Despite spending the majority of last season out with a back problem, Wijnaldum managed to end up in Louis van Gaal’s 23 man squad. It was one of the surprise inclusions, but with Van der Vaart picking up an injury just prior to the tournament, he was the only suitable replacement. The player has been a talisman for PSV for the past couple of seasons, developing great leadership skills and turning into one of the best #10′s in the league. And it has been these attributes that have been the driving factor as to why the Eindhoven man has had a great world cup in Brazil.
Wijnaldum was a player that was not favoured by Van Gaal at the start of the tournament as he opted for De Guzman to play alongside De Jong in the midfield, an understandable decision bearing in mind Wijnaldum had been out for most of the season and therefore it was assumed he would be short on fitness. However after De Guzman at times looked out of place against Spain, and Wijnaldum came on and put in a solid half an hour performance, with a 100% pass, tackle and aerial duels completion, showed he is a valuable addition to this team.
Regardless of putting in a sound performance against Spain, Van Gaal kept his line-up unchanged against Australia, this may have been a slight mistake on Van Gaal’s part as Australia ended up taking a 2-1 lead and at times the Oranje were being dominated by the Aussies. However the introduction of Depay and a move to a 4-3-3 enabled the Dutch to get back into the game, and once the comeback had been completed Wijnaldum was then introduced to help calm and control the game, something he did with relative ease.
Finally after impressing against both Spain and Australia the Rotterdam native was given his first start for the game against Chile, this showed Van Gaal’s trust in Wijnaldum as this was an important game for the Oranje as whoever came out on top would have a more favourable round of 16 match clash versus Mexico, instead of facing hosts Brazil. In the end Van Gaal’s faith in Wijnaldum paid off as the Netherlands dispatched Chile thanks to a persistence performance from the Dutch, which involved Wijnaldum working tirelessly and showcasing his dogged work-ethic throughout the full 90. This performance against Chile solidified his place in the starting line-up as he played every minute from this game on.
So, with Wijnaldum getting more playing time, his significance in the side grew as the tournament unfolded, as he formed a strong partnership with De Jong, resulting in them becoming a strong, cohesive unit in this Dutch side that the opposition would struggle to get past. A block of these two and with De Vrij, Vlaar and Martins Indi behind, epitomised the solidity that this 5-3-2 system can have with the right personnel.
However despite putting in excellent performances playing alongside De Jong, it was his game against Brazil were the Eindhoven midfielder really shone and showcased that he can be a deadly attacking midfielder. With Sneijder getting injured in the warm-up prior to the game, it meant that with De Guzman introduced, and so therefore Wijnaldum could have a bit more freedom going forward as he interchanged with De Guzman frequently. His performance showed off his versatility as a central midfielder as he was reasonable for nullifying the Brazilians as well as causing them havoc at the back with him striking low into the corner to secure a 3-0 win for the Dutch, rounding up a brilliant outing for the PSV captain.
So, with the Oranje finishing 3rd, it’s safe to say it was a result nobody was expecting, many experts felt that this side lacked vital experience as well as quality individuals, but after this tremendous campaign the Dutch have proved everyone wrong and one of the players that has stepped up when the world was watching was Wijnaldum. He came to this world cup after having a torrid season plagued by injuries at PSV and showed that he can compete with the very best that the game has to offer. His campaign has certainly boosted his credentials and has resulted in him emerging as a star from this world cup. Well done Georginio, your whole nation is proud of you.
*Stats courtesy of Squawka
*Originally published on www.football-oranje.com