x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The future is bright and Oranje

Ronald de Boer, the former Holland midfielder, feels his team's attacking philosophy makes them contenders, as long as they can address their problems at the back.

Arsenal's Robin van Persie, centre, comes into the World Cup fresher than most players after an injury-plagued season for the English Premier League club.
Arsenal's Robin van Persie, centre, comes into the World Cup fresher than most players after an injury-plagued season for the English Premier League club.

DUBAI // Ronald de Boer, the former Holland midfielder, has said the Dutch team's attacking philosophy makes them contenders at this summer's World Cup, as long as they can address their problems at the back. Holland are renowned for a flowing attacking style, made famous by the Johan Cruyff team of the 1970s which gave birth to the phrase "total football".

De Boer, who lifted the Champions League with Ajax in 1995, identified Robin van Persie, the striker who plays for Arsenal in the English Premier League, and Holland's all-star midfield as the principal threats. "Van Persie has not played too many games this season and he will be hungry," said De Boer. "He wants to do really well and he is fresh. He scored twice in last week's friendly with Mexico and is an incredible player. We also have [Arjen] Robben and [Wesley] Sneijder, two players who have had great seasons."

The Oranje reached the World Cup as the only European team with a 100 per cent qualification record. Eleven players found the net as Bert van Marwijk's side rattled in 17 goals in eight wins. The Dutch thrashed Ghana 4-1 on Tuesday night to underline their strength-in-depth. Van Marwijk, the former Feyenoord manager, favours a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation, with Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong deployed as holding midfielders. The pair provide cover for Holland's largely inexperienced back four which, according to De Boer, is the side's Achilles heel.

"Our weakness lies at the back, but we play a difficult game," stressed De Boer. "We want to play nice football and press forward, but that means we give space away. "It is not an easy balance and often makes our defenders vulnerable, but that's all to do with the way we play." De Boer is not convinced that two midfield ball-winners are essential. "The anchors are very important; they are the guys who keep the team together," he said.

"But maybe we should only have one and play [Rafael] Van der Vaart or Sneijder there. There are so many great, attacking players who can play in the middle. It is not about physical presence, it is about communication. If one goes forward, the other must stay. It is a matter of discipline and that is the duty of the coach." To win the tournament, something Holland have never achieved, De Boer, speaking at the launch of Life After Football magazine, acknowledged the Dutch will have to beat Spain.

"For me, they are the best team," confessed De Boer. "They are two years ahead in experience and have so many great players that can change and swap position at will. "[Arsenal midfielder Cesc] Fabregas is often kept on the bench and he is one of the best players in England. They have so many players to chose from and are a team where everyone knows their skills. I put them as the favourites." @Email:emegson@thenational.ae