Louis Van Gaal announced the final list of the squad for the Netherlands to play at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar last week. The Dutch are returning to this stage after missing out on qualification in the 2018 tournament. Van Gaal is serving his third stint as national team coach and this will be his last competition before he steps down from his role to be succeeded by Ronald Koeman. He was also the manger when the nation last competed in the World Cup in 2014. Netherlands are at present in a 15-match without losing a game since Van Gaal took charge of the team.
Netherlands have been into 10 World Cups in total since entering into the contest in 1934 but have never managed to won it even once despite reaching the final in 1974, 1978 and most recently in 2010. They also have not made more than three consecutive appearances in the finals in fact doing it only once in their history. In two back-to-back years, they made it into the World Cup final in the 1970s failing to grab the opportunity against West Germany and Argentina. Their next big occasion came way after in 2010 in South Africa when even after repeated chances to score in their third World Cup final, Andreas Iniesta scored in extra time to hand Spain the trophy. Wesley Sneijder holds the record for most appearances in the finals for the Netherlands while the top scorer for the Dutch at this stage is Johnny Rep with seven. He scored four goals in 1974 and three goals four years later to help his nation to reach the back-to-back finals of the tournament. Modern-day legends like Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie scored six goals with the pair’s best goal return from a single tournament coming in Brazil in 2014.
That World Cup in Brazil was the last time the Dutch competed in this stage defeating the hosts 3-0 for a third-place finish. The Orange Shirts took sweet revenge on Spain in the group stages, going down but managing to rout La Roja 5-1. They topped the group with nine points, playing a classic with Australia and required another drama of two late goals to beat Mexico 2-1 in the last 16. That was not all as a chaotic penalty shootout unfolded after a goalless end in extra-time with Costa Rica. However, they bowed out in the same circumstance against Argentina in the semi-finals. The Bronze final was the last piece of the action Netherlands had in the tournament after not qualifying four years later. They missed out on the stage for the ninth time in their history also going on to miss the 2016 European Championship in possibly the worst period of Dutch football.
Netherlands had to work hard in a tough qualifying group with Turkey and Norway giving them a close fight for qualification. Having started the qualifying games under Frank de Boer, Netherlands lost to the Turkish in an early encounter in the first game even though they quickly turned it around in the next two games against Latvia and Gibraltar. The Dutch won those games scoring seven goals without turning the numbers on the other side of the pitch. Boer got the sack after the team crashed out of the last 16 stages in Euro 2020 to the Czech Republic, their first major competition in six years. Under Van Gaal, the team returned for the qualifiers with a different look beating Turkey 6-1 and sealing qualification on the last day by having better of Norway. They did drop crucial points in the round to Norway and Montenegro but managed to end at the top with two points difference giving them an automatic berth.
Preparation for World Cup
The Dutch had to jostle in the Nations League like other European nations arriving at the tournament. Unlike others, they had a comfortably better ride although some late winners were required to book their place in the last four of the competition next year. The Netherlands won all but one in six games they played in the Nations League beating the likes of Belgium twice, 4-1 in the first encounter whereas games against Wales and Poland were a lot closer. Van Gaal’s side ended the group on top with six points clear of the second-placed Red Devils scoring 17 goals, more than any other teams in the competition and conceding just six.
Netherlands 2022 World Cup Squad
Goalkeepers: Andries Noppert (Heerenveen), Remko Pasveer (Ajax), Justin Bijlow (Feyenoord)
Defenders: Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Daley Blind (Ajax), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Denzel Dumfries (Inter), Jeremie Frimpong (Bayer Leverkusen), Matthijs de Ligt (Bayern Munchen), Tyrell Malacia (Manchester United), Jurrien Timber (Ajax), Stefan de Vrij (Inter)
Midfielders: Steven Berghuis (Ajax), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Davy Klaassen (Ajax), Teun Koopmeiners (Atalanta Bergamo), Marten de Roon (Atalanta Bergamo), Xavi Simons (PSV Eindhoven), Kenneth Taylor (Ajax)
Forwards: Steven Bergwijn (Ajax), Memphis Depay (Barcelona), Cody Gakpo (PSV), Vincent Janssen (Antwerp), Luuk de Jong (PSV), Noah Lang (Club Brugge), Wout Weghorst (Besiktas)
Coach: Louis Van Gaal
Back in their identity of playing total football, the Netherlands are thriving again in their pressing, counter-pressing and attacking display under Louis Van Gaal. After years of mediocrity, the Dutch are able to put themselves in the scope again. Their style of play will once again be their power to define terms returning back to the showpiece event. They haven’t lost a game under the manager which shows the kind of cohesiveness the squad have enjoyed in moving back to their originality. Netherlands also have a talented squad in their hand with a classy midfield and an impressive attack led by Memphis Depay and 23-year-old Cody Gakpo.
Too much stress on attack and intense high press can make them leaky at the back if the opposition get past it although they don’t concede many with six clean sheets in 15 matches in Van Gaal’s third era of the side. The goalkeeping department could be the weakest point of the team as even 39-year-old Remko Pasveer does not have experience playing at the World Cup. Otherwise, the Dutch do not carry a lot of issues in the 2022 World Cup hoping to go deeper like in their last appearance in the competition.
Star Player: Memphis Depay
Even at dire times, Memphis Depay have found scoring feat for Netherlands and he will once again be important to make things tick for the orange shirt. The Dutch have shown recently they can play without him in the side but his scoring numbers could not be matched by others. While Cody Gakpo has been a prominent contributor in recent games, Depay has scored 14 goals under Van Gaal’s management alone showing his lethal nature. Moreover, he has World Cup experience in 2014 which other forwards don’t have. Depay could be the role model to teach the methodology to thrive in their debut in the World Cup as he did. It drove interest from overseas and a move to Manchester United was secured after the tournament. The only shot in foot for Memphis will be his lack of game minutes at Barcelona and fitness concerns that have restricted his appearance on the pitch. The 28-year-old would like to shake off these issues and grab his scoring boots for the tournament.
Stance on Qatar
Among many other nations, Netherlands have shown their criticism against the host nation's treatment of migrant workers. Coach Louis van Gaal has brand the tournament as 'ridiculous' for the selection of the country by FIFA where human rights are abused. He accused the governing body of taking the tournament to the middle east simply because of money and commercial reasons. The Dutch team will also have a meeting with 20 migrant workers in Qatar to ask about their working condition as announced last week. They will also be given the opportunity to join the players in training. Van Gaal said the meeting would focus attention on the dire conditions under which stadiums and other infrastructure for the tournament were built before the team's focus shifts to the World Cup itself.
How will the Netherlands Lineup at the 2022 World Cup?
If Louis Van Gaal wants to make the Netherlands an attacking juggernaut, he may prefer the 3-4-1-2 system throwing his three glamorous forwards Steven Bergwijn, Cody Gakpo and Memphis Depay all in the starting lineup. Against a more prevalent side, the manager may go for an extra midfielder for protecting the back three. In that case, Frenkie de Jong could shift to a much deeper role with either Steven Berghuis or Davy Klassen coming in. Also, any of Bergwijn or Gakpo have to be sacrificed considering Depay is unshakable from his position. Daley Blind will start in the left wing-back spot despite losing his starting spot at Ajax due to poor form.
Opponents & Fixtures
Senegal vs Netherlands - 21 November 2022, Al Thumama Stadium (9:30 PM)
Netherlands vs Ecuador - 25 November 2022, Khalifa International Stadium (9:30 PM)
Netherlands vs Qatar – 29 November 2022, Al Bayt Stadium (8:30 PM)
Netherlands are favorites to advance from this group yet they must not read much on that narrative. The Dutch have a challenging opening game against AFCON champions Senegal containing star player Sadio Mane. They will wish for a winning start although a draw won’t be a bad result to take. Next, a clash against a solid Ecuador side who had a remarkable qualifications and can be a tricky customer. Even not putting much at stake in the first two games, the Netherlands can still qualify by winning against host nation Qatar in the last group stage game provided there are no losses at this stage.
Louis Van Gaal is carrying a vibrant side with him to Qatar that have jelled well with his tactics. Inexperience may cost the team but they do have figures like Memphis Depay and Daley Blind knowing the stage better. Vocal leaders like Van Dijk at the back could help out as well with their unity being the ideal strength to look for. Whether this team can elapse other great teams in the tournament, is an answer waiting until the conclusion of the tournament or before it. A quarterfinal stage will not be bad for a side that is trying to recover from the horrors of missing out on the last edition.