What Netherlands Must Do to Return to International Glory
Netherlands entered Euro 2012 with sky-high expectations. The Oranje came within a whisker of winning the 2010 World Cup and have one of the most talented rosters in Europe, making the team's terrible showing at the European Championships a major surprise.
As is always the case with international football, there isn't much time to prepare for the future. Netherlands begins World Cup qualifying in less than three months, which means changes will have to be made quickly to get the squad back on track.
And make no mistake, Netherlands can't afford to stick with the status quo after losing all three games on one of the sport's biggest stages. Even though they were unlucky to get drawn into the "Group of Death," it was a lackluster showing from start to finish.
Since there's no shortage of blame to go around, the KNVB has plenty of decisions to make and not much time to make them. The next three months will go a long way in determining how the World Cup cycle will turn out. That equates to plenty of pressure.
Let's take a look at the three most important things Netherlands must do to bounce back in time for Brazil in 2014.
Bert van Marwijk should be applauded for all he's done to help Netherlands continue its quest toward becoming an international powerhouse. That said, it's time for a change. When a team with so much talent falls flat, the manager has to take a big portion of the blame.
Coaching at the national team level is a tricky task. Getting players who are playing for different teams all around the world to play as one cohesive unit isn't easy. That's why you see so much turnover and a general lack of patience.
While Van Marwijk helped the team reach its peak heading into the last World Cup, he wasn't able to recapture any of that magic this time around. It's not like the Oranje just missed out on the knockout round, either. They didn't earn a single point.
Although the players are ultimately the ones who decide games with their play, it's a lot easier to replace a manager than it is to make gigantic personnel decisions. Because of that, it's time for Van Marwijk to make way for a fresh face with a new outlook.
Nine of the 11 players in the Oranje's starting lineup against Portugal were at least 27 years old. Most of them are big names as well, including Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben, which means the team's core must be questioned.
The best way to do that is bringing in young players to compete for spots. Netherlands are by far the most talented team in its qualifying group, so there should be plenty of opportunity to get some lesser-known players on the pitch.
Whether it's players that already have a good bit of national team experience like Eljero Elia or even younger rising stars such as Georginio Wijnaldum, the Oranje need to increase the level of competitiveness for playing time and make changes if players step up.
What the team can't afford to do is pretend like Euro 2012 never happened and stick with the same group of players for the next two years. It's clear something isn't working and, without modifications, the Oranje will be setting up to fail again.
How far will Netherlands go at the 2014 World Cup?
It's no secret the biggest advantage Netherlands has is offensive firepower. From the trio of superstars mentioned above to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Rafael van der Vaart, there's really no reason the Oranje should ever score just two goals in three games.
So, along with getting younger players involved, Netherlands should start using a more aggressive, attacking approach. Throughout the tournament, the team utilized one main striker up top with a trio behind and it simply didn't work as Van Marwijk hoped.
Nigel de Jong was also in the lineup as a defensive midfielder. Look ahead, the Oranje should focus on being an offense-first team. They should be able to outscore opponents with relative ease when things are clicking on all cylinders.
The new formation can be either a true 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 with more attack-minded midfielders depending on which players emerge. Regardless, making sure they spend less time on their heels and more time in the final third should be the Oranje's goal over the next two years.
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