Category: Archive

World Cup Preview Republic’s old nemesis, Holland, sport new look

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jay Mwamba

The Dutch squad that meets Ireland in Saturday’s World Cup Group 2 qualifier in Amsterdam will have somewhat a different look about it from the side that reached the semifinals of Euro 2000.

Coach Frank Rijkaard is gone, ace striker Dennis Bergkamp has retired from the international game, and abrasive midfielder Edgar Davids and Glasgow Rangers defender Arthur Numan are both injured.

Rijkaard’s successor, who will make his coaching debut at national team level against the Republic, is the former Ajax m’stro Louis van Gaal, most recently with Spain’s Barcelona.

Van Gaal has been prepping for Saturday’s game by studying tapes of the Republic’s Nike U.S. Cup outing last June. He told reporters last week that he would use the tactics employed by the Dutch in their 6-1 destruction of Yugoslavia in the quarterfinals of Euro 2000 as a blueprint.

"On the attack, we’ll use the 4-3-3 system and drop to 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 if we have to defend," Van Gaal said.

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"But I’m not going to give you the exact tactics for the match. That would make life very easy for our Irish colleagues."

Elevating Roy Keane’s immense influence to a new level, Van Gaal said his starting lineup would depend on the fitness and availability for Ireland of the Manchester United midfield dynamo.

At any rate, the Dutch team is likely to be selected from a fairly experienced pool of 18 players, whose key members were part of the highly successful Ajax team that Van Gaal led to two European Champions Club titles in the mid-1990s.

They include current Juventus goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, fullback Michael Reiziger (Barcelona), Robbie Keane’s Inter Milan mate Clarence Seedorf, the de Boer twins Frank and Ronald, and Barcelona strikers Marc Overmars and Patrick Kluivert.

In the absence of the retired Bergkamp and new Chelsea singing Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink who, surprisingly, continues to be overlooked by the Dutch, Kluivert will be the man to watch.

The sharpshooting forward was the top scorer in Euro 2000 with five goals, three of them in the romp over Yugoslavia.

The Legacy

Holland and the Republic have met six times in the last 12 years. The Dutch hold the edge with four wins, against one tie and a loss. That lone Irish victory (1-0) came in a friendly in Tilburg before the 1994 World Cup finals.

Holland ended the Republic’s World Cup ’94 run with a 2-0 decision in Orlando, Fla., then brought the curtain down on the Jack Charlton era with an encore performance in a playoff in Liverpool for a berth in the Euro ’96 finals. The two nations last met in a friendly in June 1996, with the Dutch prevailing 3-1.

Pricey Figo

The world’s most expensive player, midfielder, Luis Figo, will lead Ireland’s Oct. 7 opponents, Portugal, against early Group 2 leaders Estonia — who beat Andorra 1-0 two weeks ago — in Tallinn on Sunday (Sept. 3). The Portuguese will be pegging their qualification hopes on Figo, whose scintillating form in Euro 2000 convinced Real Madrid to pay over $56 million for his signature.

North favored

After their poor run in recent qualifying competitions, Northern Ireland are favored to make a winning start to the 2002 World Cup race when they host the minnows from Malta in Group 3 in Belfast this Saturday.

Iceland-Denmark and Bulgaria-Czech Republic are the other fixtures in the group.

The rest of the weekend World Cup qualifying schedule in Europe is:

Group 1: Switzerland-Russia, Faroe Islands-Slovenia, Luxembourg-Yugoslavia.

Group 4: Turkey-Moldova, Azerbaijan-Sweden, Slovakia-FYR Macedonia.

Group 5: Norway-Armenia, Ukraine-Poland, Belarus-Wales.

Group 6: Latvia-Scotland, Belgium-Croatia.

Group 7: Bosnia-Spain, Isr’l-Leichtenstein.

Group 8: Hungary-Italy, Romania-Lithuania.

Group 9: Germany-Greece, Finland-Albania.

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