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Netherlands World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections

Netherlands World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections article feature image

Pictured: Frenkie de Jong.

  • The Netherlands head to the World Cup with one of the best squads in the world.
  • Will they be able to make a deep run?
  • Read on for a full preview of the team, including tactics and a key player to monitor.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has arrived, and Action Network's staff of soccer experts are here to take you through each and every team that will be participating. 

Read on for a full breakdown of the Netherlands ahead of the tournament, and click here for analysis on each of the other 31 teams.

Netherlands World Cup Preview

On paper, the Netherlands are a side with more impressive names in defense but are almost equally as potent in attack. 

Manager Louis van Gaal’s side is anchored by a back-three that features Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, Manchester City’s Nathan Ake and Bayern Munich’s Matthijs de Ligt. There’s further talent in the wing backs, too, as Inter Milan’s Denzel Dumfries provides an attacking threat on the right-hand side while the experienced Daley Blind provides a more defensive option on the left. 

At the European Championships last year, that unit was virtually unbeatable. Albeit against somewhat inferior opposition — the Netherlands played Ukraine, Austria, North Macedonia and the Czech Republic — they conceded only four goals against 2.9 xG. 

Chances To…Action Projectionsbet365 Odds
Win Group Stage57.40%-225
Advance To Knockout Round84.21%-800
Win World Cup4.09%+1200
Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.

Even in the build-up to the World Cup, the Netherlands defense held up extremely well against top opposition. In its last six Nations League fixtures — all of which came against sides playing in the World Cup – van Gaal’s defense surrendered only 6.07 xG and seven big scoring chances. 

Just in two meetings with Belgium – the best team opponent in the Netherland's Nations League group — the defense conceded only 2.58 xG and three big scoring chances. 

Offensively, the name most soccer fans will immediately recognize is Memphis Depay, a former Lyon talisman that now features at FC Barcelona. However, the Netherlands also feature strong attacking midfielders in Cody Gakpo, a true No. 10 at PSV Eindhoven who is also capable of playing out wide in a 4-3-3, while Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong anchors the center of the park in midfield. 

Although the Netherlands is superior in defense, this offense has produced strong underlying metrics entering Qatar. In those same six Nations League fixtures, the attack created 10.25 xG and a whopping 15 big scoring chances. Further, only one match (at Wales) saw this attack generate under 1 xG and zero big scoring chances. 

Plus, despite exiting in the round of 16 at the European Championships, the Netherlands still managed to create the fourth-most xG in the competition (8.5) and were never held under one xG. 

In terms of their overall form, the Netherlands will arrive in Qatar with spectacular results to show for themselves. Since a loss to the Czech Republic in the Euro round of 16, the Netherlands have dropped all three points only once and are unbeaten in the 2022 calendar year. 

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Key Player: Memphis Depay

A shock early exit for the Netherlands at the World Cup will likely come as a result of their attack failing to perform. 

Among this group of attackers, Depay is one of few with previous World Cup experience, making him a key cog in the offense. However, there’s a big unknown with Depay in terms of his form entering this World Cup. Since the arrival of Robert Lewandowski at Barcelona, Depay featured in only two of Barcelona’s first 10 La Liga fixtures. 

At the same time, this was a Netherlands side that relied on Depay to generate scoring chances at the Euros last year. Across all four fixtures, Depay accounted for 27 percent of the Netherlands’ total xG. That is easily the highest percentage for the team. 

Then, in the four most recent UEFA Nations League fixtures in which Depay featured, he amassed 30.2 percent of the Netherlands’ total xG output in those four matches. 

Add in that midfielder Gini Wijnaldum, who accumulated the second-most expected goals for the Netherlands at the European Championship, will miss the World Cup and that puts even more pressure on Depay to perform. 

Failure to do so could spell an early exit for the Netherlands from Qatar. However, if Depay reaches top form, the Netherlands could be in for an extended stay in the tournament. 

Tactical Analysis

Much like Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, the Netherlands will play a very fluid formation that features different styles. 

The standard formation for this side is a 3-4-1-2 – three central defenders, two wing backs, two central midfielders, an attacking midfielder and two strikers. But, when playing without the ball, the wing backs will shift into more defensive positions while the attacking midfielder, usually Gakpo or Davy Klaassen, will drop back to sit alongside the two central midfielders. That effectively creates a 5-3-2 with both strikers ready to break on a counter attack. 

But, when the Netherlands have the ball, it will leave the central defenders on an island and send a boatload of players forward. This will happen quite a bit as the Netherlands love to dominate the ball. They ranked third in average possession percentage at the Euros and saw 56 percent of the possession in their last six Nations League matches. 

With the ball, observers will see the Netherlands shift back into a standard 3-4-1-2 formation and play a high line in defense. In rare instances — think more advanced positions – both wing backs will move forward to create a 3-2-1-4 where Blind and Dumfries align themselves with the strike partnership. 

Then, like with Liverpool, the defenders will create a high-line in an attempt to create an offside trap that eliminates potential counter attacks. Those teams that have success against the Netherlands will effectively exploit this high line and catch them on the counter in order to create chances.

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Netherlands World Cup Schedule

Senegal11 a.m. ET, Nov. 21
Ecuador10 a.m. ET, Nov. 25
Qatar10 a.m. ET, Nov. 29

Most Recent World Cup Result

Third Place (2014)

While the Netherlands didn't qualify for the World Cup Finals in 2018, they earned a third place finish in 2014. A run to the semifinals was ended by a loss to Argentina in penalties, but the Netherlands beat Brazil 3-0 in their final game of the tournament.

Netherlands World Cup Roster

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