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5 Dutch players to watch at the World Cup

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 8, 2014 at 4:19 am •  Published: April 8, 2014
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AMSTERDAM (AP) — Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal's greatest triumph came when he led Ajax to the Champions League title in 1995 by blending a nucleus of experienced veterans with highly talented youngsters like Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf and Edgar Davids.

Van Gaal has a similar challenge in the Dutch team for the World Cup — forging a team out of the old and the new; getting Robin van Persie to work alongside the likes of Daley Blind.

Facing tough Group B opponents in Spain, Chile and Australia, Van Gaal will have to find the right mix in a hurry. The Netherlands' first match is a repeat of the 2010 World Cup final, which the Netherlands lost in extra time to Spain.

Here are five players to watch:

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ROBIN VAN PERSIE

It seems hard to believe that four years ago in South Africa, Robin van Persie wasn't even the Netherlands' undisputed striker.

He is now, but he remains under pressure to finally showcase his goal-scoring skills on the biggest stage.

Van Persie flourished first with Arsenal and then Manchester United after the disappointment of losing the 2010 World Cup final to Spain 1-0 — a tournament in which he scored only once.

At the 2012 European Championship in Poland and Ukraine, he again failed to provide the goals his team so desperately needed, scoring once in three games as the Dutch finished last in Group B and left the tournament without a point.

Van Persie recently became the Netherlands' top scorer of all time, overtaking Patrick Kluivert's 40-goal mark. But he will be desperately hoping that Brazil is the tournament at which he finally buries criticism that he can't find the net in major tournaments.

While his club is having a miserable Premier League season, Van Persie has continued to score goals in between injury absences.

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ARJEN ROBBEN

Speedy Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben laid to rest the demons of a squandered chance in the 2010 World Cup final and missed penalty in the 2012 Champions League final by setting up a goal and scoring the winner in last year's Champions League decider.

"That's three finals, and of course you don't want the stamp of a loser. You don't want that tag," Robben said after the 2013 Champions League final. "It was a sense of 'finally.' It was unbelievable."

Now he is, along with Van Persie, part of the old guard of the current Dutch team.

In Brazil, look out for his trademark move: Dribbling along the right wing, cutting inside and curling a left-foot shot into the far top corner. Robben's been doing it for years and still defenders struggle to stop him.

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