Kevin Strootman's Injury Is a Bitter Blow to World Cup-Bound Dutch and Roma

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMarch 12, 2014

AS Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman of Belgium celebrates after scoring  during an Italian Serie A soccer match between AS Roma and Livorno at Rome's Olympic stadium, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

Kevin Strootman lay with his face on the ground 13 minutes into Roma's 1-0 loss to Napoli this weekend, clutching his knee in pain.

He defiantly tried to play on following the incident, as if refusing to believe he'd sustained a serious injury, and hearts broke as he broke down yet again, taking back to the turf.

The BBC have since confirmed that the Dutchman will miss the 2014 FIFA World Cup with an Anterior Cruciate Ligament tear in his left knee—an ailment that will see him miss circa six months.

Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Associated Press

It's a disastrous, premature end to a stellar season for the defensive midfielder, who has set about transitioning seamlessly from Eredivisie football with PSV Eindhoven to top-tier Serie A calcio with the Giallorossi.

He's a fan favourite at the Stadio Olimpico and his loss is hard to take, but supporters will take solace in the fact that Roma bulked up in midfield accordingly this January, acquiring Radja Nainggolan from Cagliari.

The Belgian enforcer has made an impressive start to life in red and gold, arguably matching Strootman's standard in defensive midfield, and has a World Cup place to play for at Brazil.

Axel Witsel commands a regular role in Marc Wilmots' midfield, but who partners him? Marouane Fellaini refuses to consistently convince, and Nainggolan took the leap to Roma in a desperate attempt to grab Wilmots' undivided attention.

It worked.

The Dutch, on the other hand, are left in a big pickle that even Louis van Gaal doesn't know how to negotiate.

Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

Despite the Oranje's impressive, easy qualifying campaign, the midfielder was one of just three players guaranteed to start the first game in Brazil—Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben being the other two.

Options for the midfield outside of Strootman look slim, and the Roma man played a team-high 789 minutes (over nine games) during qualifying. The others were simply slotted in and around him, and Strootman single-handedly formed the spine of a possession-happy team.

Jordy Clasie is probably the best of the rest.
Jordy Clasie is probably the best of the rest.Petr David Josek/Associated Press

Van Gaal has prioritised passing out from the back despite the presence of a centre-back, Ron Vlaar, who doesn't exactly thrive in this system; Strootman was the all-important conduit for the ball to pass through, and now LVG must turn to someone else.

Jordy Clasie, Daley Blind (when not at left-back), Stijn Schaars, Jonathan De Guzman and Leroy Fer appear to be the options.

Paling, you might suggest.

There were already certifiable concerns surrounding the Netherlands' ability to qualify from a group that included reigning champions Spain and home-continent powerhouse Chile.

Without Strootman those concerns become doubts, and that is not the situation the Dutch FA expected to be in post-Euro 2012 and with the addition of Van Gaal.

We wish Strootman the best in his recovery, and when you watch the Oranje army this summer, it'll be impossible not to notice the Kevin-sized hole in the middle of the Dutch midfield.