Wednesday, Jun. 02, 2010


Manager: Bert van Marwijk

Best: Runners-up (1974, 1978)

Imperious in qualifying, Holland yet again enter a World Cup in fine form but facing persistent doubts over their well-established capacity for self-destruction. Surely the best side to have never won the tournament (losing finalists in both 1974 and 1978), Holland were the first European side to qualify for 2010, winning all its games.

Coach Bert van Marwijk (father in law of midfielder Mark van Bommel) oversees a not atypical group of Dutch players — rich in talent but also in egos. Anchored by Van Bommel and the enforcer Nigel De Jong, the Oranje midfield will rely on the creative powerhouses Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder to feed the deadly attacking skills of Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie. But the Dutch will sorely miss goalkeeper Edwin van der Saar (who has retired from international football) and striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, left out of the squad. The last side to reach a World Cup without dropping a single point in qualifying games was West Germany in 1982. They ended up as losing finalists, a familiar fate the Dutch will be hoping to avoid.

Player to watch: Despite coming off a frustrating, injury-ravaged season for Arsenal, Robin van Persie is a stylish striker who could light up the World Cup.