Predicting the Netherlands Squad 40 Days from the 2014 World Cup
Now that the football season is reaching its climax, the World Cup is drawing near. Before travelling to Brazil, however, the Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal has some decisions to make.
Who, for example, will be Holland's first goalkeeper during the tournament? And who will replace the injured Kevin Strootman, who used to feature so heavily in Van Gaal's plans?
With 40 days to go until the tournament starts, we take a look at who will most likely feature in the squad.
It's a well-known fact Louis van Gaal likes Ajax goalkeepers. They know how to play football, they're tactically intelligent and they use both feet—or so the reasoning goes. Van Gaal also likes his players to play regularly at their clubs.
Unsurprisingly, then, Van Gaal dropped Kenneth Vermeer from the squad when the Ajax goalie was benched by his club. Jasper Cillessen, who also replaced Vermeer at Ajax, became Oranje's new No. 1.
While goalkeepers like Michel Vorm, Maarten Stekelenburg and Tim Krul have more big-league experience, Van Gaal is likely to pick Cillessen as his first keeper.
With Maarten Stekelenburg seemingly out of the picture, Van Gaal will have to decide between Michel Vorm and Tim Krul for the role of reserve goalkeeper.
Both have a some Premier League experience under their belts, and that's something that weighs heavily in Van Gaal's mind.
Judging by Oranje's last couple of matches, it seems like Van Gaal favours Vorm slightly—although Krul shouldn't be ruled out completely.
Louis van Gaal likes to pick young players whenever he can. For this reason, he will likely pick Jeroen Zoet, the Netherlands' most exciting young goalie, as third keeper.
This way, the PSV prospect will get the chance to gain invaluable experience by shadowing his more experienced colleagues Cillessen and Vorm during a huge occasion like the World Cup.
Zoet is one for the future, and in picking his third goalkeeper, Van Gaal will keep the future in mind.
Under Louis van Gaal, Feyenoord player Daryl Janmaat quickly replaced Paris Saint-Germain player Gregory van der Wiel as first-team right-back.
Van Gaal seems to favour the Feyenoord man's intelligence and attacking fervour.
Expect Janmaat to be in Van Gaal's first XI whenever he's fit.
Gregory van der Wiel
During the World Cup in 2010, Paris Saint-Germain right-back Gregory van der Wiel was one of the most exciting players in the Holland squad.
After the tournament, his form declined, but the former Ajax man seems to have recovered somewhat.
It's likely Van Gaal will take Van der Wiel along to Brazil in case first-choice right-back Janmaat gets injured or suspended.
Bruno Martins Indi
Since the Dutch defence is broadly modelled on Feyenoord's back four, Bruno Martins Indi will almost certainly be part of Van Gaal's first XI in Brazil.
In qualifiers and friendlies, the Feyenoord prospect has proved to be more than up for it. Martins Indi counts as one of Holland's most talented defenders.
With so many young defenders at the team, Van Gaal will look at Aston Villa defender Ron Vlaar to provide the needed experience and leadership at the back.
A veteran of multiple tournament campaigns, Ron Vlaar will certainly play an important role in the Netherlands' defensive setup.
Former Ajax manager Louis van Gaal has always had a preference for Ajax players. In his vision, players who graduated from Ajax's world famous academy have all the technical skills the boss requires from his players.
As is expected from your typical Ajax defender, Joel Veltman is a capable passer of the ball, and he is usually involved in the buildup of attacks.
As with Ron Vlaar, the inclusion of Joris Mathijsen would add some much-needed maturity and stability to the Netherlands' defence. Especially during World Cups, you simply can't rely on raw talent alone.
The World Cup in Brazil would be the Feyenoord defender's third World Cup.
With the left-back position still seemingly up for grabs, it's looking more and more like Daley Blind has a serious chance of becoming part of the Dutch starting XI.
At his club Ajax, however, Blind has transformed from left-back into a versatile defensive midfielder, while Van Gaal wants his players to play regularly in the positions he wants them to play in.
Although versatility can come in handy too, the question remains: Will Van Gaal be prepared to make an exception for Blind?
Nigel de Jong
Louis van Gaal's preferred 4-3-3 formation will need an enforcer, a ruthless defensive midfielder capable of stealing possession from his opponents.
As opposition attacking players will probably know, Nigel de Jong is such a player. As such, there's a big chance he'll be in Van Gaal's XI in the summer.
Stijn Schaars hasn't always looked like a world-class player, but with a lack of defensive options in midfield, Van Gaal will be forced to pick the 30-year-old PSV man as a stand-in for Nigel de Jong.
In any case, Schaars will add some extra experience to a relatively young squad.
It might be a little bit soon for him, and people shouldn't expect the world of the young Feyenoord midfielder, but should Van Gaal pick him as the injured Kevin Strootman's replacement, then Jordy Clasie could be one of the revelations of the Netherlands' squad.
Having already played seven matches under Van Gaal, the Feyenoord man seems to have all the qualities Van Gaal wants to see in a central midfielder.
He was out injured for a while, but now that Leroy Fer is back to fitness, Louis van Gaal will surely be looking at the Norwich man as a replacement for the injured midfield general Kevin Strootman.
Seeing as they both have ability to play in a box-to-box capacity, Strootman and Fer are similar types of players.
Rafael van der Vaart
With Wesley Sneijder seemingly out of favour, Van Gaal seems to have turned to HSV midfielder Rafael van der Vaart as his first-choice playmaker.
The 31-year-old former Ajax man will be responsible for leading the midfield in attack. It's also likely the World Cup veteran will be one of the reserve captains.
Louis van Gaal has often been very critical of Galatasaray player Wesley Sneijder. The Dutch boss has said several times that Sneijder needs to regain fitness and form. Otherwise Van Gaal would not hesitate to keep him out of the squad.
It's still unclear whether the manager is happy with Sneijder now, but there is always the chance Van Gaal's sustained criticisms were voiced in order to motivate the playmaker.
There's still a good chance Sneijder will be there in Brazil, though. Perhaps not in the starting XI, but certainly in the squad.
Although Arjen Robben—one of Van Gaal's "big three"—will almost certainly be the manager's preferred right-winger, it's not entirely unimaginable the Netherlands could need something completely different in certain situations.
In those cases, Van Gaal will count on Luciano Narsingh to provide width on the right flank. Contrary to Robben, Narsingh will always look to run past his man and deliver the cross. He's an old-school winger.
What holds true for Narsingh, also holds true for Jean-Paul Boetius. While Jeremain Lens will most likely be the preferred choice on the left-flank, Boetius could be called upon to provide more width and crossing power.
What's more, the 20-year-old Feyenoord player is one for the future, and Louis van Gaal is the type of manager to always plan ahead by providing young players the chance to gain experience on the big stage.
He wasn't in the squad during the Netherlands' latest friendly —against France— but that was because he was suspended. Otherwise, Lens would have surely started in Van Gaal's starting XI.
One of the advantages Lens has over other players competing for his positions is his versatility. The attacker can play as a right- or left-winger or as a striker.
During the Netherlands' qualifiers, Lens regularly switched positions with Arjen Robben in a fluid manner, continually staying unpredictable.
Although he rarely gets any playing time at international level, Louis van Gaal always picks Dirk Kuyt.
Presumably, the former Liverpool player is a good influence in the dressing room. His World Cup experience could also come in handy.
With Dirk Kuyt, you always know what you're going to get: A hardworking, versatile and experienced player. Nothing more, nothing less.
Some might say it's a miracle that notoriously injury prone winger Arjen Robben has managed to stay fit during Bayern Munich's busy season.
Louis van Gaal would say that it's a blessing.
As was the case during the World Cup in 2010, the Dutch will be looking at Robben to make things happen up front. Together with striker Robin van Persie, he'll be the team's main creative outlet.
Robin van Persie
Robin van Persie might not have had the best of seasons at Manchester United, but he's still a striker unparalleled in ability.
Together with Arjen Robben and —the now injured— Kevin Strootman, the striker was even part of Van Gaal's "Big Three": the three players who have to skills to make things happen by asserting their influence in big matches.
In Brazil, things won't be any different, and Van Persie will surely be one of the first names to appear on Van Gaal's teamsheets.
Every team needs a reserve striker, and the Netherlands are lucky enough to have Schalke 04's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar as theirs.
Huntelaar, who can almost challenge Robin van Persie for a start in the first XI, will serve as a real luxury to Louis van Gaal, who will probably have to do all he can to keep the hungry striker from dissenting.
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