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Dutch face key decisions
by Paul Kennedy, December 17th, 2009 7AM

TAGS:  international, men's national team, spain, world cup


[SCOUTING REPORT] Like U.S. coach Bob Bradley, Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk will be using the Netherlands-USA friendly on March 3 at the Amsterdam ArenA (TV: ESPN2, Galavision, live, 2:30 p.m. ET) as an opportunity to assemble all his players one last time before he must make a decision on who take to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The Oranje have probably more depth than any European team in the tournament except Spain, and that depth will be tested because of the ankle injury suffered by star Robin van Persie that may keep him out of the World Cup.

Europe's first team to qualify for the 2010 World Cup finals will head to South Africa with the mission of finally winning the world championship. Second in 1974 and 1978, the Netherlands has underachieved at every World Cup since then with the possible exception of France '98 where the Oranje finished fourth. In 2006, they were unbeaten in group play but lost in the second round to Portugal in an ugly match.

The Netherlands regained its reputation for attacking soccer at Euro 2008, where it crushed World Cup '06 finalists Italy (3-0) and France (4-1), but again exited quickly in the knockout phase, falling to Russia in overtime in the quarterfinals.

Dutch faithful will hope that the perfect 2010 qualifying campaign - eight wins in eight games - will carry over to the finals and the Oranje will find some consistency. The Dutch camp is confident that it can win its group, which includes Denmark, Cameroon and Japan, but a possible quarterfinal showdown with Brazil (or rematch with Portugal) looms.

Van Marwijk hardly evokes the attacking spirit of his predecessor, former Dutch great Marco van Basten, though his squad's strength is in its attacking options.

The Oranje certainly will be a World Cup contender, but just how strong they will look six months from now will depend on the form of Real Madrid's Rafael van der Vaart and former Real Madrid teammates, Wesley Sneijder, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Arjen Robben, all unloaded to make room - and pay - for the Spanish club's new Galacticos.

Real's decision to keep van der Vaart has proved to be fortuitous as the Dutchman has gotten a lot of playing time recently with star Kaka injured. Reports persist of a possible move, perhaps to Arsenal in January.

Huntelaar has been in and out of the lineup at AC Milan and is reportedly being pursued by Manchester United.

Sneijder recently returned to action for Inter Milan and was sent off in its 2-1 loss to Juventus.

Since returning from injury, Robben has been limited action for resurgent Bayern Munich.

Other candidates for the Oranje attack are Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel of Liverpool and 22-year-old Hamburg forward Eljero Elia.

Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax)
Piet Velthuizen (Vitesse)
Michel Vorm (Utrecht)

Edson Braafheid (Bayern München)
Khalid Boulahrouz (VfB Stuttgart)
John Heitinga (Everton)
Joris Mathijsen (Hamburg)
Andre Ooijer  (PSV)
Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord)
Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax)

Ibrahim Afellay (PSV)
Otman Bakkal (PSV)
Wout Brama (FC Twente)
Orlando Engelaar (PSV)
Nigel de Jong (Man. City)
Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan)
Mark van Bommel (Bayern Munich)
Rafael van der Vaart (Real Madrid)

Ryan Babel (Liverpool)
Eljero Elia (Hamburg)
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan)
Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool)
Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)


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