The announcement of Holland's provisional team this week didn't exactly send shockwaves through the country, except for Ruud's absence and the inclusion of some up-and-coming youngsters from the Dutch league. The complete provisional team looks like this:
Goalkeepers: Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax), Sander Boschker (FC Twente) and Michel Vorm (FC Utrecht)
Defenders: Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax), Johnny Heitinga (Everton), André Ooijer (PSV), Joris Mathijsen (Hamburger SV), Ron Vlaar (Feyenoord), Edson Braafheid (Celtic), Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord), Vurnon Anita (Ajax) and Khalid Boulahrouz (VfB Stuttgart)
Midfielders: Mark van Bommel (Bayern München), Demy de Zeeuw (Ajax), Nigel de Jong (Manchester City), David Mendes da Silva (AZ), Wout Brama (FC Twente), Otman Bakkal (PSV), Orlando Engelaar (PSV), Stijn Schaars (AZ), Rafael van der Vaart (Real Madrid), Ibrahim Afellay (PSV) and Wesley Sneijder (Internazionale)
Forwards: Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool), Jeremain Lens (AZ), Arjen Robben (Bayern München), Eljero Elia (Hamburger SV), Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan), Robin van Persie (Arsenal) and Ryan Babel (Liverpool).
So what's actually new? Well, besides the absence of Van Nistelrooy, Van Marwijk prefers Dutch champion FC Twente's goalkeeper Sander Boschker to the talented Piet Velthuizen. He also selected Edson Braafheid, on-loan at Celtic from Bayern Munchen but not too impressive at both clubs, Vurnon Anita, a very small former central midfielder turned left-back at Ajax just this season, and Jeremain Lens, AZ's lightning-fast winger who has a great future ahead of him but isn't quite there yet. Question marks are in place as well for Khalid Boulahrouz, Ron Vlaar, David Mendes da Silva and Andre Ooijer, while one can also doubt the chances of Wout Brama and Otman Bakkal making it to Johannesburg to play Denmark, come the 14th of June. Therefore, in the end, the Dutch World Cup squad will probably look all too similar to the team that clinched WC qualification with a string of confident performances. And that isn't a bad thing at all.
So let's make some 'bold' predictions. Besides the three goalkeepers that are already on-board for the flight to South Africa, the following twenty players will join them in due time:
Defenders: Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax), Johnny Heitinga (Everton), Joris Mathijsen (Hamburger SV), Ron Vlaar (Feyenoord), Edson Braafheid (Celtic), Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) and Khalid Boulahrouz (VfB Stuttgart).
Midfielders: Mark van Bommel (Bayern München), Demy de Zeeuw (Ajax), Nigel de Jong (Manchester City), Stijn Schaars (AZ), Rafael van der Vaart (Real Madrid), Ibrahim Afellay (PSV) and Wesley Sneijder (Internazionale).
Forwards: Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool), Arjen Robben (Bayern München), Eljero Elia (Hamburger SV), Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan), Robin van Persie (Arsenal) and Ryan Babel (Liverpool).
With this squad, Van Marwijk is able to field arguably the most creative footballing force on the planet, although the Spanish and Brazilians obviously have a legitimate claim to that title as well. In any case, the versatility in attack and midfield ensures that Holland may have a genuine shot at the title. With Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder in magnificent form, as they will show in the Champions League final later this month, Robin van Persie and Rafael van der Vaart having performed very well this season and a Mark van Bommel at his prime, who's to stop the Dutch?
At least the Holland squad has depth, albeit mainly in midfield and attack, with almost all players representing big clubs from equally big competitions. The only weak spot, the defence, has shown to be remarkably reliable during qualification and may thus deserve a little more faith than it is currently receiving.
Either way, this squad leaves Van Marwijk with plenty of choices to make. Will he, for example, field the dreamed-off 'Dutch Fantastic Four' Van der Vaart-Sneijder-Robben-Van Persie or will he prefer to include hard-working Dirk Kuijt in the starting line-up? What about the central midfielder that will play alongside Mark van Bommel; will he opt for the tenacious type in Nigel de Jong, the dynamic one in Demi de Zeeuw or the creative genius in Rafael van der Vaart? And what to do with youngsters such as Eljero Elia, Ryan Babel and Ibrahim Afellay, who are highly talented but can be fantastic one day but dreadful the other? All very difficult questions for which I wish Van Marwijk all the good luck in the world trying to answer them. Because Holland's World Cup fate probably lies hidden somewhere in those answers.