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Under-21 give Van Gaal's Netherlands a boost

Published: Thursday 12 June 2014, 12.20CET
The Netherlands have as many players in their squad from the last U21 finals as from the 2010 FIFA World Cup and that was exactly how Louis van Gaal planned it.
by Berend Scholten
Under-21 give Van Gaal's Netherlands a boost
A Netherlands training session in Rio de Janeiro ©Getty Images

Published: Thursday 12 June 2014, 12.20CET

Under-21 give Van Gaal's Netherlands a boost

The Netherlands have as many players in their squad from the last U21 finals as from the 2010 FIFA World Cup and that was exactly how Louis van Gaal planned it.

The last time Spain and the Netherlands met in the FIFA World Cup it was the 2010 final in South Africa; four years on they renew rivalries in their 2014 opener in Salvador but much has changed among the Oranje.

Just seven of Bert van Marwijk's squad that lost 1-0 in extra time to Spain are in Louis van Gaal's selection in north-east Brazil. Indeed, there are also seven players who just last year reached the UEFA European Under-21 Championship semi-finals in Israel: Daley Blind, Bruno Martins Indi, Stefan de Vrij, Jordy Clasie, Leroy Fer, Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay.

That is no coincidence. Last summer Van Gaal granted then U21 coach Cor Pot the right to pick players who would usually have been with the seniors in order to gain final tournament experience. Van Gaal himself was in Israel to watch them, saying: "The Jong Oranje are just as important as the senior Oranje. These Jong Oranje have the chance to convince me and get into my 23-man squad."

He added: "Playing such a EURO tournament is a fantastic step and a superb stepping stone for players. It is an important step in the development of talents and that is why I adjusted my selections accordingly. At such a tournament you meet strong opponents, and it is important to get tournament experience as well."

The Dutch, in fact, lost their concluding group game last June 3-0 to a Spain side containing David de Gea, with Koke an unused substitute, and Blind, Martins Indi and De Vrij – although rested for that U21 encounter – should all start on Friday to open World Cup Group B. Young they may be, but Van Gaal has shown with AFC Ajax, FC Barcelona and FC Bayern Munchen that he is not afraid to blood inexperienced players.

"My so-called young and inexperienced defence only conceded five goals in the qualifying campaign, a fantastic performance," he said. "A young player can be more experienced than an older player that has been to two World Cups. When the young player plays according to my vision and the older one doesn't, then I do not gain from his experience. Some players are experienced in doing things wrong a 100 times."

Last updated: 12/06/14 16.25CET

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