Netherlands will hope to restart their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign on a positive note when they travel to Oslo to take on Norway on Wednesday.
After a thrilling and dramatic end to Euro 2020 and Copa America, international football is back with 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers underway. The international break provides football fans with a chance to don their national jerseys to support their country. The matches are expected to be full of intensity as these are no meaningless friendlies, these are the Qualifiers for the upcoming World Cup at Qatar and any complacencies can lead to mass criticism.
Netherlands will begin a new chapter under the guidance of Louis Van Gaal on Wednesday night when they will pay visit to an improving Norway side at the Ullevaal Stadion for the fourth game of their World Cup Qualifying campaign in Group G.
Despite boasting a perfect record in Euro 2020 group stages, Oranje’s adventure came to an end in the Round of 16 with a 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic. Barely 48 hours after the match, Frank de Boer resigned from his head coach role after only nine months in office, with former boss Louis van Gaal being named as his replacement. The 70-year-old opted to return from retirement to lead the charge of the Dutch national football team for the third time in his career.
With six points from their first three games, the Netherlands now sit second in Group G. A shock 4-2 setback against Turkey in their first group match was followed by two comfortable wins over minnow nations Latvia and Gibraltar.
On the other hand, Norway will be more eager than ever to make a concerted push for qualification after failing to do so for Euro 2020 which meant they had not featured in the finals of a major tournament in 21 years, since Euro 2020. But the Lions will be hoping to build on their decent run in their bid to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. They have won two of their first three games, having beaten Gibraltar and Montenegro.
Both wins have come against minnows that are outside FIFA’s Top 50 cadre. In fact, one has to go back to 2015 to find the Norwegian side registering a victory against a Top 20-ranked side when they defeated Croatia. And the task will get no easier against a 12th-ranked Dutch side, as they look to produce a huge shock in front of their home supporters.
Team News & Tactics
There’s no doubt Erling Haaland will be the Lions’ talisman and will lead the line of a young and talented team. The 21-year-old has emerged as arguably the world’s most prolific forwards. Haaland scored 112 goals in 158 club games since making his professional debut as a 15-year-old and has also shone on the international stage boasting 7 strikes in 12 Norway caps.
Surprisingly, the Dortmund man is yet to score in their qualification campaign until now. With Haaland spearheading the attack he will be accompanied by one of Alexander Sorloth or Joshua King. Although King has not been picked as a starter in the last eight games, so it’s likely he will have to contend with a place on the bench.
Starting goalkeeper Rune Jarstein has been left out by head coach Stale Solbakken as the 36-year-old will effectively miss the set of games due to quarantine after having been tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, it will be Bournemouth keeper Orjan Nyland starting in the goal shielded by central defenders Stian Rode Gregersen and Kristoffer Ajer.
Solbakken may prefer a quartet in the midfield. With Sander Berge also testing positive for COVID-19, it will be the duo of Morten Thorsby and the new Norwich signing Mathias Normann featuring in the central areas. Arsenal playmaker Martin Odegaard who has been named skipper of the national team will start as a right-sided midfielder with either Mohamed Elyounoussi or Jens Petter Hauge playing on the other flank.
The Norwegian squad is young and exciting as they contain some top-level talents, which has certainly brought optimism among supporters, who are hoping their nation can eventually qualify for their first World Cup tournament in decades.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Nyland; Ryerson, Gregerson, Ajer, Meling; Odegaard, Thorsby, Normann, Hauge; Haaland, Sorloth
Louis van Gaal has chosen a similar 25-man squad for the World Cup qualifiers as Frank de Boer had done for the Euros in the summer. The Dutchman is likely to field a 3-5-2 formation in his first game in charge of the Oranje. Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk has returned to the national setup after completing his recovery from a long-term knee injury.
The 30-year-old was sidelined for much of last season, although he has now returned with the national side and will start as skipper with Matthijs de Ligt and Stefan de Vrij in the backline. Their roles will be to keep things tight at the back and protect the Norwich shot-stopper Tim Krul. And since all three are ball-playing defenders, they will also be assigned with duties to build play out from the back.
Denzel Dumfries and Daley Blind will act as wing-backs to provide the added width in the 3-5-2 setup. It is a decent combo with Blind a traditional full-back who’s an excellent crosser while Dumfries was impressive at Euros and is much more of a modern-day wing-back who may leave gaps behind when moving forwards.
Frenkie de Jong, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Marten de Roon are the three most probable options to play in the central midfield for the visitors.
Barcelona star Memphis Depay will be expected to lead the frontline with either Wout Weghorst or Donyell Malen playing alongside him. Weghorst can provide a target for defenders to aim their long passes due to his giant stature and may probably start ahead of Malen who will be called off the bench to provide spark and creativity.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Krul; de Vrij, van Dijk, de Ligt; Dumfries, de Roon, de Jong, Wijnaldum, Blind; Depay, Weghorst
- This will be the 21st meeting between these nations, Netherlands has the edge in head-to-head record with 9 wins, 6 draws and 5 losses. Norway’s last win against the Dutch came long way back in the 1992 World Cup, when they beat the Oranje 2-1.
- Netherlands came out on top with a comfortable 2-0 win when these sides last met in 2009 at Rotterdam in World Cup qualifiers.
- Erling Haaland will be looking to open his goalscoring account in the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign for Norway.
- Netherlands are in good form coming to this match, having won 4 of their last 5 games.
Player to Watch
Memphis Depay is unquestionably the most important player for this Netherlands side. He starred at Eur 2020, notching up two goals and an assist in four games for the Oranje. The 27-year-old star has broadened his shoulders after his recent switch to Barcelona, taking up the responsibility of the premier forward at the club following the departure of Lionel Messi.
His scintillating domestic form will surely have a positive impact on his international display. Depay is likely to play as a supporting striker to Wout Weghorst from a tactical standpoint. He will have a free-roaming role, he can stretch as wide as needed and operate as an instinctive poacher running in behind opposition defences if a counter-attacking opportunity arises.
Depay has the courage to take players on and dribble past them which is a key trait to open up spaces for other players to capitalise on. We can definitely expect big things to come from Depay on the international stage.
Norway 0-2 Netherlands
Both nations have got an equally strong core of players, which could make for an entertaining game to watch on Wednesday. A fascinating duel between Erling Haaland and Virgil van Dijk is expected to take place but with fellow world-class defenders Matthijs de Ligt and Stefan de Vrij also in the Dutch ranks alongside the Liverpool ace, the Dortmund striker could possibly have a frustrating evening.
Netherlands are likely to have the lion’s share of possession and will dominate the midfield, so the onus would be on them to break the Norwegian defence by showing proactiveness and urgency in their passing. We predict a solid 2-0 win for the Oranje with Memphis Depay and Gini Wijnaldum starring in the game.