The ones who have been with me and the blog for years know my stance on friendlies. I don’t like them.
I have told you many times why. Won’t go into too much detail. But this Belgium derby appears to be horrible in timing. We are lacking many players, probably will play a starting eleven (vs Luxembourg, the game that counts) that never played together before.
A coach would want to be able to use the days prior to the big game (Luxembourg!!) to practice. Get the players working together, bond, discuss tactics and roles. Instead of taking on a much stronger Belgium in a friendly. We all know what can happen. Belgium could tear us apart. They are better. As a team, most likely. Individually, surely. And as per usual, they have that inferiority complex and will want to beat us.
So in that scenario, say we lose 0-4, we need to shrug that off before the Luxembourg game. Media will hassle us, fans will ask questions and players might lose more confidence.
It’s also likely that Belgium will turn it into a real match. Which might lead to injuries.
All in all, not great. Or, our players might feel compelled to take the game to Belgium. Which might result in an ok result (0-0) or a great result – a win – but it doesn’t mean shit and we might end up with fatigue in the Luxembourg match.
And all of this, only for commercial reasons. For the KNVB to make money. As if they need it.
Danny Blind will not say it publically, but he will not be amused with the timing of this prestigious friendly.
Playing Luxembourg in a tough phase in the season is not so bad. Even if the first 22 are injured and we’d need to play Fosu Mensah, Nouri, El Ghazi, Toornstra, Denswil, Babel and Pieters, we’d still win it. Or we still should win it.
This Belgium game can be disruptive though.
Against Belgium, I don’t care who Blind uses. It will be for him to decide which player he wants to see (Zegelaar? Schaars? Lens?) and which to rest (Sneijder? Van Dijk?). We do have a number of players who are rested nicely. Daley, Wijnaldum, Janssen, Clasie…they all have had games off in the last month, so that’s not that bad.
Most will play with something to prove, but again: it might work against us.
Danny Blind remains the master strategist, who can always see positives. “The game does count for me. Winning vs Belgium means we improve our ranking. This might be key in the World Cup draw. So we will take the game seriously.”
Arjen Robben is keen to come (and play) but Bayern will only allow Arjen to sit on the stands for the Belgium game. I’m good with that. We need one moment of magic from him vs Luxembourg. Should we lead 2-0, I think Danny needs to sub him. No risk. Although, goal difference might become important in our group, so maybe he needs to keep him on.
The meeting with Belgium four years ago was Louis van Gaal’s first as Oranje coach in his second term, Oranje lost 4-2. Belgium is ranked #4 in the world, a whopping 16 spots higher than the Netherlands…
Maarten Stekelenburg will be on the team sheet, I’m sure. Cillesen lacks rhythm and so does Vorm. Stekelenburg had a screamer of a game vs Man City but made mistakes vs Chelsea and France, but overall he’s still a top goalie.
The match vs Belgium back then was Maarten’s last in Oranje, as Van Gaal picked Krul after the game. Due to the current Ajax’ goalie’s injury, Stekelenburg was offered two more games between the sticks and then it was all over. “I never watched Oranje at the WC2014. Too hard for me to watch. I should have been there.”
Back then, Van Gaal allowed De Vrij and Martins Indi their debut, while it was the last game of Sneijder and Van der Vaart together in midfield.
Stekelenburg came back from a dark phase in his career. “I can still have a bad day, like vs Chelsea… I had to do better on 2 goals. And yes France… I know. But I don’t panick anymore after a bad day. I spit in my hands and go on. The worst period I had was under Magath at Fulham. I didn’t even get a jersey number… Now, I can focus on my next game coming weekend and that is the best thing to do to shrug off mistakes.”
Stekelenburg knows he is not yet the Oranje #1. “Danny hasn’t said it to me or any of the other goalies. The situation is a bit fuzzy now with the injuries (Zoet, Krul, Vermeer) and Jasper’s position at Barca. But, I’m 35 years old at the WC2018, which is a good age for a goalie. The team is getting younger so an experienced goalie might be a plus.”
In 1999, Frank Rijkaard managed a Dutch side in a friendly vs Belgium which ended in a famous 5-5. Saw some amazing goals in that game….