Coming in to the World Cup, Holland manager Bert van Marwijk couldn’t ask for more. The attacking options open to him will be the envy of nearly all the other 31 competing teams with Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder in the club form of their lives and Robin van Persie regaining fitness.
Marwijk also has Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babbel, Klaus Jan Huntelaar, Rafael van der Vaart and promising Eljero Elia all available – the only headache being how to configure them all into a winning team.
The manager got the blend of forwards just right at Euro 2008 when Holland made a mockery of their Group of Death tag by putting nine goals past Italy, France, and Romania as they won each game convincingly.
Holland’s subsequent perfect qualification for South Africa passed somewhat quietly, due mainly to the small size of Group 9 and its apparent deficiency in quality – Norway came runners-up. But a record of eight wins from eight games is one that couldn’t be bettered, and, more interestingly, it was done by conceding just two goals.
Without the presence of the kind of big names found in the forward line Holland have become a resistant force at the back, as emphasised by a record of one goal conceded in their last four matches against Paraguay, Italy, USA and Australia.
Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel will provide a strong core in midfield and a probable back line including Andre Ooijer, Joris Mathijsen, Khalid Boulahrouz, and Giovanni van Bronckhorst contains experience in buckets.
A relatively easy group of Denmark, Japan, and Cameroon should be negotiated with minimum fuss, setting up a likely second round match with Paraguay.
Should Holland, a group often cited as dysfunctional, manage to keep it together for that game a quarter final tie with Brazil will probably beckon and, with a solid base from which the forwards can do the damage, they are capable of avenging their 1998 defeat by the same nation.