The Netherlands has been home to some of the greatest footballers of all time. Players like Johan Cruyff and Marco Van Basten really leave no doubt when it comes to the matter. Even in the modern era, they have had world greats like Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder just to name a few. The orange-clad nation has always been a favourite to win at the big events like the Euro and World Cup. They won the former in 1988 and it’s no surprise considering how consistently the nation has been producing some of the world’s finest players. Despite all this, what’s shocking was their performance in 2018. The team that has often been a heavyweight didn’t even qualify for the World Cup. You could understand why, given that their team was young and hadn’t fully matured and eventually France won the World Cup. Slowly but surely though, Netherlands looks to not only match, but possibly surpass it’s former glory as a team thanks to a lot of their individual players performing remarkably.
The amount of young talent mixed in with some experience is mind-boggling and if the players, their clubs and all the people in charge of their development do right by them and refine that talent, saying the sky is the limit would be an understatement. Imagine the largely young Netherlands in the 2022 World Cup and your favourite team’s chances (unless it was Holland in the first place) don’t look.
Talent on the Rise:
Ajax just proved in the 2018-19 season just how much young talent is potentially there for the Netherlands team. Of course, there’s Matthijs de Ligt, currently the poster-child for young players across the globe. This now-20 year old defender took the captain’s armband and led Ajax all the way to the semi-finals with monumental victories over heavyweights, Real Madrid and Juventus. He is a terrific aggressor when it comes to defending and tackling, and doesn’t hesitate to move forward and try to put the ball past the keeper. Frenkie de Jong made jaws drop with his midfield play, even earning him a spot in the World XI(The Best FIFA football Awards). He dazzled audiences in all matches thanks to his vision, passing and dribbling. His general intelligence was the subject of much praise. The 22-year old had 1.3 dribbles with Ajax in the 2018-19 UCL as well as 2 dribbles per match in the Eredivisie. There’s AS Roma’s Justin Kluivert as well. The 20-year-old winger managed 6 assists in the Serie A last season despite only 14 full matches. He managed 1.2 key passes and 0.8 dribbles per game with many praising him for his vision, passing and general offensive play. Last but not least, there is Donny Van De Beek from Ajax, yet again who took the world by storm last season. The Centre Midfielder with a penchant for smooth passes and clever offensive read was the subject of a lot of praise due to his 2018-19 performance. He was one of the standouts for Ajax’s fairytale season, with 19 league goal contributions (direct) and an even more impressive 5 contributions in the UEFA Champions League. None of the players mentioned above are over the age of 22. They will be in their mid-20s by the time they play the World Cup in 2022. Imagine how refined their talents will be and just how deadly they’ll make the team.
The More Experienced Players:
Netherlands also has some great players in their mid to late 20’s, who, if they can maintain their fitness who will be very valuable in Qatar. Memphis Depay had a rough time at Manchester United but forward is getting better by the day in the French League and has already scored 3 goals and 2 assists this season. He will be in his late 20’s by 2022 and given his form, you can expect some goals. Daley Blind is a versatile defender who is one of the more reliable footballers around. He seems to switch brilliantly between CB and full-back playing both of those positions exceptionally as we’ve seen in both the UCL and the Nations League. The hiccup is that as of now, he is 29 and will be in his 30’s by the time the World Cup rolls around. That being said, if he can maintain his fitness, the other teams are going to need some serious firepower. Georginio Wijnaldum of Liverpool has progressed into one of the finest midfielders in the Premier League and won the most recent UCL and is largely credited for Liverpool’s historic 4-0 comeback game against Barcelona FC which eventually won them the gold. He has been strong on both offense and defence proving to be a great link for the attackers on either side but having a level of composure that is necessary for a Championship side. If he keeps fit, Netherlands are going to be a powerful force, come 2022.
Virgil Van Dijk:
The Captain gets a section all to himself and it’s no wonder why. He won the most recent PFA and UCL with Liverpool. He’s a favourite to win the Ballon D’or because of the way he defends. Very few players have been able to get past him. Every bit of his defensive play, from read to tackling to aerial performance, is nothing short of top-notch. He’s even scored a few goals. There’s also the fact that he’s incredibly fast despite a towering frame and that makes him the perfect thing to thwart the opposition’s attack. There’s very little you can knock him for, even if you despise Netherlands and Liverpool. He averaged 1 tackle, 1.1 interception and 5.2 clearances in last season’s Premier League and those impressive numbers were barely touched when it came to the UCL. He plays with a level of authority and responsibility that is required in a leader and as a result of a lot of hopes rest with the now-28-year old for the 2022 World Cup.
So, while nothing is a guarantee, especially with other similar competitors like France, Portugal, England and Germany, if the players inching closer to 30 can maintain fitness and the players in their early 20’s can hone themselves further, Netherlands will be very tough to beat in the 2022 World Cup.