Netherlands World Cup squad: Midfielders

The Netherlands have produced some incredible midfielders in their history but the best of the current generation, Kevin Strootman, has been ruled out of this tournament by a severe knee injury.

The absence of the Roma player has forced Louis van Gaal to alter his formation from a 4-3-3 to a 5-3-2 to cover for the void. Because of this switch, the midfield is now an incredibly important part of the team as the Oranje look to play a more counter-attacking game than usual. Van Gaal’s selection is critical, a midfield destroyer such as Nigel de Jong is required but so is a more orthodox central midfielder.

Here, we take a look at each of the options Van Gaal has in the middle of the park.

Wesley Sneijder

At 30-years-old and heading into his sixth international tournament, Wesley Sneijder is very much one of the veterans of the Netherlands squad.

Not only is he one of the most experienced though, he is one of the most crucial of the 23 players.

As the team’s main source of creation, it is pivotal that his linking up with Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie be perfect to ensure the front three make the deadly, world class partnership that it has the potential to be.

Through Robben’s pace and shooting ability and Van Persie’s movement and finishing, Sneijder’s incredible range of passing and intelligence gives the Oranje a perfect trio that will threaten any side they come up against in Brazil and is really the only reason Dutch fans have any hope heading into the tournament.

The 5-3-2/3-4-3 system Van Gaal has instilled in the team heading into this tournament suits the Galatasaray player very well. With Nigel de Jong playing alongside a more orthodox central midfielder, it means Sneijder has more support from the middle of the park and absolves him of defensive responsibility and allowing he, Robben and Van Persie to make a tight and compact group.

Four years ago in Soccer City, it was Sneijder whose perfectly timed and weighted through ball that set Robben up for that glorious chance in the final. If the attacking midfielder can continue to deliver such remarkable passes and open up such glorious opportunities for his team-mates, the Oranje will stand a chance against any opponent this summer.

Nigel de Jong

Travelling to Spain with a view to redeeming himself, Nigel de Jong is out to show the world that he isn’t the same dirty, dangerous player that lodged a fly-kick right into the chest of Xabi Alonso at the World Cup final four years ago.

Alongside Mark van Bommel, the AC Milan player has been forced to sit deep in the Netherlands midfield in each of the last two major tournaments, but his pairing with a more orthodox central midfielder in Brazil will give him more freedom and the opportunity to show how well his positioning has improved and that he has become a much smarter and more subtle tackler.

While the 2013-14 season was a catastrophe for Milan, De Jong was a bright spark throughout for the Italian side and he is guaranteed to be a regular starter for the Oranje.

Sitting in front of a relatively young and inexperienced defence, De Jong’s strength and reading of the game will be absolutely crucial to ensure the Dutch aren’t caught out by the fast paced Chile, dominant Spain or physical Australia.

At 29 and with 71 international caps, De Jong is also one of the more experienced players in the team and in this more defensive, counter-attacking style than we are used to seeing from the Dutch, he is certainly one of the crucial players in Van Gaal’s squad.

Jonathan De Guzman

In the absence of the injured Kevin Strootman, it is the Canada-born Jonathan De Guzman who will slot in alongside Nigel de Jong in the middle of the park for Netherlands.

The Villarreal player who has spent the last two seasons on loan at Swansea City and his energy, drive and technique will be a vital asset for the Dutch.

With Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie playing so far up the pitch, it is important that De Guzman push up to ensure there isn’t a sizeable gap between the star trio and the rest of the team that other teams can capitalise on in the way they did in Euro 2012.

De Guzman is really the only player the Netherlands have who can play that role other than Leroy Fer who hasn’t had a fantastic season with Norwich and with the forward trio playing almost as a separate entity from the remainder of the squad, it is his job to ensure the defensive actions don’t start from too far back.

Heading into Friday’s meeting with Spain, it is not yet known if De Guzman is fit to face the world champions, in which case it will be Jordy Clasie who slots in.

Jordy Clasie

A deceptively short central midfielder, Jordy Clasie is a hard-tackling 22-year-old with excellent passing ability and intelligence.

The midfielder is another excellent youngster to emerge from Feyenoord’s magnificent youth system.

Clasie has an incredible hunger for the ball and a desire to win it. He is a real fighter who will pounce on any loose ball and make it his and his team’s. 

In the absence of De Guzman, Clasie will be the man to slot in alongside De Jong but will be asked to play a more advanced role than he is used to with Feyenoord, where he operates as more of a defensive anchor.

If Clasie is the man selected to start against Spain, he will have to push up a bit further and be a bit more proactive than the reactionary stance he usually takes.

Labeled the “Dutch Xavi”, the World Cup will give the youngster the chance to show that he is capable of achieving such greatness as that of the diminutive Spain star.

Georginio Wijnaldum

An excellent young attacking midfielder with good pace and passing range, Georginio Wijnaldum is excellent backup for Wesley Sneijder.

The PSV captain spent a massive part of the league season out injured, but returned in time in the second half of the campaign to play a pivotal role in the Eindhoven giants fight to reach the European spots in the Eredivisie and then make Louis van Gaal’s final 23-man squad.

The 23-year-old is not expected to play a big role for the Oranje this summer but will be able to slot in behind Robben and Van Persie should he be called upon to replace the Glatasaray star.

Leroy Fer

Having been relegated from the Premier League with Norwich City in his first season in England, the last year has been a terrible one for Leroy Fer.

The former Twente player has the makings of a very good midfielder with his movement, stamina and technique but will be used as backup throughout the summer tournament with Jordy Clasie and Jonathan de Guzman ahead of him in the pecking order.

Fer will be a valuable player in the midfield if he is called upon, though. With his more attacking focus, he will be able to slot in alongside Nigel de Jong and carry the ball forward to link up with the front three and offer extra support to Sneijder, Robben and Van Persie.

The 24-year-old is expected to leave Carrow Road this summer as they drop down to the Championship and any bright performances Fer can put in when given a chance in the first team will go a long way to helping him attract attention from other clubs.

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