Holland or Netherlands: how should we refer to the ‘Oranje’ soccer team?

The Netherlands national football team have been a fixture on the international stage for decades, participating in 10 World Cups and 10 European Championships, winning the continental competition in 1988 and reaching the final of the global tournament three timesin 1974, 1978 and 2010. The Oranje have been represented by some of the finest players ever to lace up a pair of boots, from Eddy de Neve, Abe Lentra and Faas Wilkes to Johan Cruyff, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp and Robin van Persie.

But there is some confusion as to the correct name for the national side. The Dutch national team are commonly known as the Netherlands or Holland: is one more correct than the other? In reality, both names are used as often as the other. On the Netherlands’ official tourism website, both Holland and the Dutch national team are used liberally to refer to the Oranje.

What’s the difference between Holland and the Netherlands?

Before unification of the Republic of Seven United Netherlands, or the Dutch Republicas the Batavian Republic under French Dominion in 1795, when Napoleon’s troops invaded, the Netherlands was not a kingdom. This changed when William I, the Prince of Orange, returned to the country in 1813 to fill the void after Napoleon’s brother, Louis, was forced to abdicate. William I created a United Netherlands as a kingdom, but the southern regions opposed unification and gained independence in 1830 as Belgium. The Dutch national team’s nickname, Oranje, comes from the House of Orange-Nassauof which William I was a Scion and which remains the reigning royal house in the Netherlands to this date.

The word Netherlands in Dutch literally means “low countries,” and is sometimes also used to refer to the wider association of the Benelux nations – Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

The term Holland historically only refers to two of the Netherlands’ 12 provinces, Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland, but as these were traditionally the source of most of the country’s wealth and economic output, it became commonplace to use the term Holland to refer to the whole country.

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