Four summers ago, the Netherlands pushed Spain to the very limit in the World Cup final in South Africa before succumbing to an Andres Iniesta special in extra time. This year, the Oranje are in serious danger of not even crossing the first hurdle. Despite the toxic baggage of mutiny and disharmony, the storied Dutch teams of the past were always packed with audacious talent. After all, they invented Total Football. However, the 2014 crop has to be the most unexciting squad in years. The unheralded defence hardly inspires any confidence. Injuries have robbed the midfield of the highly-rated Kevin Strootman’s dynamism and Rafael van der Vaart’s attacking verve. On paper, the offensive trident of Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben look deadly enough. But Sneijder, who was stellar in the 2010 campaign, seems to have lost his way. Van Persie had an injury-curtailed season at Manchester United. Blessed with blistering pace — which seems inversely proportional to his receding hairline — Bayern Munich star Robben is the only one who looks like he means business. But will that prove to be enough in a tough group that contains familiar foes Spain and tricky customers Chile? Don’t bet your money on it.




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