Daley Blind was at the heart of the goal that really confirmed that we were in for a rollicking World Cup, when his brilliant cross set up Robin van Persie for an incredible header against Spain.
Since then, the Netherlands star has continued as arguably the standout left-back in the tournament, despite a slight fade since that incredible first performance and some reshuffles around the team. Back on the flank against Brazil in the third-place play-off, the Ajax man had a chance to bookend the finals with another high point - and he did not disappoint.
|PERFORMANCE AGAINST BRAZIL
He had earlier provided one of the best assists in the tournament, for van Persie in Netherlands’ opener against Spain, so it was good to see Blind on the scoresheet against Brazil. He pushed up well from deep to support an attack and, completely untracked by the hosts’ defence, pounced coolly when David Luiz’s disastrous header gave the ball straight to him.
In a similar case to his efforts against La Roja, Blind was rarely tested by wide players on the right, with only the occasional drive from deep by Maicon a real outlet for Brazil on that side. With few threats to his pace, the Ajax star had time to contribute to all phases of play under little pressure.
His game came to an early end, however, after 70 minutes when he was stretchered off the pitch. It was a bizarre incident as he clattered knees with Oscar in the Dutch penalty area, after which the Brazilian was booked for simulation despite the challenge being strong enough to force the full-back off. Either way, Blind might well have gone off the pitch, but it meant that a fine tournament was not spoiled by a card.
|HE'D BE PERFECT FOR...
In a competition in which pace is so key, Blind may not actually be an ideal candidate for a Premier League side, at least not as a left-back. He is arguably a more natural fit in the centre of midfield, despite being needed on the flank by Louis van Gaal in Brazil.
A reunion with Van Gaal at Manchester United has been mooted and the Red Devils would quite happily accommodate him in midfield as a calm presence alongside the more proactive Ander Herrera. He would also be able to provide cover for Luke Shaw should the club prefer that the teenager be eased into the first team.
There are not a lot of other teams in England for whom he would be suitable – Manchester City have plenty enough midfield options, as do Chelsea, while the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham need quicker, livewire presences to press in the middle of the park. He might, though, be a plausible long-term successor for Mikel Arteta at Arsenal, in that he would provide a cool presence at the base of the midfield without being a destroyer.
|WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
United continue to be the team most linked to Blind, though the Dutchman has shrugged off such talk during the tournament, suggesting that it is an easy link to make due to the Van Gaal connection.
Though he has undoubtedly attracted plenty of admirers at the World Cup, there has been little concrete information regarding any approaches to Ajax for his services and the Dutch club would be able to command a good fee for his services.
While the Eredivisie is weak enough that he will surely need to move on to test himself before too long, Frank de Boer’s decision to stay on at the club for another year might be enough to keep Blind there for the time being. The nature of the injury sustained against Brazil could also potentially have an impact on any summer transfer.
Follow George Ankers on