Following news that the Netherlands will almost certainly be without Nigel de Jong for the rest of the World Cup through injury, Saturday’s quarter-final matchup against Costa Rica has manager Louis van Gaal faced with a few line-up decisions.
An integral part of the side under the new Manchester United boss, de Jong was forced off in the ninth minute of the 2-1 last 16 win over Mexico, with a post on the team’s official Twitter account later confirming that a torn groin muscle will rule the defensive midfielder out for two to four weeks.
With 75 caps since his 2004 debut, de Jong has been a regular fixture in the Dutch team over recent years, infamously avoiding a sending-off in the 2010 World Cup final defeat to Spain for a chest-high challenge on Xabi Alonso.
A Premier League stalwart with Manchester City for three-and-a-half seasons, before moving to AC Milan in August 2012, the 29-year-old has recently been linked with a move back to England to join his current national team coach at Old Trafford after the World Cup, with a bid of £9 million reportedly needed to secure his services.
His veteran presence in the heart of the midfield proving crucial to the balance of van Gaal’s newly introduced 5-3-2 system up to this point, de Jong’s absence will likely see either Daley Blind or Jordy Clasie move into his spot for the Costa Rica game, as a semi-final against Argentina or Belgium awaits the winners.
Despite their struggles in the heat against Mexico, the Netherlands remain one of the more favoured sides among the final eight largely thanks to van Gaal’s tactical nous, their emphatic 5-1 win over Group B rivals Spain a clear sign of their capabilities.
However, while that opening result served as revenge for defeat in South Africa four years ago, the Dutch won’t truly be able to exorcise their World Cup demons unless they finally manage to add a first title to their collection on 13 July in the Maracana.