GROUP B
Holland

THE 60-SECOND OVERVIEW

Nine-time participants and three-time finalists (1974, 1978 and 2010), the Dutch have never managed to take home the much-coveted trophy. Although the team has clearly lost some quality in recent years, the present squad is relatively young, full of enthusiasm and hunger, and coach Louis van Gaal is a master at distilling potential into a winning formula.

They have already impressed during their qualification campaign (28 points out of 30; 34 scored, 5 conceded), although they didn’t face any world-class opposition. That will change with their opening game in Brazil: they face reigning champs Spain.

THE DREAM

Louis van Gaal dreams about being the first coach to deliver gold to the Dutch, and it would surely be the high point of an impressive managerial career.

LvG has won many trophies with clubs including Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but faced a major setback when he failed to lead Holland to the 2002 World Cup. After putting that record straight, his focus now lies in finding a line-up capable of the top prize – which looks like a challenge, since he has tested many different players so far. Still, Van Gaal believes in his squad, and claims he knows what it takes to win the World Cup.

THE NIGHTMARE

Home before the postcards. Looking at Group B, most accept that Spain are top dogs, while Chile are genuine outside shots: they impressed in a friendly against Germany earlier this year, with a very strong tactical approach.

Worse, Holland are now without their defensive lynchpin Kevin Strootman (knee), leading some to fear that the Dutch team will be exposed, resulting in an inglorious farewell for Van Gaal. Alternatively, defeat in a fourth final – while more of an achievement – would hurt like hell.

The Stats
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PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

Have people saying "Who's he?": Terence Kongolo

Van Gaal's biggest surprise pick was the Feyenoord centre-back, barely out of his teens, who was subbed at half-time on his international debut. Although he has been capped at every age level since the U15s, Rotterdam-born Kongolo only established himself in club football since the spring.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

HEAD THE SCOUTING LIST: DALEY BLIND

The son of current Oranje assistant coach Danny has made huge strides at Ajax. The 24-year-old started at left-back before being installed as a holding midfielder, where he has impressed all season. Van Gaal says it’s his natural position, but still might use him as a left-back as he considers Blind Holland’s best option there.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

TO EXPLORE BRAZIL HIGH ON THE HOG: JEREMAIN LENS

In good weather, the Dynamo Kiev forward likes to ride his Harley Davidson. Sometimes he’s joined by fellow players Gianni Zuiverloon (ex-West Brom) and goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer (Ajax). Vroom.

DID YOU KNOW?

Last August, Van Gaal SAID only three players were certain of World Cup participation: Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Kevin Strootman (now ruled out). A few months later, the coach said there were still many places up for grabs. Never before have the final weeks of the league been so important to so many.

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Qualifying at a canter, the Oranje need to start strong against Spain. Blink there and they could collapse, but if they gather momentum...