World Cup Game vs. Brazil Will Offer View of Netherlands' Future Under Hiddink

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World Cup Game vs. Brazil Will Offer View of Netherlands' Future Under Hiddink
Frank Augstein/Associated Press

They came far, very far. But eventually, it wasn’t meant to be. Having reached the semi-final against all expectations, the Netherlands can now look at their World Cup 2014 campaign and feel proud. 

Apart from an excellent performance by manager Louis van Gaal, older players like Arjen Robben, Nigel de Jong and, to a certain extent, Robin van Persie had an excellent tournament. Scoring goals up front and bossing the midfield, these players managed to inspire the players surrounding them. 

But perhaps more importantly, the Netherlands’ new generation of players stepped up, giving fans and analysts a glimpse of what’s to come in the future.  

Where most pinpointed the defence as a weakness ahead of the tournament, pointing out how it almost solely consists of relatively inexperienced players from the Dutch Eredivisie, the likes of Daley Blind, Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi turned it into one of the Oranje’s strengths.

Twenty-four-year-old Ajax man Blind, who showed his versatility by playing as a left-back, a centre-back and as a defensive midfielder, delivered the assist for Van Persie’s “salmon diver” wonder goal against Spain. Defender De Vrij formed a rock-solid partnership with Ron Vlaar in the centre of defence, while Martins Indi showed he might just be ready for a move to a bigger league next year.

What’s more, 20-year-old PSV youngster Memphis Depay presented his talent to the world by scoring the winning goal against Australia, and he bagged another in the following match against Chile. In the quarter-final, against Costa Rica, Depay even started as left-wing-back, and while he didn’t score a goal, he impressed once again.

It’s likely all of these players will be on the pitch during the Netherlands’ third-place play-off against Brazil. It’s also likely they’ll be joined by Jordy Clasie, the 23-year-old Feyenoord midfielder. 

The talented Clasie, who’s already been dubbed the "Dutch Xavi," was not given a lot of playing time during the World Cup, but he could well become a constitutive member of the Netherlands team that Guus Hiddink, who will take over from Van Gaal as manager after the World Cup, will be building.

Especially so if Hiddink chooses to ditch Van Gaal’s 5-3-2 experiment and return to the attacking 4-3-3 formation the Dutch are so familiar with. In this system, Clasie could function as a deep-lying playmaker, spraying passes to one of the three attacking players, among whom Depay might play, or the running midfielder in front of him—for example, Kevin Strootman.

As such, the Netherlands’ third-place play-off will likely offer viewers a glimpse of the future of the Dutch team under Hiddink. This, in itself, will make it worthwhile to watch the match, at least from a Dutch perspective. 

The Netherlands, who managed to exceed expectations during the World Cup, are in essence still a very young team. In Brazil, they have shown their potential. It will be up to Hiddink to build on that.

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