One in three Dutch people say it's a dead cert: Holland, or Oranje (Orange) as the Dutch themselves call their national soccer team, are going to win the World Cup in South Africa. On the other hand, two out of three Dutch people know better: they’re betting on Brazil, Argentina or perhaps Spain. Five reasons why the World Cup will slip through Oranje’s hands next month.
1. The Feeble Four
The strikers and midfielders are fine but it’s less wonderful at the back of the Dutch team. Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg (from Ajax) is a major talent but the rest of the defence is the proverbial Achilles’ heel. The probable central duo of Joris Mathijsen and John Heitinga are middling level European players, in fact many people are puzzled how Mathijsen made the team at all. The other defenders are either extremely inexperienced (Gregory van der Wiel, Edson Braafheid) or extremely old (Giovanni van Bronckhorst and André Ooijer, both 35) or they hardly played last season (Khalid Boulahrouz). Imagine them up against a Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney. The Big Four can score and score, but with a backline like a Swiss cheese, Oranje will still lose 4-5.
2. Ructions in the ranks
Former England cap and football pundit Gary Lineker said it all: “No one has to be afraid of the Dutch team. They’ll defeat themselves, as usual.” Lineker was referring to the traditional internal conflicts during major tournaments. In 2010 there are once again potential powder kegs within the team. There is the rivalry between star players Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder, who once had a falling out about who got to take a free kick. And how will top players like Dirk Kuijt, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Ryan Babel and Ibrahim Afellay cope with the fact that they’ll be spending most of the World Cup sitting on the reserves’ bench? A lot of the players are busy with social media these days, which also causes friction. Gregory van Wiel, for instance, who was in trouble last year for dropping out of the team with concussion and then in the middle of the night twittering about going to a concert by rapper Li’l Wayne.
3. Arrogance (premature)
The Dutch team has failed to win a lot of titles down the years because the players were already convinced they had won long before the end. It began in 1974 when Oranje dominated the world cup with their impressive “total football”. The final against West Germany was lost because the Dutch players thought they could beat the Germans without even really trying. When Oranje became European champions in 1988, they spent the 1990s expecting to be handed the world title any moment. After a relatively modest period (the result of failing to qualify for the 2002 World Cup) things went horribly wrong again during the 2008 European championship. Following impressive victories again Italy and France, half the team was performing a victory dance while the other half primped themselves for the celebrations back home. Guus Hiddink’s cold-blooded Russians made short shrift of those fantasies. Why assume that coach Bert van Marwijk will succeed in keeping the lads focused this year?
4. WAGs Alert
Although, for security reasons, the WAGs ( or the players’ wives and girlfriends) probably won’t be going to South Africa, they will undoubtedly determine the emotional atmosphere in the Hilton in Johannesburg, where it gets dark early in June, and distract the players from what the World Cup is really about. The Dutch internationals are involved with a number of potential problem WAGs. Striker Rafael van der Vaart is married to Sylvie Meis, star of German TV and currently caught up in a row between rival beer sponsors
and Wesley Sneijder is with Yolanthe Cabau van Kasbergen, a TV star in the Netherlands and almost in Italy. Fewer stars in their eyes but more potential for soap-style complications with John Heitinga whose WAG is the sister of former international Boudewijn Zenden and André Ooijer whose better half is the daughter of former Dutch player Willy van de Kerkhof. Meanwhile, to add to the confusion, midfielder Mark van Bommel is married to the daughter of coach Bert van Marwijk.
5. The Vuvuzela
One underrated problem for the Dutch is the large-scale presence of the vuvuzela in the stadiums. South African fans love to blow this raucous horn, which results in a constant deafening buzzing noise resounding across the pitch during matches. That’s going to cause problems with the coaching from the sidelines. Coach Bert van Marwijk has a buzzy kind of voice which will hardly be heard above the racket, but assistant trainer Frank de Boer, the man shouting most of the tactical advice to the players, has a voice so monotone that it is totally indistinguishable from a vuvuzela. Assistant trainer Philip Cocu’s voice is so quiet that he can hardly heard even when the stadium is totally empty.