Netherlands

The past
Dutch football is famous for both its excellent training methods and for being a breeding ground for some of the finest players in world football. Despite this, it is fair to say that at underage level, the Oranjes have never really set the global stage alight. Their one and only appearance at a FIFA U-17 World Cup was in Peru in 2005, although for a first attempt the youngsters did extremely well, coming home with a bronze medal after a semi-final defeat to eventual winners Mexico. Having failed to qualify for Korea 2007, this year the Dutch will once again lock horns with the elite thanks to their runners-up spot in the UEFA U-17 European Championship in Germany, in which the top six teams secured a FIFA U-17 World Cup berth.

The present
The Dutch left Magdeburg stadium in tears after their loss in the final of the U-17 European Championship, despite have booked their passage to Nigeria several days previously. Their heartbreak was a testament to the value coach Albert Stuivenberg and his players placed on the competition, in which the Jong Oranjes qualified from the group stage in second place after a 1-1 draw against England, a 2-1 win over Turkey and a 2-0 defeat to the hosts.

Spurred on by the long-standing Dutch-German rivalry, Stuivenberg’s charges were eager to have another crack at the Mannschaft in the final. All that stood in their way was a semi-final tie against Switzerland, whom they duly dispatched by two goals to one with strikes from Shabir Isoufi and Luc Castaignos setting up a mouth-watering decider. Unfortunately for the Dutch, despite going ahead through Castaignos, the hosts managed to equalise and then nab a dramatic extra-time winner courtesy of an exquisite Florian Trinks free-kick.

The future
Once over the disappointment, the Jong Oranjes realised the magnitude of their achievement and, despite the arduous task ahead, know they are capable of matching or even surpassing the third-place finish achieved by their 2005 counterparts. "It will be even more difficult than last time, as there are no weak teams," predicts defender Joel Veltman. "We’re going to make a fresh start, do our best, and see what happens."

The backbone of the team, made up of goalkeeper Patrick ter Mate, midfielder and captain Oguzhan Ozyakup and forward Castaignos means that Stuivenberg has a solid defence coupled with a first-rate strike-force. In fact, the young Feyenoord hitman made such an impact in Germany that scouts from Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Bayern Munich are reportedly already chasing his signature. Castaignos’ next challenge will be to reproduce this scintillating form at the very highest level, in a tournament he believes will be "an unforgettable experience, especially since it’s in Nigeria!"

Facts and figures
Former stars
John Goossens, Jeffery Sarpong (2005)

Key players
Oguzhan Ozyakup (midfielder), Shabir Isoufi (midfielder), Luc Castaignos (forward)

The numbers game
15 - The number of goals scored by the Castaignos-Isoufi strike partnership in qualifying for the U-17 European Championship and in the tournament itself.