an elite form from Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie will see the Dutch enjoy an extended summer break as Spain and Chile are strong sides with a great blend of youth and experience. Arjen Robben will enjoy a much more free role alongside Robin van Persie in attack. The Bayern Munich superstar’s driving runs can torment the best defenders in the world, and he will look to find spaces and execute those eye-catching one-two’s with Sneijder and van Persie.
And in their skipper Robin van Persie, the Dutch arguably have the most lethal center forward in the tournament. Van Persie is the most natural goalscorer in the world, and although he endured an indifferent season with United, 11 goals in qualifying proves that he is at the peak of his powers and ready to inspire his team to glory this time around.
This is a transition World Cup for the Oranje. Louis van Gaal has placed his faith in the youth and is prepared to take a few knocks as he seeks to leave the team in good stead for the future. Irrespective of their showing in Brazil, the future is bright for Dutch football. With players such as Strootman, van Ginkel, Rekik, Clasie and Siem de Jong in their ranks, the true test for these players will come in four years time in Russia. But with LvG at the helm, rule them out in Brazil at your own peril.