In the buildup to a major tournament there are always a few questions that need to be answered about the Dutch. How do the different characters gel? And will the Nederlands elftal play in the attacking tradition that started in the 70s but was spurned at the last World Cup?
An incident in the Champions League semi-final between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid focused attention on the character in the Holland team. At half-time Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry had a heated argument in the dressing room about a free-kick. The Frenchman gave the Dutch winger a blow to the cheek and the German press reported it as if it has been a serious clash. It was. During the first-half, Ribéry wanted to take a free-kick. Another player, Toni Kroos, should do it, said Robben. Kroos's attempt was unsuccessful and Ribéry was outraged. Robben kept his mouth shut outside the dressing room and won the moral victory.
The incident says something about how characters develop in the Oranje's inner circle. They still discuss everything but have become wiser and now keep their problems inside the team. Even the differences that existed years ago between black and white players are gone.
Is it a perfect group dynamic now? We're not sure. It depends on the shape that Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder are in. Both are winners and strong, sometimes difficult, characters. They can appear selfish, although they are not. These characteristics are not emphasised when they play for their clubs, but come out when they are together with the Oranje. When the boys are both at their strongest, the question will be whether Van Persie or Sneijder leads. It could be a luxurious problem for Bert van Marwijk.
When it comes to tactics there are no secrets within Holland. Since Van Marwijk took over from Marco van Basten he has played more or less the same lineup: four defenders with two attacking full-backs, two defensive midfielders and one midfielder positioned behind the deeper lying striker. Up front he has two wingers, who cut inside.
The centre-forward is a "playing striker", which means he will make way when the wingers come inside or when the attacking midfielder comes to the centre of the attack.