Hi all, we made it to the World Cup!
Only 1 day to go…. WOOOHOOOOOO…. I remember how I felt in 1982, 1986, 2002…. I highly enjoyed ’82 and ’86. Hated the 2002 tournament.
But lads, this blog has made it (with you and the Oranje lads). Partly thanks to your donations and support.
A last request to anyone out there with some spare change left. I appreciate your support and I hope you appreciate my efforts in bringing you the cool insights.
I am planning to make this place even cooler (thanks to your suggestions) and will keep on asking you for more ideas in the weeks to come.
But. Now. Off. To. Brazil.
With our last World Cup Memory Lane Visit.
We will allow Bert van Marwijk the final say before we delve into the World Cup 2014 actualities…
“The World Cup was a success. The Euros2012 were a failure. But the irritation and internal strife was bigger in South Africa then in the Euros 2012.”
Bert van Marwijk was a talented but headstrong left winger. Feyenoord wanted him and he did play one game for Oranje but a serious injury impeded him. He started his coaching career in the amateur ranks, moved to Fortuna Sittard (where he met his future son in law Mark van Bommel) and made history with that club. When Feyenoord signed him, he was still a leftish, jumpsuit wearing roll-your-own smoking trainer. At Feyenoord, he transformed to a well-dressed non-smoking coach.
The last coach to win a European trophy with a Dutch club, he moved to Borussia Dortmund, where he started well and working under tough conditions, only to lose his job when things turned sour, partly as a result of poor financial means. It was clear that one day the somewhat conservative and loyal Van Marwijk would coach the National Team.
He inherited a fine squad from predecessor Van Basten, with a new 4-2-3-1 system engrained. He added Mark van Bommel (who refused to play under Van Basten post 2006) and worked diligently towards a fixed starting line up. The good news: if you were in, you had to really blow it to lose your spot. The bad news: if you weren’t ‘in’ you had to work really hard and be really good in order for Bert to pick you.
Van Marwijk has fine qualities as a coach, but one of the things I never liked was his tendency to play the best players as much as possible, even if it meant they had to play on spots they don’t really perform well… Rafael van der Vaart as left winger? Really?
Like Van Basten before him and Van Gaal after him, qualifying was not a problem. Bert broke record after record and mostly with attractive football. We won 8 out of 8 and had a broad list of goalscorers. Huntelaar played often and scored 3. The rest was scored by Van der Vaart (2), Van Bommel (2), Van Persie, Kuyt, De Jong, Robben, Ooijer, Elia, Mathijsen and Heitinga .
But for the World Cup 2010, there was quite some discussion in the nation: will Bert be ballsy enough to play the Big Four. Robben, Robin, Raf and Wes.
Bert decided to give it a go. The farewell match vs Hungary prior to the World Cup demonstrated that the Big Four enjoyed playing together. For 85 minutes, the sun was shining down upon Oranje. Until that moment when Robben got injured. The man of the moment ( with Sneijder) was out, at least for the group stages and Bert had to replace Robben. Elia would have been the logical choice. Depth. Speed. Trickery. Unpredictability.
But Bert didn’t dare to pick him and used Van der Vaart as left winger, with De Jong and Van Bommel as holding mids against the group opponents Denmark, Japan and Cameroon.
This is where I believe Bert got it wrong. There was hardly any penetration and no surprise factor. The first game vs Denmark was played in a slow pace, the lack of depth gave Denmark the possibility to contain Holland and the flow of the qualification games was gone. Couldn’t we have played with Elia on the left flank from the start? And Rafael as one of the holding mids? This worked well later in the tournament… Sand in the machine. Holland won the group games but without ever sparkling. When Robben was brought back into the team, Sneijder focused all his passing on the Boy from Bedum, leaving Van Persie underused.
The Dutch game became predictable. Van Bommel and De Jong and Co repossess the ball. Sneijder gets the ball played in and movement of Robben and Van Persie would then invite the killer pass.
It took until the second half in the quarter finals against Brazil. That is when the Dutch team woke up. And it was most likely one of the players (Sneijder?) who took the word in the break and said “we are either going to go home like sissies and be ashamed for the rest of our lives or we go back onto the pitch and take the game!”. Van Marwijk didn’t change a thing and allowed the same eleven of the first half fix the problem.
The Uruguay game was almost the reverse. We started really well with a tremendous goal by Gio but somehow lost grip on the game in the second half. But the finals were reached and Holland was quite confident. We were playing like true champions while Spain was a tad lucky against Paraguay and Portugal.
The Spanish side didn’t play the superior total football game we expected, just like Holland wasn’t able to set the stadiums on fire.
The finals were a disappointment of course. We started agitated. Too much testosterone. Van Persie with a sneaky kick, Van Bommel with too aggressive play. The game plan was clear. Don’t let Spain settle on the ball. Immediate pressure. But Holland overdid it and Spain made a table full of tapas of it.
Ref Howard Webb was impressed with the dynamics and “forgot” to give De Jong a red card for a bad timed and ill-planned high kick for the ball. He missed the ball. But Xabi Alonso still has the studs in his skin, most likely. If Webb would have given red, the game might have developed fairly normally. But Webb didn’t and somehow tried to fix the mistake the whole game long.
He protect the Spanish players as if they were made of churros and forgot to red card Puyol for a tackle from behind on Robben. He also missed the fact that Sneijder deserved a corner kick after a free kick and instead allowed Spain to progress the game which in the end resulted in Iniesta’s goal. By then, Heitinga was redcarded for a run of the mill foul….
Despite the loss, the whole World Cup was a good news show. The vibe in the group was good, the wives and kids were present, the team was winning. Van Marwijk even allowed Michel Vorm to fly home during the World Cup campaign to witness his baby being born. Two days later, Vorm was back.
In 2010, that was seen as “normal”. But when Van Persie made a phone call after a lost game at the Euros 2012, it became a whole “thing”. Van Marwijk grins… “People don’t realise that the vibe wasn’t much better in 2010. It was worse, actually. But it all stands with the results. If you win a first game in a tournament, the chest goes out. The smile comes on the faces and players can accept more. No matter what the issues are, or what is going on…the result determines most.”
“In 2010, we had to deal with that twitter thing with Elia. We had a substitution of Van Persie who was having a go at me and Sneijder… The media even had lipreaders to check what we said. But the criticism dies down when you are winning. And I don’t mean from the media only, also from the squad
. In 2010, we played Denmark and had a tough first half. We didn’t create half a chance, but through an own goal we get the advantage. In 2012, same opponent, we create 8 big chances and should have had two penalties. But we lose. That is the difference. In 2010, we knew we had the next round in our own hands, in 2012 we had to beat Germany and Portugal. That was a bit overwhelming.”
“In 2010, we did play a bit more business like. We could create two or three great moments and that got us that first victory. I see the grit of the 2010 team back in Atletico Madrid. The will to win. Our opponents said it to us after the games: “We never had the feeling we could actually beat you”. And don’t forget: Louis is getting pressure because his defence is vulnerable. In 2010, they said the exact same thing about my defence. Heitinga, Mathijsen, Ooijer… They weren’t good enough. But they managed to reach and almost win the finals.”
“What we did well in South Africa, and I hope Louis will follow suit, is create enough entertainment and distraction. These are 23 winners, big egos. Leaders most if not all of them. Used to getting their way. Used to being the big boys. You need to offer them something. But not in a forced way. Players are shrewd, they see through things. This is where I failed at the Euros 2012.”
How is the culture a factor? For instance, Spain can lose a first game at the World Cup 2010 and still win it. Italy in 1982 plays three boring draws but wins the World Cup in style. Van Marwijk: “I am sure there is a difference in that aspect. You can lock 23 South Koreans up for 9 weeks and they’ll come out looking as fresh and crisp as Humberto Tan (Dutch tv personality). Do this to Dutch people and within 3 days you have a revolt.”
“Spain in 2010 is a different story though. They had Howard Webb as ref in that first game against Switzerland. And the Spanish media and team were livid after that game. When Webb was given the finals, the media put pressure on and so did Del Bosque and the players. Every decision he made was debated and criticised. Webb was under a lot of pressure from the first minute. Late in the game, 120,000 people see we deserve to get a corner kick. Webb misses it. In the ensuing phase, Elia gets the ball and is fouled and from that situation, they score. If we would have gone to penalties, we would have won it. I am certain. Stekelenburg was the best goalie of the tournament and we were ready for it.”
Van Marwijk is realistic. It’s not looking for excuses, but it is explaining circumstances. “I know how it works. When I was in Hamburg, people congratulated me with being Vice Weltmeister. It means something there. But at the same time, I am also that loser from the 2012 Euros. That is football, explained in a simple contrast. You win, you lose. When you win, you are not really God’s gift to football and when you lose it’s not like you suddenly are an idiot.”