I think hard and long about my post titles, and this is the one that won. Not “Lousy Italians steal victory”, not “Unlucky Jong Oranje leaves tournament with heads up high” and not “Cor Pot rested his players but it didn’t show”.
It was a horrific game to watch. I think for neutral viewers but definitely for Oranje fans.
In the first 5 minutes, we saw one yellow card and numerous referee forced stops. After 30 minutes, there were already 20 fouls. And of course a free kick on the post by Maher.
It took at least 25 minutes before we saw some flowing play (by Holland) and to be honest, that whole phase before the break was Holland’s most impressive, with good runs and plays on the left and right flank, with Wijnaldum and Van Rhijn on the one, and John and Blind on the other side.
We ended the first half with another free kick opportunity for Maher, who sadly missed the target, as the Italian goalie was frozen to the ground.
But all that didn’t result in a goal.
The second half was pretty one-sided until that one moment. The so-called attractive and attacking playing Italians played their traditional defensive game and Oranje simply was not good enough to break them down.
Only one real chance in that stage and the pull back from De Jong, beating the goalie, was 2 yards behind runner Van Ginkel. Not De Jong’s fault, in my book. It was too eagerly run by Van Ginkel. If he paced it, he would have had an easy tap in and if the ball was 2 yards in front of him he could have slid it in. Now, he forced De Jong to give a pinpoin accurate pass. Without De Jong being able to see where Van Ginkel was.
For all the rest of the effort, little to show for it. Ola John’s engine was out in the second half, Wijnaldum couldn’t get the combination going, Van Rhijn was indecisive, Maher active but unlucky, Van Ginkel made runs that weren’t rewarded and Strootman fought for all he could but never really contributed in the build up.
Pot responded with the usual, predictable changes. Depay for John was logical and the young PSV winger had some good spells. Van der Hoorn had to come on for the injured De Vrij and Fer came on late (too late for me) for Blind.
Van der Hoorn would unfortunately play a part in the Italian goal, where he clumsily “bit” in the trick and allowed the goal scorer to turn away and score.
But we didn’t lose this game because Van der Hoorn made a mistake.
We lost the game because the Italians were better, fitter and smarter.
And had more luck. One has to say. One ball on the post and a penalty shout in the first half, could have gone the other way of course.
But Holland needs to look into the mirror.
First to do so: the KNVB. If they take this tournament and this team seriously, why put Cor Pot in charge?
What is his claim to fame? How is he the youth development maestro? (See Spain, where their coaches move up through the system and “breathe” the Spanish style of football. Italy by the way, same deal).
The KNVB is the first to blame, with coach Cor Pot the second. Although I think he did what he could. He simply can’t do better than he did.
A team like this, with these prospects, a year before a World Cup deserves a coach of a different caliber. Someone like Ronald de Boer maybe? Phillip Cocu? Alphons Groenendijk? Jean Paul van Gastel? Jaap Stam? Alex Pastoor? Ron Jans? John van den Brom? John van ‘t Schip?
Someone with tactical smarts and who knows what it takes to win at the highest level.
Sure, you can say “the players had to do it and they didn’t”, but the players that were on the pitch were clearly not gelled into a swinging team.
Lets take the pace.
If you want to create chances against a defensive Italian side, you need to play with pace. High ball speed. Swift one touch / two touch passing. Simple but quick. And reach the wide players fast (so they are one on one) or play into the deepest man fast (so the midfielders can either move up or even overlap). None of this happened.
Lets take the build up patterns.
As I said before WHERE IS CLASIE? We need one player in midfield who can sit deep with defence, always available to take the ball and always ready to accelerate the game forwards. Against Germany, Russia and against Italy, none of the midfielders took that role. The reason is simple: Pot plays with three midfielders and the central one plays high. The other two mix up the tasks of box to box so one of the two came back to collect and build up, if the other went high up the park. Strootman is not bad at this, Van Ginkel is not used to it. He can do a lot but giving the killer pass is not what he is about. He even had clumsy loss of possession a number of times close to our last line of defence. This team – these central defenders – need a central midfielder who sits deep, not high. A player like Scholes, Xavi, Cabaye… A player like Clasie. Although Adam Maher can play that role too, mind you! So I missed that role (and that player). I would have played Strootman and Van Ginkel on left and right of midfield, with Van Ginkel free to make his forward runs. And I would have benched De Jong who is not that helpful against opponents like Italy and Spain. De Jong is great against lesser opponents. I would have played Adam Maher in the Messi role. The roaming center forward, making space for Wijnaldum and Van Ginkel and John.
That would be a dreamteam.
Still not convinced of Jeroen Zoet, I felt his clearances were poor and added to insecurity with Blind and Van Rhijn.
Italy won it deservedly, at the end of the day. More mature, more shrewdness. Not as bad as the Euro2000 semi finals, fortunately.
But we have learned valuable lessons this tournament.
The most valuable one: there is a LOT of work to be done. But Van Gaal is a coach who can handle that, at least.
We thank Cor Pot for all his contributions. I fear he was too lightweight for the job, but you can’t blame him for accepting the task of course.