With their third consecutive victory the Dutch have made a statement to all the major contenders for this year’s World Cup. Whereas, their first victory over Spain was all about flair, pace and style, and their second about a never say die attitude, the third was more about getting a result when not playing well.
As for Chile, they will now have to take on Brazil in the round of 16. It is an eventuality which manager Jorge Sampaoli would have desperately wanted to avoid but he knows that his side are one of the few teams which Brazilian manager Luiz Felipe Scolari actually fears.
Here are a few talking points from the game in Sao Paolo:
Do the Dutch have a wing back conundrum?
Louis Van Gaal is probably the best exponent of wing backs in the game today and his Netherlands side have exemplified this trait of their manager throughout the World Cup.
This approach works perfectly well against a side like Spain who like to keep possession of the ball and who generally play a lot of horizontal passes. Here Van Gaal employs his wing backs namely, Daley Blind and Daryl Janmaat to lead fast incisive breaks or create space for Arjen Robben.
But against Chile this tactic was found wanting as the South Americans themselves are a counter attacking side. So this led to a situation where both the Dutch and the Chileans did not want the ball and when they had it they did not know what to do with it.
Van Gaal though will be happy that he encountered a side which also likes to play on the break early in the tournament so that he can prepare accordingly for the knock out matches ahead.
Van Gaal’s approach is an antithesis to Total Football
In their heyday, in the 1970’s, the Dutch deployed a tactic in which all outfield players could play in all positions. To do this effectively the Dutch had to have a majority of possession and all the players had to be comfortable on the ball. To put it simply they set the blueprint for the tiki-taka brand of football which is so popular today.
Since then all Dutch sides have been compared to the Johan Cruyff inspired team of that era but the current national team seem to follow a completely different philosophy.
This could be due to the fact that the Dutch have two world class forwards in the form of Robben and Robin Van Persie and Wesley Sneijder supporting them from midfield. Other than that this team looks short of players of real high calibre. Realizing this limitation Van Gall lines them up as a 5-3-2 (or a 3-5-2) and invites other teams right up to 30 metres from Jasper Cillessen’s goal. The rest of the field is left for his 3 musketeers to do their stuff.
In the 1970’s it would be unthinkable to imagine a Netherlands side conceding 79% possession to a Chilean side in the first twenty minutes of a match but Van Gaal knows that this side do not have enough quality midfielders to play any other system.
Some would say that it is tactical acumen of the highest order being demonstrated by Van Gaal but will it work against the top teams in the knock out rounds?
If it does then maybe we could have a new Dutch philosophy inspiring the footballing world.
Chile feel comfortable being dark horses
After their 2-0 win against the Spanish, many must have thought that Chile have a good chance to go the distance in the World Cup. They had just put up a commanding performance against a side which is the best according to FIFA’s rankings.
Even in the defeat against the Dutch the Chileans were on a level pegging for most of the game and a two goal loss perhaps exaggerates the performance of the Europeans. But Sampaoli will not be overly concerned with this result because it places his side in a situation they are most comfortable in – as dark horses.
Sampaoli knows that most people expect his side to lose against Brazil, like they did at the same stage in 1998 and in 2010. Infact they have beaten the Selecao only once in the last two decades. But for the Chileans this lack of pressure can only be a good thing as Brazil are not only expected to win but do so with style.
For Sampaoli he has already achieved more than what he set out to do at the beginning of the tournament and anything more will just be a bonus. And no one in this western South American country will care whether they achieve further success as favourites or under dogs.