After a disappointing European Championship experience in 2021, where they fell to the Czech Republic in the knock-out stage, the Netherlands rehired the legendary Louis van Gaal to be their manager. Qualification for the World Cup wasn’t always easy but in the end, they topped the group containing the youthful and unpredictable Turkey, the young superstars of Norway as well as Montenegro, Latvia, and Gibraltar.
They lost early to Turkey in the early rounds, but eventually topped the group by 2 points, securing their place in Qatar via a 2-0 win in the last round over Norway with late goals from Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay.
How do they play?
The Netherlands remains one of the most exciting sides in international football – practicing technical, fast, and very direct football. This led to them having the most shots per game in the European qualifying, with only Germany coming close.
They love to keep the ball and had the highest possession alongside Germany and Spain in qualifying. What makes their ball possession different is that they rarely pass it around slowly at the back between defenders and midfielders – they were absolute #1 in terms of forward passes in the qualifiers and also in terms of the success rate of forward passes. Usually, they play it short and move forward quickly, long ball is an option they very rarely use.
It’s also well known that the Dutch are some of the tallest people on earth, making it no surprise that physicality is a big part of their playing style. No team had more headed shots than them during the qualifiers, making them a fearsome force around set pieces too. And they usually get a lot of set pieces as they like to utilize their fast wingers on both sides of the pitch, leading to a lot of crosses and corners. They had the 2nd most corners per game.
Why they can win?
Playing the Dutch style of fast and direct football and finding the form of their X-factor Memphis Depay, keeping their opponents on the back foot and utilizing their physicality in defense as well as in attack. The Dutch are particularly dominant in the air, earning and converting set pieces into goals as they have a huge aerial advantage through the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs De Ligt, and Luuk de Jong.
Why they can lose?
While Depay is their X-factor, he is also the big question mark, as the explosive forward has received very limited playing time this season in Barcelona due to injuries and managerial preferences.
The squad also lacks depth and alternatives in terms of playing style, in particular in the defensive department they might struggle if opponents manage to play fast enough to avoid getting into physical battles, at which point the turn of pace no longer favors the big Dutch defenders.
The leading stars
The Netherlands might not have the scary names it had 15-20 years ago, however they still have a formidable squad. The leading face throughout the qualifiers was Memphis Depay (Barcelona) who scored a total of 12 goals and seems to enjoy the Oranje shirt more than any other. He is backed up by the likes of Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Matthijs de Ligt (Bayern), Stefan de Vrij (Inter) in defense, and Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona) in midfield.
The fresh faces
Right-back Denzel Dumfries already shined at last summer’s European Championships, earning a move to Inter Milan thanks to vibrant attacking plays. Time in Italy has also improved his defensive abilities. Despite playing as a right-back he’s already scored 5 goals for the national team.
The young midfielder Kenneth Taylor (Ajax) and forward Cody Gakpo (PSV) also look to emulate the success of Dumfries and use the big tournament as a platform to make a name for themselves if the opportunity arises.