FEATURE | What can Matthijs de Ligt offer the Netherlands in Qatar?

Since his €70m move to Bayern Munich in July 2022, Matthijs de Ligt has become a regular in his side’s backline and is currently in fine form leading up to the Qatar 2022 World Cup. It’s got to be an exciting time for the 23-year-old central defender who is chasing his first Bundesliga, Champions League, DFB Pokal, and possibly most importantly of all, preparing to represent his country at his first-ever World Cup.

De Ligt has instantly made Munich his home both on and off this pitch. So far this season, the defender has featured heavily in all competitions. Domestically, his side went through a rough patch early in the season but are now tussling at the top of the table once again. In the Champions League, de Ligt and his teammates breezed through the group stages without propping a single point. In fact, Bayern became the first club in the competition’s history to go through three group stages with a 100% record. At only 23, de Ligt is one of the most exciting world talents in one of Europe’s best teams.

Having watched several Bayern Munich games this season, de Ligt goes somewhat unnoticed. It’s often the case with many defenders who don’t seek the limelight but instead get on with their role and let the forwards do their thing and take the glory. Perhaps this suits the youngster? He can concentrate on his football, stay grounded, and improve whilst the footballing world is focused elsewhere. The lack of attention of de Ligt is partially down to other players at the club.

So far this campaign, the story of the season for Bayern so far has been the revelation of striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and quite rightly so! The Cameroonian has been the surprise replacement of Robert Lewandowski and fitted in well as the team’s out-and-out number nine. Meanwhile, de Ligt and his fellow defenders have kept a steady ship and built a solid platform from which Bayern can attack. So accomplished has de Ligt been this season, it’s hard to believe that the Dutchman is still only 23 and has so much more to give.

De Ligt first started representing the Dutch first team in 2017 when the national side was going through a bit of a reboot having failed to qualify for the European Championships in 2016 and the World Cup in 2018. Pairing alongside captain Virgil van Dijk, de Ligt has helped his country become a formidable force once again. For de Ligt and many other players in the Dutch team, their only major tournament experience would have been last year’s Euros. After a solid group stage performance, they were somewhat shocked by a robust Czech Republic side and lost 2-0.

The Netherlands are placed in the favourable Group A this winter which contains hosts Qatar, Senegal, and Ecuador. Many of the squad won’t have much if any World Cup experience but will still expect to top the group and progress further into the competition. But what looks like a successful tournament for de Ligt and his fellow countrymen? Of course, winning the thing would be one thing but realistically it’s about getting to the quarter-finals and taking it from there. Key to that success will rely on players such as Matthijs de Ligt. Despite his young age, the defender holds a vast amount of experience thanks to his time at Ajax, Juventus, and now Bayern Munich. Playing next to Liverpool’s Van Dijk, you could argue that the Netherlands have one of the best centre-back partnerships in the tournament.

Matthijs de Ligt and the Netherlands will certainly be an entertaining and interesting watch this World Cup. In a huge footballing nation, there is always expectations but possibly not as much as teams from yesteryear. One thing that plagued those Dutch side’s is certain players’ egos and becoming their own worst enemy. Under the vastly experienced Louis van Gaal, the Netherlands might find themselves competing in the later stages of the tournament. If that appears to be the case, expect Matthijs de Ligt to be a main pillar in his country’s success.

GGFN | Jamie Allen

More European Football News