While a lot of the focus on the Netherlands FIFA World Cup preparations have been overshadowed by the confirmation that Louis van Gaal will be managing Manchester United next year, the Dutch coach faces a few genuine dilemmas ahead of the trip to Brazil. One of those major issues is whether to stick with key playmaker Wesley Sneijder.
The Galatasaray man has been a maestro at the heart of Holland’s midfield for over a decade, earning 97 caps for his country in that time, but a lack of form had raised some questions over his potential appearance at this summer’s event.
Is 5-3-2 the right formation for Netherlands?
Manager Van Gaal has voiced some concerns about Sneijder this season, clearly indicating that past successes would not be enough for the 29-year-old to warrant a place in his team. However, as per FIFA.com, the playmaker was named amongst the Netherlands’ 30-man provisional squad.
Dutch plans took a massive blow earlier this year when central midfielder Kevin Strootman saw his season ended whilst playing for Roma.
That injury to Strootman has subsequently threatened to derail Holland’s plans, and Van Gaal has reacted by binning the favoured 4-3-3 formation in favour of an unproven 5-3-2 selection.
That change in tactics could prove to have extreme detrimental consequences for the Netherlands as a team. For Sneijder, though, the alteration only further increases his importance to Van Gaal’s strategy.
Van Gaal deployed the experimental 5-3-2 formation during Saturday’s international friendly with Ecuador. The 1-1 draw, which included a wonderful goal from Robin van Persie, did highlight a number of definite issues; however, it also demonstrated the need for Sneijder in the team.
Against Ecuador, the pair of Daley Blind and Jordy Clasie proved to be a very strong foundation at the heart of the Netherlands' midfield. With AC Milan’s Nigel de Jong not available for Saturday’s contest, one of the young duo could lose his place within the starting XI come June 13, but the early signals indicate that there will be room for a genuine playmaker within Van Gaal’s line-up.
That man simply has to be Sneijder.
Seran van Gemert of Dutch site Bet.nl has predicted that Sneijder will not only make the final 23-man squad but will form an integral part of Van Gaal’s plans, maintaining that “Sneijder was important, is important, and will remain important for Orange.”
Sneijder remains one of European football’s hottest properties, and his ability to find a killer pass could be a vital asset to the Dutch attack. A developed understanding with Van Persie and Arjen Robben will also prove crucial as the Netherlands embark on a very difficult group campaign that will see them face Spain, Australia and Chile.
The clash against the current World Cup holders could be particularly challenging, and Sneijder’s ability to locate space between midfield and attack could be Van Gaal’s most lethal weapon. There are others in the squad such as Georginio Wijnaldum, who performed good enough against Ecuador, who could also step up to the role. However, Sneijder has to be the first choice to occupy the No. 10 jersey.
In addition to his immense ability, the Galatasaray man boasts a wealth of experience, and that will no doubt help a relatively youthful side. Of the 13 goalkeepers and defenders named in Van Gaal’s provisional list, only Ron Vlaar has reached the 20-cap milestone, so the familiar face of Sneijder will be a welcomed addition.
It is also well worth noting Sneijder’s 26 goals in a Netherlands shirt, which, per Dutch site Voetbalstats.nl, puts him tied for 10th in his nation’s history. Additionally, despite perceptions of a poor campaign, the midfielder still registered 12 league goals in Turkey this term.
Sneijder was the key figure in his country’s run to the final four years ago, which saw him named in the FIFA Team of the Tournament, while he additionally played a significant role in Oranje’s route to this summer’s tournament.
His influence in Brazil could be vital.
Do you think Sneijder should start against Spain on June 13? Post your team selections below.