Wales v Holland: Two teams heading in opposite directions

Wales’ international friendly with the Netherlands will be a meeting of the world’s 15th and 16th best sides. They are teams with polar opposite histories of footballing success, but couldn’t be in two more contrasting moments of their existence.

Danny Blind’s Oranje have just suffered the ignominy of failing to qualify for the European Championships, for the first time since 1984. Chris Coleman’s Dragons, meanwhile, booked their place at a Euros for the first time. Ever.

That one spot separates them in Fifa’s farcical ranking system doesn’t paint the true picture of their standing within the game. Since 2014 Holland have fallen from 5th in the world to their current spot in 16th, while Wales have climbed to 15th from 34th.

Propelled by the star quality of Gareth Bale, the Welsh qualified for Euro 2016 by collecting just two points fewer than current ranking-toppers Belgium.

Around the Real Madrid star, and to a lesser extent Aaron Ramsey, Coleman has slotted a gaggle of experienced pros. Of the squad to face Netherlands in Cardiff – which doesn’t include the duo due to injury – 10 have over 30 international caps. It’s a formula that’s clearly working.

The same can’t be said about whatever method it is the Netherlands are using. They finished fourth in their group, behind the Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey, and won just four times in their 10 qualifiers.

A host of young players fill their squad and beyond the fading qualities of senior stars like Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, they have little international pedigree running through their team.

Despite all of that, it’s Blind’s men that are favoured to win in Wales. Ladbrokes make them 10/11 shouts for victory, with Wales at 16/5 and the draw available as a 23/10 chance.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.