Ranking the Netherlands' 10 Greatest World Cup Strikers of All Time

Elko BornContributor IJune 20, 2014

Ranking the Netherlands' 10 Greatest World Cup Strikers of All Time

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Robin van Persie, Patrick Kluivert, Marco van Basten—of all the Netherlands' great strikers, it's difficult to pick the very best. 

    Nonetheless, we can proudly present a ranking of the 10 greatest strikers the Netherlands have ever had.

    Various factors have been considered to determine what "great" exactly means, including the number of appearances, the number of goals scored, the beauty of the goals and their importance.

    The ranking will focus on players who have played during a World Cup, but their performances for the Netherlands during the European Championships will also be considered. 

    All in all, it's about the impression left in the minds of Oranje fans. Which strikers will the Dutch supporters never forget? 

    Sometimes, the line between the position of attacking midfielder, winger and striker is a fine one, especially in the case of some Dutch players. In this ranking, we stick to the players who are commonly referred to as "strikers." Players like Johan Cruyff have therefore been left out.

10. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

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    Having played for clubs like Ajax, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Schalke 04, there is no doubt Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is a fantastic striker. 

    However, he never really had a chance in the Dutch national team. This, however, had very little to do with Huntelaar's skills. It was simply because of the prominence of Robin van Persie—who is about the same age as Huntelaar. 

    There's not much you can do when you have Van Persie ahead of you. Huntelaar therefore deserves a honorary mention. 

9. Wim Kieft

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    Like Huntelaar, Wim Kieft never really had the chance to shine at a World Cup. However, he was outstanding in Euro 1988, the only tournament the Netherlands have ever won.

    In the final match of the group stage, against Ireland, Kieft scored the header that saw the Oranje go through to the next round.

    Without him, the Netherlands might not have won it all. 

8. Pierre Van Hooijdonk

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    While he didn't start in the first XI very often, former Celtic and Nottingham Forrest player Pierre van Hooijdonk played an important role in the Dutch squads he was a part of. 

    Tall, physically strong and capable of heading the ball, Van Hooijdonk was often brought on as a super sub near the end of matches. 

    In 1998, he was brought on in the Netherlands' semi-final effort against Brazil. Unfortunately, Van Hooijdonk did not manage to score. 

7. Dick Nanninga

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    Associated Press

    Striker Dick Nanninga is one of only two Dutchmen to have ever scored in the final of a World Cup—the other one being midfielder Johan Neeskens.

    Nanninga scored his goal against Argentina, the team the Netherlands had to face in the final of the World Cup in 1978. Like most of Nanninga's goals, it came from a header. 

    Eventually, the Netherlands lost the final 3-1 after extra time. 

6. Johnny Rep

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    A versatile attacker, Johnny Rep was part of the Ajax team that won the European Cup in 1971, 1972 and 1973. In 1974, Rep was in the Dutch team that reached the final of the World Cup, and again in 1978. 

    Both at Ajax and with the Dutch team, Rep formed a formidable team with the legendary Johan Cruyff, both players scoring goal after goal.

5. Ruud van Nistelrooy

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    LUCA BRUNO/Associated Press

    Having played for Manchester United and Real Madrid, Ruud van Nistelrooy was one of the most prolific strikers the Netherlands have ever produced. 

    More of an intelligent finisher and less of a technical genius like his colleagues Dennis Bergkamp and Robin van Persie, Van Nistelrooy is a unique striker on this list. 

    However, he was not necessarily the least skilful. Better than anyone, Van Nistelrooy was able to appear at the right place and score goals from whatever position within the box. 

4. Patrick Kluivert

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    Robin van Persie recently knocked him off his throne, but Patrick Kluivert—who retired from football in 2004—was the Netherlands' all-time top scorer for many years.

    Kluivert's most important goal was probably his equaliser against Brazil during the Netherlands' semi-final effort in the 1998 World Cup.

    These days, Kluivert is Louis van Gaal's assistant manager with the Dutch national team. It wouldn't be surprising if Van Persie picked up a thing or two from the former Barcelona striker. 

3. Dennis Bergkamp

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    THOMAS KIENZLE/Associated Press

    For the Netherlands, Dennis Bergkamp often played together with out-and-out striker Patrick Kluivert.

    In that regard, Bergkamp was more of a No. 10. 

    However, that didn't stop Bergkamp from scoring important goals, the most memorable being his wondergoal during the Netherlands' quarter-final effort against Argentina in 1998.

    Without a doubt, Bergkamp is one of the Netherlands' greatest strikers of all time, and arguably one of its best players. 

2. Marco van Basten

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    Carlo Fumagalli/Associated Press

    Unfortunately, Marco van Basten never had the chance to shine at a World Cup. However, his role in the Dutch team that won Euro 1988 can't be underestimated. 

    Van Basten's wondergoal against the USSR in the semi-final is generally regarded as one of the most beautiful goals ever scored. 

    It's unfortunate a serious ankle injury forced Van Basten to retire at a relatively young age. If he had continued playing for longer, who knows how much greater his legacy would now be? 

1. Robin van Persie

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    He had appeared at five major international tournaments. With 45 goals, he was the all-time top scorer of the Dutch national team.

    However, despite all of that, Van Persie's international record did not seem complete until he scored his wondergoal against Spain during the Netherlands' opening match of the World Cup in Brazil.

    Van Persie's diving header saw the Oranje equalise against the reigning world champions and allowed for the Dutch to impose their dominance in the second half.

    Not only was the goal beautiful, it was of great importance. 

    Van Persie has now proven he can perform at the most crucial moments. He has now shown he's the greatest World Cup striker the Netherlands have ever had.