Small Countries, Huge Talents: The Secret Behind Belgium, The Netherlands, And Switzerland

Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy. These are historically the strongest soccer nations. But they have company from 3 small countries with huge talents and one goal: the future of soccer.

Ther Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland all have loads of young talent. Are these the world-class teams of the future? Let's take a look:

Netherlands

Dutch soccer has surged in recent years and made it back to 1970s levels, when the Netherlands football team finished runner-up in two consecutive world cups. Now, over three decades later, Dutch soccer is back to glorious times.

With experienced players like Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, the Dutch team made it to the Finals against Spain in 2010, and finished third in Brazil in 2014. Van Persie, Robben, and Sneijder have more than 300 international appearances combined, scoring more than 105 goals. And although they are 31 years old, all of them still have a European Cup and a World Cup in their legs.

The Netherlands are definitely not short on talent. Memphis Depay is only 21 years old, but already considered one of the biggest talents in soccer. Fast, dangerous, and with great ball control, Depay decided to leave PSV Eindhoven in order to play on the big stage, for Manchester United. Manchester United invested 25 million Pounds in Depay, who is one of Louis van Gaal’s favorites.

The Dutch international scored 22 goals for his club, PSV, and many more should come for Manchester United. Memphis Depay was also among ESPN’s five best under 21 players for the 2014-2015 season, along with Harry Kane, Domenico Berardi and two Valencia talents.

Another rising star is Georginio Wijnaldum, attacking midfielder for PSV. At 24 years old, Wijnaldum was part of the Dutch 2014 World Cup team and played a key role in the midfield. Wijnaldum is a technically skilled and fast midfielder, with a strong and physical body. He comes off a 14 goal tally for PSV, and it will be interesting to see how he will grow over the next year or two. In April, Wijnaldum expressed feelings about leaving PSV for a stronger league. “I am happy at PSV but I am a player with a lot of ambition. I want to play in a stronger league than the Eredivisie.”

On defense, the Dutch team also has some huge talent and potential.

Jetro Willems, left back from PSV, is anticipated to become one of the best fullbacks in the world. With 15 international appearances and at 21 years old, we could see that happen. In the past season, Jetro Willems played a key part in PSV claiming their first title in seven years with 13 assists. He is one of the fastest, strongest, and most dangerous upcoming left backs in Europe, and definitely has a role to play in the years to come.

As notable mentions, Joel Veltman, Davy Klaassen and Quincy Promes all have the chance to play a key part in the next World Cup or two.

Belgium

It might not be a secret anymore that Belgium has some of the most talented young players in the world.  

Above all, Eden Hazard seems to be the leader of an ever-growing Belgium squad. Playing for Chelsea for the past three years, Hazard showed why the Blues invested £32 million in him. The attacking midfielder is coming off a great season, contributing 14 goals and nine assists, as well as racking up 10 Man of the Match awards. Hazard is not only dangerous in front of the goal, but he is pacey, has great vision, and an insane ball control and dribbling skills. Eden Hazard is without a doubt on world class level and, at 24 years old, he still has huge potential to grow.

Another fantastic talent for “Les Diables Rouges” (The Red Devils) is Kevin de Bruyne. The Wolfsburg midfielder, whose career stagnated at Chelsea, developed into one of the best attacking midfielders in the Bundesliga. Under his leadership and his 10 goals and 20 assists, die Wolfe finished second in the German league and claimed the German Cup for the first time. Although never a first team member at Chelsea, de Bruyne, for whom Wolfsburg paid €20 million, has established himself as a key player and leader. Also, for the Belgian national team, de Bruyne has a huge role to play for years to come.

There is much more talent from Belgium. Thibaut Courtois is not only the number one goalkeeper for Belgium, but also for Chelsea. At 6’6’’, Courtois is one of the tallest professional goalkeepers. With strong diving skills and reflexes, Courtois is definitely one of the best goalkeepers out there.

Promising striker Divock Origi is another huge Belgian talent. With his upcoming first season at Liverpool (signed last summer for £10 million), Origi has the potential to shine.

Finally, what about the likes of Jason Denayer (19, Celtic/Manchester City), the best young player in the Scottish Premier League, Romelu Lukaku (22, Everton), and Youri Tielemans (18, Anderlecht)? There's huge potential and great years to come for the new number two in the FIFA rankings.

Switzerland

Swiss soccer is definitely thriving. La Nati, their international team, has huge talent in the squad. A key player and Swiss talent is Xherdan Shaqiri, 23 year-old winger from Inter Milan. Surely Shaqiri expected more from his move from Basel to Bayern Munich, but was often behind expectations. Coming off a strong World Cup performance, highlighting in a hat-trick against Honduras, Shaqiri expected more from the 2014-2015. After only scoring one goal in the Bundesliga and the Seria A, Shaqiri is definitely hoping for a better season 2015-2016.

A second huge Swiss talent is Ricardo Rodriguez. The Swiss international and left back is not only key to success for the Swiss national team, but also a key player in Wolfsburg. Due to injuries, Rodriguez was only able to play 26 league games, but still managed to score six goals and give four assists to crown Wolfburg’s incredible season. Turning 23 this August, Rodriguez still has a lot of potential to grow. His crossing and defending skills are already well-known and, with his winning mentality, Rodriguez will definitely be a key player for Switzerland for years to come.

Another rising star in Switzerland is 18-years-old Breel Embolo. The Basel striker and Swiss international has huge potential to become one of the best strikers in the world. In February, Embolo was named UEFA.com’s weekly wonderkid, a designation that very well fits the profile. Embolo is a regular in Basel squads and scored 10 goals in 27 appearances, making him a key part of  Basel’s league success.

One has to note that all four international Swiss strikers are 24 or younger, with much more talent present in the squad. The current #11 in the world has a lot of potential to grow and play top class soccer for the next decade.

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