Spotlight on the main contenders: Netherlands
Countdown to South Africa 92 days to go
Thursday 11 March 2010
Regular challengers, but never yet winners, the Dutch will be contenders again in South Africa after an unusually harmonious squad produced a perfect record in qualifying. The feel-good factor continued with Bert van Marwijk extending his contract to the 2012 European Championship before last week's largely comfortable victory over the United States.
Midfield is the strength, with steel and creativity in abundance. Wesley Sneijder's form since moving to Internazionale has been superb and, with Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong behind him in the Netherlands' well-honed 4-2-3-1 formation, he is free to dictate play.
Arjen Robben, if fit (a big "if") will trouble any defence, shown by his fine goal in Florence this week. His understudy, Eljero Elias of Hamburg, could surprise a few, and there is no shortage of strikers. However, Robin van Persie has been injured since November, Dirk Kuyt is hardly a prodigious goalscorer (his goal against the US was via the penalty spot), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is struggling to get playing time in Milan, and Ruud van Nistelrooy has yet to prove his move to Hamburg will be the platform for a recall.
There are also doubts about the defence. It rarely concedes but, as a glance through their clubs underlines (generally Europa League level, not Champions League), it lacks the class of predecessors. That may be less of an issue if, as most Dutchmen hope (and expect), goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar comes out of international retirement for the finals.
"We're on a mission," said coach Frank de Boer, "to be champions of the world." They would be popular ones, we shall see.
World ranking: 3.
World Cup Group: E (With Cameroon, Denmark and Japan).
When might they meet England? SF.
Odds: 14-1 (Coral).
Pedigree: Finalists 1974, 1978.
Last five results: Scotland W 1-0 (a), Australia D 0-0 (a), Italy D 0-0 (a), Paraguay D 0-0 (h), US W 2-1 (h).
Upcoming fixtures: Mexico (n, 26 May), Ghana (h, 1 June), Hungary (h, 5 June).
One to watch: Eljero Elias.
Fan file: Orange. That's about it.
sportLiverpool 5 Norwich City 1: Uruguayan striker has now scored 11 league goals against the club
arts + entsOlivier-nominated actor and singer is set to star in Lloyd Webber's musical about the Profumo affair
filmWith more than 70 per cent of early films lost, archivists are scouring the world to preserve the precious examples that remain
sportThe coach of Chalfont St Peter's under-10s football team was relieved of his duties after he sent an email to parents that said: 'I am only interested in winning'
techA piece of new hi-tech kit aims to get us scribbling again
indybestMake getting out of the wrong side of bed on cold winter mornings a thing of the past with our selection of night-time covers
life + styleClarissa Baldwin is the brains behind the slogan 'A Dog is for Life not just for Christmas'
Latest in Sport
Arsenal 2 Hull City 0 match report: Nicklas Bendtner back in the goals as superb Arsenal march on at the top
Liverpool 5 Norwich City 1 match report: Sublime Luis Suarez tears Norwich apart once again
World Cup 2014 draw: England may suffer as Fifa moves goalposts
David Moyes admits Manchester United face tough task to retain their title
Manchester United 0 Everton 1 match report: David Moyes misery as Roberto Martinez pulls off the elusive victory
- 1 The hardwired difference between male and female brains could explain why men are 'better at map reading'
- 2 Is this the scariest advert ever? Japanese tyre commercial comes with its own disclaimer and health warning
- 3 A forgotten episode in Russian history leaves links with the Philippines
- 4 Syrian rebels consider joining forces with regime troops to fight al-Qa’ida
- 5 ‘Put it in my mouth’: Viewers outraged by apparent reference to oral sex in VIP e-cig advert