The contenders: Netherlands
We've stumbled upon the final four profiles of FIFA's top-ranked teams heading into the World Cup.
So far, we previewed: 9) France | 8) England | 7) Argentina | 6) Germany | 5) Italy
Up next is a colorful team hoping to bring home its first trophy ...
Group: E - Denmark, Japan, Cameroon
World Cup history: 0 titles; After back-to-back runner-up performances in 1974 and 1978, the Dutch haven't been back to the final since. In 2006, they lost to Portugal in the Round of 16 in a game that featured an unbelievable 16 cards (4 red).
5 key players: Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool), Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan), Rafael van der Vaart (Real Madrid), Eljero Elia (Hamburg)
>> Read about Wesley Sneijder and other players to watch at the 2010 World Cup
Coach: Bert van Marwijk
Outlook: The possible loss of star winger Arjen Robben would be devastating to most teams, but the Oranje are deep enough to survive this group and still wreak havoc in the later rounds. One English paper remarked, "only the Spanish have a better first eleven." The Dutch were the first European team to qualify after dominating its group (8-0) and outscoring opponents,17-2.
Indeed, this team is one of the most talented countries to have never won a World Cup title -- coming close twice in the 1970s. Robben's recent hamstring injury is a tough blow, but heaps of talent in the midfield and front line make this team dangerous nonetheless. They'll be led up front by striker Robin van Persie, who wants to use this tournament to elevate his status amongst the world's best. He told the Mirror, "I have a massive desire to get to the level of Messi, Rooney and Ronaldo. And I’d rather do it today than tomorrow."
The pace of the game will be orchestrated through Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder, who is the team's catalyst and a threat from dead ball situations. Behind him, Martin van Bommel (the coach's son-in-law) and Nigel de Jong play a more defensive role. If you're looking for a breakout youngster (van Persie is already famous), Eljero Elia will not disappoint on the wing, though he may come off the bench.
The only uncertainty is a medicore defense and a new goalkeeper, Maarten Stekelenburg, to replace Edwin van der Sar in net. This team can score goals (10 in its final two friendlies), but when it gets to the later rounds, can its defense stop them?
Prediction: If Robben sits this entire tournament out, the Netherlands' stock drops considerably. For the group stage, however, I think the Dutch will lead the way with six points.
Goalkeepers: Sander Boschker (FC Twente), Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax), Michel Vorm (FC Utrecht)
Defenders: Khalid Boulahrouz (Stuttgart), Edson Braafheid (Celtic), John Heitinga (Everton), Joris Mathijsen (Hamburg), Andre Ooijer (PSV Eindhoven), Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord), Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax)
Midfielders: Ibrahim Afellay (PSV Eindhoven), Nigel de Jong (Manchester City), Demy de Zeeuw (Ajax), Stijn Schaars (AZ Alkmaar), Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan), Mark van Bommel (Bayern Munich), Rafael van der Vaart (Real Madrid)
Forwards: Ryan Babel (Liverpool), Eljero Elia (Hamburg), Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan), Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), Robin van Persie (Arsenal)