Netherlands Profile

Major Honours European Championship (1988)
Year Founded 1905

From Johan Cruyff to Robin van Persie or Virgil van Dijk, the Dutch national team has produced some of world football's best talent for decades, and they're now back on the hunt for trophies.

The Dutch national soccer team, known affectionately as the Oranje, is widely regarded as the best never to win a World Cup.

Immortalised in soccer history thanks to the achievements of Johan Cruyff and his generation of players in the 1970s, they were European champions in 1988 under Rinus Michels with a squad including the likes of Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit, Ronald Koeman and Marco van Basten.

The Netherlands were runners-up at the 1974 and 1978 World Cups and then again in 2010.

The team is governed by the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB). They play their home matches at the Johan Cruyff Arena, the Philips Stadion and De Kuip.

Early history

The Dutch national team made their bow on the international stage against Belgium in a 1905 encounter in Antwerp, which the Netherlands won 4-1 after extra time.

Their first competitive tournament was the 1908 Olympics in London, where they were eliminated by Great Britain in the semi-finals, but managed to pick up the bronze medal. The Netherlands won further bronze medals at the 1912 and 1920 Olympics.

Having reached the semi-final for a fourth time, they were unsuccessful again after giving up a one-goal lead against Uruguay to lose 2-1, missing out on a medal after losing the subsequent third-place play-off to Sweden.

The Netherlands were eliminated from the round of 16 at the 1934 and 1938 World Cup tournaments. They did not have any significant success until the "total football" generation spearheaded by Johan Cruyff.

After the Second World War, they only qualified for two international tournaments before this period of success in the 70s, losing to the hosts, Great Britain in the 1948 Olympics and to Brazil in the 1952 tournament in Finland.

Breakthrough in the 1970s

Following the 1974 World Cup, the captain of the 1970 World Cup-winning Brazil side, Carlos Alberto, praised the Dutch for the free-flowing, expressive soccer masterminded by Johan Cruyff and head coach Rinus Michels.

Alberto said: "The only team I've seen that did things differently was Holland at the 1974 World Cup in Germany. Since then everything looks more or less the same to me."

In 1974, the Netherlands made the final of the World Cup in West Germany, where they took on the hosts.

Johan Neeskens put the Netherlands ahead from the penalty spot in the second minute, but West Germany equalised through a Paul Breitner penalty. In the 43rd minute, Gerd Muller scored what proved to be the winning goal for West Germany.

The Netherlands followed that up by qualifying for Euro 1976 in Yugoslavia, where they were eliminated in the semi-finals after a 3-1 extra-time defeat to Czechoslovakia. In the third-place play-off, Holland beat Yugoslavia 3-2.

The 1978 World Cup in Argentina was another near miss for the Netherlands. They finished second in Group 4 behind Peru, qualifying for the second group stage. There, they topped Group A above Italy, West Germany and Austria.

Netherlands thus qualified for the final against Argentina, where Mario Kempes opened the scoring for the hosts in the 38th minute. Dick Nanninga's 82nd-minute goal meant the match went to extra time, where Argentina triumphed thanks to another Kempes goal and one from Ricardo Bertoni.

The Netherlands were eliminated from the group stage at Euro 1980 and did not qualify for the 1982 or 1986 World Cups or Euro 1984.

1988 European Championships win

In 1988, Oranje were crowned European champions for the first time, after winning the tournament in Germany.

The tournament is renowned for being one of very few to have finished without seeing a sending off or a goalless draw.

The Netherlands advanced to the knockout stage of Euro 1988 by finishing second in their group behind the Soviet Union.

Despite a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Soviet Union, Oranje bounced back with a 3-1 victory over England in which Marco van Basten scored a hat-trick as well as 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland thanks to Wim Kieft.

Van Basten celebrates scoring against England

They faced West Germany in the semi-finals in Hamburg, going behind to a Lothar Matthaus penalty before scoring a penalty of their own through Ronald Koeman. An 88th-minute winner from Marco van Basten ensured the Netherlands snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

In the final, the Netherlands took on the Soviet Union in Munich and goals from Gullit and Van Basten gave the Oranje a 2-0 win.

Netherlands and losing run in European Championship semi-finals

In their quest to replicate the glory of 1988, the Netherlands suffered several near misses. They finished third at the European Championships in 1992, 2000 and 2004. In 1996, they were eliminated at the quarter-final stage.

In 1992, a late Frank Rijkaard goal brought their semi-final clash with Denmark level at 2-2. The game went to penalties, where a missed Van Basten spot-kick saw the Danes, who scored all five of their penalties, advance.

After an eight-year wait to reach another semi-final, the Dutch faced off against Italy on home turf in Amsterdam, in a year where they co-hosted the competition alongside rivals Belgium.

Sadly for the hosts, a goalless draw saw their match with the Italians go to penalties once more. Their opponents would be victorious yet again after the Dutch missed three of their first four penalties.

In the 2004 tournament, the Dutch held their nerve in a tense quarter-final encounter, to win on penalties against Sweden, setting up a semi-final clash with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo.

A closely contested encounter resulted in heartbreak once more, however, as the Portuguese emerged 2-1 winners and booked their place in the final to play the hosts, Greece.

In terms of the World Cup, there was not much to cheer about during this era, although the Netherlands did manage to finish fourth at the 1998 World Cup in France under Guus Hiddink.

Back-to-back World Cup podiums

The Dutch were disappointing at the 2006 World Cup, crashing out in the round of 16.

In a chaotic match that saw four red cards, the Dutch fell to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Portugal.

A promising start to their Euro 2008 campaign under Marco van Basten featuring wins over Italy, Romania and France had ultimately proved a false dawn as the Netherlands were eliminated from that tournament in the quarter-finals by Guus Hiddink's Russia.

At the World Cup in 2010, the Netherlands once again got off to an impressive start, beating Japan, Denmark and Cameroon to top their group. A 2-1 round-of-16 win over Slovakia meant the Netherlands faced their first major test of the tournament in the quarter-finals against Brazil.

Van Persie shoots against Manuel Neuer

Here, Holland rallied back from 1-0 down to win 2-1 and followed that up with a 3-2 win over Uruguay in the semi-finals. That semi-final win in Cape Town is famous for Giovanni van Bronckhorst's stunning long-range strike.

In the final, the Netherlands faced Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg, where they were beaten 1-0 due to an extra-time winner from Andres Iniesta. Midfielders Mark van Bommel and Wesley Sneijder made FIFA's All-Star team for the tournament.

The Netherlands made the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with a squad that was less star-studded. The impressive management of Louis van Gaal played a major role in them finishing third, beating Brazil in the play-off to claim that honour.

The Netherlands were knocked out of the tournament by Argentina in the semi-finals, but not before exacting revenge on Spain in the group stage with a 5-1 drubbing inspired by Robin van Persie's diving header.

Recent years

The Netherlands endured a dark patch after the 2014 World Cup and failed to qualify for the 2018 edition, but they regrouped after Ronald Koeman took over and made the final of the first ever UEFA Nations League. There, they were beaten by Portugal.

In November, 2019 they sealed qualification for their 10th European Championships, booking their place for the 2020 Euros with a victory over Northern Ireland.

Netherlands waltzed through their group with wins over UkraineAustria and North Macedonia. However, they had again flattered to deceive and were eliminated in the last 16 following a 2-0 defeat to Czech Republic.

Van Dijk celebrates a Holland goal

After losing manager Ronald Koeman - who resigned to manage his old club Barcelona - the Dutch struggled to qualify for the 2021 Nations League following disappointing results in their group of Poland, Italy and Bosnia.

The current generation of Dutch national team players includes star names such as Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt and Quincy Promes.

Netherlands legends

Johan Cruyff was the player who immortalised 'Total Football', which has had an influence on not only Dutch domestic international soccer, but also the European game as a whole, inspiring the philosophies of a number of great modern coaches such as Pep Guardiola.

There were several other great players in his era, including Johan Neeskens who - like Cruyff - endured successful stints at both Ajax and Barcelona, and Ruud Krol, who spent 12 years at Ajax and coached the national team as an assistant.

Marco van Basten was the star of the show in the team which won Euro 1988, but since then, the Dutch national team has been blessed with legends such as goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, winger Arjen Robben and striker Robin van Persie.

Van Persie is the Netherlands all-time top scorer with 50 goals to his name, leading the table ahead of tough competition from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Patrick Kluivert.

Ex-Inter Milan and Real Madrid star, Wesley Sneijder has made the most appearances for the national side with 134, scoring 31 goals having also represented them at U-17, U-19 and U-21 level.

Biggest rivals

Germany have always been a fierce rival of the Netherlands, due in large part to numerous clashes at major tournaments. The occupation of the Netherlands by Germany during World War II has also not been forgotten.

A quarter of a million Dutch people lost their lives as a result of the German's actions in the war as well as the country being devastated physically, socially and financially - many of the early games between the two were played with a deep anger surrounding these issues.

The two teams have met over 40 times in competitive international games and the fixture has been evenly matched in terms of success with both teams winning a similar amount of matches.

There is also a rivalry with Belgium, who are neighbours of the Netherlands, in what is known as the Low Countries derby.

The two countries have a long-standing on-field rivalry having played over 125 official derbies with each other.

Fanbase

The Netherlands have a fan club known as "Het Oranje Legioen" (The Orange Legion). They are recognisable for the song "Hup Holland Hup" and even for occasionally dressing up as orange lions to show their support for the team.

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