Take a quick glance at the World Cup qualification tables from the European zone and the record of the Netherlands in Group 9 immediately jumps out. Eight wins, no losses, not even a draw. Seventeen goals for and only two against. Not too shabby, eh? With just weeks to go before kickoff in South Africa, it’s easy to see why the Dutch have powered up to number four in the world rankings, behind only European champions Spain, five-time world champions Brazil and, curiously, Portugal.
But not everything is looking rosy for the Oranje, especially if you look at the struggles of their wonderful attacking talent. In recent months, many of the players Holland will rely on to lift the trophy in Johannesburg have been struggling for form, fitness or both. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has barely seen first team action for AC Milan. Dirk Kuyt has had a season to forget with Liverpool. Robin Van Persie has only just recovered from a horrific injury in a friendly versus Italy and will be short of match fitness come June. And Rafael Van der Vaart just damaged his left thigh muscle in Real Madrid’s match at Zaragoza on Saturday.
Adding to Holland’s woes, midfielder Wesley Sneijder looked anything but match fit in this week’s Champions League semi-final battle with Barcelona, having to be substituted early in the second half after a largely ineffective performance in the first 45 minutes.
The only good news for the Dutch is that time is on their side. All the above players still have time to heal and improve their fitness before the World Cup commences. In the meantime, Dutch football fans are holding their breath and hoping for the best.