Just a few months after what can only be described as a humiliating exit from the group stages of Euro 2012, the Netherlands are set to begin the task of restoring pride to a great football nation this weekend as they welcome Turkey.
The Dutch unexpectedly finished bottom of their group in Poland and Ukraine after losing all three games, including the shock 1-0 defeat to group outsiders Denmark.
Coach Bert van Marwijk was the man to pay the price for his side’s disastrous campaign as he resigned his position before his bosses had the chance to sack him in the aftermath.
Van Marwijk’s son-in-law and captain, Mark Van Bommel, was also a victim as his lacklustre performances in the centre of midfield led him to retire from the international stage.
|Confederation Cup - Group A|
This means there is a fresh start for the team and tasked with leading the new era is legendary coach Louis van Gaal, who replaced Van Marwijk for his second stint in charge of the national team, having previously led them when they failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup.
Dost finished as top scorer in the Eredivisie last season after smashing 32 goals for Heerenveen and also netted on his debut for his new club against Stuttgart.
Van Gaal’s first action as coach was to appoint Inter Milan star Wesley Sneijder as the new captain, but his second tenure got off to a poor start as his side suffered a 4-2 defeat away to neighbouring Belgium last month.
Since that defeat, Nigel de Jong and Rafael van der Vaart have been dropped as a new, younger midfield look set to line up against Turkey for Holland’s opening World Cup 2014 qualifier at the Amsterdam Arena on Friday evening.
The pressure will be on inexperienced players such as Kevin Strootman and Leroy Fer to adapt to international football quickly as Turkey are likely to be the Dutch side’s biggest rivals for top spot in Group D.
The Turks themselves are a young outfit, with only former Newcastle midfielder Emre Belozoglu over the age of 30, so a win for either side would fill them with confidence.
Holland go in to the game as 12/25 favourites to get their qualification campaign off to a winning start, with Turkey 6/1 and the draw priced at 7/2.
Favourites they may be, but in the Euros the weak Dutch defence were exposed horribly as they conceded five goals in three games. Even in qualification for the tournament, they twice let in three goals, against Hungary and Sweden.
So a clean sheet for Van Gaal’s new team is unlikely, but just like betting on a Dutch win, there is also no value in Turkey scoring at 13/20.
Both teams to score at 17/20 looks to offer the best short-priced punt here, while over 2.5 goals in the game – as there has been in eight of Holland’s last ten games – could also be worth a sizeable stake at 18/25.
However, the real value is in the goalscorer markets, where Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is evens to get on the scoresheet at any time and Robin van Persie, fresh from his stunning hat-trick at St Mary’s, is a 3/4 chance.
Both players will obviously get plenty of interest, but I’m more tempted by the better price of 11/10 for Wolfsburg striker Bas Dost to get his first international goal.
The 23-year-old finished as top scorer in the Eredivisie last season after smashing 32 goals for Heerenveen and also netted on his debut for his new club against Stuttgart.
Keep an eye out for confirmation of Van Gaal’s line-up, but if Dost is included, he could prove a very shrewd punt. And even if he isn’t, a substitute appearance will surely materialise, making the 4/1 on him to score the final goal of the game a solid back-up option.
Follow us on Twitter @bwin