Key Selection Decisions for Netherlands Ahead of World Cup Clash with Australia
After getting their tournament off to a dream start in their 5-1 demolition job against Spain last Friday, the Netherlands will face Australia on Wednesday.
Against Spain, manager Louis van Gaal employed an unusual 5-3-2 formation, and a look at the scoreboard will tell you it worked.
Will Van Gaal employ his newfound 5-3-2 formation again in the match against Australia?
Could the Dutch go back to their tried-and-trusted 4-3-3?
What would that mean for the players?
Here, we take a look at the four key tactical decisions facing Van Gaal ahead of the Netherlands' match against Australia.
5-3-2 or 4-3-3?
Should Van Gaal decide to go back to the Netherlands' traditional 4-3-3 formation, one or two players from the first XI against Spain might have to move to the bench. One of those players could be Wesley Sneijder.
During the Netherlands' qualifying campaign, Sneijder rarely featured in Van Gaal's plans. According to the manager, per Eurosport, Sneijder wasn't fit enough back then.
That was some time ago, though.
Against Spain, Sneijder proved he was up for it and in fighting form. However, a 4-3-3 formation does not accommodate for an old-school No. 10 such as the former Inter player. That's why Van Gaal preferred Strootman, whom he called "irreplaceable," according to Soccernews.nl (via FourFourTwo.com).
Should Van Gaal decide to go back to 4-3-3 for the match against Australia, would he include Sneijder, or would he go for a player who's more like his favoured—but injured—AS Roma midfielder?
Daley Blind and the Holding Midfielders
A switch to 4-3-3 could also have consequences for Daley Blind, the left-back and defensive midfielder who played superbly against Spain.
In a 4-3-3 formation, he could play as a full-back. However, seeing as he often plays as a defensive midfielder for Ajax, he could also be moved to midfield.
Bruno Martins Indi, who sometimes plays as a left-back for Feyenoord, could then take over Blind's place at the back. Meanwhile, Stefan de Vrij and Ron Vlaar could remain where they were against Spain in the centre of defence.
Should Van Gaal decide to stick with 5-3-2, Nigel de Jong or Jonathan de Guzman could be benched in order to make a similar arrangement.
Is There Room for Jordy Clasie?
During the Netherlands' preparatory friendly against Ecuador, Feyenoord midfielder Jordy Clasie delivered a long ball from which Robin van Persie scored the beautiful opening goal.
Against Spain, however, Clasie was on the bench. Partnering Nigel de Jong in midfield, Swansea player Jonathan de Guzman had taken his place.
Should Van Gaal opt for a 4-3-3 formation against Australia, Clasie could make his return to the starting XI. However, for that to happen, either one of Sneijder or De Guzman would have to be benched, and that seems unlikely.
All things considered, Van Gaal does not see Australia as his team's toughest opponents. It's not unlikely the manager will bring Clasie on at one point.
Against Spain, attackers Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben played excellently, each driving the Spanish defence to madness and bagging two goals.
As such, there's no way Van Gaal will ever leave them out of the starting XI. However, should the manager decide to switch to 4-3-3, an extra winger will be needed.
During the Netherlands' qualifying campaign, Dynamo Kyiv's Jeremain Lens would often play on the left wing. Another suitable candidate would be PSV youngster Memphis Depay.
Either one of these players could also replace Van Persie or Robben's role in a 5-3-2 formation if the Dutch are ahead at some point in the second half.
Of course, there's also Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, but what's his place amidst all these options up front?