Picking the Best Netherlands XI of Players Not at the World Cup
When the preliminary squads were announced a few weeks ago, it was obvious Dutch boss Louis van Gaal had some difficult decisions to make.
Ultimately, he had to leave out several youngsters and even a few of the more experienced players.
There's a good chance other nations would have been happy to include some of these players. It's even possible to assemble a decent XI out of this group.
Here, we attempt to do just that. Although some of the players included were in fact injured, none of them are retired. In typical Dutch fashion, the players will line up in a 4-3-3 formation.
Goalkeeper: Maarten Stekelenburg
Maarten Stekelenburg was the Netherlands' first-choice goalkeeper during the World Cup in 2010, when the Dutch finished second.
After falling from grace at AS Roma, however, his stock fell drastically with Van Gaal. Partly because of this, Stekelenburg moved to Fulham, where his circumstances got even worse when Felix Magath benched him.
After promoting Ajax's Jasper Cillessen to the position of first goalkeeper, Van Gaal decided to pick Newcastle United's Tim Krul and Swansea's Michel Vorm as stand-ins.
Right-Back: Gregory Van Der Wiel
During the World Cup in 2010, when the Netherlands finished second, Gregory van der Wiel looked like he had the potential to become one of the best right-backs in the world.
Constantly bombing forward and joining Oranje's attacking movements, Van der Wiel was a key man in the team that would eventually reach the final.
At Paris Saint-Germain, Van der Wiel has developed into a decent right-back—if nothing more. But at Oranje, Van der Wiel seems to have fallen out of favour with Van Gaal.
After conceding his place in the starting lineup to Daryl Janmaat, it was apparently a knee injury that ruled Van der Wiel out definitively.
Centre-Back: Joris Mathijsen
Joris Mathijsen, former player of clubs like HSV and Malaga, functioned as one of the Netherlands' first-choice centre-backs during the World Cup of 2006 and 2010.
But after a disastrous Euro 2012, where the Netherlands conceded five goals in the group stages, newly appointed manager Van Gaal dropped Mathijsen in an attempt to rejuvenate the Dutch defence.
Now formed by youngsters like Bruno Martins Indi and Stefan de Vrij, the Dutch defence no longer has a place for Mathijsen—not even as a substitute.
Centre-Back: Johnny Heitinga
Another veteran of the Dutch defence, Johnny Heitinga played for the Oranje during the World Cups of 2006 and 2010.
When Van Gaal was appointed as the Netherlands' new manager, however, it quickly transpired that Heitinga was not part of the manager's plans.
Much like Mathijsen, Heitinga had to hand over his position to youngsters like Martins Indi and De Vrij.
Left-Back: Jetro Willems
One of the few positives the Dutch could take from their disastrous effort at Euro 2012 was youngster Jetro Willems' performance.
During the tournament, the left-back, who plays for Dutch club PSV, looked inexperienced but promising.
Under Van Gaal, it looked like Willems would retain his place at left-back, but after suffering a serious injury in April, Willems had to be replaced.
Expect Willems to be back in the team during Euro 2016.
Defensive Midfielder: Vurnon Anita
In many ways, Newcastle United's Vurnon Anita can be compared to current Netherlands player Daley Blind.
Both players started their careers as a left-back at Ajax, and both players were eventually transformed into defensive midfielders by Ajax manager Frank de Boer.
But while Blind was picked by Van Gaal as a player who can play in both positions, Anita has been left out.
Attacking Midfielder: Davy Klaassen
Ajax have always been known for their excellent youth academy. When Christian Eriksen left the club last year to join Tottenham Hotspur, the Amsterdam based club promoted youngster Davy Klaassen to replace the him.
Sometimes likened to former Ajax player Dennis Bergkamp—who now works at Ajax as Frank de Boer's assistant manager—Klaassen made an immediate impression in Ajax's first team.
His performance against Barcelona in the Champions League this year will undoubtedly be remembered by Ajax fans for years to come. Partly thanks to Klaassen's efforts, his team won 2-1.
After making his debut in March, Klaassen was included in Van Gaal's preliminary squad. Ultimately, though, he did not make the final cut.
Attacking Midfielder: Urby Emanuelson
Much like the aforementioned Anita and Blind, Emanuelson started his career at Ajax as a left-back. Later, he was used as a left-winger. At AC Milan, Emanuelson was transformed into a more central attacking midfielder.
Despite his versatility, Van Gaal has never made use of Emanuelson, who was considered by many to be an excellent candidate for the left-back position—which seemed up for grabs after Willems' injury.
Right-Winger: Luciano Narshingh
After storming onto the scene with Dutch club Heerenveen, Luciano Narsingh earned himself a transfer to PSV in 2012. After a rocky start, he became a valuable first-team player for the Eindhoven-based club.
At the Dutch national team, Van Gaal quickly saw what Narsingh had to offer. As an old-school right-winger who likes to beat his man before delivering a cross, Narsingh proved to be a valuable alternative to first-team regular Arjen Robben, who often cuts inside from the right to shoot at goal.
But when an injury put him on the sidelines for months, Narsingh lost his place—at PSV and in the Dutch team.
If Narsingh finds back his form, then Guus Hiddink will surely think of the winger when he takes over from Van Gaal after the World Cup.
Striker: Siem De Jong
Sometimes deployed as an attacking midfielder, sometimes as a striker, Siem de Jong has been a pivotal member of the Ajax squad that has won the title four times in a row under manager Frank de Boer.
De Jong, who has captained Ajax since the departure of Jan Vertonghen to Tottenham Hotspur, is the brother of Luuk de Jong, who spent the last half of the 2013/14 season at Newcastle United.
Deployed as a false nine, De Jong is excellent at linking up with attacking midfielders and inside forwards surrounding him.
After yet another successful season with Ajax, De Jong might be looking for a move to a bigger league after the World Cup.
Left-Winger: Quincy Promes
When the Netherlands played France in a friendly in March, Quincy Promes was one of the few players to actually perform well for the Oranje. Constantly running his marker ragged, the left-winger couldn't have dreamed of a better debut.
Against the expectations of some, Promes was left out of Van Gaal's definitive squad despite the hat-trick he recently scored for the Dutch under-21 team.
Only 22 years of age, Promes looks like one of the Netherlands' most talented youngsters. Expect him to be an important part of the squad during Euro 2016 or the World Cup in 2018.