I’m not talking about the meagre 1-3 win over Belarus. I’m not even talking about Holland not going to the World Cup. That win was fine. The fact we miss a tournament is definitely not a new low either. We missed tournaments before and we always came back with more talent.
The new low for me, was the press conference Dick Advocaat gave last week. Reporter Bert Maaldrink asked Dick about the goal difference. He implied Dick didn’t take that seriously enough. Dick could have made changes vs France (defensive) and Bulgaria (offensive) to narrow the gap. Dick didn’t see it as a problem.
So Bert said: “But what if Sweden wins against Luxembourg 8-0 next week?”
Dick: “What 8-0? Ridiculous! Nonsense… That is a stupid question! No one wins 8-0 anymore Bert. That is outrageous and is not going to happen. I don’t believe that.”
Bert Maaldrink was told off like a school kid by the experienced success coach Dick Advocaat.
But now, when asked about Holland’s chances against Sweden (needing to score 7 goals) Advocaat suddenly is saying “everything is possible!”. Say what? Against Luxembourg, 8 goals is ridiculous, but 7 goals against Sweden is not?
It’s just another example that our football management have lost a sense of reality. It’s was already clear years ago, in the way we dealt with Bert van Marwijk, the succession of Van Gaal, the telling off of Hiddink after match 2, the automatic promotion of Danny Blind, the shenanigans at KNVB management level (no technical expertise whatsoever to support and / or assess the work of the coaches). The list goes on and on and on.
At the same time, we didn’t have a lot of things going our way, really. Sweden was gifted a golden chance to score by Strootman, something Kevin usually doesn’t do. Dost scored, but the goal was disallowed. We missed chance after chance in that game. 2 points gone! The home game vs France… Pogba gets lucky that Stekelenburg misses the shot, while Depay in the dying minutes doesn’t get the same slice of luck when in scoring position. We lost a point there.
But the biggest drama of course, the Bulgaria away game we lost. What a terrible team performance that was! And yes, Blind shouldn’t have picked De Ligt for his debut in that match, but by Golly, it’s too easy to blame it all on two people! The whole team fell through the ice there and it ended the run of Danny Blind. So lets get mr Conservative Dick in… And the rest we know…Now, first and foremost, the Sweden score of 8-0 was a hammer to the head for Oranje. That much is obvious. Why on Earth did FIFA not program these games at the same time? It could have been the other way (1-0 for Sweden) and that would have boosted Oranje. Also not fair, but in that case, not fair for the Swedes. It affects the mindset and thus the game, but it will always be just a theoretical discussion. But Ryan Babel said it after the game: “We heard the score go up when we were in the bus. When it was 4-0 for Sweden, we turned the radio off.” That says it all. The first phase of the match vs Belarus, it was clear that the team was in a sort of shock. Except for Dick, who just stuck to the his 4-3-3 and didn’t make any opportunistic changes to force the issue.
After the match, Dick said: “The whole preparation was out of the window when we walked out of the bus. It was 7-0 at the time.” I don’t get this… The whole preparation should have been “Let’s assume Sweden scores a lot and just go full throttle and do the same thing!”. Surely, Dick didn’t anticipate a draw for Sweden? The players and coaching staff should have had the right motivation to go out there to score 6. With a vengeance. In that case (I believe) we needed a 4-0 win vs Sweden. Hard, but doable.
The plan was for Babel to play wide left, for Janmaat to play wide right. Van Dijk, Rekik and Blind would be the three defenders, with Blind potentially moving into midfield. It didn’t happen this way. Babel roamed around the pitch, without any other player (Robben, Janssen, Blind) using the space created by the 30 year old. Tactically, it didn’t work, although Babel did impress. Vilhena and Wijnaldum were never able to really push up and apart from a shot from distance, Vilhena didn’t offer much. Wijnaldum again was sloppy and slow in possession missing the many options the Liverpool team offers him.
Robben seemed to play his own game, at times combining well with Janmaat, but at times also making the wrong decision, with his free kick to row Z the low of Robben’s match.
Janssen did what Janssen does. Work hard, be a pain in the neck and creating opportunities. He could have had three, but ended up with nothing (one ball on the cross bar).
And that was the story of the game, really. Oranje had some good chances to go into the break 0-4 up. And they failed to take the chances. Janssen was unlucky, Robben and Babel got close if not for a tiny touch by a Belarus defender. Janssen had a shooting opportunity blocked by the goalie (was he wearing a yellow turtle neck?). And Vilhena’s distance shot had a chance of going in too. Instead of 0-4, which would have opened up the game for a big score for sure, we rested with a mere 0-1 score.
The second half started well, we created pressure and chances, with Janssen having a 100% scoring chance, but he took the straight route right into the goalie’s throat. And then it all went belly up. The tactical discipline was gone, and when Dost came on, it was Belarus creating the best chances, resulting in the 1-1. With Dost on the pitch, the team should have gone direct. But they didn’t. Every time the long ball to Dost was used, there was a chance to win the second ball but despite the second striker, that long ball hardly came. The onslaught didn’t come and it was thanks to a penalty (we deserved one for the handsball already) that we got ahead. The free kick at the end was a nice piece of skill by Memphis and every goal counts of course, but we simply needed many more.
In analysing the game, we will come short to determine all that is wrong with Dutch football. The build up again was too slow and considerate. The Van Dijk long balls (only 2) immediately generated danger but that direct approach was clearly not how Advocaat wanted to play. Wijnaldum again looked lost in a not-so-well-drilled team. He’s great as a cog in the Klopp machine, but a bit clueless when having to survive the loosely coupled Oranje. Propper is a fine individual player but lacks the leadership and grit that Sneijder offers (apart from Sneijder’s brilliance in passing and kicking). Robben is a highly motivated player of course, but he did let his man go (again) resulting a the Belarus goal.
And it goes on and on. But the problems lie way way deeper.
Everywhere you look, everything you touch in Dutch football seems rotten. From the Eredivisie clubs in Europe, to the Dutch top players in Europe, to the way the KNVB manages Dutch football all the way to the choices and beliefs of the technical staff.
One of the Sweden players said it well after their match. “The difference between Holland and Sweden? When we lost vs Bulgaria, we didn’t sack anyone. We just huddled together, worked on the problems and stuck together as a team. When Holland lost vs Bulgaria, they sent their coach away. Again! That mentality will not work. You had 4 coaches in two years? Players going in and out of vogue? Not the Sweden way.”
With the KNVB getting their act together slowly (Van Oostveen gone, Van Breukelen gone, soon Advocaat gone) and new board of directors led by Jan Smit (former Heracles Almelo chair) and a new general manager starting next month (Eric Gudde, the former GM of Feyenoord and responsible for the immense rejuvenation of the club), we can expect the right choices to be made.
The first thing we’ll need is a technical director with proven skills in vision, tactics and development and management experience. Van Gaal would be an option, but his narcissistic personality will be a problem, I’m sure. Martin van Geel, Marcel Brands, Fred Rutten…there’s options enough. Our whole football philosophy will need to be renovated. The way we organise youth competitions, the way we scout, the way we develop coaches, the pitches we play and practice on and most importantly, the financial equality needs to be restored. It’s stupid to force clubs to pay money for their second teams to participate in serious competitions. Feyenoord had financial problems when the second teams were admitted into the Jupiler League. As a result, Sven van Beek – who hasn’t played a competitive game for 1,5 years – is not able to get back into match fitness playing at level with Feyenoord 2! Ridiculous. Van Beek is a potential international and should have competitive matches weekly right now.
Then, we need to bring in a coach who is aligned with the KNVB / TD philosophy and who is capable of developing a tactical plan that works with our football identity and the talent at hand. Not an old hand who’s working in an old-fashioned style to get short term results.
Surely, we have the players to work with the 3-4-2-1 that Chelsea/Man City / Bayern / Napoli / Barca system.
With Blind/Van Dijk/De Vrij/Rekik/Hoedt/Van Beek/Kongolo we have very decent central defenders.
With Ake/Willems/Van Aanholt/Pieters/Karsdorp/Janmaat/Tete/Kongolo we have very able full backs available.
Janssen will score for us in the future, but Promes can play central striker in this system as well.
Frenkie de Jong/Memphis/Promes/Klaassen/Propper can play in the forward roles behind the central striker (like Silva/Jesus at Man City or Hazard/Willian at Chelsea). The two central midfielder positions can be taken by Ake/Van Roon/Van de Beek/Vilhena/Van Ginkel/Wijnaldum/Riedenwald/Bazoer… And then there’s Bergwijn, Til, Berghuis, Kik Pieri, Haps, St Juste and many other potentials. And… Adam Maher?
I didn’t mention the goalies, because who cares? I mean: Cillesen, Hahn, Vermeer, Padt, they will all be good enough.
Dick will coach two more friendly games for the KNVB after the Sweden game. Why bother, is my opinion. Unless you want to use it as a farewell match. In that case: invite Van der Vaart, Nigel de Jong, Ron Vlaar, Sneijder, Huntelaar, Van Persie and Robben and turn the friendly (versus Germany?) into something celebrational.
And from March 2018 onwards, lets make sure we have a coach who can navigate a young but eager team of talents to greatness.