So much talent, such disappointing results, the Dutch have been dogged by in-fighting and a lack of togetherness, which earned them the tag of perennial underachievers. Dodgy defence aside, the squad heading to South Africa is jam-packed with flair and includes the technically superb Robin van Persie, dribbler extraordinaire Arjen Robben and playmaker Wesley Sneijder. Facing Cameroon, Japan and Denmark, the Dutch are favourites to progress. Whether their ropey back line will hold up against Brazil or Portugal in the last 16 remains to be seen. Dubbed the best-ever team not to win a FIFA World Cup, maybe this will finally be the Oranje’s year.
Bert van Marwijk
Taking over from the charismatic Marco van Basten after Euro 2008 Bert van Marwijk (left) steered the Oranje to South Africa with eight consecutive victories and has signed a deal to stay on as coach until the summer of 2012.
Player to watch
The scorer of the acrobatic volley against Italy in Euro 2008, Sneijder has been a key player for Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan.
We’re on the ball
World Cup appearances: 8
Previous best: Runners up, 1974 & 1978
Odds of winning: 12/1
Strange but true: Dutch fans fell foul of FIFA’s strict marketing policies when, in 2006, they were forced to watch their team’s 2-1 win over the Cote d’Ivoire in their underwear after being stripped of their orange leder-hosen bearing the logo of a Bavaria brewery.
Fixtures: Denmark, June 14, 3.30pm, Johannesburg Japan, June 19, 3.30pm, Durban Cameroon, June 24, 10.30pm, Pretoria