Arjen Robben
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Maaskant cautiously optimistic about home nation Netherlands

He has played and coached all over the world, but as a native of Schiedam, Netherlands, Crew Assistant Coach Robert Maaskant has always stayed loyal to the Oranje. As you might expect, the Dutch's fantastic 2014 FIFA World Cup opening 5-1 victory against Spain has the Crew assistant overjoyed, but he has maintained a "big picture" focus despite the thumping win.

"Nobody could have seen that coming," said Maaskant. "That was a fantastic result, but I am being realistic about it and I think the coaching staff of the Dutch National Team is as well. We didn’t have a great first half, but we had a spectacular second half and we were helped a little bit by the mistakes of Spain as well."

The Netherlands are in a unique situation of merging a new generation of young talent with a previous generation, namely, the trio of Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder. Although those three were the engines that mainly guided the Dutch to the 2010 FIFA World Cup final, all three are now 30 years old. Still, a spectacular opening match by Robben and van Persie in particular has lifted expectations once again.

"Those three guys are spectacular. They can literally score against any team in the world, and that’s what makes them so dangerous," said Maaskant. "I said that before the World Cup, especially with Robben: everyone knows what he’s going to do, everybody’s scouted him, and he still does it. It’s spectacular."

Still, despite the brilliance of the trio, Maaskant continues to believe the team's defense might be its key heading forward.

"We have not very much experience in the back. They did well against Spain, playing with the five [man backline], and I think against Australia we’ll play with a normal four in the back. We can change systems too, which is a good thing."

As for what this Netherlands team can do moving forward, it seems likely that getting out of the group stage is a foregone conclusion after the huge win and its effects on goal differential.

"We had no expectations going there with so many young players," said Maaskant. "A lot of them have only played one season in the Dutch Premier League. We had no expectations at all, but after this win, everything’s changed, of course! Everyone’s a big fan of orange."

The Netherlands next plays Wednesday, June 18 at noon ET against Australia. A victory would assure its safe passage through to the knockout stage.

"I’m pretty sure we can beat Australia. I think they’re one of the weakest teams—for sure in the group, maybe even in the World Cup. We don’t know what the draw is going to be. If we win the group, we at least won’t play against Brazil, and that will help."

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