Football Features

Where are they now? The rising stars of Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands squad at World Cup 2014

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 18:00, 24 June 2021

It seems like only yesterday that Louis van Gaal guided a much-unfancied Netherlands side to a third-place finish at the 2014 World Cup.

A lot has happened since then, including Van Gaal joining and leaving Manchester United, as well as the Dutch failing to reach the subsequent two international tournaments.

Their failure to qualify for Euro 2016, especially after Uefa expanded tournament participation, raised eyebrows considering how many ‘rising stars’ were in Van Gaal’s squad in Brazil.

Another absence at the World Cup in Russia added weight to the questions marks surrounding the future of the Oranje set up. The appointment of Ronald Koeman put the Netherlands on the right track, securing qualification for this summer’s European Championship, and new boss Frank de Boer is doing a good job building on Koeman’s good work so far.

But looking back to 2014, Van Gaal’s 23-man selection seven years ago included 11 players, aged 24 or below, who only made their international debuts in the two-year period prior to Fifa’s showpiece event.

They’ve all since left the club they were representing at the time, but not all have achieved the same heights, with some doing much better than others. So, who are they?

Memphis Depay

Age at 2014 World Cup: 20

Position: Forward

Netherlands caps: 67

Current club: Barcelona

After playing an instrumental role in PSV ending their seven-year wait for an Eredivisie title in 2015, Depay joined Van Gaal at Old Trafford.

However, his time at United was one of struggle, failing to impose himself under Van Gaal and successor Jose Mourinho, ultimately playing 53 times and managing seven goals and five assists in the process.

Depay would ultimately leave for Lyon in January 2017 and has since got his career back on track with a string of impressive performances for the Ligue 1 giants which has translated into him being Oranje’s most important player.

Under the leadership of Koeman, he made the second-most appearances (18) as well as being their leading scorer (11). The pair will be reunited in Barcelona from the 2021/22 season onwards.

Terence Kongolo

Age at World Cup 2014: 20

Position: Defender

Netherlands caps: 4

Current club: Fulham

Kongolo was one of several Feyenoord players in Van Gaal’s squad at the World Cup but, unlike the rest, he remained with the Rotterdammers for a number of years following Brazil 2014. The defender ended up making 138 appearances for his boyhood club and subsequently played a key role in their first championship triumph since 1999.

He moved to AS Monaco in the summer of 2017 but failed to really light up the Stade Louis II, relocating to West Yorkshire, joining Huddersfield Town in 2018 on a permanent basis following a short loan stint. Kongolo repeated that process recently with current employers, Fulham.

A versatile defender, capable of playing in central defence and left-back, Kongolo — who’s grown in stature and becoming a leader in his own right — has made four appearances for the Netherlands.

Bruno Martins Indi

Age at World Cup 2014: 22

Position: Defender

Netherlands caps: 34

Current club: AZ Alkmaar (on loan from Stoke City)

A promising talent under then-Feyenoord boss Ronald Koeman, the Portugal-born defender was one of many players who saw their stock rise in Brazil, which led to a foreign adventure.

Martins Indi opted to join FC Porto after the World Cup, but struggled to establish himself at the Estadio do Dragao and was loaned out to Stoke City, where he gradually rehabilitated his reputation (including returning from international football wilderness) after it was damaged following two difficult seasons with the Dragons.

Mark Hughes brought him back to the Potteries on a permanent basis in the summer of 2017, and he has remained at the club since their relegation to the Championship, although he is now out on loan at AZ Alkmaar.

Stefan de Vrij

Age at World Cup 2014: 22

Position: Defender

Netherlands caps: 48

Current club: Inter Milan

Another player who swapped Feyenoord for a move abroad immediately after the Brazilian tournament. De Vrij, who previously captained the Rotterdammers, is now a mainstay in the Dutch and was in the Lazio defence prior to his move to Inter in 2018 — making 118 appearances and scoring 10 goals for the Serie A club. Since joining the Nerazzurri, he’s been just as good and will no doubt be a long-term fixture.

Joel Veltman

Age at World Cup 2014: 22

Position: Defender

Netherlands caps: 28

Current club: Brighton & Hove Albion

One of Brighton’s latest recruits, Veltman remained at Ajax and was near ever-present for the Amsterdammers since playing in his first major international tournament, having amassed 246 appearances (and 10 goals and 15 assists) since graduating to their first team.

Nominally a central defender, the 29-year-old is proficient at playing right-back as well, this level of versatility will be regularly tested in England’s top division.

Georginio Wijnaldum

Age at World Cup 2014: 23

Position: Midfielder

Netherlands caps: 78

Current club: Liverpool

Interest in Wijnaldum grew substantially after his exploits, where he featured in all seven games as well as registering a goal in the 3-0 third-place win over hosts Brazil, but like club teammate Memphis he chose not to remain with PSV.

It was a choice that paid off as he left the Netherlands in the summer of 2015 clutching a championship medal. His subsequent decision to join Newcastle ended in relegation, despite bagging 11 goals across 38 matches, but Wijnaldum remained a Premier League footballer by relocating to Liverpool.

Following that move he’s been instrumental in the Reds winning the Champions League and league title in consecutive seasons. The Rotterdammer is one of the main components of the national side and will be Paris Saint-Germain in the new season.

Jordy Clasie

Age at World Cup 2014: 23

Position: Midfielder

Netherlands caps: 17

Current club: AZ Alkmaar

Another graduate of Feyenoord’s esteemed academy that represented the Netherlands in what is, until 2021, their last major tournament appearance.

Clasie was nominally a substitute under Van Gaal, a big change from being a regular presence with then-club Feyenoord, whom he left for Southampton in 2015, reuniting with former boss Koeman. His time on the English south coast was mixed, after initially struggling the Haarlem native turned it around under former boss Claude Puel – which included his first Premier League goal – but only featured in two of Oranje’s nine games across the 2016/17 campaign.

He’s since returned to Dutch football, turning out for childhood team Feyenoord before joining rivals AZ on a permanent basis.

Daley Blind

Age at World Cup 2014: 24

Position: Defender

Netherlands caps: 81

Current club: Ajax

Blind lifted the Europa League title at the expense of his boyhood club for Manchester United, and unlike Memphis, he had initially settled into life at Old Trafford before falling down the pecking order under Jose Mourinho.

Nominally a defensive midfielder, the Amsterdammer is capable of playing in central defence as well as left-back which was the role he undertook when United faced Ajax in Stockholm in May 2017.

The Dutchman made 141 appearances for the Red Devils after joining Van Gaal weeks after he took charge of the record 20-time English champions, though he has since rejoined the Amsterdammers where his Premier League experience is paying dividends.

Leroy Fer

Age at World Cup 2014: 24

Position: Midfielder

Netherlands caps: 11

Current club: Feyenoord

After rising to prominence with FC Twente, following an impressive season or two at Feyenoord, the Dutch midfielder has become somewhat of a journeyman since leaving the Eredivisie in 2013.

A season with Norwich, before turning out for Oranje at the World Cup in 2014, was followed by two seasons with QPR – suffering the ignominy of relegation from the Premier League at both clubs.

He would return to England’s top flight on loan at Swansea City before signing a permanent deal, though he was unable to prevent the Swans suffering relegation.

After toiling in the Championship he’d return to Feyenoord where Fer has since rekindled some of that old spark.

Daryl Janmaat

Age at World Cup 2014: 24

Position: Defender

Netherlands caps: 34

Current club: ADO Den Haag

Much like those around him, Janmaat used his newfound profile to seek a move abroad, relocating to Newcastle United from Feyenoord.

He’d spend two and a bit seasons at St James’ Park, making 75 appearances, before travelling down south and joining Watford.

Following his arrival in England, Janmaat struggled to hold down a regular place with the national side, having ended the 2014 World Cup seemingly as Oranje’s first choice right-back, with 12 of his 34 total caps being attained while representing an English club.

Janmaaat his now back in the Netherlands with ADO Den Haag

Jasper Cillessen

Age at World Cup 2014: 25

Position: Goalkeeper

Netherlands caps: 60

Current club: Valencia

Cillessen was Van Gaal’s first-choice goalkeeper in Brazil (except when it came to a penalty shootout) and remains number one when fit now.

The 31-year-old ended a five-year association with Ajax in 2016 when he became the latest Dutchman to sign for Barcelona. His appearances, however, were restricted to the Copa del Rey with Marc-Andre ter Stegen the undisputed No.1 in Catalonia.

That ultimately prompted him to chase new pastures and today you can find him at Valencia.