Why Louis Van Gaal’s Netherlands are the underdogs of the World Cup 2022

Louis van Gaal of the Dutch national team (Photo by ANP via Getty Images)
Louis van Gaal of the Dutch national team (Photo by ANP via Getty Images) /

Netherlands look to make the most of their rare World Cup performance.

It has been 8 years since Netherlands last featured in a World Cup. The Oranje have been an inconsistent mess ever since the 2014 World Cup and are looking to finally redeem themselves with Louis Van Gaal back as the manager.

The Dutch have made it to three World Cup finals in the past, but have yet to lift the coveted trophy as they have fallen at the final hurdle every single time.

Despite not possessing the same level of talent teams like Brazil, Argentina and Portugal possess, the Dutch have put out a pretty strong and well-balanced squad which could definitely be strong contenders.

The 26-man squad selected for the trip to Qatar are as follows:


The 26-man squad selected for the trip to Qatar are as follows:

Goalkeepers: Justin Bijlow, Remko Pasveer, Andries Noppert.

To everyone’s surprise experienced keeper Jasper Cillessen was left out by Van Gaal who has gone for a different approach altogether this time around.

Despite having an underwhelming start to the season with Feyenoord, Justin Bijlow has since kept 7 clean sheets in 14 games and has made the cut alongside 39-year-old Remko Pasveer and Andries Noppert getting the nod.

Overall, this might be a cause for concern considering how important the keepers were for the Dutch the last time they travelled to the World Cup.

Defenders: Denzel Dumfries, Jeremie Frimpong, Virgil Van Djik, Matthijs De Ligt, Stefan De Vrij, Jurrien Timber, Nathan Ake, Tyrell Malacia, Daley Blind.

This is where it gets interesting. The Dutch have been blessed with high quality fullbacks and center halves.

Virgil Van Djik of Liverpool, Matthijs De Ligt of Bayern Munich, Stefan De Vrij of Inter Milan and Nathan Ake from Manchester City are just a few among the high-profile names included for the trip to Qatar.

Moreover, young guns like Tyrell Malacia from Manchester United, Jurrien Timber from Ajax, Jeremie Frimpong from Bayer Leverkusen and Denzel Dumfries from Inter Milan are sure to provide trouble for opposition attacks.

Sven Botman has not been included which has turned out to be a huge surprise.

Midfielders: Frenkie De Jong, Kenneth Taylor, Teun Koppmeiners, Marten De Roon, Steven Berghuis, Davy Klaassen, Xavi Simons.

Whilst there has surely been a drop off in the quality from Wesley Sneijder, Edgar Davids and Rafael Van der Vaart, the Dutch still have pretty good options in midfield which are sure to cause nightmares to the opposition defenses.

Manchester United target – Frenkie De Jong remains the best option and the closest player reminiscent of the old era, despite his recent struggles at club level. Moreover, Atalanta duo De Roon and Koppmeiners are brilliant options considering the season they’re having in Italy.

Davy Klaassen, Steven Berghuis and Kenneth Taylor provide solid depth for Van Gaal given fatigue is bound to occur at some point during the tournament.

The most noteworthy selection personally has been that of Xavi Simons who has been nothing short of a revelation since joining Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven.

Unfortunately, Donny Van de Beek, Gini Wijnaldum and Ryan Gravenberch have also missed out which won’t come as a surprise to many as they’ve barely featured at club level.

Forwards: Memphis Depay, Luuk De Jong, Wout Weghorst, Cody Gakpo, Steven Bergwijn, Noa Lang, Vincent Janssen.

Despite only featuring as an impact sub for Barcelona, Memphis Depay is a guaranteed starter for Louis Van Gaal’s side. However, the former Manchester United and Lyon forward will miss the opening game against Senegal due to injury.

Target-man Luuk De Jong will also be a huge boost given his supreme aerial ability and will most likely be a tough player to mark on set pieces.

An unlikely revival has been that of Steven Bergwijn who has managed to carve his way into the Netherlands squad after some stellar performances with Ajax.

Manchester United and Leeds United target Cody Gakpo will also be looking to dazzle audiences on the international level and will no doubt be a nightmare on counter attacks.

Wout Weghorst, Noa Lang and Vincent Janssen may not feature as much as they’d like but you never know who gets called up when fatigue hits in.


Formation and Playing XI:

Since returning to the Netherlands setup, Louis Van Gaal has favored 2 formations namely the

3-5-2 and the 3-4-3.

Van Gaal has pretty solid options in midfield as well as defense however, the goalkeeper situation is a bit suspect.

Van Gaal seems determined to play three centre-backs, flanked by 2 attacking wing-backs, which means Nathan Ake, Virgil Van Djik and Jurrien Timber would most likely feature alongside Denzel Dumfries and Daley Blind as the wide options.

De Jong is the crucial piece which will ultimately decide how Van Gaal wants this Netherlands side to play and the Barcelona midfielder will be most likely paired with Davy Klaassen.

Cody Gakpo will be hoping to slot into the number 10 spot, especially considering how well his season is going with PSV Eindhoven.

Upfront, Memphis Depay will be the guaranteed starter alongside Steven Bergwijn which will help incorporate a blend of pace and skill. However, with Depay out for the opening game against Senegal, Van Gaal will have to call upon another brilliant option in Luuk de Jong.

Since successfully recovering from prostate cancer, Louis Van Gaal will be hoping to prove his critics wrong and hopefully finally bring the coveted World Cup title back to Amsterdam, come December.