Nickname: The Oranje

FIFA Ranking: 15

World Cup history: 9 World Cup appearances, runner-up three times

There are many mixed feelings towards Netherlands going to Brazil. Despite impressive performances in the qualifying stages, there are critics who feel there’s more going wrong than right with the Netherlands team. Where did it all start?

Netherlands are renowned for their Total Football, which the Dutch displayed during their golden era when they reached the 1974 and 1978 World Cup finals, despite losing to West Germany and Argentina, respectively. During that era they boasted the quality of the likes of Ruud Krol, Johan Neeskens, who have both coached Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns respectively. Willem van Hanegem and Johnny Rep were some of that stars of that era.

However, since that era Dutch football took a nosedive and failed to stake a decent claim on the international scene. Even after the showed great improvements during the era of the likes of Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and March Van Basten, winning the Europe Championship in 1988, Netherlands still struggled on the World Cup stage. Early eliminations in the 1990 and 1994 World Cup editions saw them fail yet again to repeat the feat of 70’s generation. For years, they looked like an oiled machine in the build-ups to World Cup tournament, but each time they took part in the tournaments they disintegrated and looked more like a ‘bunch of individuals’, than the team in the build-ups.

fter Barcelona’s embarrassing lose to Bayern Munich in the Eufa Champions League, it will be very interesting to see how the repeat match of the 2010 final plays out between Spain and Netherlands in the first match of Group B

Despite reaching the semifinals in 1998 with the likes of Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Dennis Bergkamp, etc. more work still needed to be done. They failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan and disappointed yet again in Germany four years later.

They have been praised by many for their performance at the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa where they looked solid throughout the tournament with players like Arjen Robben, Wesley Sniejder, Robin Van Persie, etc. shining. The team lost to Spain in the final, after they were unlucky to squander a couple of goalscoring opportunities.

Their road to Brazil has been characterised by some very inspiring performance with their strike force firing in all cylinders. But former Dutch star Marco Van Basten has criticised the team for their style at the 2006 and 2010 Fifa World Cup tournaments, saying it was too aggressive and a far cry from their trademark ‘Total Football.’

In 2006, Netherlands were eliminated from the World Cup following a violent game against Portugal, in which 16 yellow cards and four red cards were dished by the referee. Van Basten says the football that was displayed by Netherlands is way different from the Dutch football philosophy. There obviously needs to be some adjustments made by the current team, which still has stars from the South African voyage, if some of the Dutch greats feel the team is not where it is supposed to be. But the team’s great performance in the qualifying stages and their steady improvements over the last decade cannot be discounted going to Brazil. They remain a team to watch and could cause some great upsets. After Barcelona’s embarrassing lose to Bayern Munich in the Eufa Champions League, it will be very interesting to see how the repeat match of the 2010 final plays out between Spain and Netherlands in the first match of Group B.

Key players: Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie, Dirk Kuyt, Nigel De Jong

Know your coach: Louis Van Gaal

Manchester United-bound Louis Van Gaal would want to leave a good mark as the Netherlands coach. Despite football pundits tipping Brazil to win the World Cup, Van Gaal would be a hero if he were to depart for Manchester United as a World Cup winning coach. The 62-year old was born in Amsterdam and was on the books of Ajax Amsterdam even though he failed to break into the team that boasted the likes of Johan Cruyff at the time. He played his football in Belgium and later became coach in the later 80’s.

He guided Ajax Amsterdam between 1991 and 1997 to one of the club’s most successful eras. In the 1994-1995 season, under his tutelage, Ajax went unbeaten in both the local league and the Champions League. During this era, Ajax players like Patrick Kluivert, and Edgar Davids dominated the Dutch national team and perhaps it should come as no surprise that two decades later he’s leading the Dutch national team to Brazil.

He later continued his success at Barcelona. But another proof that a coach philosophy can only be successful if it takes cultural, physiological, environmental and other fact of the environment, within which it is implemented, Van Gaal later admitted that he was unable to implement his philosophy in Barcelona because cultural differences. As a result, Van Gaal later left to take over the Dutch national team coaching reins, but his stint was an unsuccessful with the team failing to qualify for the World Cup. He later made a return to Barcelona, but results were not forthcoming and his stay in the Catalan was short-lived.

He would later join Bayern Munich as head coach and had a successful stay at the club. He signed players like Arjen Robben and showed confidence in young players like Thomas Muller and Bastian Schweinsteiger. He won the Budesliga Championship with the team and reached the Eufa Champions League final, but lost to Inter Milan. Some poor results the following year, however, saw the club cancel the coach’s contract.

He returned to coach Netherlands in 2012 and has so far had an inspiring story to tell going to Brazil. But the nomadic coach will not continue with the team after the Brazilian expedition. He’s set to take over from Manchester United caretaker coach, Ryan Giggs.

The Kingdom of Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy in Europe. The country has been this way since 1815. Netherlands is the first to legalise same sex marriages in 2001. Netherland is also a constitutional democracy with political parties taking part in elections every four years.

The monarchy serves as representative head of state and has limited political power. King Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand van Oranje-Nassau van Amsberg is the reigning monarch of the Netherlands. He is the first king after 123 years. He was inaugurated on 30 April 2013 and succeeds his mother succeeds his mother Queen Beatrix.

The Netherlands is the fifth largest economy in the Europe. It is dependent on foreign investment especially merchandise exports. The country has a skilled workforce and a developed economy. Unemployment in the country has remained the same between March 2013 and in April 2014 at 8.70 %. The country has natural gas and is focussed on cutting the use of energy because of scarce raw materials. It aims for 20% CO2, 14 % renewable energy reduction, and 20% energy saving by 2020.

The Dutch are private people and reserved. They separate business and private life. The Dutch do not display emotions in public. They see people family as the fundamental foundation of their social structure. Appearances are important to the Dutch and neatness is an attribute appreciated.

• Full name: The Kingdom of the Netherlands
• Population: 16.7 million (UN, 2012)
• Capital: Amsterdam; seat of government: the Hague
• Area: 41,864 sq km (16,164 sq miles)
• Major language: Dutch
• Major religion: Christianity
• Life expectancy: 79 years (men), 83 years (women) (UN)
• Monetary unit: 1 euro = 100 cents
• Main exports: Metal manufacturing, chemicals, foodstuffs
• GNI per capita: US $49,7660 (World Bank, 2011)
• International dialling code: +31

– By Sipho Kekana and Lerato Matlala