Prior to Saturday’s Play-off for Third Place in Brasilia, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal and his players expressed their disappointment in missing out on Sunday’s Final in Rio de Janeiro. After coming so close to reaching the Maracana only to fall short in the penalty shoot-out against Argentina in the semi-final, Oranje spirits seemed low.
However, what their comprehensive 3-0 win over hosts Brazil at the Estadio Nacional proved is that the Dutch's thirst for victory overwhelmed any lingering disappointment. Afterwards, FIFA.com caught up with Jonathan De Guzman, who was delighted to go home with something to show for his efforts in South America. “It was the last game for us at the World Cup and it was a chance to get a medal,” De Guzman said.
“I think we did very well throughout the whole tournament and it could have gone either way in the semi-finals against Argentina. Today was an opportunity to leave Brazil with a good feeling. We got an early penalty and took it from there. I think we did very well as a team.”
Like their veteran team-mates, the younger members of the Netherlands squad were brimming with excitement after the match, proudly sporting their newly secured medals. With Dutch mainstays such as Arjen Robben, Dirk Kuyt, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder beginning to approach the twilight of their footballing careers, incoming Netherlands coach Guus Hiddink will be looking to the next generation of Oranje to continue the current crop’s success.
And with ten players on Van Gaal’s Brazil 2014 side born in 1989 or later, there is a strong core of players who already have FIFA World Cup™ experience who can confidently lead the Dutch into future competitions. Daley Blind, the Dutch defender who scored the Netherlands’ second goal in Brasilia on Saturday, referenced his fellow youngsters when looking ahead.
“The young players we have are exceptional,” Blind said. “They are really good. If somebody stops playing, then somebody else stands up and I think it’s always going to be like that. We’ll have to see what’s in the future but I hope we stick together.”
Blind looked a little surprised when David Luiz’s clearance fell to him in the middle of the Brazil area, but showed admirable composure in dispatching the opportunity, considering he does not frequently find himself in such positions. He said: “I took one touch and thought, ‘Just shoot!’ It felt really good.”
De Guzman, who was a late addition to Van Gaal’s starting XI after Sneijder suffered a pre-match injury, spoke proudly about his team’s accomplishments and collective progression while in Brazil. “I think throughout the whole tournament we grew together as a team,” the Swansea City midfielder said. “Off the pitch and on the pitch we were always working to be better. Everyone was helping each other out.”
Referencing the cohesiveness of the group, Blind mirrored De Guzman’s sentiments about the Dutch team spirit throughout the tournament. “I think the positive thing is that we play as a group; we play as a team, every game” the Ajax star added. “Whether we win and lose, we stick together. That’s the power and strength of our group.”
When Blind speaks of sticking together as a team, that is something that will not be too hard to do for several players on the Netherlands squad. Many of the Oranje side share colours for their club as well, with five players featuring for Feyenoord – including three who took a spot in today’s starting XI as well as one of Van Gaal’s three substitutions – and another three turn out for Ajax.
On the other side of the North Sea, De Guzman faces a slightly different situation as he is set to face Van Gaal in a new capacity on the opening weekend of the 2014/15 English Premier League campaign: Manchester United and their new Dutch manager welcome Swansea City on 16 August. And while the midfielder acknowledged it will be strange seeing Van Gaal on the opposite bench, he is confident about the tactician’s newest endeavour: “Working with him in the past year has been great. He’s been a very good coach. He’s been helping players out, especially me, and I think he will do very well.”