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The football World Cup 2014 is fast approaching and Dutch football fans around the globe are looking forward to watching the Dutch national team (or ‘Het Nederlands Elftal’) in action. The Netherlands have enjoyed significant World Cup success over the years, finishing runners-up in 1974, 1978 and 2010 and earning them a somewhat frustrating record for playing the most World Cup finals without ever winning!
The Netherlands also boasts its fair share of famous footballers, all with an impressive track record on both the domestic and international stage.
Here’s our pick of the bunch:
1) Johan Cruijff
Arguably the most celebrated Dutch sportsmen of all time, Johan Cruijff won football’s prestigious Ballon d’Or three times and is considered one of the greatest footballers in history. Throughout his dazzling career he played for some of the world’s finest clubs, including Ajax, Feyenoord and Barcelona, as well as the Dutch national team, which incidentally never lost a match in which he scored. He once quipped that he owed his amazing footballing prowess to a daily portion of bee pollen and was often spotted with a trademark Chupa Chups lollipop in his mouth!
2) Willem van Hanegem
Dutch footballer and coach, Willem van Hanegem, enjoyed an impressive career that spanned more than twenty years and saw him play for both his country and the mighty Feyenoord, whom he twice helped to UEFA cup glory. Known for his incredible tactical insight and passing ability, his bandy legs and unique method of curving the ball by striking it with the outside of his left foot, earned him the Dutch nickname of ‘De Kromme’ (The Crooked).
3) Ruud Gullit
Ruud Gullit was born to Surinam migrants in Amsterdam, where he honed his skills in street football. He went on to captain the Dutch national team, winning Euro 1988, and wore the shirt for a glittering selection of internationally respected clubs, including Feyenoord, PSV Eindhoven, Milan and Chelsea. Instantly recognisable via his striking dreadlocks, Gullit was named European footballer of the year in 1987 and World Soccer Player of the year in both 1987 and 1989.
4) Marco van Basten
Marco van Basten played during the eighties and early nineties and is widely regarded as one of the greatest strikers of all time. A teammate of Ruud Gullit, van Basten was voted player of the tournament at Euro 1988. In addition to representing his country, he won three Eredivisie titles and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup with Ajax, and three Serie A titles and two European Cups with A.C. Milan, before a sporting injury tragically cut short his footballing career at the tender age of 28.
5) Robin van Persie
Dutch striker, Robin van Persie, has played for Feyenoord, Arsenal and one of the richest football clubs in the world, Manchester United, where his style and ability has often been compared to Marco van Basten. Named UK Premier League Player of the month some five times, van Persie has over 80 caps for his country and is due to captain the Dutch national team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then why not visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad?