Dutch World Cup challenge dealt blow by Strootman injury
Deep-lying Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman will miss the World Cup after tearing cartilage in his left knee when playing for club side Roma in their Serie A loss to Napoli.
Louis van Gaal’s Clockwork Orange, who reached the final of the last tournament in South Africa under predecessor Bert van Marwijk, are 28/1 to lift the trophy this time round.
Drawn alongside reigning World and European champions Spain, Chile and Australia in Group B, the Netherlands are 9/4 with Coral to win their pool and odds-on at 1/2 to qualify for the knockout phase.
Strootman also came off injured during his last appearance for his country in the 2-0 loss to France. Fellow left-footer Stijn Schaars deputised, but Van Gaal’s men slumped to defeat thanks to goals from Les Bleus pair Karim Benzema and Blaise Matuidi.
“I can just imagine how disappointed he must be,” Van Gaal said of Strootman. “For the national side it is a huge blow. Kevin made a huge contribution to our qualification for the World Cup, he never let us down and now his dreams have died.”
Thoughts now turn to who might replace Dutch regular Strootman on their roster. His injury may allow AC Milan and former Manchester City destroyer Nigel de Jong the chance to go to a fourth major tournament.
When the Netherlands reached the last World Cup final, De Jong infamously made a chest-high challenge on Spain’s Xabi Alonso. Referee Howard Webb punished this with a booking rather than a red card.
De Jong will have to keep his discipline better if Milan, managed by compatriot Clarence Seedorf, are to turnaround an away goal first leg deficit against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16. Back the Rossoneri with Coral at 11/2 to beat Diego Simeone’s side at the Vicente Calderon and 7/1 to qualify for the quarters.
Alternative options for Van Gaal include two Premier League players. Versatile Swansea midfielder Jonathan de Guzman made his debut for Clockwork Orange under the current coach, but did not receive a call-up for the France friendly.
Norwich powerhouse Leroy Fer, like De Guzman, played in the goalless Dutch draw with Colombia in November. A hamstring injury ruled him out of the last international, however.
Both Fer and De Guzman’s clubs remain in the Premier League relegation battle. Norwich are 9/4 shots to go down, while the Swans are 16/1 outsiders to lose top-flight status.
In other Netherlands news, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar showed Van Gaal he is still a credible candidate for the lone striker role as he hit a hat-trick for Schalke in their Bundesliga battering of Hoffenheim. Winger Arjen Robben assisted two of leaders Bayern Munich’s goals as they hit Wolfsburg for six.
Playmaker Wesley Sneijder continues to excel at Galatasaray, scoring once and making two others in a 6-1 Turkish Super Lig rout of minnows Akhisarspor. Back the Dutch to win the World Cup at that tasty 28/1 price.