Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam
Thursday 3rd September, 2015, 21:45 GMT
Surprise Group-A leaders Iceland, take on a Netherlands team under a new manager, in a crunch fixture in the EURO 2016 qualifiers.
The Scandinavians have never featured at a major tournament, but have backed themselves to break their jinx and make their debut next summer. They have lost just once in qualifying, while their other five encounters have all ended in triumphs for Lars Lagerback And Heimir Hallgrimsson’s men. It means that if Iceland were to beat the Dutch, their lead over Blind’s charges will grow to eight points with just three matches left to play.
The Netherlands have not failed to qualify for the European Championships since 1984, but with six matches of qualification having already been played for next summer’s tournament, their place in France is by no means guaranteed. In June it was announced that Hiddink had stepped aside having overseen five defeats in 10 outings, with the Oranje also falling outside of the automatic qualification places in Group A. If anybody believed that Hiddink’s successor – Danny Blind – would make a quiet entrance, he blew that theory out of the water when he announced that Robin van Persie had been replaced as captain by Arjen Robben.
Having lost the captain’s armband against his will, Fenerbahce new boy Van Persie may now be concerned about his place in the starting lineup. Luuk de Jong and Huntelaar are the other striking options available to Blind, but the boss has been tipped to keep faith with Van Persie, for now.
Daley Blind, the son of the manager, has been used as a centre-back by Van Gaal at Manchester United this season, but he could well be moved forward . Injuries to Nigel De Jong and Jordy Clasie might force Blind’s hand, to play his son as a defensive midfielder.
His club teammate Memphis Depay should start on the left flank, with new skipper Arjen Robben marshalling the right side of the Dutch attack.
The World Cup duo of Bruno Martins Indi and Stefan De Vrij are likely continue at the heart of the defence, with Gregor Van Der Wiel at right back, and Willems on the left.
Ajax’ Jasper Cillessen is a sure shot between the sticks, despite Tim Krul’s good form for Newcastle in the Premier League
Possible Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Cillessen; Van der Wiel, De Vrij, Martins Indi, Willems; Blind, Sneijder, Wijnaldum, Robben, Depay; Van Persie
The selection of 36-year-old Chelsea great, Eidur Gudjohnsen, has caused quite a stir in the Iceland camp. Despite the aura of nostalgia around him, he is likely to be a near-permanent fixture on the bench.
Hannes HalldA?rsson will continue between the posts, with Krasnodar centre half Ragnar Sigur sson and Malmo’s KA?ri A?rnason in front of them. Saevarsson and Skulason will ply their trades as right and left-backs respectively.
Halfredsson and Gunnarsson are likely to start at the heart of midfield, with captain Gylfi Sigurdsson ahead of them, flanked by Bjarnason and Gudmundsson on the left and right flanks.
The lone man up-front is likely to be FC Nantes youngster Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.
Possible Starting XI (4-2-3-1): HalldA?rsson; R Sigurdsson, Arnason, Saevarsson, Skulason; Hallfredsson, Gunnarsson, Bjarnason, G Sigurdsson, Gudmunds son; Sigthorsson.
- Robin van Persie ended the spring campaign having won 98 caps and having scored 49 goals for The Netherlands. He could become the first Dutch player to score 50 international goals.
- The Netherlands’ record against Iceland now reads W9 D1 L1, but their home record is even more impressive in those games: they have won all five fixtures, scoring 17 goals and conceding just one in the process.
- A win for Iceland, could leave them only a draw away from automatic qualification (via play off) and a win away from automatic progression.
- Swansea midfielder Sigurdsson was the hero when these two sides met at the Laugardalsvollur Stadium in October as he scored both goals in Iceland’s 2-0 win.
Player to watch out for
The Bayern Munich winger has now realized his national team dream in being appointed Oranje’s new captain.
Having served as vice-captain throughout the 2014 FIFA World Cup, his appointment as head leader should not come as much of a surprise. Declared fully fit after an intense summer of recovery, the wing wizard will look to exert even more influence on the pitch, as his role of talisman will now be accompanied by that of team leader.
The Netherlands 2-1 Iceland
The Dutch would usually be sure favorites in a fixture pitting these two teams against each other, but right now it is uncertain times for Dutch football. They still have their share of good players, but they will be up against a well-organised and disciplined unit.