We had our time, for crying, for mourning, for self-obsessed analysis and for memories…
Now is the time to look forward again. As our EC2020 campaign will start now basically!
Huh? I hear you think… no, the campaign doesn’t start until the qualifiers? But Koeman is quite clear: we will take every minute moving forward serious. There will be no “friendlies”, we will not have Wesley Sneijder being carried off the pitch as a sentimental gesture.
Koeman made his intentions clear from the start: no more Hotel Oranje, no more press in the hotel, no more visits to cafes and restaurants and beach walks… We work behind closed doors now and we work.
Koeman bring a level of urgency to the job. Impatience. But the former Barca skipper also has a bit of humour. When an English reporter asked him at the press conference why his statue wasn’t among the statues in Zeist of Oranje legends (Cruyff, Michels, Bergkamp, Gullit) he responded: “Well, I wasn’t good enough clearly. But in two years I might get a statue…” Followed by a wry smile.
When players or guests walk onto the Zeist complex, they’ll see several photos. We can see the Oranje 1988 group, photos of the Big Four in South Africa 2010 (in case you forgot: Van Persie, Van der Vaart, Sneijder, Robben) and the last photo on the wall is the current generation: Memphis, Wijnaldum, De Vrij, Dost…
The world class player has left the building for now, and Koeman will have to replace these players by building a solid team. “The reality is, that team spirit and playing style will be more important than the individual quality we can muster.”
Koeman and Dwight Lodeweges
Koeman stepped into a record low situation before. He joined Feyenoord in 2011, when the proud club was number 10 in the Eredivisie and had lost 10-0 against PSV only months before. He came in and created clarity. He developed a simple playing style, he gave the youngsters his trust and he demanded one thing: sharpness. Focus. Commitment. (That’s three things, Ronald!)
At his first training session, they did a rondo (circle of players with 1 or 2 in the middle having to take the ball from the others). Koeman joined in and never spent a second in the middle. He was still the best player. Last Monday, with Oranje, he did the same thing. He joined in the rondo and showed them who he was. “Sometimes you need to demonstrate why you are the Boss.”
At Feyenoord, he said: “My door is always open. If you don’t get something, just come in and ask me.” No player ever did. Not because they were afraid, but because he was crystal clear in what he expected.
Koeman is happy with the move to Zeist. “In Noordwijk, they would take 15 mins to go from car to the lobby, due to all the media and friends. Then they’d shake hands and go to their room to come out later for dinner. Now, it’s different, we close the door behind the complex and we’re free to roam, we hang out, some players check the gym, some starting to play table tennis. Its more intimate for us. Less distractions.”
Koeman spent his weeks before the coming together of the Oranje lions with a plethora of people. Former coaches Hiddink, Blind, Van Gaal. Ex players Robben, Sneijder. Coaches Van Bronckhorst, Van de Brom, Cocu, Ten Hag and others. “I want to have a clear and broad picture. You only have one chance to prepare for your first weeks.”
One of the things he heard: Oranje needs more discipline. “I think we will work hard now and in May (Italy and Slovakia friendlies) to create clarity. Once we start with the Nations League, we need to be ready. Players need that clarity, but so do I.”
What can we expect for the England game? Koeman: “You can expect to see a team with an attitude, with a will to win. A team that will play for a good result.”
Dost, Hateboer, De Roon
Asked about the potential return of Van Persie, Koeman says this: “He never retired from international duties, like Robben and now Sneijder. And I’m not interested in age. I’m interested in quality and you can see even in his short runs in the Feyenoord team that he still has that quality. So, when he’s fit and in form, why not?”
A new system also seems to be way to go for Oranje under Koeman. New hotel, new training complex, no more dominant superstars and also a move to the 3-4-3 or 5-3-2. Hans Hateboer, the right wing back of Atalanta: “Yeah, I guess that is why I am here.” Stefan de Vrij of Lazio: “I am feeling comfortable in the 5-3-2 system and I think most players do, these days.”
A lot of smiling faces, but Bas Dost’s face predicts a storm. “Well, I came here to show my worth, dammit. I’m getting sick of being told that I’m good enough to be top scorer in Portugal but I can’t do shit in Oranje. I’m sick of it.” Dost never made a dent in Oranje. “I made my debut in a friendly, in which we played 5-3-2. After that I had some sub turns in different systems, with different players around me. I was never sure what was expected from me. After the Sweden at home game, I was done with Oranje. I had had it. But that was then. I’m feeling super fit, I’m good in my head, I really want to be part of it again, under this new coach. And I do hope we will get clarity. If Koeman tells me he wants to use another player, fine. As long as I know.”
Memphis is very aware of the clock ticking. The former worldclass talent is now 24 years old and still not a certain starter for Lyon. Ronald Koeman is convinced: “I wanted to sign Memphis for Everon. So I invited him to my home in England and we spent some time together. I actually think he’s a great prospect. Sometimes I see things of him in the media and I think: you should have done that differently, but he’s definitely a great kid with the potential to be our future leader on the pitch. He has above average qualities. But it’s up to him too. I’m willing to do what I must to get the best out of him, but it takes two to tango.”
The Oranje team vs England will probably look something like this:
De Vrij Van Dijk De ligt
Hateboer Wijnaldum Propper Van Aanholt
Promes Dost Memphis
Strootman and Berghuis will most likely play the second friendly vs Portugal. The choice of goalie is still a question mark but I think Koeman will go for the PSV goalie, who is in good form and plays regularly, with Cillesen as #2.
The last decision to be made: the new skipper for Oranje.
Strootman was in the hierarchy before. De Vrij skippered Feyenoord under Koeman and Van Dijk seems to be a strong candidate as well, with Daley Blind on the short list as well, once he’s fit and playing regularly again.
Below, photos of the new Oranje home at Zeist.