Previous appearances at the World Cup: ten
Better finish: Finalists (1974, 1978, 2010)
World Cup record: W27 D12 L11
Biggest win: 5-0 against South Korea (1988)
Player to watch: Virgil van Dijk
Fixtures: Senegal (November 21), Ecuador (November 25), Qatar (November 29)
As the Netherlands head into the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, fan expectations are more subdued than at previous tournaments.
Oranje’s current side aren’t as star-studded as previous generations and exited the European Championships last year with a 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic in the round of 16.
Since then, the Netherlands have notched up a series of impressive results against formidable opposition, including two victories against neighboring Belgium in the Nations League to top their group.
A favorable draw with Qatar, Senegal and Ecuador in the World Cup group stages further boosted morale.
The nation also appears behind manager Louis Van Gaal who led them to the 2014 World Cup final after it was revealed he was receiving treatment for prostate cancer.
Close but no cigar
The Netherlands have produced many great teams in their history, but ultimately underperformed on the international stage, failing to win the World Cup despite three finals.
It was in 1974 that the Netherlands, led by Johan Cruyff, reached their first final using their style of ‘total football’ – where outfield players can change positions while maintaining the organizational structure. The team stormed through the knockout stages, crushing Argentina, East Germany and Brazil, but ultimately lost the final to West Germany.
Four years later, they would again fail in the final as Argentina scored twice in extra time to win.
The 1980s would see a decline in Dutch football at club and international level, with the national team failing to qualify for a World Cup. However, the team, inspired by Marco Van Basten, would win the 1988 European Championships.
In the 1990s, a new generation of Dutch stars, including Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf and Dennis Bergkamp, dumped the Netherlands in a series of impressive but ultimately disappointing World Cup campaigns.
In 2010, the Netherlands would take Spain to extra time in a spirited final, but an overtime winner from Andres Iniesta sealed victory for the Spaniards.
Four years later, a tactically astute Dutch side have oscillated between scoreless attacking tactics that culminated in Robin Van Persie’s famously lofted header in a 5-1 rout of Spain and careful defensive displays that saw two goalless draws resulting in a third-place finish.
The Netherlands would fail to qualify in 2018 after finishing third in their qualifying group against France and Sweden.
Van Gaal’s goalkeeper headache
The hottest discussions around team selection have centered around who should start in goal.
Manager Van Gaal has dropped regular goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen who has joined Dutch club NEC from Valencia, for two Nations League matches.
Cillessen’s attitude was also questioned by former teammate Rafael van der Vaart who called him “nasty”.
In a surprise move, van Gaal handed veteran goalkeeper Remko Pasveer his first senior cap at the age of 38 in September. However, the Ajax keeper has suffered a dip in form at club level in recent weeks.
Feyenoord goalkeeper Justin Bijlow is also in contention but the 24-year-old has also suffered a drop in form.
The Oranje have a solid, star-studded defensive line with players like Liverpool FC’s Virgil van Dijk and Manchester City’s Nathan Aké. Van Gaal has dropped Matthijs de Ligt from Bayern Munich in favor of the more agile Jurriën Timber.
Van Gaal has experimented with his midfield in recent games, but several players are guaranteed to start, including Barcelona’s versatile midfielder Frenkie de Jong and former Manchester United defensive midfielder Daley Blind.
In front, Steven Bergjwin of Ajax and Memphis Depay of FC Barcelona will probably start if they are in good shape.