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Thursday, Jun 12, 2014

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World Cup: Van is driven for Holland

The New Paper | Thursday, Jun 12, 2014

It has often been said that players get better with age and that is certainly the case with Holland and Manchester United striker Robin van Persie.

Now 30 years old, van Persie is considered the finished article as a player. Sir Alex Ferguson knew what he was getting when he shelled out £24 million ($50m) of Manchester money for him in the summer of 2012, even though his Arsenal contract had just 12 months to run.

Irked the Premier League title had gone to Manchester City, Fergie saw van Persie as the perfect drop-in thoroughbred needed to get it back and van Persie effortlessly got the job done.

There were other factors behind their slump last season, but van Persie being injured for parts of the year did not help. He still managed to score 17 goals, though, and returned at the end of the season to ensure he should be fresher than most heading to South America.

EXPERIENCE

When fit, van Persie offers not just experience but also an assurance that chances will not be wasted often - a rare commodity that is reserved only for the elite.

Regardless of how his club form has stacked up, van Persie has always been a stellar performer on the international stage. He is Holland's leading goalscorer on 43, 11 of which were racked up in their rampant qualifying campaign.

Part of the reason for his form for the Oranje could well be his relationship with coach Louis van Gaal.

The 62-year-old will also be van Persie's boss at United next season and has a proven track record of working well with the former Feyenoord man.

Van Gaal has coached van Persie in two separate stints with the national side and is expecting him to make a significant impact at the World Cup - especially after a tough season at club level which saw several rumours surface about his relationship with the now deposed David Moyes. Van Gaal said: "I think he should be great in the tournament because he loves to play in the Dutch squad."

If Holland's qualifying campaign is anything to go by, they are worthy of being among the favourites.

They ended with a haul of 28 points from a possible 30 in Group D, with their only dropped points coming in a 2-2 draw in Estonia.

Thirty-four goals were scored across 10 games also, but qualifying well is nothing new to Holland.

Where they struggle is converting their talented squad into a tangible reward at the tournament. In 2010 they went closer than they had done since 1978, making the final for a third time, losing out in the end to Spain after a bloody battle.

Usually they have only themselves to blame for failing on the biggest stage, with a fractious camp full of crosspurpose egos often causing them to break down.

But in van Gaal, the Dutch have one of the most revered coaches in the game.

He is a disciplinarian and few can argue with his career record.

A Champions League, Bundesliga and La Liga winner, the 62-year-old is in his second spell with the Oranje and will be keen to go out with a bang.


This article was first published on June 10, 2014.
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