With two wins and two clean sheets, it was a positive international break for Netherlands, and how they’ll shape up at the World Cup is much clearer because of it.
Here are five conclusions we drew from their matches against Poland and Belgium…
Remko Pasveer is in contention to start in Qatar
A few weeks ago, Pasveer had never been called up by the Netherlands and, at the age of 38, probably though he never would be. Now, he has two caps to his name and could get more at the World Cup.
He was given the chance to start in both matches and took that chance well, keeping two clean sheets, making some good saves and impressing with the ball at his feet.
It’s not a certainty that he’ll play in Qatar, with Jasper Cillessen still very much in the mix, but it’s looking quite likely that the Ajax man will get the nod.
Things are all set defensively
There are question marks elsewhere on the pitch, but the Netherlands’ back five is set in stone for the World Cup and is looking good.
The central trio of Jurrien Timber, Virgil van Dijk and Nathan Ake, flanked by Denzel Dumfries and Daley Blind, looked rock solid, keeping two clean sheets, and performed excellently in possession too.
They may not have the firepower that other nations do, but the Dutch have a backline as good as anyone’s, in terms of both quality and cohesion.
Steven Berghuis will play in central midfield
Heading into the break, most considered Berghuis most likely to fill the number 10 position for Oranje, but it’s now clear that Van Gaal has a different role in mind for him.
The Ajax man impressed playing alongside Frenkie de Jong in central midfield against Poland and started in that deeper role against Belgium too before injury forced him off.
Whether he starts ahead of Teun Koopmeiners is unclear, but if Berghuis does play at the World Cup, it will be as a central midfielder.
Cody Gakpo is in line to start as a number 10
Gakpo initially looked to be a victim of Van Gaal’s winger-less 3-5-2 formation, but the manager has found a new role for the PSV player.
The 23-year-old started as a number 10 in both of the last two Nations League matches and looked good there, getting a goal, an assist and creating a number of chances.
With Davy Klaassen not playing much at Ajax and not doing well against Belgium, it looks like Gakpo will fill the role, which is an exciting prospect.
Things are looking good
Heading into a World Cup, a team will ideally be in good form, have a largely established starting XI and a good atmosphere in the squad. The Netherlands are one of the few sides that have all of the above.
They’ve yet to lose a match under Van Gaal, have more than held their own against some big teams and are only getting better.
All things considered, the team have everything it takes to go far in Qatar.