A combination of factors contributed to the abysmal performance and result away versus Montenegro.
And as a result, we saw the worst and the best of this Oranje, in the course of 4 days ( inspired by Louis van Gaal).
The nation was holding its breath, the pressure was on. And as a result of the drunk man’s policies of the Dutch politicians, in an empty Kuip.
So there were lots of questions. Will Louis change the team wholesale? Which goalie would he pick? What tactics will we see? Daley Blind, Wijnaldum, Klaassen underperformed versus Montenegro… Would Louis use Malacia? Or Ake?
With Bijlow injured, was it now Flekken’s turn? Or fall back on Cillesen, the more experienced one? And will Holland go for the win, and try to overwhelm Norway? Or did Louis expect Norway to come blazing on all cylinders?
Well, the answers were actually quite logical (from the Book of Van Gaal): Always rely on experience in big games. He would never throw Malacia before the wolves. Neither would he Flekken. Cillesen has been in pressure cookers before and knows the drill. He also is a tremendous kicker of the ball, so Cillesen in goal was not a surprise.
Van Gaal leaning on the experienced players was also not a biggie for me. He played the same formation as versus Montenegro, but with Bergwijn instead of Malen.
“Malen didn’t perform well. I told my wingers: stay wide and high as much as possible. Danjuma did well. Malen kept on moving out of position which resulted in a very underwhelming right side of the team. Bergwijn did better. So I played him,” was Van Gaal’s explanation.
And no, Louis didn’t force his players to hunt for goals. Keeping a clean sheet was key.
So in other words: dominant, with a provocative press. A Van Gaalism. Which means: invite the other party to attack. Sit a bit deeper and wait for the moment to press. This is 1) when a sloppy ball is played by the opponent, or 2) when a midfielder has his back to our goal when played in or 3) when the ball is played wide to a full back.
In the first half, we hardly got into trouble. And yes, we didn’t create a lot but we still had 3 or 4 chances. Bergwijn impressed on the right. Danjuma was threatening from the left. Blind played his usual decent game, as did Wijnaldum. The midfield was instructed not to run blindly into the opponent’s box and that reluctance made the chances we did create less effective, but hey… we didn’t concede!
And all that mattered was securing that ticket!
Norway didn’t take the game to us. They waited until the second half. Oranje got a bit more space in the second half, when Norway started to push a bit more, but they only managed two shots, of which none on target.
By then, we had seen some headers by Memphis, a Montenegro type flick by Depay as well, a volley from 25 meters from the Barca forward and some good crosses by Danjuma and Bergwijn. Lots of “almost” chances.
In the second half we got more opportunities when Norway went to play with three at the back. Bergwijn and Danjuma were always going to be the danger men, playing from the wide angles.
Oranje was clearly focused on not conceding, more so than scoring. The lack of confidence as a result of the latest draw was palpable. The lack of Oranje support from the stands could well have been a blessing in disguise, as in previous games the home crowd at times yells the team forward in scenarios where that is actually not preferred by the coaches…
Frenkie worked his arse off and probably ran more than 11 kms in this match. Wijnaldum was way more involved in midfield and Memphis was his usual self. Probing, drifting, threatening, while Blind and Dumfries offered good support for the wide men.
Man of the Match Steven Bergwijn made a strong statement with his creative explosive runs and it was befitting for him to be the guy breaking the deadlock. A wonderful little dribble from left back Blind, with a 1-2 combination with his former Man U mate Memphis and Danjuma was able to provide the assist to Bergwijn who found the top corner emphatically.
Norway had some minutes left to get back into it and added more attackers to the mix, prompting Van Gaal to sub Danjuma who was becoming a wing back for us. Nathan Ake was asked to shore up matters. From a Norway corner, a smart little header by Memphis released Bergwijn who ran half the pitch towards the Norwegian goal, with Oranje’s record breaker and future all time topscorer Memphis Depay in his wake. A simple wide pass to the Barca man and he added another goal to his tally, surpassing the likes of Bergkamp and Huntelaar.
And with that, Louis van Gaal – watching the game as an evil conniving Stavros Blofeld from his vip box -saw it was good.
His team qualified as group leaders and demonstrated some grit and effectiveness after a series of interesting matches. We’ve seen them struggle, we have seen them play Turkey off the pitch, we have seen them put to sleep by Montenegro and now we’ve seen them all business-like and efficient.
Congrats to all! We’re back at World Cup Level. Lets discuss what we learned moving forward in future posts.
In terms of player ratings…
Cillesen – 7
He didn’t have to do a lot of shot stopping but his distribution is excellent and it was good to see him confident and relaxed in the Oranje goal again.
Dumfries – 6
Lots of energy and hard work. At times a bit clumsy but always positive and always “on”.
De Ligt – 6.5
Didn’t do much wrong, but also didn’t do much to make us all sit up. Decent.
Van Dijk – 7
Played like a captain. Was the boss in aerial battles and commanded the troops with his booming bariton.
Blind – 7
Some good touches and passing. Not everything worked, but that is ok. His little forward dribble and 1-2 with Memphis broke open the Norway defence.
Klaassen – 5
A bit invisible. Probably working hard, but a tad off the pace at times. Got subbed due to a nasty stamp on his thigh.
Wijnaldum – 6.5
Played in service of the team. Had some good moments and battled like in his best Liverpool days.
Frenkie – 7.5
Frenkie led by example. Covering a lot of space. Always available and snapping like a pitbull at ankles and balls.
Danjuma – 7
Kept the pitch wide. Was threatening always and direct in his actions. A tad unlucky with his crosses and his goal attempts. Had the assist on the 1-0.
Memphis – 7
Scoring, hassling, leading, threatening. Not his best game but in a mediocre performance he will still find the net, he will work his butt off and that volley deserved better.
Bergwijn – 8
Man of the Match. Constantly threatening on the wing, tracking back when needed. Good crosses, and that superb goal. His last minute run to gift Memphis a tap in was excellent too.
De Roon and Ake didn’t have too much time to excel.
Van Gaal – 8
The winning coach. Bringing us back to World Cup finals level. Usually, I’d give him a 7 but his Blofeld impersonation gets him an extra point. If he would have brought a white cat for on his lap, I’d give him a 9.
For now: come back with your comments and insights below.