Well, it’s over. No World Cup. Usually, qualifying for a big tournament leaves a lot of potential for posts, but this new low we hit will also offer up heaps of opportunities for discussions… So expect more posts soon!
We will obviously honour the great Arjen Robben here (future posts) and we will analyse the sorry state of Dutch football too.
Some words on the Sweden game and the direct impact of the failure to qualify…
We were offered one last opportunity to do it. We had to score 7 goals versus Sweden. Apparently, Sweden scoring 8 versus Luxembourg was deemed “impossible” but three days later, Holland scoring 7 against Sweden was thought to be possible (by Dick Advocaat). The old sly fox didn’t come off too good out of these 5 games, I don’t think. But he was right the second time: it was possible to score 7, but sadly we didn’t really believe in it.
We “only” scored two in the first half, but for people who saw the game it was clear that we definitely could have scored four (Tete!). And when you go into half time with 4-0 on the board, surely 7-0 would have been possible!
Luck did leave us in this qualification series. It’s been mentioned before, but the disallowed goal vs Sweden in Match #1, the fumble by Strootman, the misjudgement by Stekelenburg vs France, the Lloris mistake vs Sweden, the absentees vs Bulgaria away, the tactical mistakes by Advocaat (France away, Bulgaria at home, Belarus away), it all was too much to overcome.
But, you do make your own luck and therefore also your own bad-luck. It seems we didn’t have the belief and the iron will to make it happen.
The first half vs Sweden was a positive to build on towards the future, but also left a very bitter taste. Why couldn’t the team play with this conviction and mentality away vs Bulgaria? Or away vs Luxembourg?
Many questions to be answered…
I do believe we have talked ourselves into a big depression in Holland. With the lack of talent of the level of Vaart/Sneijder/Van Persie/Robben it seems the whole football world was resigned to the fact we were not good enough anymore… This is a mistake. It’s not true. Yes, it’s true that we lack super talents and world class players, but we all know that you don’t need world class players to qualify. Does Sweden have a Sneijder or Robben? No. Does Iceland? No. Switzerland? No!
We could and should have qualified despite not having top notch talent.
We might not have won the world cup in Russia, but we should have been there at least.
Myth #1 – Holland doesn’t have the quality players
Well, this is simply not true. A cheap excuse for not qualifying. It’s true that we lack the talented generation this time around compared to the 1974, 1988, 1998 and 2010 tournaments, but we should compensate this with mentality, team tactics and work rate. Back in 2010, our defence copped a lot of criticism. This time around, it seems we have ample options for the last line (De Vrij, Van Dijk, Blind, Ake, De Ligt, Hoedt, Karsdorp, Kongolo, Janmaat, Tete) but maybe less so in midfield and upfront.
Nathan Ake and Karim Rekik
Myth #2 – Blind needed to leave, experienced success coach Advocaat is needed to rescue the nation
Well, Blind couldn’t be faulted for the result vs Sweden away. Holland didn’t do too badly vs France at home but failed miserably away to Bulgaria. The decision to sack Blind as a result was a knee-jerk decision. Made in panic. I do admit that Blind probably shouldn’t have been given the job in the first place, but with him in the role and on a journey with the group, sacking him was disruptive. Clearly, there was no successor, there was no plan B. The whole trajectory of replacing Blind was a public display of incompetence. Hans van Breukelen blundering through the process, with him lying about the Ten Cate appointment and the KNVB ending up having to plead with Advocaat to please take the role. There were no other options. Koeman said no. Ten Cate pulled out. Van Gaal wasn’t interested. Adriaanse wasn’t interested. Dick’s minimal objective was to win four games (Luxembourg, Belarus, Bulgaria, Sweden) and hopefully get a result vs France. But winning 4 and losing 1 would have still gotten us to Russia. We all though. Well, we did win 4 but didn’t score enough. And we did lose against France, but with too many goals conceded. Tactically, Advocaat’s approach left a lot to be desired. He didn’t do too badly, but he definitely didn’t make the most of it. The Bulgaria and Belarus games were simply not good enough. Lacking conviction, lacking a tactical plan, not enough tactical changes during the game, resulting in disappointing results. When Sweden beat France, it was clear that goal difference would be key and Dick failed to even realise this. The France away game being the absolute low, when we were 2-0 down with 12 minutes on the clock and no response from the bench. We conceded two more…
Dick now came out with quotes saying “We already lost the qualification before I started” and “Sweden is playing like a team in a firm and clear system. Holland should be doing this too”. WHAT THE FFFF??
I get sick of those sort of statements. We were still in it when Dick got appointed. We needed to concede less (France, Bulgaria and Belarus: that’s 4 goals too many!!) and maybe go for a draw vs France away? Why play 4-3-3 with Sneijder in midfield??? Stupidity.
And Holland should be playing a firm system in the future? What bullshit! Holland has been playing in a firm 4-3-3 all the time! And it’s Dick’s role to implement that system. That is what he was paid for. It’s as if the chef of a restaurant where 12 people died from food poisioning says “maybe the next chef should try bring in some more hygiene”. Pisses me off.
In hindsight, I think it’s clear that without the two conceded goals vs Bulgaria and Belarus and without the two late goals conceded vs France, we only needed to win 3-0 vs Sweden…. That was very possible.
Myth #3 – This is part of the cycle, we will be back on top soon!
No we won’t. It’s not about waiting for a new Robben or Sneijder to get up. The scene has changed a lot! Sheer talent is not enough. As Iceland and Sweden and other nations demonstrated, and as we can see week in week out in the big competitions, it’s not just about talent and skill. It’s also about physical strength, mental strength and tactical smarts. We need to quickly sort out our big issues in training intensity, in scouting, in youth development and coaches’ development to be able to compete. Just compare Frenkie de Jong (20 years old!) with Dele Alli (just turned 21) and you know enough. Frenkie looks like a kid. Dele looks and plays like a man. Frenkie is not a starter for Ajax, Dele is a starter for Spurs for 2 seasons already.
Daley, strong as central midfielder
So, until we have our act together (will take years of course) we need to quickly make some “tough” decisions to forge a team and a game plan that works in today’s football world and with our current players at hand. The developments in international football are quite clear: the role of the wingbacks, the role of the deep lying playmaker (Cesc, Matic, Pirlo, Vidal, Kroos), the role of the false #9. And in order to play a role internationally, it seems our clubs will need to – probably – lead the way. Bosz did it with Ajax, last season in Europe, and it worked. Gio and Feyenoord are experimenting with it (win over AZ without central striker) and I’m convinced Cocu is working on new tactics with PSV. Cocu is also abandoning the model with the static #9 (Luuk de Jong) and is playing more in a 4-3-2-1 model with dynamic forwards (Lozano, Bergwijn, Locadia) to have more movement up front.
I was horrified to hear that Dick left the door open for the KNVB to appoint him as the new national team manager. We don’t need him. We don’t need the old guard anymore. We need new blood.
It’s key that the KNVB board of directors in conjunction with the new general manager (Eric Gudde) appoint a strong Technical Director soon. Fred Rutten would be my ideal candidate for the job. He ticks all the boxes. And with Rutten in place, the next step will be to appoint a young, astute national team manager. Someone like Joachim Low 12 years ago. Some people even think Low would be the right man for the job. I don’t think so. He would probably even laugh at the job (he gets paid 6 times what our NT manager gets), but a Dutch Low-type manager (the Low 12 years ago, I keep stressing) would be the right option. Erik ten Hag would be my candidate.
I would also check if Rene Meulensteen (ex Man United) would be interested in becoming part of the team, with a focus on player development and coach development maybe with someone like Wim Jonk.
The final step, we do need to have a man in charge who can overrule the club interests. It is high time we develop a competition where all the pro clubs can bring in their B-teams. At this point in time, clubs like Feyenoord do not have the option to have their Feyenoord 2 team play competitively. It’s a disgrace. And we also need national youth competitions where the top of the crop from the south can play weekly matches vs the youth of Ajax, Alkmaar, Groningen and Heerenveen.
Myth #4 – The Future is Bright
YES! This is no myth. It’s Truth #1. The future is bright. We do keep on developing players with vision and skills. But we need more than that. So the foundation is there, it’s the way we develop the talent that is in need of a thorough revolution.
In the past decades, every nation was keen to come to Holland and learn and listen. Today, they laugh at us. They don’t listen anymore. They know enough. And they’ve integrated our way of working with what they themselves did right already. So the Germans now develop players with great skill and vision, but they also have that iron mentality and physical strength. It’s time we start opening up and learn from what they (France, Belgium, Spain, Iceland, Germany) do well. And come down from our high horse and be humble and integrate the missing elements from the game into our protocols.
Frenkie de Jong