10. Marco van Basten
This man has no respect for reputations – which is really a good thing when it comes to the Dutch national team. So out go the trouble-makers – Makaay, Kluivert and that kecoh Davids.
Seedorf, while not viewed as a classic trouble-maker, was simply not good enough; he may have grown comfortable and accustomed to his role at AC Milan, but was clearly out of rhytym with MVB’s management and football style, and the mix of the team in general.
9. Dirk Kuyt
It appears that the only blondes with brains are those in orange jerseys!
Kuyt has a pure footballing brain, and every decision he makes on the field seems to make very clear sense. He is blessed with an uncanny sense of knowing the quickest route to goal, and the speed and ability to get there quickly.
Positioning? Tick. Tick.
Power. Tick. Tick. Tick.
If he’s headed to Liverpool the coming EPL season, it will be a super buy indeed. Perhaps Chelsea with their "retirement home" squad of Shevchenko, Ballack and co aren’t so frightening after all.
8. A hungry Ruud van Nistelrooy
If there is a man with more to prove than van Basten, it is Ruud.
Disposed with unease from Old Trafford – perhaps permanently – he knows more than anyone else on the team how little reputation counts for in this squad. There are eager, capable and available options on the bench, and if he doesn’t put away his chances well, Ruud could end up with little time on the field in Germany.
7. Marco van Basten
If there is a man with more to prove than van Nistelrooy, it is Marco.
I was surprised to find out from the Soccernet fact files that he has never won a World Cup match; his only tournament was the disappointing Italia ’90, which ended poorly for the Dutch. Three draws in the group stages, and a 2nd round defeat to West Germany means that van Basten will be eager as hell to rack up the wins and move his team into the deeper rounds of the tournament.
6. World Cup 2002
They were not in JPN / KOR, and the few Dutch wallahs I know tell me that really sucked. Big time!
There is a phrase about absence, and the heart becoming fonder, or something like that... I can’t remember it now...
5. Form, patience
Notwithstanding the bruiser of a not-so-friendly friendly match against Australia the past weekend, this squad is hitting a really rich vein of form.
I saw them play Mexico a week ago, and despite going down 1-0 at half-time, they came back with a zing-zang-zonger, and packed the Mexican gringos off with relative ease with two quick goals in the 2nd half.
4. Team morale
Observers have commented that they have never seen morale in the Dutch camp this high. It was a big handicap in the past, for Dutch teams boasting far more big names than this one.
And it was encouraging that when MVB assumed the role he made morale a big mandate. And top-o-the-props to him, he’s put his money where his mouth is.
MVB says “We've abandoned the petty fines for coming late or leaving mobiles on, as this is not the kind of money that will hurt any modern player. As a punishment he now has to tell a joke in front of the group. That works very well. No one has sinned so far.”
3. Da playa’s
Robben, van Persie, Sneijder, Ooijder, van Bommel, Cocu, Kromkamp are only some of the delectable talents expected to hit the field against Serbia & Montenegro come June 11th.
Holland also have depth of talent on the bench, with the likes of Heitinga, Hasselink, and the exuberant Ryan Babel (who scored the cool winner against Mexico).
Babel looks to be a real firecracker, and along with the rest of the Ajax team members in this squad, are sure to bring his club closer to the glory days they used to enjoy in the early ‘90s.
He may be young, and may look too much like the rascal Patrick Kluivert for my liking, but I think MVB has got a great ace up his sleeve for whenever he needs a cracker-jack substitute. Expect him to come in handy in the tiring extra time stages in the deep end of the tournament. Remember, you read it here first.
Er... Theo who?
2. Ruud Gullit
He is not a part of this squad.
As much as I liked watching him play during his misai days, the further away Gullit is from the Dutch team, the better for all involved.
1. Marco van Basten
When asked by the Dutch FA who should take over from Dick Advocaat after Euro 2004, the legendary Johan Cruyff immediately mentioned “van Basten”.
Like Gullit, Rijkaard and Koeman (Ronald, not Erwin), MVB was part of the prodigious Dutch team that was expected to win all before them. That they only walked away with the European Cup in 1988 was a disappointment to not only the Dutch people, but football fans throughout.
MVB knows that he has a great squad going for him this year, and having assembled a squad of solid, able performers, he also looks to have built an astute, but thoroughly workable team strategy.
Like group-mates Argentina, the big thing going for them is the absence of expectation. Released from the pressure that continued success demands, this Dutch team have been producing the form that could well take them through to the semi-finals, at the very least. Assuming they both win their 2nd round matches, both these teams could end up meeting again at this point.
What a match that will be!