Aged 58, the man masterminding the Netherlands’ bid is embarking on his maiden FIFA World Cup™ finals journey as a coach. Bert van Marwijk took over from Marco van Basten in 2008 and, since then, everything has gone according to plan, the Oranje having breezed through qualifying thanks to a historic eight wins from as many games. With Frank de Boer and Phillip Cocu serving as assistants, the father-in-law of Mark van Bommel has introduced some much-needed discipline at the back, without sacrificing the traditional attacking flair so beloved of the nation's football enthusiasts.
Before taking over the national side, the Deventer native started out as a midfielder, spending much of his 18-year playing career with Maastricht. It was there that he enjoyed his first taste of coaching too, starting a four-year spell in the dugout in 1982. He then took the reins of another five clubs before being recruited by Feyenoord in the summer of 2000, fresh from leading Fortuna Sittard to the Dutch Cup final the previous season. His reputation growing, Van Marwijk hit a whole new height when he steered the Rotterdam outfit to triumph in the UEFA Cup in 2002.
Two years later, Borussia Dortmund brought him on board and even though his Bundesliga stay produced no trophies, the experience was far from a failure. When he returned to Feyenoord in 2007, he won the Dutch Cup at the end of his first season back, before his country came calling.
Said by Andre Ooijer to be “close to the players and ready to listen to them”, Van Marwijk harbours plenty of ambition and is not afraid to show it. Like his assistants, he has publicly stated his aim to clinch the grand prize in South Africa this summer, but he has never had trouble keeping his feet on the ground. “I’m very happy that our excellent performances in the qualifiers have been rewarded,” he said. “Still, we mustn’t give in to runaway optimism. This is a World Cup and because of that there won’t be any easy opponents. We’ve proved we’re a genuine team, however, and you always have to aim as high as possible. Nobody needs to put pressure on us because I do that myself.”