Eredivisie: A Dutch-Based Netherlands XI
The FIFA World Cup is just over four months away, and arguably the most anticipated Group Stage fixtures sees the 2010 runner-up Netherlands take on defending champion Spain in a Group B clash of the titans.
Holland will be desperate to make amends after a catastrophic Euro 2012, in which they failed to claim a single point, but know it will be difficult to progress from a "group of death" that also includes Australia and Chile.
Fortunately for Louis van Gaal, he can rely on the services of world superstars such as Robin van Persie, Wesley Schneider and Arjen Robben. But what if teams could only be made up of players currently plying their trade in their country of origin?
Here's how that hypothetical Eredivisie XI may look...
Goalkeeper: Nick Marsman (FC Twente)
Prior to this season, the 23-year-old stopper had only played one game in Eredivisie but has cemented his place as FC Twente's first choice this season thanks to a string of fine displays.
Marsman spent last season helping the Go Ahead Eagles gain promotion via the Eerste Divisie play-offs. That experience evidently served him well, as FC Twente boast the second-best defensive record in Eredivisie with just 20 goals conceded.
The young Dutchman has yet to win a single cap for his country, but if he can keep up this form, it will only be a matter of time before he forces his way onto Louis van Gaal's radar.
RB: Ricardo van Rhijn (Ajax)
The 22-year-old is looking to make it a hat-trick of Eredivisie titles with club side Ajax and already has the taste of success engraved into his footballing DNA.
If Ajax are to make it a fourth consecutive Eredivisie triumph, the importance of a strong defence cannot be overlooked. With just 18 goals shipped in 21 matches, the Amsterdam giants boast the best defensive record in the division, and van Rhijn has had a huge influence in that department.
Two league goals this campaign also shows the defender has an eye for goal, and that could help ease the pressure off players further up the field.
Narrowly beats Feyenoord defender Daryl Janmaat and Vitesse's Kelvin Leerdam to the No. 2 shirt.
CB: Jeffrey Bruma (PSV)
Since his summer signing from Chelsea, Bruma has shown exactly why Jose Mourinho was only prepared to let the defender go if a buy-back clause was installed.
After impressing in Germany while on loan at Hamburg, between 2011 and 2013, Bruma moved back to Holland in search of regular first-team football—the move has benefited both him and his new club.
With seven caps to his name already, a successful career in international football seems inevitable for the 22-year-old, and he easily makes this Eredivisie-based XI.
CB: Jan-Arie van der Heijden (Vitesse)
The Vitesse player is probably regarded as a midfielder by most. but this year he has been deployed as a central defender and played a huge part in the club's title-challenge.
Despite making his debut back in 2007, van der Heijden is still only 25 years old and continues to improve with age. Only Ajax and FC Twente can boast tighter defences than Vitesse, and the Dutchman's influence cannot be overlooked.
At 6'1", he certainly has the stature of a central defender and would sit alongside Bruma perfectly.
LB: Jetro Willems (PSV)
Willems as been impressive this season for PSV and fully deserves his place in this XI.
Even at the tender age of 19, Willems has won 11 caps for the national side and is definitely in Louis van Gaal's plans ahead of this summer's World Cup—a string of strong performances at PSV have certainly done him no harm.
In addition to being a steady defender, Willems also pops up with the occasional goal, and that will help the cause. Additionally, his experience of representing Holland at Euro 2012 means he is no stranger to the demands of international football.
He beats Vitesse's Patrick van Aanholt to the position on account of Aanholt being on loan from Chelsea.
DM: Stijn Schaars (PSV) Captain
The 30-year-old PSV midfielder would not only offer some much-needed experience, but he would provide the support required in both defence and attack.
After a spell in Portugal, Schaars returned to Dutch football last summer and has been one of the few players to impress during a difficult PSV season. After breaking onto the international scene in 2006, the midfielder has amassed 22 caps and could well be heading to Brazil this summer—albeit in a less prominent capacity than he'd like.
Schaars has gone to the last two tournaments, and he makes it a hat-trick in this hypothetical XI. His ability to link the defence to attack, along with his experience, makes him a focal part of the team and the most obvious candidate to take on the responsibilities of wearing the armband.
CM: Siem de Jong (Ajax)
Younger brother Luuk may be grabbing more headlines following his transfer to Newcastle United, but Siem is a very capable player himself and would offer great support to the front three.
With Schaars holding, de Jong would have the freedom to showcase the attacking talents that have already gained recognition from Louis van Gaal. Against Indonesia, a game in which he scored both of his international goals to date, he replaced Wesley Sneijder, and that is very much a role that the 25-year-old could play with authority.
The Ajax player already boasts three Eredivisie titles to his name, returning at least 10 goals in each of the past four seasons. He's a key player in this side.
CM: Davy Propper (Vitesse)
Here's another of football's siblings—his brother Robin plays for De Graafschap—who makes it into this midfield three on the back of some impressive displays this term.
The 22-year-old has played a starring role in a Vitesse side who currently sit joint top of the Eredivisie table. Brilliant all-round performances have been accompanied by a decent return of five goals in 20 appearances, and the midfielder has been a key asset to his side's success.
He's yet to represent the senior squad—he does have caps at the U19 and U21 levels—but he may not be far off a call-up if this form continues. He should have a bright future in the game.
Propper just edges Davy Klaassen of Ajax to a place within the starting XI.
RW: Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV)
The PSV star has to be included, even if he has missed most of this campaign through a back injury.
Wijnaldum started the season superbly, scoring four times in six games. He was named PSV captain last summer and will be itching for a return to action. Liverpool are reportedly interested, which shows how highly the 23-year-old is rated. He already boasts three caps and one goal for the national side.
Prior to his injury, he was deployed as part of a midfield three, but he plays in the advanced winger role here due to his goal-scoring capabilities. His absence has been felt by PSV, and there is no way this Eredivisie XI could afford suffering the same problem.
ST: Luc Castaignos (FC Twente)
A dozen goals in 17 appearances make Castaignos the most prolific Dutch striker currently plying his trade in Holland and cements his place in this team as a result.
The 21-year-old has already been touted as a future star, representing his national side from U17 through to U21, and he could now be ready to make the step up. He is the all-time leading scorer for Holland U17 side and also won the award of top scorer at the 2009 under-17 Euro Championships.
Early promise at Feyenoord was rewarded with a transfer to Inter Milan, and while that didn't work out, it shows how highly the youngster is regarded. Since returning to Holland in 2012, he has matured as a player and, on his day, could pose a threat to any defence in the world.
LW: Bryan Linssen (Heracles)
His team, Heracles, may be languished in mid-table, but that doesn't stop Bryan Linssen from forcing his way into this XI.
The right-footed Linssen has scored seven times coming in from the left wing this season, making him the club's most prolific marksman. Last year's tally of eight goals couldn't save Venlo from relegation, but it proves that this season is no fluke.
At 23 years old, he still has a long playing career ahead of him, and personal success this season suggests he could soon ply his trade at a bigger club—whether that be in Holland or abroad.
Linssen's older brother, Edwin, plays alongside Robin Propper at De Graafschap.
Coach: Frank de Boer
There is only one name on the shortlist of potential coaches: Frank de Boer.
He's a legend of Dutch football and the national side's most capped outfield player ever. After a 14-year playing career for the Netherlands, he was appointed assistant coach in 2008 and stayed in the role for two years before taking the throne at Ajax.
Frank de Boer has led Ajax to the Eredivisie title in all three seasons and is looking to extend that to four this campaign. He's the easiest selection of the entire team.
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