It’s nonetheless laborious to imagine that for a crew with the historical past of The Netherlands — three-time World Cup finalist, Euro ‘88 champion — that their current historical past doesn’t even embody qualification as an computerized. They missed the final World Cup, and 2016’s Euros. The latter was the primary European Championships to be expanded to 24 groups, so lacking it took some actual doing. This was a crew that simply forgot to develop a era of gamers after their 2010 Ultimate look in opposition to Spain. And whereas they have been in a position to waddle their manner torturously to a semifinal in Brazil, the dearth of a subsequent era to take over from that one meant that they missed out on two main tournaments.
Whether or not they have the mix proper now remains to be sort of questionable, and going again to the longer term in having Louis van Gaal as supervisor in all probability means we’ll get extra of the turgid stuff we bought after their upset of Spain within the group stage in Brazil, however needing possibly probably the most ridiculous Arjen Robben dive (which is saying one thing) to get previous Mexico and a penalty shootout to get previous Costa Rattling Rica. That penalty shootout included van Gaal subbing his keeper on the finish of additional time in order that Tim Krul may face the penalties. Which labored, and resulted in van Gaal being up his personal ass much more than he already was (which can be saying one thing).
The Dutch returned to the massive time in final yr’s Euros, the place they appeared dynamite enjoying at house within the group stage, tuning up Ukraine, North Macedonia, and Austria to the mixed rating of 8-2. However then it was the Czechs within the Spherical of 16, they fully shat themselves, and have been out.
And the issue in that recreation nonetheless seems to be to be an issue within the upcoming ones. Memphis Depay appeared very worthy of signing for Barcelona in the summertime of 2021 throughout that group stage in Amsterdam, scoring two targets and including two assists. After which he went lacking with everybody else when it actually mattered, managing only one off-target shot in opposition to Czechia. And this Dutch squad hasn’t actually moved on from him as one of many strikers in van Gaal’s 3-4-1-2.
Depay remains to be just about a nailed-on starter, they usually rotate Vincent Janssen or Steven Bergwijn round him, neither of whom will be counted on for rather more than being current. When the chips are down, the Dutch will nonetheless look to Depay to be a power, one thing he’s confirmed he can’t do in opposition to high quality competitors.
The Dutch’s different supply of targets from midfield gained’t be round both this time, as Gini Wijnaldum broke his leg for Roma and is out for the match. They’ll hope that torch can be taken up by PSV’s Cody Gakpo, who has piled up 9 targets and 12 assists in simply 13 matches thus far within the Eredivisie and really properly often is the subsequent huge Dutch factor. However as Jozy Altidore proved as soon as and Ricardo Pepi could also be proving now, any jackass can pile up numbers within the Dutch league. He’ll in all probability play simply behind the 2 forwards, and the Dutch will want him to make up for the noise that Depay gained’t make within the knockout rounds.
It’s a disgrace, as a result of the remainder of this Dutch squad may be primed for large issues. Yeah, Virgil van Dijk has been borderline-woeful for Liverpool at occasions this season, however that is his first main tourney with the Dutch and, if something will snap him into his earlier imperious type, it’s this. He’s normally flanked by Nathan Ake and Jurrien Timber. Frenkie De Jong anchors the midfield, and there’s an enviable choice of gamers to associate him within the heart be it Davy Klaassen, or Steven Berghuis, or Teun Koopmeiners. Denzel Dumfries, although not an entire common for Inter, can present a menace down the fitting. Daley Blind had tennis balls on his boots however isn’t going to let anybody down on the opposite aspect.
But it surely nonetheless feels prefer it’ll all fall flat on the sharp finish. They may simply see England within the Spherical of 16, who’re a variety of issues they shouldn’t be, however they are often miserly and never the sort of protection Depay has proven the knack for breaking by. Or they might see a closely defensive Wales and even Iran. Argentina and France may very well be ready within the quarters ought to they get that far.
And it’s no assure within the group, as a result of Group A additionally has Senegal, Africa’s finest crew. It was a banner yr already for The Lions, as they gained AFCON to kick it off after which kneecapped Egypt for a second time on penalties to qualify for this match. Nevertheless, neither was a classic efficiency, as they didn’t look all that threatening in any of them and managed one objective from open play in 270 minutes. Their newest spherical of friendlies noticed them draw as soon as once more with a Carlos Quieroz-led aspect, this time Iran.
And this crew doesn’t lack offensive expertise. Sadio Mane normally leads the road or performs on the left of the entrance three, reverse Ismail Sarr who’s been on the verge of a big-money transfer from Watford for what looks like 10 years now. They’re normally accompanied by Boulaye Dia, who’s scoring on half his photographs for Salernitana in Serie A in the mean time. However supervisor Aliou Cissé likes to maintain it near the vest, and principally counts on his three forwards to conjure one thing whereas the remainder of the crew is targeted on turning the sphere right into a trench.
Ecuador has change into one thing of a manufacturing line for younger expertise lately, a variety of which you’ll see in MLS. Or on Brighton within the Premier League, as they boast three of their gamers, although in all probability not for lengthy, as Moise Caicedo seems to be destined for a transfer to a much bigger membership for a dumpster filled with £100 notes. Ecuador will deliver the youngest crew out of South America for this, and are sort of the alternative of Senegal in that they wish to social gathering (which means targets, not that). They put 4 on Uruguay and 6 on Colombia throughout qualifying, and have been solely held scoreless 3 times in COMNEBOL’s marathon qualifying schedule — and two of these have been away to Argentina and Brazil, each of whom they drew at house. Their current type is just a little wonky, as they threw up back-to-back 0-0 attracts in friendlies with Japan and Saudi Arabia (higher than the USMNT), however these have been clearly friendlies. They’ll throw in a fright to one of many Dutch or Senegal on the very least.
Qatar has two benefits that they may hope will make up for the huge expertise deficiency. One, they’re at house. Two, whereas groups can be throwing themselves collectively the week earlier than the match and simply hoping for cohesion, this one has been enjoying collectively for some time. They have been company in each the 2021 Gold Cup the place they appeared like a reasonably tasty counterattacking aspect at occasions, and the 2019 Copa America. They have been presupposed to play within the 2021 Copa America as properly, however earlier than that bought an entire lot of foolish with scheduling and placement. They’ll have extra chemistry than most, and can in all probability take a degree off one of many different three.
Supervisor almost definitely to be red-carded: van Gaal is manner too centered on ensuring everybody can see him holding a binder, so we’ll go along with Qatar’s Felix Sanchez. By no means belief the bald man with a beard.
Nov. 20 – Ecuador v. Qatar (11 a.m. EST)
Nov. 21 – Netherlands vs. Senegal (11 a.m. EST)
Nov. 25 – Senegal vs. Qatar (8 a.m. EST), Netherlands v. Ecuador (11 a.m. EST)
Nov. 29 – Ecuador vs. Senegal, Netherlands vs. Qatar (10 a.m. EST)