A match vs Belgium is always fun, due to the rivalry. This time, it is an up and coming Oranje team oozing with talent vs the top class players of the #1 on the FIFA ranking…
Ronald Koeman was true to his word, he would play different players and rested some lads, in order to give Ake, Van de Beek, Strootman, Danjuma, Promes and De Vrij a chance. In those circumstances, with a starting eleven which never played together before, it’s only logical that the start is a bit rusty. And take into consideration that the players Oranje was facing have names like Hazard, Mertens, Lukaku and Witzel… Not a bad line up.
Holland started on the back foot and Belgium really jumped out of the traps. Hazard in particular had a real appetite and it didn’t take long for Mertens to score the 1-0 in a glorious fashion. I have to be honest, at that point, I really believed Belgium would eat us up, puke us out and eat us up again.
The first 20 minutes were horrendous with Ake constantly chasing his man and De Ligt and De Vrij constantly looking for their man. But slowly, Holland would grow into the game, playing compact and disciplined and it would be long before Memphis was offered a first chance, he should have put away.
When Donny van de Beek picked up on a lose pass in midfield, Memphis had the wherewithal to reach debutant starter Danjuma, and the Club Brugge wing man scored his first senior Oranje goal 1-1.
Holland fought itself back into the game and would get more opportunities even, with a good strike by Promes on the post. Belgium slowly drifted off, with their midfield being dominated by the Dutch.
In the second half, with 6 subs for both teams, the flow of the game disappeared a bit. There were chances for Lukaku and co and some opportunities for Holland (the Ake header deserved more, while Memphis was unlucky with a shot cleared by Aldeweireld).
We saw Pablo Rosario make his debut too in this game and the PSV midfielder had to get adjusted to the pace of the game as his first minutes in orange were a bit unlucky.
The end result (1-1) can be seen as pretty good in an away game vs the world’s #1. We could have won it even, but, as Memphis said post-match: we could have lost the game too.
It was a good effort all in all and Ronald Koeman was quite happy with the two matches. He felt there clearly was a good foundation to build up on.
And don’t forget: we played Germany and Belgium! Two powerhouses of international football. One win at home, one draw away. Not bad. And as Donny van de Beek said after the match: “Playing compact and disciplined, isn’t that how France won the World Cup?”
The axis of the team seems to be quite clear and quite solid too. Cillesen as not real competition, Van Dijk and De Ligt seem to be certainties too, with Frenkie de Jong as deep lying midfielder and Wijnaldum centrally high up the pitch. Memphis as the false #9 again played a very good game and is the danger man up front, this time with an assist.
Dries Mertens and Toby Alderweireld, both with a Dutch Eredivisie background of course, were full of praise about the Dutch. They were quite certain Holland would soon be amongst the European football royalty again.
Speaking about royalty. Mathijs de Ligt has played vs Robert Lewandowski, Romelu Lukaku and C Ronaldo, three absolute top goal scorers, and none of them found the net against the Ajax man. Another calling card dropped last night by the 19 year old Ajax captain!
He is the first Oranje player under 20 years old to play 10 caps in a row for his country, since 1933!