Van Dijk out, Gravenberch & Simons in: How will the Netherlands line up at the 2026 World Cup?

Comments (0)
Netherlands World Cup 2026
The Dutch made it to the quarter-finals in Qatar but with plenty of talent coming through, they could do even better in four years' time.

After failing to qualify in 2018, the Netherlands made a strong return to the World Cup stage under Louis van Gaal, reaching the quarter-finals before losing on penalties to Argentina in one of the tournament's most dramatic matches.

Van Gaal brought together a squad that paired some experienced heads with some vibrant young talents, and leaves the team in a good place as he steps aside to let Ronald Koeman take over ahead of the European Championship in 2024.

Koeman, of course, knows a lot of the current squad from his previous stint in charge and given he enjoyed decent success with the Oranje before leaving to join Barcelona, there is confidence that Dutch football is on its way back up after a disappointing second half of the 2010s.

But while the Euros are next on the agenda, it's hard not to look ahead to the next World Cup, which takes place in 2026 in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

How many of the current Netherlands players will still be in and around the team, and who might have played for the last time on the game's grandest stage?

GOAL has tried to answer those questions and more by selecting the team we think the Netherlands will put out in 2026...

  1. GK: Justin Bijlow
    Getty Images

    GK: Justin Bijlow

    Louis van Gaal sprung a surprise by picking the previously uncapped Andries Noppert to start between the sticks in Qatar, and he certainly did nothing to suggest that was the wrong call.

    However, Noppert will be 32 when the next World Cup kicks-off, and although age shouldn't represent a barrier to the continuation of his international career, we are instead opting for Bijlow, who was also in the 2022 squad and is four years Noppert's junior.

    Feyenoord goalkeeper Bijlow already has six caps to his name and we expect him to add plenty more to that tally over the next three-and-a-half years.

  2. CB: Jurrien Timber
    Getty Images

    CB: Jurrien Timber

    Surprisingly left out of the Netherlands' opener in Qatar, Timber quickly re-established himself in the starting line-up and promises to be a fixture of the team for years to come.

    The Ajax centre-back is only 21, and even if the Oranje switch to a back four under incoming coach Ronald Koeman, Timber should be confident of keeping his place.

  3. CB: Matthijs de Ligt
    Getty Images

    CB: Matthijs de Ligt

    Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way first: Virgil van Dijk will be 34 by the time the 2026 World Cup begins, meaning he could easily continue in his role as the leader of the Dutch defence if his body holds up.

    However, we're going to lean towards the younger man and plump for De Ligt, who will still only be 26.

    The Bayern Munich star has not fared well at major tournaments so far in his career after earning himself a red card as the Dutch crashed out of Euro 2020 in the last 16, before being dropped after a poor performance against Senegal in Qatar.

    De Ligt is too talented, though, to fade into the background, and there is a realistic chance he replaces Van Dijk as national team captain at some stage in the near future.

    Others who could push for selection before the next World Cup include Wolfsburg's Micky van de Ven and Ajax's 16-year-old revelation Jorell Hato, who has already captained the Dutch giants' Under-19s side.

  4. CB: Sven Botman
    Getty Images

    CB: Sven Botman

    Botman is a little unlucky that he is emerging at a time when the Netherlands is rich in talented centre-backs, but it should not be long before he finally makes his international breakthrough.

    A strong performer for Newcastle this season, the ex-Lille man is currently behind Nathan Ake and Stefan de Vrij in the pecking order but, at just 22, he definitely has time on his side.

    Ake, meanwhile, will be 31 by the time the 2026 World Cup kicks-off, while De Vrij will be 34 and, more than likely, out of the picture.

  5. RWB: Denzel Dumfries
    Getty Images

    RWB: Denzel Dumfries

    Dumfries' swashbuckling style of play has made him a fan favourite at the Netherlands' last two major tournament appearances, and we fancy that the Inter man will still be a starter at the age of 30 in 2026.

    There are younger alternatives at wing-back, including Bayer Leverkusen's Jeremie Frimpong (21), who made the 2022 squad as back-up for Dumfries, and PSV's Jordan Teze (23).

    Should they switch to a back four, then Ajax teenager Devyne Rensch may also come into the equation given he is more defensively sound than those already mentioned.

  6. CM: Ryan Gravenberch
    Getty Images

    CM: Ryan Gravenberch

    Few would have bet on Gravenberch failing to make the Dutch World Cup squad just a few months ago, but his lack of appearances since joining Bayern Munich in the summer saw him left out by Van Gaal.

    One of the most naturally-gifted central midfielders of his generation, it would be shock if Gravenberch hasn't fought his way back into the reckoning when the next World Cup kicks-off, by which time he will still only be 24.

    The obvious alternative to Gravenberch would be his ex-Ajax team-mate Kenneth Taylor, who did make it to Qatar and was born on the same day as his former midfielder partner, so age will not be an issue for him either.

  7. CM: Frenkie de Jong
    Getty Images

    CM: Frenkie de Jong

    De Jong will be 29 at the next World Cup, meaning he should still have plenty to offer the Dutch side as the most experienced member of their midfield.

    The Barcelona man maybe hasn't gone onto be the world-beater many expected him to become when he left Ajax, but it would be a huge shock if he is not seen as a vital cog in the Netherlands side for at least another five years.

    A player who could push him for a starting role in 2026 is Teun Koopmeiners, who is nine months younger than De Jong and has played alongside him in Qatar, while we cannot rule out Donny van de Beek turning his career around having only turned 25 in April.

  8. CM: Xavi Simons
    Getty Images

    CM: Xavi Simons

    The classic 'late bolter' for an international tournament, Simons was rewarded for his superb form at PSV with a first international call-up for the trip to Qatar.

    The ex-Barcelona and PSG teenager now has three-and-a-half years to establish himself as a global star ahead of the next World Cup, and few would bet against him doing just that given how he has taken to first-team football in Eindhoven.

    There are few players who have the same potential as Simons as an attacking midfielder in the current Dutch squad, though there is excitement regarding the potential of Ajax's Gabriel Misehouy and PSV's Isaac Babadi, who both impressed in the Netherlands' run to the final of the Under-17s European Championship earlier this year.

  9. LWB: Tyrell Malacia
    Getty Images

    LWB: Tyrell Malacia

    Daley Blind might decide to hang around and try play at Euro 2024, but this was almost certainly the Ajax defender's final World Cup at the age of 32.

    Malacia, then, should take over after left-wing-back, with the Manchester United man having been Blind's deputy in Qatar.

    The 23-year-old is definitely of the right age and the hope is that he can develop at Old Trafford into an elite attacking full-back.

    If things don't go to plan for Malacia, then Owen Wijndal – who is three months younger – is the most likely to step in, even if fitness and poor form have meant that his start to life at Ajax has been stuttering at best.

  10. ST: Cody Gakpo
    Getty Images

    ST: Cody Gakpo

    One of the breakout stars of the 2022 World Cup, Gakpo has set the foundations for not only a big-money transfer in the coming months, but also a career playing among the truly elite.

    He will turn 27 in the weeks leading up to the next global tournament, and the hope is that he can be the leader of the Dutch attack throughout the next three-and-a-half years to ensure they qualify smoothly.

    There are players who might fancy their chances of at least pushing Gakpo, including his team-mates from the current squad Ajax's Steven Bergwijn (25) and Club Brugge's Noa Lang (23), as well as Borussia Dortmund's Donyell Malen (23), Villarreal's Arnaut Danjuma (25) and perhaps even Leeds United youngster Crysencio Summerville (20).

  11. ST: Memphis Depay
    Getty Images

    ST: Memphis Depay

    It feels like Depay has been around for a lifetime, and yet he will still only be 32 when the World Cup next takes place, giving him a real chance to again lead the line for the Oranje.

    His chances will no doubt be helped by Koeman's return, who has shown himself to be a huge fan of the Barcelona forward, and so it would make sense for Depay to remain a mainstay of the Dutch team going forward.

    Still, there are younger No.9s who will be hopeful of usurping the ex-Manchester United man, led by Ajax's Brian Brobbey and Monaco's Myron Boadu, who are currently 20 and 21, respectively.

    It's worth monitoring the progress, too, of 17-year-old Julian Rijkhoff, who has proven to be potent goalscorer in both Ajax's and now Borussia Dortmund's youth sides.