6 Big World Cup Decisions for Netherlands Boss Louis van Gaal
The World Cup in Brazil is drawing nearer and nearer, but judging by the Oranje's latest friendly against Ecuador, Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal still has some decisions to make.
Fortunately for him, the Dutch have finally made it to Portugal for their training camp. He can now spend ample time with his squad and take advantage of the opportunity to train with his players on a daily basis.
Here, we look at the six biggest decisions Van Gaal will have to make in the coming weeks.
4-3-3 or 5-3-2?
During the Netherlands' latest friendly, against Ecuador, Holland boss Louis van Gaal experimented with an unusual 5-3-2 formation.
For many, the new style of play came as a shock—especially considering the tactical rigidity Van Gaal normally promotes. For many years, Van Gaal's name seemed like a synonym for 4-3-3.
Until Kevin Strootman's unfortunate injury, this was the formation employed by the Dutch national team as well.
The Netherlands' friendly against Ecuador ended in a 1-1 draw. Will the new formation remain an experiment, or will the Dutch play 5-3-2 during the World Cup this summer?
Who Will Partner De Jong?
Robin van Persie scored a beautiful goal against Ecuador during the Netherlands' latest friendly.
It was young Feyenoord midfielder Jordy Clasie who provided Van Persie with a pinpoint assist. After the match, Van Persie praised the 22-year-old in an interview.
However, this was before AC Milan midfielder Nigel de Jong joined the squad. De Jong, who can be considered a veteran of the Dutch national team, will likely be incorporated in Louis van Gaal's first XI.
The question is: Will De Jong take the place of Clasie, or will it be Daley Blind who's moved to the bench?
Sneijder, Van Der Vaart...Or Huntelaar?
Louis van Gaal's newfound 5-3-2 formation holds significant advantages. First of all, it allows for a strike partnership up front.
Usually, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben would form a logical duo. Wesley Sneijder could then play behind those two as a natural No. 10.
However, Van Gaal might be considering other options as well. For example, he could give Robben a free role behind Van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, while benching Sneijder.
When playing 5-3-2, will Van Gaal go for a playmaker like Sneijder or a goal-getter like Huntelaar?
There is every possibility Louis van Gaal will bin the 5-3-2 experiment altogether. If that is the case, he would likely return to the 4-3-3 formation the Dutch are more used to.
Van Gaal would then have to go looking for a replacement for the seriously injured Kevin Strootman—who was a vital player in his initial 4-3-3 Netherlands team.
Possibly, Van Gaal will go for Clasie, who as mentioned provided Robin van Persie with an assist during the Netherlands' latest friendly against Ecuador.
Alternatively, he could go for versatile Ajax midfielder Daley Blind, who played alongside Clasie in that match.
The Left-Back Position
During the Netherlands' latest friendly against Ecuador, Van Gaal started with Terence Kongolo as a left-back.
In Van Gaal's newfound 5-3-2 formation, this position is, of course, vital. A successful execution of the tactical thought constituting the formation depends on capable wing-backs.
Apparently, Kongolo—who made his debut for Oranje in the match against Ecuador—didn't quite meet Van Gaal's expectations. During half-time, the player was substituted for Chelsea's Patrick van Aanholt.
The question is: Will Van Gaal give Kongolo another chance, perhaps in the next pre-tournament friendly?
Who to Play as Centre-Backs?
Whether it's 5-3-2 or 4-3-3, any team needs a handful of good centre-backs. Unfortunately for the Netherlands, this is exactly where they seem to be lacking quality.
Certainly, players like Bruno Martins Indi, Stefan de Vrij, Ron Vlaar and Joel Veltman seem more than capable.
However, considering the inexperience of players like De Vrij and Veltman, how will they fare against the Netherlands' two toughest opponents in the group stage in Spain and Chile?