Team Profile: Netherlands

The Netherlands, with the possible exception of Spain, came closer than any other team to achieving perfection in the European qualifiers.


  • Coach: Bert van Marwijk
  • Goalkeepers: Sander Boschker (FC Twente), Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax), Michel Vorm (FC Utrecht)
  • Defenders: Khalid Boulahrouz (Stuttgart/Germany), Edson Braafheid (Celtic/Scotland), John Heitinga (Everton/England), Joris Mathijsen (Hamburg/Germany), Andre Ooijer (PSV Eindhoven), Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord), Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax)
  • Midfielders: Ibrahim Afellay (PSV Eindhoven), Nigel de Jong (Manchester City/England), Demy de Zeeuw (Ajax), Stijn Schaars (AZ Alkmaar), Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan/Italy), Mark van Bommel (Bayern Munich/Germany), Rafael van der Vaart (Real Madrid/Spain)
  • Forwards: Ryan Babel (Liverpool/England), Eljero Elia (Hamburg/Germany), Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan/Italy), Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool/England), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich/Germany), Robin van Persie (Arsenal)


Style of play: Coach Bert van Marwijk is a staunch advocate of the 4-5-1 formation and has specific roles for every player in the system. Central midfielders Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong sit in front of the back four and act as a defensive filter while trying to strip the ball from the other team. Wesley Sneijder (or Rafael van der Vaart) operates as the chief playmaker further up the field and will either make use of his powerful shot from distance, or use his impeccable distribution skills to get the ball to the feet of wingers Arjen Robben and Eljero Elia, or striker Robin van Persie. Robben and Elia will use their speed down the flanks before cutting in toward the penalty area. Van Persi can also play on the wing, which would mean Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, a more traditional striker, will lead the line.

1st-round matches:

  • June 14 vs. Denmark in Johannesburg
  • June 19 vs. Japan in Durban
  • June 24 vs. Cameroon in Cape Town

Projected starting lineup (4-5-1): (GK) Maarten Stekelenburg - (D) John Heitinga, Gregory van der Wiel, Joris Mathijsen, Giovanni van Bronckhorst - (M) Arjen Robben, Eljero Elia, Wesley Sneijder, Mark van Bommel, Nigel de Jong - (F) Robin van Persie


  • Midfield - The Dutch have it all: creators and playmakers (Robin van Persie, Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder), defensive stalwarts (Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel) and dangerous wingers (Arjen Robben). Plenty of the Netherlands' goals will be scored by midfielders.
  • Tactical certainty - While coach Bert van Marwijk is somewhat inflexible in that he rarely strays from using a 4-5-1 formation, he has given the team a clear, tactical identity. Every player has a specific duty within his system and has accepted their role with good grace, whether they are a starter or a substitute.
  • Confidence - The Dutch are riding high after a nearly flawless qualifying campaign that saw them win all eight of their qualifying games, with a combined score of 17-2. There were no traces of problems with team unity, as in the past. 


  • The back end of the field - Maarten Stekelenburg is hardly in the same class as former No. 1 goalkeeper Edwin van der Saar. Central defender Joris Mathijsen is somewhat unproven and the wingbacks, Gregory van der Wiel and Giovanni van Bronckhorst, are not exactly sound defensively.
  • A quality finisher -  It's good that the Dutch can rely on goals from their midfielders, but what they lack is a proven finisher up front. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was the team's top scorer in the qualifiers, but he sat on the bench for most of the past season with AC Milan.
  • Record of under-achievement - Every four years the Dutch are hailed as one of the favourites and every four years they underwhelm. Even though they always field a team brimming with world-class talent, they can never seem to pull it all together and play as a team, instead of a collection of individuals. Will this time be any different?

Players to watch:

  • Wesley Sneijder - Sneijder is the kind of attacking midfielder who enjoys playing the game at his own pace. He can ignite the run of play with quick crosses and through-balls to overwhelm opponents; or he will paint the field with passes that deconstruct the sternest defence. Then there are Sneijder's free kicks: fast, sharp and always swerving.
  • Rafael van der Vaart - The Real Madrid star is a jack of all midfield trades, able to operate as a playmaker in the middle, or on either flank. He's also noted for his curling free kicks and powerful shot from distance. A classy player.
  • Robin van Persie - Often compared to fellow countryman and Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp, van Persie is a technically proficient player, renowned for his versatility, vision on the field and fearlessness in taking on defenders one-on-one.

Key injuries/squad omissions: Veteran striker Ruud van Nistelrooy was overlooked by coach Bert van Marwijk, failing to make the Dutch 30-man preliminary squad. Young goalkeeper Piet Velthuizen also failed to make the prelim team. Winger Ryan Babel injured his hamstring during a recent training session. Defenders Vurnon Anita and Ron Vlaar, winger Otman Bakkal, forward Jeremain Lens, and midfielders Wout Brama, Orlando Engelaar and David Mendes da Silva were cut from the preliminary roster. Arsenal's Robin van Persie missed most of the Premiership season with an ankle injury and only recently returned to action.

Prognosis: Quarter-finals or semifinals. As in past World Cups, this is a talented Dutch side, especially in midfield where they have a diverse collection of players, each of them bringing a different skill set to the table. They showed great team unity during the qualifiers, proving they can play as a collective unit, unlike in the past. If the defence can hold strong and Robin van Persie can have a breakout tournament, the Dutch will make a strong run into the semifinals.


  • Current FIFA ranking: #4
  • Qualification route: The Netherlands finished in first place (24 points) in Europe's Group 9 ahead of Norway (10 points). Key to qualification: Balanced scoring and a solid defence. The Dutch scored a respectable 17 goals in the qualifiers, with 11 different players finding the back of the net. The equally impressive Dutch defence was breached just twice.
  • Crucial result: A 3-0 win over Scotland (March 28, 2009 in Amsterdam) midway through the qualifiers was the Netherlands' way of saying that they were the team to beat in their group.
  • Qualifying record: 8 games played, 8 wins, 0 draws, 0 losses
  • Goals for: 17
  • Goals against: 2
  • Top goal-scorer in qualifying: Dirk Kuyt and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (3)

Qualifying results: (home team listed first)

  • Sept. 10, 2008 - Macedonia 1, Netherlands 2
  • Oct. 11, 2008 - Netherlands 2, Iceland 0
  • Oct. 15. 2008 - Norway 0, Netherlands 1
  • March 28, 2009 - Netherlands 3, Scotland 0
  • April 1, 2009 - Netherlands 4, Macedonia 0
  • June 6, 2009 - Iceland 1, Netherlands 2
  • June 10, 2009 - Netherlands 2, Norway 0
  • Sept. 9, 2009 - Scotland 0, Netherlands 1


  • Number of World Cup appearances: 8
  • All-time record: 36 games played, 16 wins, 10 draws, 10 losses
  • Goals for: 59
  • Goals against: 38
  • Biggest victory: 5-0 vs. South Korea in 1998
  • Biggest defeat: 3-0 vs. Czechoslovakia in 1938
  • Top scorer: Johannes Rep (7 goals)
  • Most appearances: Johannes Rep, Ruud Krol and Wim Jansen (14 matches)
  • Hosted the World Cup: Never

World Cup track record

  • 1930 - Did not enter
  • 1934 - First Round
  • 1938 - First Round
  • 1950 - Did not enter
  • 1954 - Did not enter
  • 1958 to 1970 - Did not qualify
  • 1974 - Runners-up
  • 1978 - Runners-up
  • 1982 - Did not qualify
  • 1986 - Did not qualify
  • 1990 - Second Round
  • 1994 - Quarter-finals
  • 1998 - Semifinals (4th place)
  • 2002 - Did not qualify
  • 2006 - Second Round



  • FIFA member since: 1904
  • Team nickname: Oranje
  • All-time caps leaders: Edwin van der Sar (130)
  • All-time leading scorer: Patrick Kluivert (40 goals)

Notable Achievements

  • European Champions: 1988
  • Olympic Bronze Medal: 1908, 1912, 1920
  • Under-21 European Champions: 2006, 2007

Legendary Players

  • Johan Cruyff: Regarded as one of the game's greatest players, Cruyff was a sublimely talented star who was at the heart of the mighty Ajax Amsterdam team that won three straight European Cups from 1971-73. He joined Barcelona in 1973-74 and helped the Spanish club win its first league title in 14 years. A three-time European player of the year (1971, 1973, 1974), Cruyff led the Netherlands to the final of the 1974 World Cup against West Germany.
  • Marco van Basten: The former Dutch national team coach was also one of its greatest players ever, helping the Netherlands win the 1988 European championship. He began his career at Ajax Amsterdam but made a name for himself with Italian giants AC Milan. Van Basten was regarded as the best striker of his era and was named European player of the year three times (1988, 1989 and 1992) and FIFA world player of the year in 1992. A rash of injuries cut short his brilliant career when he played his last game for Milan - at age 28 - in 1993.