May 22, 2006
Random World Cup Facts: Netherlands
Times Qualified: 8
Best Finish: 2nd (1974, 1978)
YouTube Goal: Dennis Bergkamp takes a 60 yard ball from Frank de Boer and works his magic to take the Dutch through to the semifinals in 1998.
Top Dutch Political Issue: The Dutch government has cracked down on immigration and is doing everything it can to make it harder to live there. Part of this is exposure to images that may be offensive in a video entitled "Coming to the Netherlands" that is shown to prospective immigrants.
Football in the Netherlands: The national team has been competitive only since the early 1970s. Legendary manager Rinus Michels developed a tactic known as "Total Football" which changed the way the game was played as it made positions no longer concrete. The Dutch team of the 70s contained many legends, and this quality was maintained through the late 90s. The last few years have been poor for players coming through the youth ranks.
The Dutch Eredivisie recently experimented with a playoff system for various European spots. AZ finished second while Ajax, who finished 4th, claimed the Champions League spot. The league is in a period of transition with PSV becoming a superpower ahead of Ajax, Feyenoord and recently AZ. The quality of play outside of the top four is relatively bad.
Players to Watch: Rafael van der Vaart (Hamburg) had a fantastic season culminating in his club's unexpected qualification for the Champions League. Ruud van Nistelrooy (Manchester United) is going to be counted on for goals, but rumors continue to circulate regarding his future after the World Cup.
Chances: Manager Marco van Basten called up a mix of experienced and young players for the World Cup. On paper, this team does not look very strong and they may struggle for goals in the group stage.
Prediction: The Dutch will fail to make an impact. Fourth in the group.