World Cup - Country profile: Netherlands

We profile 2014 World Cup finalists Netherlands, who are seeking to go one better after losing in the final four years ago in South Africa.

Reuters
World Cup - Country profile: Netherlands
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Netherlands players celebrate scoring against Turkey in World Cup qualifying (AFP)

Form and prospects

The Dutch were the first European country to book their place in Brazil, ending the year unbeaten in 13 games, but are still far from the quality product that came so close to World Cup success in 2010.

The likes of Nigel de Jong, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart are still regulars after leading roles in helping the Dutch to reach the 2010 final.

However, coach Louis van Gaal has overhauled the team in the wake of a disappointing Euro 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine, where the highly fancied Dutch lost all three of their group games.

Van Gaal lost his first game back in charge but has gone 17 matches without defeat since a 4-2 friendly loss to Belgium.

They eased competently through their qualifying group as they won nine of their 10 matches, scoring 34 goals and conceding just five.

Top place was secured away in the restricted confines of the tiny stadium in Andorra with two matches still to play.

The Dutch campaign included an 8-1 home thumping of Hungary and impressive away victories in Bucharest and Istanbul but recent friendlies have shown up some weaknesses although Van Gaal has not been scared to give teenage talent like Memphis Depay a run in the team.

Coach: Louis van Gaal

Van Gaal, 62, began his second spell as coach of the Dutch national team, replacing Bert van Marwijk, after the last European Championship and will retire after the tournament in Brazil.

He had failed to take the Netherlands to the 2002 finals in Asia but made sure of redemption by steering the squad through a near flawless campaign.

A strict disciplinarian, Van Gaal made his name at Ajax Amsterdam where he won the Champions League in 1995 before winning two Spanish titles with Barcelona.

He also won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich in 2010 but was fired before the end of the next season

Key player: Robin van Persie

The Manchester United striker captains the national side and during the qualifying campaign broke the record for the most goals by a Dutch international, overtaking Patrick Kluivert to reach 41 goals in 79 appearances.

The 30-year-old scored 11 goals in the 2014 qualifying campaign including a last gasp goal in Estonia, which kept up an unbeaten record for the Dutch.

Van Persie broke through at Feyenoord but only won his first cap after joining Arsenal.

His move from the London club to Manchester United was a contentious affair last season, on top of a £22.5million fee, but he won league honours in his first campaign.

How they qualified

Winners European Group D

World Cup record

Previous appearances: 9 (1934, 1938, 1974, 1978, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010)

Best performances: Runners up 1974, 1978, 2010.

Odds

16-1

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