A lack of quality up front is not a problem keeping Holland coach Bert van Marwijk up all night. However, what could give the coach a headache is choosing four from six attacking talents to make the starting eleven and fit into his preferred 4-2-3-1 system.
A hamstring injury to Arjen Robben has put his role in doubt, but Van Marwijk will still take the Bayern Munich star. Amongst the other names vying for a start are Robin van Persie, Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder, Dirk Kuyt and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Van Marwijk though isn’t concerned about picking four from six. “I like to have this kind of choice, rather than not knowing who to pick because we have less quality.”
Van Marwijk already made a complicated situation a little easier by leaving Ruud van Nistelrooy out of his squad. The striker had retired from international football after Euro 2008, but an approaching World Cup caused him to reverse that decision. It was though, too late, and Van Marwijk, despite often stating “Van Nistelrooy is still an option”, never changed his mind. The coach did not want a seventh attacking star who would have put pressure on him to be a certain starter in South Africa. In the words of the Dutch press: “Nobody whose mind is not on vacation would have taken Van Nistelrooy to South Africa to leave him on the bench.”
In Holland the media hope to see the “Grote Vier” (the Big Four) on the pitch together, with Van Persie up front, Van der Vaart as the creative central midfielder, Robben on the right wing and Sneijder on the other flank. While this option would surely make the Oranje a nightmare for opposing defences, the recent injury picked up by Robben means it is still up in the air whether this devastating foursome will ever take to the pitch in South Africa.
The trouble with that attacking midfield is the vulnerablity it could leave in defence, making Dirk Kuyt a sensible choice. The Liverpool star could be deployed up front, or on the right flank, and none of the Big Four can match him for effort. Kuyt though, did not enjoy the best of seasons with Liverpool and already has 60 games under his belt, so is by no means fresh.
A boost for Holland came six weeks ago, as Robin van Persie recovered from an ankle injury picked up on 14th November 2009 in a friendly against Italy following a challenge from Giorgio Chiellini. “My physical therapist told me I had no idea how bad my inury was”, said the Arsenal striker. “Chiellini? He never called me, but that’s his problem, not mine.” Last season Van Persie saw himself often deployed as a central striker by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, and he took that role for the Oranje too in recent friendlies against Mexico and Ghana. The striker scored in both games and since Van Marwijk took over as Holland coach the Arsenal man has been his country’s top scorer. Given this, Van Marwijk plans to deploy Van Persie as high up the pitch as possible, hoping he can catch fire in front of goal.
Should Kuyt and Van Persie both find themselves together on the pitch then Robben (if fit) could move from the right to the left flank. Robben, who has been exceptional with Bayern Munich, and Wesley Sneijder, will both, fitness permitting, be guaranteed a starting spot. The Inter man, under Jose Mourinho, developed into a top class performer last season, playing a vital role with the Champions League winners. Van Marwijk has already presented Sneijder with the number 10 shirt, even if the coach is still pondering whether he or Van der Vaart should be the creative midfielder behind the striker.
Van der Vaart is not as versatile as Sneijder. The Real Madrid man can only really operate as an attacking midfielder, paying less attention to defensive duties than others might. Sneijder on the other hand can take a role on the left flank, even at a push as a defensive midfielder – as he once did with Real Madrid, but never has with Holland – while Van der Vaart is a fish out of water anywhere else. However, Van der Vaart has experience to draw upon to win his fight for a spot in the starting eleven, as he overcame the odds to do just that in Madrid. “Of course I want to be in the World Cup starting eleven”, he said. “You are never happy to be on the bench, but if the coach decides otherwise I’ll just have to work harder. One thing is for sure: I don’t give up easily.”
Last but not least in the attacking mix is Huntelaar. The AC Milan striker played regularly as a central striker for the first year of Van Marwijk’s reign before becoming the coach’s second option after Kuyt or Van Persie. Huntelaar’s first season in Italy wasn’t particularly impressive, even if it was not all his own fault: The striker saw chances to prove his worth relatively few and far between. In Seefeld, Holland’s Austrian training base before leaving for South Africa, Huntelaar said he felt like he had finally arrived home. Two years ago, at Euro 2008, the striker was forced to remain firmly in the shadows as Ruud van Nistelrooy took centre stage. Now that his rival is gone, Huntelaar does not want to miss his chance, especially considering he is the only pure centre forward in the Dutch squad.
Such an abundance of attacking talent won’t make Van Marwijk’s choice easy. And if he can get it right, there is no telling how far Holland could go.
Fonte: Inside Futbol