I wish I followed my instincts and wrote in my previous post that I wouldn’t play with the same eleven vs Gibraltar.
I would have gone with a 3-4-3 and probably leave out Dumfries. I didn’t so I can’t claim to be smarter than De Boer but I have the feeling most of you would probably support that notion anyway.
Frank started the game with the same eleven as he did vs Latvia. I can understand the sentiment, but against a 5-4-1 dogged team like Gibraltar you really don’t need 4 at the back!
Even stronger: in the home game, I think De Boer should put De Ligt on goal!
The first half, we simply had too many issues breaking them down. The two main problems: the ball pace was way too low and our bright midfielders ended up clogging up the box with their bodies making it easy for the Gibraltians (?) to defend. That, and their excellent goalie of course.
Denzel Dumfries ended up with the most issues. And according to influential football magazine VI, he was the only player who got a bad rating. He himself has said, that at times he has “hard feet”, meaning, he lacks the technical finesse to play in small spaces.
The Gibraltar coach is renowned for his tight organisation and there was hardly any room for Dumfries to do what he does best: run into space.
He did play a crucial part in the opening goal in the first half, but Frank subbed him at half time and brought prodigal talent Ryan Gravenberch as midfielder, to cover the space on the right. His contribution would become vital, allowing Berghuis to grow into a Man of the Match performer.
The first 20 minutes were shambolic. Uninspired, slow and sluggish. The first goal made the difference, as we all knew it would. It should have been scored sooner though. The second stage of the first half resembled the Latvia match: heaps of opportunities and half chances, but no sharpness in finishing. Davy Klaassen was against guilty of not having his sights sharp.
In the second half, some things that could be predicted happened: the second goal broke the back of the opponent a bit. They got tired. They were no longer able to track everything. Gravenberch played his part too, being the deep lying playmaker next to Frenkie, allowing Berghuis to stay wide and forcing the defenders to choose: do we stay, do we press, do we follow the runner…
Here are some examples: Latvia had issues with Klaassen as they played 4-4-2 and didn’t have the man available to take care of the Ajax midfielder. Gibraltar had 5 at the back so there was always the free defender to pick up Klaassen. The two wide midfielders would assist with stopping Dumfries and Wijndal. Because of this, Oranje needed to find space centrally.
Look at this situation. Wijnaldum needs to pass the ball. We have four players standing in line, up front: Frenkie, Luuk de Jong, Memphis and Klaassen. The midfielders have pulled their direct opponents with them and as a result the spaces became even smaller. And with Berghuis moving inside as well, the suffocation was complete. Frank de Boer even mentioned this problem beforehand, when he said: “Playing more forwards is not going to work, as the spaces will get smaller. We need to lure the opponent away from the centre and then make quick combinations into that open space!”
Oranje runs into these spaces and fills them up and does Gibraltar a favour!
The two first goals are good examples of what is needed. The first goal is the result of depth without the ball. A run in behind and it’s Dumfries who creates it. Berghuis finds the ball in front of his left wand and knows how to bury it.
In the second half, for the second goal, we see what was missing in the first: players coming into midfield to ask for the ball and creating space behind them. Here it’s Memphis pulling a defender with him, and Klaassen does this with the left back. This results in Berghuis getting more freedom and Luuk de Jong is then one-on-one in the box: 2-0.
Gravenberch offers more options in midfield. The Gibraltar players are pulled into the midfield more and this is how the pockets of space appear.
The fourth goal is a perfect example. Gravenberch, Klaassen and Memphis join at the right side in midfield. The left midfielder is now forced to stick to them which puts Berghuis in a one v one situation with the left full back. In the first half, Dumfries runs would bring that left midfielder next to the left back, making it tough for Berghuis. The Berghuis cross ends up with Wijnaldum who scores the fourth goal.
Same story for the fifth goal. Gravenberch lures an opponent in, Berghuis gets space to play with. He then pulls two opponents towards him allowing Memphis to pass into Klaassen who runs into space. His pass to Malen is a simple tap in. The two final goals are the result of a similar situation but then with Wijndal on the left.
The big lesson for Oranje: lure the defenders out of their comfort zone and use the dynamics to play in the wide players who are capable of taking on an opponent with an individual action. Another big change, was to play Memphis in midfield and having him want the ball in his feet.
The win was predictable. The number of goals was enough, not overly spectacular, but enough. And Frank de Boer finally showed his qualities by analysing the first half and doing what was needed in the second half.
A good night for Oranje, also because Turkey forgot to win against Latvia. They threw a 3-1 lead away and had to be content with a draw. This resulted in a wry comment by De Boer: “Hmm, so the 2-0 against Latvia actually wasn’t that bad after all….”.
A big wet blanket was placed over the win by the sad demise of Daley Blind. In what was a rare outing up front for De Barr, Blind was pulled to the ground by accident and one of his feet got stuck in the turf, which may have damaged his knee or his ankle. Unsure at this point. It looked terrible and the Ajax star had to be taken of by stretcher. It didn’t look too good.
Frenkie and Memphis both were quite happy with how it all panned out. Both players realised during their post-match interview that things ended up pretty well for Oranje. “Yes, we did the job. It wasn’t great, I know. We started weak, it was sluggish, we had to get used to the pitch and they were really dogged. But I think if you told people up front that we would win 7-0, everyone would be happy. I think at least. The second half was ok. And yes, Turkey dropped points of course, so it actually was more than ok. Yes, we actually had a top night!” So spoke Frenkie de Jong.
Skipper Gini Wijnaldum had a frown on his face: “The first half was very frustrating. We were a bit pissed off at the break and unhappy. It resembled the match vs Latvia. So much good intentions but so little to show for. The 7-0 was fine at the end, but it could have been double figures and I’m not happy that we failed to do so. We didn’t really celebrate our goals, we were on a mission. And yes, it’s awesome that Turkey dropped points, but we need to stop looking at others and focus on our own performances and improve!”
Last but not least, Young Oranje did tremendous business. It beat Hungary 6-1 and Cody Gakpo was the main man for the Dutch. When the reporters after the game asked the PSV winger whether he was going to play for the seniors or the youngsters, Gakpo was about to answer. And then coach Van de Looi walked by and coughed loudly. Gakpo: “Oh, I think I’m not supposed to answer that question….” Young Oranje ended this little group as group winner: well done lads!