Netherlands, Holland, call them what you like, have never won the FIFA World Cup, but they have finished runners-up on an impressive, or demoralising depending on your point of view, three occasions. The Dutch have been unpredictable in recent years, finishing second in 2010 and third in 2014 but failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. In fact, Holland have featured in just 10 of the 21 World Cups.
In terms of population they are a small nation, with little more than 17m people. However, for a country with such a sporting and in particular footballing pedigree, making the finals should be the minimum requirement. Let’s take a closer look at how Netherlands have done at football’s biggest competition, including the many highs and lows over the years.
World Cup Results
Holland missed out on the 2018 World Cup, but they featured in the previous three, reaching the final in South Africa and the last four in Brazil. Netherlands did not feature in six successive World Cups before reaching the final in 1974. Four years later, the Dutch were finalists again and whilst a brief barren spell followed that, since then they have generally been World Cup regulars.
|Year||Host||Stage of Elimination (Position)||Manager||Top Scorer|
|2014||Brazil||Semi finals (3rd)||Louis van Gaal||Robin van Persie (4)|
|2010||South Africa||Final (2nd)||Bert van Marwijk||Wesley Sneijder (5)|
|2006||Germany||Round of 16||Marco van Basten||Ruud van Nistelrooy (1), Robin van Persie (1) & Arjen Robben (1)|
|1998||France||Semi finals (4th)||Guus Hiddink||Dennis Bergkamp (2)|
|1994||USA||Quarter finals (7th)||Dick Advocaat||Dennis Bergkamp (3)|
|1990||Italy||Round of 16 (15th)||Leo Beenhakker||Ruud Gullit (1), Wim Kieft (1) & Ronald Koeman (1)|
|1978||Argentina||Final (2nd)||Ernst Happel||Rob Rensenbrink (5)|
|1974||West Germany||Final (2nd)||Rinus Michels||Jonah Neeskens (5)|
|1938||France||Round of 16 (14th)||Bob Glendenning||No Goalscorer|
|1934||Italy||Round of 16 (9th)||Bob Glendenning||Kick Smit (1) & Leen Vente (1)|
Have the Netherlands Ever Won the World Cup?
Despite going close on a few occasions and being generally considered the best team in 1974, Netherlands have never won the World Cup.
Holland did not enter the 1950 or 1954 World Cups and failed to qualify for the next four. However, they burst onto the scene with their Golden Generation and Total Football in 1974, going all the way to the final in West Germany. They took the lead in the final but eventually lost out to the tournament hosts.
Four years later in Argentina, Netherlands were losing finalists once again. The Dutch beat Brazil to first place in the second round group stage, booking their place in a second consecutive World Cup final. Unfortunately, hosts Argentina were too strong in Buenos Aires, winning 3-1 after extra time.
That Dutch side of the 1970s, led by manager Rinus Michels off the pitch and legendary playmaker Johan Cruyff on it, pioneered Totaalvoetbal, as it is called in Dutch. Their passing and movement, and interchanging of positions, made them unplayable at times and their ‘carousel’ style revolutionised the game long before Barcelona’s similar Juego de Posición and tika taka in the 21st century. Sadly it never quite managed to deliver a World Cup trophy.
Holland finished runners-up for a third time at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. Managed by Bert van Marwijk, the Orange finished top of Group E before beating Slovakia, Brazil and Uruguay in the knockouts. Spain were waiting in the final in Johannesburg, nicking a narrow 1-0 win in a game memorable mainly for the 13 yellow and one red card dished out by English referee Howard Webb.
Golden Boot / Top Goalscorer
The Dutch have produced many, many top strikers over the years, including players such as Marco van Basten, Robin van Persie, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Faas Wilkes and Patrick Kluivert. It may seem perhaps strange, therefore, that the only time they have seen a player finish the World Cup as top scorer, it was an attacking midfielder taking the glory.
As Holland reached the last two of the 2010 World Cup, Wesley Sneijder finished as the joint top scorer with five goals. The playmaker shared the award with Thomas Muller, David Villa and Diego Forlan.
|Year||Host||Player||Number of Goals||Runner(s) Up|
|2010||South Africa||Wesley Sneijder||5||Joint Top Scorer – Thomas Muller (5), David Villa (5) & Diego Forlan (5)|
Times Netherlands Didn’t Qualify for the World Cup
Despite winning six of 10 qualifiers on both occasions, Holland failed to qualify for the World Cups in 2002 and 2018. They really struggled in the early years, missing out on the tournaments from 1958 to 1970. They also failed to qualify for back-to-back World Cups in 1982 and 1986.
|2018||Russia||Danny Blind / Dick Advocaat||10||6||1||3|
|2002||South Korea & Japan||Louis van Gaal||10||6||2||2|
|1966||England||Elek Schwartz / Dennis Neville||6||2||2||2|
|1958||Sweden||George Hardwick / Elek Schwartz||4||2||1||1|
Netherlands have had some disastrous qualifying campaigns in recent times, but their performances at major finals have been consistent for the most part. However, they were undeniably poor at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
They failed to win a group game among a relatively weak quartet made up by England, Ireland and Egypt. They managed to scrape through as one of the best third-place teams despite scoring just two goals. The Dutch were then beaten by West Germany (2-1) in the Round of 16.