The Netherlands’ Greatest XI – 2000 – 2020

The Netherlands have led a bit of a tortured existence in recent years. They’ve frequently had the tools to go far in major competitions, but often fall at the penultimate or final hurdle. Or sometimes they struggle really, really badly.

Nonetheless, the Dutchmen followed a runners-up finish at the 2010 World Cup with the bronze medal four years later, proving that crop of players had what it took to compete at the very top. Just don’t mention their attempt to qualify for the 2018 competition.

Once again things look bright for the Netherlands, with defenders like Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt reigning supreme at the back while Frenkie de Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum pull the strings in midfield.

Here at 90min, we’ll be running a mini-World Cup on our social channels over the next week to determine which nation has had the best XI of the century so far. So, let’s forget the future for a moment and take a gander at the Netherlands’ best XI from 2000 to 2020.


Goalkeeper & Defenders

Edwin van der Sar (GK)

Dutch goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar

A languid goalkeeper who represented Ajax, Juventus, Fulham and Manchester United during his club career, Van der Sar notched 130 international caps from his debut in 1995 to his final appearance in 2008. He also went luckless as Holland crashed out of three successive major competitions on penalties: Euro 1996, the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.

Michael Reiziger (RB)

Representing the Dutch national side for a decade, Reiziger enjoyed plenty of domestic success firstly at Ajax and then at Barcelona. He finished his international career after Euro 2004, retiring with 74 appearances for the national side.

Virgil van Dijk (CB)

Northern Ireland v Netherlands – UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier

If no one has told you that Virgil van Dijk is the best defender in the world yet, you’ve probably been living under a rock for the last couple of years. The centre back is a massive presence in defence and possesses enough speed and positional awareness to effectively nullify whichever striker he’s playing against. Only has 33 caps currently but is certainly a candidate to finish his career with more than 100.

Jaap Stam (CB)

The 17th greatest centre back ever, Stam was scarily good at the back. And he was also a really scary looking guy. No striker ever really wanted to go up for a header against the 6’3 destroyer. Quick, positionally aware and a proper ball-playing defender, Stam could do it all.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst (LB)

Ever see this man’s goal against Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup semi final? It was a *Alan Partridge voice* THRIIIIKER. Aside from that cracker, Van Bronckhorst played in three World Cups and three European Championships, with his last match being the 1-0 World Cup final loss to Spain in 2010.


Midfielders

Edgar Davids (CM)

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Als voetballer heb ik altijd met trots het Oranje shirt gedragen. Ik heb met ziel en zaligheid voor en met het Nederlands Elftal gestreden, omdat Nederland ook mijn land is. Helaas kunnen we inmiddels niet anders dan vaststellen dat het bestaan van racisme ook in Nederland een feit is. Het is geen mogelijkheid meer maar een gegeven. Dit was al zo, ver voor mijn voetbalcarrière, gedurende en helaas anno 2019 nog steeds. Sport staat voor verbroedering; mensen dichter bij elkaar brengen. Daar is het sportveld voor bedoeld en niet als vrijplaats voor schandelijk en schadelijk maatschappelijk gedrag gericht tot spelers van een bepaalde afkomst en met een bepaalde huidskleur. In de politiek, voetbalpraatprogramma’s en andere media is polariseren van maatschappelijke issues en het opzetten van groepen tegenover elkaar heel gewoon geworden, waarmee in ons land stevig wordt gescoord. De boodschap van verbinding is niet hip meer terwijl daar juist een enorme behoefte aan bestaat. We worden al dan niet bewust tegen elkaar opgezet. Hoe onze samenleving nu tegenover elkaar staat kunnen we niet en mogen we niet accepteren. De discussie of Nederland wel of geen racistisch land is, is inmiddels niet meer relevant. Dat racisme diepgeworteld is in ons mooie land is een gegeven. Het is daarom nu niet meer de tijd om ons af te vragen of dat zo is, maar het is nu tijd om ons te richten op oplossingen. Hoe omarmen we onze diverse samenleving – want ook die diverse samenleving is een feit – en realiseren we een inclusieve maatschappij waar iedereen zich thuis voelt op en buiten het veld? Waar respect, tolerantie en empathie voor elkaar de norm zou moeten zijn. Een eerste stap is om te erkennen dat sommige tradities niet meer van deze tijd zijn want net als Zwarte Piet, is racisme helaas een traditie.

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An assassin in goggles, Davids was the tough-tackler in the Netherlands’ ranks throughout the mid 1990s and early 2000s. The former Ajax and Inter midfielder was named in UEFA’s Team of the Tournament for Euro 2000 as the Dutch reached the semi-finals, finishing his international career in 2005 with 74 appearances.

Clarence Seedorf (CM)

Seedorf racked up a ridiculous trophy cabinet throughout his club career, but was also a regular for the Netherlands from his debut in 1994 to his final game in 2008. Capable of playing centrally as a playmaker or out wide, the former Milan midfielder remains one of the game’s all-time greats.

Wesley Sneijder (AM)

Holland v Peru -International Friendly

The man who was robbed of the 2010 Ballon d’Or, Sneijder had just come off a Serie A and Champions League double winning campaign with Inter when he rocked up at the 2010 World Cup. He would prove pivotal in the Netherlands’ run to the final, finishing as the tournament’s joint-top goalscorer with five. Sneijder also appeared at three European Championships as well as the Netherlands’ run to the semi finals of the 2014 World Cup, ending his career in 2018 as the nation’s leading appearance maker with 134.


Forwards

Arjen Robben (RW)

Netherlands v Sweden – FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier

Robben was simply a joy to watch at full flight. Whether he was cutting inside from the right to curl shots deliciously into the top corner or theatrically winning his side penalties, the former Bayern Munich and Chelsea winger was absolute box office. Finished his international career in 2017 with 37 goals in 96 appearances.

Dennis Bergkamp (LW)

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INSIDE FORWARD. INSIDE FORWARD. HE’S AN INSIDE FORWARD. There’s no way we’re getting Bergkamp to operate as a touchline-hugging winger here. He’s an inside forward. On the playing side, the former Arsenal star was magical at his best, as demonstrated by his incredible first touch and finish against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup. What? This is a team from 2000 to 2020? And Bergkamp retired from international football after Euro 2020? Oh. Still though. Good enough to get into this team.

Robin van Persie (ST)

Representing his nation at the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups and the 2008 and 2012 European Championships, Van Persie seldom let the Netherlands down. Finishing his international career with 50 goals in 102 Oranje appearances, the former Arsenal and Manchester United shone brightest for his nation in the 2014 World Cup, finishing the competition with four goals including that header against Spain.


The Netherlands will face England in their round of 16 matchup. Keep an eye on our social media channels to cast your vote!

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