8 Days to the Cup

The Netherlands are the greatest footballing nation never to hoist the World Cup.  They came close in 1974, when, led by the great Johan Cruyff, they got Beckenbaured by West Germany in the championship match. Their “Total Football” innovations brought the free-flowing style of Ajax to international football, and to great effect.

Here’s snippets of their victory over Brazil in the 1974 semi-finals:

The Netherlands won the European Championship in 1988 behind Gullit, van Basten and Rijkaard, but haven’t moved beyond the semi-finals in a major tournament since. I think they’ve got a shot this year, as they blazed through qualifying behind the tremendous form of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben, who pair with the explosive Robin van Persie and the tough-as-nails Dirk Kuyt in the attack, with Mark van Bommel holding and banging away in the middle of the field (and Nigel de Jong attempting to break people’s legs behind him).  They’ve also got a ridiculous amount of attacking talent beyond those four but, like Argentina, are somewhat suspect at the back.

If everything goes to form, they’re likely to face Brazil in the quarterfinals.  What a match that could be. Here’s a look at some of their stars… remember, a lot of these guys will be on the bench: