Before every big tournament, football fans worldwide talk up the chances of the Netherlands succeeding. However, many talented Dutch squads have failed to meet those expectations, and the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil could see the Oranje meet with the same fate.
With players such as Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder – all of whom would have earned a place in many experts’ World XI in recent seasons – it is no wonder that the regular pre-tournament hype is in existence once again.
At Euro 2012, despite being drawn in the ‘Group of Death’ alongside Germany, Portugal and Denmark, Bert van Marwijk's side were expected to go a long way in the competition. Holland were dumped out of the tournament after losing all three group games, and a repeat performance of that in Brazil in a few weeks’ time will leave everyone questioning whether this group of great Dutch players are the biggest underachievers in history.
Under Louis van Gaal, qualifying for the World Cup was a breeze, as they won nine and drew one of their 10 group games. Unfortunately for the Netherlands, what has occurred since then has been anything but, both on and off the pitch.
Van Gaal operated a 4-3-3 formation throughout the qualifying campaign, but an injury to midfield maestro Kevin Strootman has forced the Dutch boss to rethink his plans. In a 1-1 draw with Ecuador over the weekend, Van Gaal opted for a 5-3-2 formation, suggesting he is unsure of the best way to set up his team for their World Cup opener against Spain in a matter of weeks.
On top of that, instead of the media hype and speculation being heaped on the players and the upcoming World Cup, Van Gaal’s appointment as Manchester United manager dominates the papers.
It still remains to be seen whether this lack of media attention will benefit the Dutch side, but with World Cup holders Spain and the talented Chile team to face in Group B, the Dutch squad could be on an early flight home once again.