How have Netherlands tactically set-up so far this World Cup?


With Germany booking their place in the final, they face either Netherlands or Argentina. We at Outside of the Boot take a look at how the sides have set-up tactically so far.

Prior to the start of the tournament, this Netherlands side was deemed as one of the weakest Dutch sides to enter the competition. Concerns about whether the Netherlands were in a period of transition filled the air with people wondering if they could bridge the gap between the young and old well enough. As the tournament progressed, we witnessed some spectacular individual performances, excellent team play, stunning goals and some tactical brilliance brought forth by van Gaal. The Oranje have been a spectacle to watch and here, we dig deep into the tactics the Netherlands have used so far in the tournament.


Spain 1-5 Netherlands

Starting Line Up: Cillessen, De Vrij (Veltmaan 77’), Vlaar, Martins Indi, Janmaat, De Guzman (Wijnaldum 62’), De Jong, Blind, Sneijder, Robben, Van Persie (Lens 79’)

Detailed Tactical Analysis: Spain 1-5 Netherlands

Formation: Spain 1-5 Netherlands

Formation: Spain 1-5 Netherlands

The expected Dutch formation was a 3-5-2, despite the coach playing it down, and that’s the way they went. Van Gaal decided to start with De Vrij, Vlaar and Martins at the heart of the Dutch defence while Blind and Janmaat were assigned the wing back positions. De Jong and Guzman were in midfield while Sneijder played ahead of them, constructing the attacks with Robben on the left and van Persie on the right. The first half saw the three man Oranje defence expose their goal quite a bit with gaps forming between them. However, luckily, Spain lacked the runs that were necessary to punish the Dutch defence. The Dutch wing backs, on the other hand, put in an excellent offensive shift that was sufficiently rewarded with goals. The wider areas were a constant threat in attack and with Robben’s speed and movement, clubbed with his and van Persie’s centrally focussed runs proved to be more than just a handful for Spain to deal with.


Australia 2-3 Netherlands

Starting Line Up: Cillessen, De Vrij, Vlaar, Martins Indi (Depay 45’), Janmaat, De Guzman (Wijnaldum 78’), De Jong, Blind, Sneijder, Robben, Van Persie (Lens 87’)

The Dutch fielded the same squad that hammered the defending World Cup champions against the Australians. Once again, the same strategy was employed with a three man defence, and an attack headed by van Persie and Robben with Sneijder behind them. Wing backs provided further support. Robben’s pace and incisiveness helped the Dutch take the lead which proved to work against them as the Oranje seemed to temporarily switch off. A switch in formation saw the 3-5-2 change to a 4-3-3 with van Persie down the middle, Robben out wide in the right and Depay brought on from the bench to complete the front three, a change that proved effective in the end.


Netherlands 2-0 Chile

Starting Line Up: Cillessen, De Vrij, Vlaar, Blind, Janmaat, Wijnaldum, De Jong, Kuyt (Kongolo 89’), Sneijder (Fer 75’), Robben, Lens (Depay 69’)

Detailed Tactical Analysis: Netherlands 2-0 Chile

Formation: Netherlands 2-0 Chile

Formation: Netherlands 2-0 Chile

The defence was composed of De Vrij, Vlaar and Blind forming the back three while Kuyt and Janmaat were the assigned wing backs. De Jong and Wijnaldum were placed in front of the defenders while Sneijder retained his position right behind the first line of attack. Lens came in for the suspended van Persie to play on the left side of the spear tip while Robben occupied the right. The Dutch struggled to hold on to the ball in the first half and were forced to play long balls with Chile pressurizing them very high up. This forced the Dutch to shift to a counter attacking style of play, relying on their pace and movement. Blind and Sneijder were employed to deal with the Chilean threats in the form of Sanchez and Diaz respectively.


Netherlands 2-1 Mexico

Starting Line Up: Cillessen; De Vrij; Vlaar; Blind; Verhaegh (Depay 56′); Wijnaldum; De Jong (Martins Indi 9′); Kuyt; Sneijder; Robben; van Persie (Huntelaar 76′).

Detailed Tactical Analysis: Netherlands 2-1 Mexico

Formation: Netherlands 2-1 Mexico

Formation: Netherlands 2-1 Mexico

The back three in the form of De Vrij, Vlaar and Blind were called up once again. Janmaat was replaced my Verhaegh while Kuyt held on to the other wing back position. Sneijder continued to play behind the strikers while the returning van Persie saw Lens drop to the bench. Unlike their previous two games that saw the opposing teams come and attack, Mexico were happy to sit back and invite the Dutch forward. This change was dealt with by Sneijder dropping a lot deeper than where he played in the first three games. With both teams playing with similar formations, it was a matter of individual ability that saw the game tilt towards the Dutch.


Netherlands 0-0 Costa Rica (4-3 pens)

Starting Line Up: Cillessen (Krul 120’); De Vrij, Vlaar, Martins Indi (Huntelaar 105’); Kuyt, Wijnaldum, Sneijder, Blind; Robben, Van Persie, Depay (Lens 76’).

Detailed Tactical Analysis: Netherlands 0-0 Costa Rica (4-3 pens)

Formation: Costa Rica 0-0 Netherlands

Formation: Costa Rica 0-0 Netherlands

The Dutch switched their formation for this game. The back three consisted of De Vrij, Martins Indi and Vlaar and in front of this back three saw Blind play out wide on the left, Kuyt on the other flank, Wijnaldum as cover for the defence and Sneijder with a slightly more advanced role, though he continued to drop deep. In attack, Depay occupied the left flank while Robben took the right, which placed van Persie down the middle. This set up saw Blind and Kuyt push forward which allowed Depay and Robben to make runs more centrally, forming a more cumulative threat. With Costa Rica employing a 5 man defence, the Dutch were unable to find a way through despite pushing hard and hitting the cross bar twice. Costa Rica changed their formation later in the game from a 5-4-1 to 5-2-3 to pressurize the Dutch back three and break up the build up from the back.