Key analysis: Can Louis van Gaal lead the Netherlands to one last victory?

Key analysis: Can Louis van Gaal lead the Netherlands to one last victory?
Key analysis: Can Louis van Gaal lead the Netherlands to one last victory?
Key analysis: Can Louis van Gaal lead the Netherlands to one last victory?
At the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, the Netherlands still managed to secure a podium finish, but in 2018, the Dutch were not in the competition at all. The Dutch are out for honour and hope to let Louis van Gaal experience another success as national coach.

Louis van Gaal has been appointed national team coach of the Netherlands for the third time and despite being talked about many times in the past, this really seems to be the 71-year-old coach's last job. At the press conferences, the coach does not always reveal as much information about his tactics, but there are a few important things that are now certain.

For instance, Van Gaal makes no secret of the fact that he wants to play in a 5-3-2 formation and one of the three goalkeepers will join the team as a penalty specialist. Van Gaal did not want to divulge which of the three goalkeepers will play that role, but we should not be surprised if the controversial switch from 2014, when he brought Tim Krul into the team for the penalty shootout against Costa Rica, is repeated this tournament.

The Netherlands have played three World Cup finals in the past and saw them all lose This tournament, however, they enter with a team that does not give in easily and has been unbeaten for 15 games in a row. Could it finally succeed in bringing the World Cup to the Netherlands this year?


Dutch supporters cannot agree on who should be the Dutch goalkeeper and there is also plenty of discussion about who should occupy the offensive positions. What the Dutch are less worried about at the moment is the defence.

With Virgil van Dijk (31) finishing second in the 2019 Ballon d'Or awards, Matthijs de Ligt (23) having won the Golden Boy award in 2018 and Stefan de Vrij (30) having been named best Serie A defender of the season in 2020, the Dutch have little to complain about at the centre-back position. Especially knowing that Nathan Ake (27), Jurrien Timber (21) and Daley Blind (32) can also be chosen. The fact that base players from top European leagues such as Sven Botman (22), Pascal Struijk (23) and Mickey van de Ven (21) no longer have a place says enough about the options they have for that line.

Another quality of Oranje is that the axis of the team has remained reasonably intact for a while now, with Van Dijk, Frenkie de Jong (25) and Memphis Depay (28) the most important links in each line-up.


In 2014, the Netherlands did not have such stars in defence as they do now, but with Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie, they did have players of absolute world class to make the difference. Now it seems rather the opposite, with the Netherlands currently lacking an attacking player to make a weekly difference in one of Europe's biggest competitions. 

In terms of goal production, Oranje have been leaning on the creative inspirations of Depay for years and this World Cup will hope that Cody Gakpo (23) can continue the form of his excellent first half of the season at PSV on a higher stage. The goalkeepers in the squad are also of significantly lower level than some other positions.

Ideal line-up (5-3-2)

Justin Bijlow; Denzel Dumfries, Jurrien Timber, Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Ake, Tyrell Malacia; Frenkie de Jong, Teun Koopmeiners, Cody Gakpo; Memphis Depay, Steven Bergwijn.

Van Gaal prefers a left-footed player for the position of left central defender, so we suspect Ake will fill that role. The centre-back position is most likely for Van Dijk and at right back there are many choices, but Timber has usually been given a chance lately.

Hottest contests

The left-wing-back position was often filled by Blind in recent years, but since he isn't in the best form and has ended up on the bench at Ajax and his rival Malacia (23) has meanwhile moved to the Premier League, we would not be surprised if the latter is preferred.

The right-wing-back position is for Dumfries (26), but if his injury eventually proves too serious to play, Jeremie Frimpong is the obvious choice for that spot. Although he is still waiting for his debut, he is the only other pure right-back in the squad. For the two midfield positions, Frenkie de Jong and Teun Koopmeiners (24) seem the most logical options.

At PSV, he never plays there, but Gakpo has revealed in interviews that Van Gaal wants him to focus mainly on the number-10 position, where Steven Berghuis (30) also has a good chance, by the way. Up front, we suspect Van Gaal prefers Memphis and Bergwijn. Incidentally, Van Gaal has also already revealed that if Memphis does not make it through his injury, his place might be temporarily taken by Vincent Janssen.


On paper, the Netherlands has a fairly easy pool that it should be able to get through without too much trouble. Van Gaal revealed that, to his knowledge, the KNVB's target was the quarter-finals, but that he himself hoped to become world champion. For our prediction, we choose a middle ground and think Orange can reach the semi-finals just like 2014.