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Inside France's World Cup ceremony

 By Elko Born

Netherlands' World Cup predictions

After four years of waiting, the time has come. Another World Cup is here, and our bloggers across all 32 competing countries have each predicted the fate that awaits their team. The country's Outlook gives a general view of its situation ahead of the tournament, while Pitfalls takes a look at any potential problems. Each blogger will also predict the top scorer and breakout star and suggest how far that nation can go.


Things seemed to be going smoothly for the Netherlands until Kevin Strootman was injured and ruled out of the World Cup in March. Suddenly departing from the 4-3-3 formation he normally uses, manager Louis van Gaal decided to shake things up and a 5-3-2 formation was introduced in friendlies against Ecuador and Ghana.

Completely different from "Total Football" -- the Dutch style of play based on possession and domination -- the unusual new formation was a culture shock to anyone familiar with traditional Dutch football. Will 5-3-2 prove to be a master stroke by van Gaal, or will it prove his downfall?


While the added security the five defenders provide may be welcome against top-class teams like Spain and Chile, the task of learning a new system just moments before the World Cup begins is not an easy one. What's more, the defenders' general lack of experience might show during the tournament. Will the likes of Stefan de Vrij, Bruno Martins Indi and Joel Veltman be able to hold their own against Spain's collection of technical and intelligent midfielders, not to mention Chile's high-pressing and imposing style of football?


The Netherlands will have to rely on two star players for goals: Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben. Van Persie, who had a disappointing season with Manchester United, will be fit when the tournament starts and eager to show his worth to Van Gaal, his manager at Old Trafford next season. Robben, who had an excellent first season under new manager Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich, will likely be full of confidence when kickoff comes around. Van Gaal's preference for 5-3-2, which perfectly accommodates Van Persie and Robben's attacking qualities, should not be seen as a coincidence.

Louis van Gaal's 5-3-2 formation could make or break Netherlands' hopes this summer.


The 5-3-2 formation largely depends on its wing-backs for width. Consequently, right-back Daryl Janmaat will play a key role in Van Gaal's tactical setup. In turn, the Feyenoord player might be thinking about moving his career forward by joining a club from a bigger league next year. All in all, the conditions seem to be there for Janmaat to shine. Daley Blind, Janmaat's counterpart on the left side of the pitch, will find himself in a similar situation and may prove to be just as important.


Having to face Chile and reigning world champion Spain in the first round of the tournament, the Netherlands find themselves in what could be described as a group of death. If they manage to at least draw against Spain in their opening match, first or second place shouldn't be too difficult to achieve. Should the Oranje lose, however, the third and final group match against Chile could be decisive. With Chile's high energy and combative style of play in mind, it might be difficult for Netherlands to survive. Should they succeed in qualifying for the round of 16, expect their tournament to end there.