Netherlands defence brings best chance to finally win World Cup, says Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink



And to finally do what they failed to do in three finals. While the Dutch sides of 1974, 1978 and 2010 went further than 1998, Hasselbaink remains adamant that was their best chance.

“We were very unlucky in the semi-final against Brazil. That was the year that the Dutch should have won it. That was the year that we were very close to winning it. We have never won it, even now thinking back to the players who have never won it and were part of the team…we lost it on penalties against Brazil.

“Speaking to Marcel Desailly, who won it that year and was playing with me at Chelsea, they didn’t want to play us. They wanted to play Brazil, because they felt that they had a better chance beating Brazil instead of beating us. We were so much more fluent, we were playing really well. So for us not to have won it yet, and not win it in 1998 was a big disappointment.”

Hasselbaink now lauds Louis van Gaal as an “absolutely top manager” who has brought the squad together, in similar way to Guus Hiddink in 1998, albeit through different means. Hasselbaink praises Hiddink for bringing Edgar Davids back in after he was sent home from Euro 96.

“What Hiddink did really, really well is, even though he sent Davids home, they patched up afterwards. They had a good chat together, and he saw where Davids came from. While other managers would have never patched up, I think he acknowledged that with Davids in his team he would be a lot stronger, but also Davids was under pressure to perform straight away as well.

“That helped the Dutch national team. I think he was one of the best players in that World Cup. He was the engine that kept a lot going. That brought everybody a little bit together as a squad. That’s why we were so strong. Don’t get me wrong, we had a lot of talent, but the Dutch national team has had always a lot of talent. What they didn’t really have was the team ethics, and that year we had it really well.

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“In 2010, against Spain, where the team ethics were really good as well, but they weren’t playing well. They were solid, and it was a really non-Dutch team. They played a different formation and that was a big thing that was going on in Holland, because the Dutch really have to play 4-3-3 – which they have stepped away from now as well.

“So, yeah, not winning it in 1998 was a big disappointment.”

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