Compelling Evidence to Suggest that Holland CANNOT Win the World Cup

There are few relationships in football more jealous than that between a Dutchman and the ball itself. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Dutch footballers are blessed with an extraordinary first touch. As these gems from Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Dennis Bergkamp demonstrate, once the ball is under control it seems to become a part of the player’s body.

However, it is also universally acknowledged that Dutch players are amongst the most egocentric in world football. The penchant for a beautiful first touch is symbolic of a desire to keep the ball exclusively. It is has often been the case that the individual takes precedent over the needs of the team and infighting has blighted many a Dutch world cup campaign. And despite their magnificent performance in demolishing world champions Spain 5-1 on Friday night there were signs that all may not be well in the Dutch camp.

Upon scoring the equaliser (an early contender for goal of the tournament) Robin Van Persie sprinted fifty yards to celebrate with manager Louis Van Gaal. The two will shortly be club colleagues at Manchester United. Van Persie was seen as a disruptive influence at Old Trafford last season and it is likely he would have walked away had Van Gaal not been appointed. Van Gaal is not renowned for being a genial manager and therefore his celebration with Van Persie implies a hint of favouritism towards his captain. The potential is there for disharmony among the other players in Van Gaal’s squad.

There appears to be no such tension between Van Persie and Arjen Robben. When the striker was substituted he handed the captain’s armband to Robben with great pomp and ceremony. However, there were hints that all is not well between Robben and the rest of his team mates. For Holland’s fifth goal, Georginio Wijnaldum was perfectly placed for a tap in yet there was never any danger of Robben passing the ball. The shrug of Wijnaldum’s shoulders as the ball hit the net told it’s own story.

Wijnaldum was then guilty of the cardinal sin of switching off after his late shot was saved by Iker Casillas. He threw his arms into the air and was stationary when a follow up shot form Wesley Sneijder was also saved. Sneijder’s own discontent with his lack of goals seemed to outweigh any joy he should have felt for the beautiful through ball he had played for Robben’s second goal.

Spain have been plagued with self doubt since last season’s 3-0 Confederations Cup Final defeat to Brazil. The aura of invincibility has gone and they were there to be shot at by Holland on Friday night. However, wilier teams will pose a much greater threat to Holland throughout this tournament. If the supply to Robben and Van Persie is cut then the frustration will start to grow. Few teams do individual skill like Holland. The legendary Johan Cruyff even had a piece of skill named after him. Yet the fact that the whole has never been greater than the sum of the parts has meant that Holland are the greatest nation never to win the world cup. In this observer’s eyes that trend looks set to continue.


Australia Team Preview

The Players

Maty Ryan goalkeeper, Club Brugge

Ivan Franjic defender, Brisbane Roar

Jason Davidson defender, Heracles Almelo

Tim Cahill forward, New York Red Bulls

Mark Milligan midfielder, Melbourne Victory

Matthew Spiranovic defender, Western Sydney Wanderers

Mathew Leckie forward, FSV Frankfurt

Bailey Wright defender, Preston North End

Adam Taggart forward, Newcastle United Jets

10 Ben Halloran midfielder, Fortuna Düsseldorf

11 Tommy Oar midfielder, Utrecht

12 Mitch Langerak goalkeeper, Borussia Dortmund

13 Oliver Bozanic midfielder, FC Luzern

14 James Troisi midfielder, Melbourne Victory

15 Mile Jedinak midfielder, Crystal Palace

16 James Holland midfielder, Austria Wien

17 Matt McKay midfielder, Brisbane Roar

18 Eugene Galekovic goalkeeper, Adelaide United

19 Ryan McGowan defender, Shandong Luneng Taishan

20 Dario Vidosic midfielder, Sion

21 Massimo Luongo midfielder, Swindon Town

22 Alex Wilkinson defender, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

23 Mark Bresciano midfielder, Al-Gharafa

Star man

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Time travellers from 1893 will be pleased with the continuity in the Socceroos squad, because Tim Cahill is still the main man. Despite his 34 years, Cahill remains a dynamic attacking threat and, yep, he’s still good in the air.

Most likely to be sent home in disgrace …
If he’s there doing media work, and he manages to get involved with the green room buffet, then you can’t look beyond Mark Bosnich.

The coach

For Australians convinced their country is being swamped by foreigners, Ange Postecoglou is a welcome change : their first Australian coach in nearly 10 years. He has cleared out the old lags : Australia fielded the second oldest squad of all 32 nations at South Africa 2010. In Brazil they will have one of the youngest sides : an incredible 19 players in their initial squad have 10 caps or fewer.

Grudge match

Apparently there is some kind of rivalry with England. If the teams do meet, expect England to get a decent start before a brilliant fightback from Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson brings them to their knees. Then again – as well as some surprise career changes – that would require both teams getting out of their groups, which is even more unlikely than an England Ashes whitewash.

Holed up

The Socceroos will be billeted at the Hotel Ilha Do Boi which “sits on top of a small island offering sweeping views over the coastline of Vitoria”. Rumours that homesick Melbournians at the Australian FA believed they were booking a hotel in Victoria remain unconfirmed.

How they qualified
No qualification cakewalks against the Cook Islands these days. The Socceroos squeaked through the Asia group, a late goal against Iraq securing third place and automatic qualification.

World Cup high
Got to last 16 in 2006 and has a glorious opportunity to progress against 10-man Italy, but couldn’t apply the coup de grace and lost to an injury-time penalty.

World Cup low
Put up a decent show in South Africa and were harshly eliminated on goal difference in favour of Ghana, a 0-4 paddling off Germany the hammer blow.

Familiar faces
Rhys Williams (Middlesbrough), Mike Jedinak (Crystal Palace)

Title odds

The stereotype is …
About the 83rd most popular sport in Australia, so well done to them for even being there. Grit. Battlers.

The reality is …
A tradition of talented but somewhat flaky players. Now play decent football. Still a minority sport though.

What they’re known for
Mateship 50 per cent
Rugby 35 per cent
Funny hats 12 per cent
Minogues 3 per cent

How Google translates the national anthem
‘Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi’ [language unknown]

A suitably no-nonsense 1 min 10 sec.

How to dress like their fans

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Shorts (longer for formal wear). Shirt optional. Beer essential.

Commentator’s go-to stat
Australians from Queensland are called “banana benders.” Bound to come in handy if they get a free kick in what used to be called “BeckhamTerritory”.


Chile Team Preview

The Players

Claudio Bravo goalkeeper, (captain) Real Sociedad

Eugenio Mena defender, Santos

Miiko Albornoz defender, Malmo FF

Mauricio Isla midfielder, Juventus

Francisco Silva midfielder, Osasuna

Carlos Carmona midfielder, Atalanta

Alexis Sánchez forward, Barcelona

Arturo Vidal midfielder, Juventus

Mauricio Pinilla forward, Cagliari

10 Jorge Valdívia midfielder, Palmeiras

11 Eduardo Vargas forward, Valencia

12 Cristopher Toselli goalkeeper, Universidad Católica

13 José Rojas defender, Universidad de Chile

14 Fabián Orellana midfielder, Celta Vigo

15 Jean Beausejour midfielder, Wigan Athletic

16 Felipe Gutiérrez midfielder, Twente

17 Gary Medel defender, Cardiff City

18 Gonzalo Jara defender, Nottingham Forest

19 José Pedro Fuenzalida midfielder, Colo-Colo

20 Charles Aránguiz midfielder, Internacional

21 Marcelo Díaz midfielder, Basel

22 Esteban Paredes forward, Colo-Colo

23 Johnny Herrera goalkeeper, Universidad de Chile

Star man

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Barcelona’s Alexis Sánchez is Chile’s main threat, as England discovered to their cost in last autumn’s friendly at Wembley. Stocky, powerful and elusive in his movement off the ball, he illuminated the World Cup in South Africa and can do so again in Brazil, presumably relieved to be out of Lionel Messi’s shadow.

Most likely to be sent home in disgrace
Medel (nickname: Pit-bull) has been arrested for drink driving, for shoving a female journalist and for allegedly making death threats outside a supermarket. He has been tasered by the police, and once admitted that, if he had not made it as a footballer, he would be selling drugs.

The coach

Jorge Sampaoli took Universidad to three consecutive league titles and the Copa Sudamericana, as well as the semi-final of the Copa Libertadores, and Chile to the finals after finishing third in South American qualifying. The hyperactive, technical area jumping jack is a Marcelo Bielsa clone who looks like Andre Agassi.He has got a talented side playing the high-tempo, high-pressing fashionable way.

Grudge match

In the absence of Peru, they have been attempting to stoke rivalries with – wait for it – Australia, Spain and, conveniently enough, Holland. It’s actually the brainchild of Cristal, a Chilean beer company, whose horror movie-inspired adverts feature Dutch blondes, Madridistas and Aussie surf dudes being terrorised by mysterious shadowy figures who deposit Chile replica kits on their doorsteps. Apparently it’s a selling point. No idea what the beer tastes like. Otherwise you’re going back to the Battle of Santiago with Italy in 1962.

Holed up

Chile stayed and trained at Toca da Raposa II, Cruzeiro’s base in Belo Horizonte, when they played a friendly against Brazil in the city last year, and they liked it so much they’re coming back. First, though, they have demanded new beds and large flat-screen televisions in every room. They have plenty of time to sing along to Chile’s World Cup song, Vamos Chile, written by one Miguel Piñera, famed in Chile for writing bouncy pop songs, dating models and being the brother of the former president Sebastián Piñera. Maradona lookalike Piñera has a way with words: “Come on Chile, come on Chile, we are going to the World Cup. With caipirinha and piscola we are going to celebrate.”

How they qualified
Highly creditable third place in qualifying group in the toughest of all the federations.

World Cup high
Hosted the 1962 edition and finished in third place, although Battle of Santiago match v Italy in first round was a bit naughty.

World Cup low
In 1990 qualifying, keeper Roberto Rojas pretended to have been hit by a firework so a match with Brazil would be abandoned. Chile was banned for two World Cups.

Familiar faces
Gary Medel (Cardiff City), Jean Beausejour (Wigan Atheltic), Gonzalo Jara (Nottingham Forest).

Title odds

The stereotype is …
These South American B-listers will give England some practice against the sort of teams they’ll need to beat in Brazil.

The reality is …
Oh Christ, add another one to the list of foreign teams who are streets ahead of our lot. Chile are all about high-tempo attacking football, pressing opponents high up the pitch and using width to stretch the play. They can interchange from 3-4-1-2 to 3-3-1-3 to 4-3-3, depending on how opponents are set up, their mobile forwards scurrying about with abandon.

What they’re known for
Sauvignon blanc 45 per cent
General Pinochet 35 per cent
Rescued miners 15 per cent
Country being long and thin 5 per cent

How Google translates the national anthem
Alza, Chile, unblemished forehead, conquered your name on the lid

A punishing 2min 1sec, with merciless use of cymbals.

How to dress like their fans

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If internet image searching is a reliable indicator, by wearing a pointy hat (men) and not much more than a bra (women).

Commentator’s go-to stat
Chile is the world’s No 1 exporter of salmon.

Holland Team Preview

The Players

Jasper Cillessen goalkeeper, Ajax

Ron Vlaar defender, Aston Villa

Stefan de Vrij defender, Feyenoord

Bruno Martins Indi defender, Feyenoord

Daley Blind defender, Ajax

Nigel de Jong midfielder, Milan

Daryl Janmaat defender, Feyenoord

Jonathan de Guzmán midfielder, Swansea City

Robin van Persie (captain) forward, Manchester United

10 Wesley Sneijder midfielder, Galatasaray

11 Arjen Robben midfielder, Bayern Munich

12 Paul Verhaegh defender, Augsburg

13 Joël Veltman defender, Ajax

14 Terence Kongolo defender, Feyenoord

15 Dirk Kuyt forward, Fenerbahce

16 Jordy Clasie midfielder, Feyenoord

17 Jeremain Lens, forward, Dynamo Kyiv

18 Leroy Fer midfielder, Norwich City

19 Klaas-Jan Huntelaar forward, Schalke

20 Georginio Wijnaldum midfielder, PSV Eindhoven

21 Memphis Depay midfielder, PSV Eindhoven

22 Michel Vorm goalkeeper, Swansea City

23 Tim Krul goalkeeper, Newcastle United

Star man


A striker so renowned he now simply goes by his initials – RVP. Robin van Persie topped the European qualifying scoring charts with 11 goals and, in total, has 42 goals in 83 appearances for the Oranje. A knee injury has kept the 30-year-old out of action for Manchester United since late March but he is expected to be fit, and so relatively fresh, for the World Cup finals.

Most likely to be sent home in disgrace …
While Nigel de Jong’s high challenge on Xabi Alonso in the 2010 final made him the team baddie on the pitch, off it Norwich City’s Leroy Fer has form for idiocy. While a Twente player in 2012, he paid £22,000 for a horse for his girlfriend … only for her to tell him she lived in a flat, plus the lift wasn’t big enough and had no way of keeping the animal. He sold it but not before his team-mates had a good laugh.

The coach

Manchester United’s next manager is not short on self-belief, and his authoritarian style has rubbed up plenty of star players the wrong way; his management style “doesn’t win you any friends,” according to Bayern’s Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, but the Dutch – always among the more combustible of dressing rooms – seem to be in harmony for the time being.

Grudge match

Germany are and always will be public enemy No1. The 1974 World Cup final defeat became known as De moeder aller nederlagen – the mother of all defeats – and it feels as if they have been trying to exact revenge ever since, expressed most infamously with the mouthful of spit that Frank Rijkaard launched into Rudi Voller’s curly hair during the 1990 finals.

Holed up

The Caesar Park Hotel, a five-star complex, has stunning views and an excellent location, stationed as it is directly in front of Ipanema Beach, a gorgeous stretch of sand and sea which is also home to the locally-invented game of footvolley.

How they qualified
Coasted through their group with nine wins from 10 games, scoring 34 goals in the process – Estonia were the only team to take points off the Dutch.

World Cup high
Beating holders Brazil 2-0 in the final match of the second group stage to reach the 1974. Total Football had arrived.

World Cup low
Losing three times in the final (1974, 1978 and 2010). Defeat to Scotland in 1978 was also pretty demoralising but at least it is immortalised in Trainspotting.

Familiar faces
Tim Krul (Newcastle United), Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa), Jonathan de Guzmán (Swansea City), Leroy Fer (Norwich City), Michel Vorm (Swansea), Robin van Persie (Manchester United).

Title odds: 18/1

The stereotype is …
Total football, excellent technique, a penchant for internal arguments and frequent use of the word ‘also’ when speaking English.

The reality is …
Total Football is long gone but Van Gaal has worked hard to restore inventiveness to their play following the spiteful assault on Spain in the 2010 final. An attack-minded 4-3-3 formation saw Holland score 34 goals in qualifying, the second-highest total in Europe behind Germany. Van Gaal said Holland will change to a 5-3-2 system in Brazil after he had discussed it with Van Persie and Arjen Robben and received their enthusiastic support. In midfield, Wesley Sneijder will again provide the team with creativity.

What they’re known for
Tulips 8 per cent
Windmills 14 per cent
Ajax 22 per cent
A loose approach to drugs 32 per cent
Canals 22 per cent
Steve McClaren 2 per cent

How Google translates the national anthem
William of Nassau am I, of German blood. Loyal to the fatherland I will remain until I die.

How long it lasts
A clog-tapping two minutes and 30 seconds

How to dress like their fans

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Head-to-toe in orange. If you don’t look like you’ve been Tango-ed, don’t even bother showing up.

Commentator’s go-to stat
Holland has a population of 17 million in an area not much bigger than the north-west of England.

Spain Team Preview

The Players

Iker Casillas goalkeeper, Real Madrid

Raúl Albiol defender, Napoli

Gerard Piqué defender, Barcelona

Javi Martínez midfielder, Bayern Munich

Juanfran defender, Atlético Madrid

Andrés Iniesta midfielder, Barcelona

David Villa forward, Atlético Madrid

Xavi midfielder, Barcelona

Fernando Torres forward, Chelsea

10 Cesc Fábregas midfielder, Barcelona

11 Pedro forward, Barcelona

12 David de Gea goalkeeper, Manchester United

13 Juan Mata midfielder, Manchester United

14 Xabi Alonso midfielder, Real Madrid

15 Sergio Ramos defender, Real Madrid

16 Sergio Busquets midfielder, Barcelona

17 Koke midfielder, Atlético Madrid

18 Jordi Alba defender, Barcelona

19 Diego Costa forward, Atlético Madrid

20 Santi Cazorla midfielder, Arsenal

21 David Silva midfielder, Manchester City

22 César Azpilicueta defender, Chelsea

23 Pepe Reina goalkeeper, Napoli

Star man


Andrés Iniesta. It would have been impossible to choose a more popular player to score the winner in South Africa in 2010. Even Real Madrid fans like him.

Most likely to be sent home in disgrace
Sergio Ramos has been sent off 17 times for Real Madrid but not once for Spain in 115 appearances but his club and country value him too highly to bother branding him a disgrace.

The coach

Everyone’s favourite cuddly uncle. If there’s one word that leaps to the mind when you meet Vicente del Bosque it’s “decency”. Quiet, humble, generous and warm. Universally liked, except by a tiny handful of the pathetic and bitter. Manages big players softly and occasionally surprises with a tactical innovation. Two league titles, two European Cups, a European Championship and a World Cup. Marquis del Bosque now.

Grudge match

There’s something about the Italians that tends to get their Spanish neighbours going, sending the stereotypes streaming: Italy, it’s often said, are cynical, dirty and boring. Unlike Spain. Crucially, for years, unlike Spain, they were successful, too. The Euro 2008 quarter-finals and the 2012 final have taken some of the edge out of that. Maybe now it will be Brazil. After all, Spain have “signed” Diego Costa, the tall, quick, strong and often prickly Brazilian-born forward. He should be a valuable new weapon in Del Bosque’s armoury.

Holed up

In Curitiba in the south. It’ll be cold, Del Bosque says. Cold for Spain, anyway. Calm, quiet, and relatively isolated but with friends and families close enough to turn up for days off. Card games, sweepstakes on other matches and PlayStation to keep them busy. At the last World Cup, Álvaro Arbeloa and Raúl Albiol always chose to play as England, parading round the camp in three lions shirts with “Gerrard” or “Crouch” on the back. Table tennis matches will be hotly contested, “like double sessions every day”, as Juan Mata puts it. He is the man to beat.

How they qualified
The holders topped their five-team group with six wins and two draws, and only briefly looked troubled by runners-up France when Franck Ribéry ran at their defence.

World Cup high
Short memory? The meat in their euro sandwich, they survived Holland’s attempts to maim them and won the ugly final in 2010, four minutes from the end of extra time when the magnificent Andrés Iniesta half-volleyed his shot past Maarten Stekelenburg.

World Cup low
Leading 2-1 against Nigeria in 1998 with 18 minutes to play they ended up losing 3-2 and the team, stacked with excellent players in their prime such as Luís Enrique, Raúl, Fernando Hierro and Sergi, were knocked out at the group stage when they drew their next match with Paraguay.

Familiar faces
Juan Mata (Manchester United), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), David de Gea (Manchester United), César Azpilicueta (Chelsea), David Silva (Manchester City), Fernando Torres (Chelsea).

Title odds: 5/1

The stereotype is …
Team of magical elves hypnotising the opposition with short, rhythmical passing which proves so mesmeric it makes centreforwards redundant.

The reality is …
Team of magical elves … they are tougher than they seem, are very strong defensively. Spain will adopt a 4-3-3 formation, albeit one that may include no actual strikers at all, and seek possession for protection as well as creation.

What they’re known for?
Tiki taka 36 per cent
Unemployment 19 per cent
Timeshare cockney wideboys 22 per cent
Napping all afternoon 23 per cent

How Google translates the national anthem
It’s an instrumental, which did not stop Eamon Dunphy in 2012 saying the squad had decided not to sing the non-existent words to show Barcelona and Real Madrid players were united in common purpose.

One minute and 18 sec or 16 bars of brassy pomp and circumstance to honour the king.

How to dress like their fans

Pastel cashmere jumper slung around the shoulders Style Council-style, eternally sockless and with Ray Bans doubling as Alice band or red shirts, wineskins and comedy matador hats.

Commentator’s go-to fact
In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He had three ships and left from Spain; he sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.