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Wesley Sneijder was the pure embodiment of the last brilliant Holland side

Sneijder is finally calling time on his international career at 34

If you think of the Holland national side now, you probably picture a team that failed to qualify to the last two international tournaments, sacks managers for fun and is devoid of any philosophy.

But it wasn’t always like this.

As Johann Cruyff pioneered Total Football in the 1970s, Wesley Sneijder led a Holland team between 2008-2010 that came so close to ruling the world.

Balding from the age of 2

News Group Newspapers Ltd
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Balding from the age of 2

Undoubtedly one of the best players to ever wear the famous Oranje shirt, Holland v Peru will be Sneijder’s last international match after 134 appearances across 15 years.

The fact he is 34 years old and currently plying his trade for Al-Garafa in Qatar but is still one of the best players, highlights the current state of the Dutch national side.

Sneijder is the most-capped Dutchman in history and has gone from incredible highs; playing in a World Cup final, to dark lows; failing to qualifying for Euro 2016 in a group with Iceland, Czech Republic and Turkey.


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That’s not a mirror image

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That’s not a mirror image

Around the turn of the decade Sneijder was rightly the hottest midfield property in world football.

His wizardry as a playmaker left Europe’s biggest clubs fawning over him and in 2009 he won a historic treble with Inter under Jose Mourinho and was the top assist provider in the Champions League that season.

Pure artistry.

And it was around the same time that all the pieces of the puzzle fell into exactly the right place for Holland to go to Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup as one of the most entertaining and most dangerous sides in world football.

Float like a salmon… sting like a… jellyfish

AP:Associated Press
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Float like a salmon… sting like a… jellyfish

Sneijder was the conductor of Arjen Robben and Dirk Kuyt down either side and would find himself in acres of space to snipe balls in for Robin Van Persie’s exquisite technique at no.9.

As far front fours go, that would challenge nearly any in history all at their peak.

At Euro 2008, they were without doubt one of the tournament’s most thrilling sides under Marco van Basten.

That side was dripping with talent

PA:Press Association
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That side was dripping with talent

Despite qualifying behind Romania, they started their campaign with a 3-0 hammering of Italy before  a resounding 4-1 victory over France where, pleasingly, all four members of the front four scored.

Revenge was taken on Romania, who they were drawn in the groups with, before they were somehow stunned by Russia in extra-time in the quarter-finals.

But van Basten guided them to a goal difference of plus eight in a group with France, Italy and Romania. Woof.

Such was Sneijder’s brilliance in that team, he finished in the Team of the Tournament, the top assist provider and scored the Goal of the Tournament for his effort against France.

Nothing will beat this picture

Getty - Contributor
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Nothing will beat this picture

Fast forward to the World Cup two years later and Bert van Marwijk had replaced van Basten and there was a mood in Holland that this team could be capable of something special.

The Dutch side were again dominant in the group, winning all three of their games and conceding just one goal.

They beat Slovakia in the last-16 before a crunch tie against tournament favourites Brazil in the quarters.

1-0 down after just 10 minutes to a Robinho goal Sneijder took the game by the scruff of the neck and was responsible for both goals that would turn the tie on its head.

A defining moment in the midfielder’s career as the team progressed to face Uruguay in the semifinals.

Can you hear me in Holland?

Action Images - Reuters
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Can you hear me in Holland?

Sneijder scored again in the semi-final as Robben also got on the scoresheet to triumph 3-2, putting them in the final for the first time since 1978.

The team was built on the defence, with Jonny Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen and Giovanni Van Bronckhorst guarding the back while Nigel De Jong and Marco Van Bommel acted as a double bolt in midfield, leaving the front four to do the business with Sneijder as the heartbeat of all attacking play.

So to the final, the unfortunate thing for this Dutch side is that they peaked at exactly the same time as Spain, one of the greatest international sides in living memory.

The Spanish passed the life out of Holland in the final and eventually won 1-0 in extra-time thanks to Andres Iniesta (of course).

I think his shirt says I belong to Sneijder

AP:Associated Press
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I think his shirt says I belong to Sneijder

But Sneijder will go down in the annals of history as the pass-master and creator-in-chief of the last Dutch team to win the world’s hearts with their talent and technique.

The Oranje have been wallowing away in the doldrums of world football for too long but there could be light at the end of the tunnel.

Frenkie De Jong is being touted as the future of Dutch football and with Justin Kluivert also graduating from Ajax’s famous academy, the future really could be bright.

The future could be Oranje.


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