This summer’s World Cup has been one of the most exciting and surprising ones in recent years and no European team has produced moments that have embodied the tournament’s ebb and flow more than the Netherlands.
From their first game in Salvador where their scintillating attacking play annihilated a Spanish team that had beaten them in the 2010 World Cup final to their recent quarter-final encounter with Costa Rica which saw the Dutch do what they do best - win in the most breathtaking and devastating manner possible.
Although the Netherlands have not returned to the dizzy heights of the form which saw them beat Spain they have shown that they have a squad full of players who can win them games from the regular starters like Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder to super substitutes like their talented striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and heroic goal keeper Tim Krul.
Louis van Gaal
At the heart of the Oranje's sensational performances is their manager Louis van Gaal, who is arguably the most intense and successful manager left at this year’s World Cup finals. Van Gaal is renowned for his tactical genius and hard line disciplinarian approach which have been integral to his illustrious career in club football.
Van Gaal’s experience and tenacity stand him in good stead to lead his team to victory against Argentina and ultimately claim the World Cup title because of the unshakeable belief and will to win that he has instilled in their team.
Van Gaal’s rejuvenation of the Dutch team has been realised by none other than his formerly estranged captain Robin van Persie who in a recent interview with the Guardian espoused his belief that they can win the World Cup.
"This group of players is very modest. We have an outstanding spirit, an outstanding atmosphere. Everyone feels we can win it, that it really is possible,” Van Persie said after the Mexico game.
“To be the captain of this squad makes me incredibly proud. It’s a huge honour to be here, at this stage, wearing the armband, because we are a real team.”
Van Persie & teammates full of confidence
Van Persie’s new found sense of pride and faith in his team and manager are ones which are evident in the manner in which Holland play, particularly in their last two games against two teams who play with the kind of passion and fervour that the Netherlands have been missing in recent years.
Holland’s recent games against Mexico and Costa Rica are the best possible preparation that they could have had in the sense that both teams had a very resilient team spirit and irksome attacking play which Holland had to overcome in order to prevail and in both games they did so and emphatically.
The Netherlands trailed Mexico until the last four minutes of the game when they dug deep and showed the world just how difficult they will be to beat. Similarly in their last game against Costa Rica, Holland showed a frightening and unflinching will to win.
Each and everyone one of their players united in a penalty shoot out which will be remembered for Van Gaal’s bold substitution of goal keepers - as the second period of extra-time came to an end Van Gaal substituted his first choice goal keeper Jasper Cillessen in favour of Tim Krul who came on to win the match for his side through two fine saves.
Van Gaal’s bold but unsurprisingly characteristic change would have been enough to derail his team had he made it four years ago but instead his team and in particular Cillessen accepted it with the kind of respect and grace that proves that Holland have an unwavering team spirit that could lead them all the way to claim a deserved World Cup title should they continue to show the kind of unity, resilience and quality which has got them this far.
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