Oranje and Van Gaal outplayed

In what is most likely Oranje’s worst performance for decades (even the 2012 Euro matches were better) the team lost the midfield, Van Gaal lost the tactical battle and everone else lost confidence, but we luckily drew vs Ecuador: 1-1.

We don’t do well when we score early. We have seen it before, most famously in the 1974 World Cup finals when we got a penalty in the first minute, only to lose grip and lose the match.

Where did it go wrong?

Well, it was the perfect storm. Their tactics worked well to unravel our tactics. We did not have an answer. And when the teams play similar in shape, it means the workrate, physical strength and meters ran start to really count. Ecuador were superior in this. But, if you have better ball players and better individual quality, you can still win (Memphis! Bergwijn!) but if the key players play below par, well…you’re bound to lose.

So rejoice! We didn’t lose. We stole a point from Ecuador. How sad they must be.

And what a tremendous after-party LVG and the boys will have had, to be gifted a point.

But seriously, what have we been watching? Was it a case of an over-confident Oranje? Too happy with themselves? Or is this simply a mentally and physically weak team, which needs their confidence to be inflated by a pompous coach?

I think it’s the latter.

Before the game, Van Gaal noticed that Ecuador decided to play the same shape as Oranje. To copy Oranje man for man, meaning it would become a man v man battle in midfield. And this is where we went wrong.

Van Gaal: “We will win this. I know this, because we know how to play this system better than them. And we have the better players.”


Frenkie tried to solve the midfield problem by dropping back between our defenders, while Klaassen was instructed to push up to their back line and support the forwards, but he was swimming, leaving Koopmeiners at times as the only midfielder.

Here we see how the pass lines to the midfielders are being obstructed by the two attacking mids of Ecuador

One can remedy all this by crisper and quicker passing or using the wide players, Blind and Dumfries. This was attempted but on our right, Dumfries was wasteful whereas Ake and Blind passed the ball sluggish, allowing the opponent to settle in their roles.

This happened when Ake dribbled into midfield. The opponent needs to choose and Bergwijn and Klaassen find space in between the lines.

Van Gaal tried to remedy this by bringing Berghuis in the second half and later De Roon but Berghuis too was pulled away from the centre of the pitch often, still leaving gaps in midfield.

We didn’t create many chances, but neither did Ecuador. When Frenkie forgot he isn’t playing with Busquets at Barcelona, and played in Timber in a crowded midfield with an unexpected pass, the young Ajax defender was pushed off the ball and the defence was…non existent. Poor Noppert couldn’t do much better.

Here you see their holding mid dropping deep leaving Klaassen swimming without an opponent.

There were not many players who reached their usual level. Noppert plays as well as could be expected, with his footballing / kicking skills highly tested. I think Cillesen would have done better in several occasions. His panic kick forward resulted in the loss of possession leading up to their goal.

This is the mistake: Frenkie playing a risky ball to Timber who is on his heels, not expecting the pass and with a man in his back. Not the right decision.

I completely support the criticism by Marco van Basten on Virgil van Dijk. Big Virge thinks he plays with his voice only. His long passes, he knows how to do at Anfield, were not there. At all. Ake was Holland’s best player and that is not a good thing.

Dumfries and Koopmeiners were wasteful in possession. Memphis and Bergwijn close to invisible, while Klaassen should not have played at all in his match.

This is in the 70st minute. Frenkie as central defender. Where is our midfield??

Another example. Klaassen doesn’t even fit on the photo, he is way up the pitch leaving poor Koopmeiners to fend for himself. Where is our midfield?

And why bring Wout Weghorst?? What is the thinking there? We need guile and speed so we bring Weghorst. Not Lang? Not Xavi? Weghorst lacks the speed and skill for a match like this. You need an individual who can break open matters, when the team and the tactics fail. That is not Weghorst. Baffled.

Van Gaal said after the game that his decision to bring Weghorst and De Roon was not to win the game, but to not lose the game. To put some fight into the team. That, I can see.

From a result perspective, we are still in the top 2 of the group. It comes down to the last match versus minions Qatar. So from this perspective, no worries. Just win or draw your last game and you progress. But from the performance perspective, where do we go from here?

Is Van Gaal going to experiment now, with new players? Now? That would be worrysome. But … will he keep on playing this system and with the same midfield?

After the match, Van Gaal was realistic: “This was not good. I am surprised. I thought we would have the better of them, tactically but I was wrong. The main difference is their aggressive play. We couldn’t cope with it and lacked the form, the quality to deal with it. I am not going to badmouth my players, I need to stay positive and support them. I think we still have it all to play for, we can still win the group. In every World Cup campaign, you can have one of those matches. We played a tough second match in Brazil, after the Spain thrashing, but we were able to win that late in the game. This time we didn’t, but a draw is still a positive.”

Asked about the criticism of Van Basten on Virgil van Dijk, Van Gaal concurred: “I can see what Marco means, but we decided to have Ake play the build up as he was our free man at the back. And he did well.”

Asked about the solution, Van Gaal said: “I think our defense is not the problem. That is playing well, and has adapted well to the system but the creativity in midfield and up front is what we need to fine tune. Luckily we have more options to work with.”

Memphis sat on the bench for half the game and was able to watch the team in trouble. “They were better. It’s that simple. What went wrong with us, is that we didn’t manage to offer enough options to one another. The distances were too great and it was easy for them to interrupt our flow. You need to be there at the right time so you can play on. We didn’t manage this.”

About his own game: “I need to touch the ball often and I need to be able to take the opponent on. I was simply not able to do this. There was no space, I never got into my game. We need to analyse this and we need to show a bit more confidence, a bit more courage in our attacking play.”

Pierre van Hooijdonk was clear in his commentary: “After the first match, it was all about “the pressure” and “the first match” etc but now you see it’s not an incident. This must be alarming. But you don’t create anything. It looked lethargic, without life. The opponent was more aggressive and that can’t be happening if you are really good. Virgil said that this Ecuador was a good team, but it is not a good team. It’s an ok team. So what happens if we play against a truly good team? And I know, we have four points, we might simply go on to the knock-out stages, that is great. But we did the same at the Euros and in the first knock-out game we were done. You will have to get to that level where we can all say ” oh wow, so this is what they can do!” because otherwise you cannot make any claim on the title. You have to be able to hurt the opponent, but we were not able to do anything. Nothing. It was so slow, it was walking football.”

Van Basten: “Incredible that you’re being bullied by the number 44 on the FIFA ranking. It’s crazy that they get those chances while we can’t create anything!”

I’d love to see some major changes. A Hail Mary. Forget this 1-3-4-2-1 system. If you don’t have forwards on fire and wingbacks in form, don’t play this.

Go 4-3-3. Let the youngsters deal with it versus Qatar.

Time to play Bijlow now as well.

You lose versus Qatar with this team: you don’t deserve to progress.

You win against Qatar in a bad game, you progress and can re-group and tell the media you did this to give your key players a rest.

If you win against Qatar in a good game, you have yourself more and new options for the knock out stages.

I usually post the highlights of the match here. But I wanted something uplifting for you, this time.

Bookmark and Share


  1. Hahaha thanks guys!! Anthony, great post! And thanks all, for your kind words of support.

    Jean can’t get to me. There were times he probably would have provoked me, but he has shown his colours now. Petty guy. Not even going to respond. You said it well.

    I also agree with Balkan, this had not much to do with system but everything with aggression and initiative. We were put in our place. I also agree that we lacked the quality in the wingbacks. Blind was not too bad, but Dumfries played a terrible game.

    In most successful teams, there are great full backs. Liverpool, Man City, Feyenoord last season, Bayern, Spain… Our full backs are not great. Malacia and Frimpong would do better. Malacia at Man United frequently ends up in midfield but it seemed to me that Van Gaal wants his backs to stay wide and hug the line.

  2. Great kitten vid!

    I guess in the end this is just about as good as they are at the moment. A team with limited talent and with NO real leaders on the pitch.
    The one thing i really dont understand is the lack of fighting spirit. Cant believe that u play in a WC and u dont show any kind of fighting spirit. Why do u guys think that is?

  3. I have the feeling, Goose, that Van Gaal is trying to push the team to higher levels by talking them up and telling them we can go all the way. But in all honesty, we are simply an outsider. A Dark Horse.

    I think the players were shocked with how Ecuador started and played and we lack the quality and also the confidence to play with balls.

  4. We miss our rejected creative players (Gravenberch,Malen) We miss work horse like Tony vilhena..We miss Memphis fitness,its a cruel thing throw him ground now..He can maximum play 10 minutes with intensity at qatar temperature. Especially when Depay is not match fit we should have taken Malen..He would have been very good with Gakpo…We wated spots with Weghorst,Janssen,its should have been Malen and Brobbey…anyways we can only lament on that..its too late..
    Human stupidity is infinite…Under LVG with 433 we cruised through WCQ ,had a shaky but an ok nations league with 532,with some luck and Depay we got last minute goals and we entered to semis of nations leafgue..Now at Wc we have right back who looses ball every now and then with atrocious feet on ball…also a left back whpo cannot receive a pass at final third due to lack of speed..still we play 532..Our already weak midfeild gets out numbered and out played at every game..its high time to go back to 433..
    To all people to start syaing play with or start with memphis this ans that…Give that guy some break..he is maximum fit for 10 minute…you cannot rely on him this WC..forget Depay…
    you have an experienced gem sitting in defdnse that Devrij..players has lungs to hustle Taylor…then an young leg with craft xavi(whom i think will get bullied)…You have athletic Manu left back..You have concelo type right back in frimpong..use THEM lvg….OR GET READYFOR aS##3WHOOPING IN SECOND ROUND..

    Memphis in last 10 minutes.

    1. This motivation talks aplies only to fit players..i mean physically fit players..dutch players are not fit physically for qatar tempertaure(so are many european contries)…Depay needs at least a month fitness program for 90 minutes or even 45 minutes in modern pressing game..

  6. Biggest myth in dutch football is that with 532 we suceeded at WC…thats just stupidity..Evry game in betwen we converted back to 433 after that only we found goals..however we couldnot score against two teams..LVG is going no where with this 532 stupidity…May be it will work with Alphoso davies at LB and Cancelo at RB with Luca modric to support Frenkie…Stop nonsense LVG..

  7. Interesting to see how LVG responds to this, changing his tactics OR introducing players like Noa Lang, Xavi Simons, Frimpong and Malacia and Kenneth Taylor to inject pace and creativity to the team. The onus is now on LVG!

    1. If we watched the yesterday’s games and the other one between Argentina and saudi. It was fast as well physical. Delit has to be in the team with his tall and strong outlook.

  8. Play High line defence for the next match as defence is the strength of the team. The criticism against Vangaal is made by the same people who support only experienced players for the selection and if any new player is selected and if he gives sub par performance, then they put all the blame on him. They were waiting to attack vangal for playing Noppert but he performed well. Now Vangaal must show more courage and play Simons, Frimpong, Taylor for next match. If germany, spain and england can field their youngsters why cant Vangaal. All the above players are in great form for their clubs. They can repeat it for the national team. The saying is if you are good enough then you are old enough.

  9. @jan; wudnt even consider us an outsider. The lack of quality is in itself not a great suprise to me.How many of our players play regularly in big competitions? How many need to be in good form to show any quality at all?

    I dont want to single out certain people to scapegoat..BUT.. vDijk isnt doing his job. At least the belgium players were having fights among themselfs,, in Oranje; nothing! Think i heard a player say after the game; “we have talked about it in the dressingroom”… thats useless,, u need to be able to fix things DURING a match, not after. VDijk shud behave like a leader,,,not just being lazy and pointing around the whole 90 mins.

    I hope we will go all out…as the say in Holland ” de dood of de gladiolen” .. just risk it all, theres little to lose. play Xavi who is in form and has lots of energy. Noppert shud go, is a good line goaly but we need a goaly to help the defense built up.

  10. its high time to get rid of this 532 ideology and 532 myth on WC2014…
    its very simple
    1- We need more numbers in midfeild why not use Ake or Timber as DM??
    2-Plaese no more Blind and dumfries at wings..
    3-please give Depay some tie recover fitness.
    4-kneel down and regret that you have taken some wrong players to WC..the guys like Weghorst,Janssen wont be saving LVG legacy..
    why this shi@#@#%y 532..
    5–We need players with lungs bring the young ones..
    i feel very bad for Gravenberch,Malen,Tony vilhena,Pascal struijk and Brobbey..i am not saying they are world beaters but things wont be this bad with them..

  11. I was at both the games in Qatar. While the atmosphere was electric, the performance was meh. Yesterday was downright shocking. No cohesion, confidence, self-belief, strength, stamina, NOTHING. Deserved to lose and lucky not to. I don’t have much hopes going forward. This is a very limited team. If we were in a heavyweight group, we wouldn’t have qualified for the next round.

  12. Don’t want to sound like a bad Cassandra, but… Qatar did not have any win, yet. I wouldn’t discount the possibility that FIFA shenanigans happen, we get a ridiculous red card and a penalty against them, or some sh!t.

    1. Guillaume, I was thinking the same. Eliminating one of the candidates for the title would be a big headline and promotion for Qatar albeit already eliminated. Anything is possible when money is not an issue.

  13. Just thinking will LVG revert to 433? OR at least Vs Qatar 🇶🇦.
    A 532 requires the front attackers to be really potent. Just like the duo of Van Persie + Robben back in 2014. Our attackers aren’t the same standard.

  14. Im one of my comments i had pointed out the similarities and coincidences of present dutch team with Italian team of 1982. Yesterday i saw the dutch forwards wandering like ghosts which was reminiscent of Paulo Rossi in the 1982 Worldcup.Italy drew all three group matches then, huffed and puffed and then qualified as second best into the next stage. Is that repeating itself. Just Hoping it is, then we could be in for a surprise.

    1. manoj, 2 days ago it was Thanksgiving Day in USA (think of it as a turkey feast). So I bought a big “organic” bird at the food store. Meanwhile there are wild turkeys in my backyard and around the neighborhood. Every year I look at them and think about catching one of these monstrous birds that are are clean and organic and serve it at the table, that would be a big prize which I would never be able to realize. All I can do is look them from my window and lick my lips. 🙂
      As per Italy 1982, they had the players but didn’t have a team in the group stage. Those defenders were the most feared in europe who would leave their heart in the field. We don’t have the players.

  15. After the disaster that was the Ecuador game yesterday, I hear a lot of clamoring for the Dutch traditional identity; the 4-3-3.

    And of course every Dutch side can play the 4-3-3. There however arises serious questions if Lvg decides to embark on this path.

    How effective can his team be with the personnel available?

    How sharp can we be, reverting back to the 4-3-3, given the fact that we’ve rarely, purely played it in the past two years?

    How much of a liability is Blind without 5 in the back protection and being that the big boys await in the knockout?

    Would Lvg still decide to go with Blind and play a variation that supports him defensively?

    Would LVG decide to introduce new players like Frimpong and Malacia who might be more physically and technically suited to the system?

    Ake in the middle of the park or perhaps find a way to still start the teacher’s pet Blind?

    These are all questions that needs to be answered and require bravery.

    Someone commented that people were waiting for Noppert to fail so they can say “I told you so”

    Noppert has done well so far but the circumstances of his selection is still the wrong one and 99% of coaches wouldn’t have gone with him.

    No big game experience. Better goalie in Cillesen. Pressure of the biggest tournament in the world.


    We as fans have brains too. I know a naked man when I see one.

  16. Saudi,iran and usa looks better than US with crap532 …if LVG still want Daley blind to start play him double pivot with Frenkie..
    Malacia—Virgil——De vrij—–Frimpong
    or move furthur up some what like
    its horrible to see dumfries first touch and with ball movemnet…its horrible to watch Left side with Blind wher we cannot give a pacey pass…i was looking at Mbhapp who has electric boots makes difference with simple passes from mid..People rate snijedr very high his paases but he had samual eto and roben at disposal…We have blind now..

  17. I agree with LVG analysis and also with Jan’s. Very poor match and mostly down to aggression and character not tactics. Positive thing is that we still got the point. Italy played almost all group matches in this manner when they won the World Cup last time! So let’s not panic. It is still a good team that won profession to semifinals of Nations League. Qualification to 2nd round is very close and we might be lucky with the following fixtures. I’m mostly afraid of USA, would prefer facing England.

    1. I am sorry, I don’t mean no disrespect but how the heck do you come up with this comparison?! Dutch have never had nor will ever have a fraction of the heart, passion and national pride that italians have and especially had back then.

  18. If there’s ever an opportunity to overstate the obvious, or oversimplify a problem and solution, then I’m your man to do so!

    So when I consider the sport of football in the abstract, the primary objective seemingly is to outscore your opponent. And unless you’re relying on the notoriously fickle “own goal” as your leading scorer, you generally need to take shots yourself in order to score.

    Putting aside all of our discussions about player selection, formations, intrinsic motivation, stylistic sensibilities, the heat, etc., it would appear that the way we are choosing to play is intended to not generate shots because in fact, that’s exactly what we are doing (or not doing)

    So I took a look at the other World Cup games that have been played so far just to see what other teams’ efforts in the shot producing department look like:

    The stats are a little off at the moment because not all teams have played two games yet, but here goes:

    Four teams are averaging 20 or more shots per match — Germany, France, Brazil and Canada (who admittedly has not scored a goal)
    Five teams are averaging between 13-17 shots per match – Spain, Argentina, Iran, Senegal, Tunisia (who admittedly has not scored a goal)
    Seven teams are averaging between 10-12 shots per match – Japan, Portugal, Denmark, Mexico, England, Ecuador and Uruguay (Denmark, Mexico and Uruguay have not yet scored)
    Eleven teams are averaging between 7-9.5 shots per match – Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Ghana, Wales, USA, Morocco, Cameroon, Poland, Qatar, Switzerland and South Korea (Morocco, Cameroon and South Korea have not yet scored)
    Five teams are averaging 6.5 shots or fewer per match – Australia, Netherlands, Croatia, Serbia and Costa Rica (Croatia, Serbia and Costa Rica have not yet scored)

    Despite this, we are somehow fifth in overall scoring so far in this World Cup with 3 goals. Only Spain, England, France and Iran have scored more. So we are scoring on a far higher percentage of our shots than anyone else, yet we are shooting so infrequently that we are in the bottom 5 of the whole tournament. Will our goals increase proportionately if we shoot more? Maybe not. Canada has shot 22 times but not scored. Nor am I just suggesting that bombing 30+ yard shots will increase our scoring, but as we’ve noted previously if you don’t shoot, you can’t score, and we rarely if ever shoot.

    Thus, the challenge for LVG and his staff seems to be to find a tactical plan, system and set of players to create shots at at least an average level within this tournament (around 9-10 shots per match). If we can do so, we’re bound to have greater success on the scoreboard. But if we’re not creating sufficient shots on goal, everything else seems secondary.

  19. After two successful tournaments in 2010 and 2014, Netherlands have been going through the transition period that we normally call a “dark age”. Bright generation of players is gone, and mediocre generation is in place. This is a cyclical process that our beloved team is going through now. Remember two successful tournaments in 1974 and 1978 followed by 10 years of “dark ages”. Apart from these cycles, there are serious problems with the football system in the Netherlands and KNVB. Nepotism, preferential treatment of Ajax players, narrowmindedness and rigidness of KNVB which is manifested in relying on internal coaches rather than bringing a foreign coach, new blood, and new way of thinking. With respect to this tournament, I think we will pass the group and then will be eliminated in the knockout stage and nobody will remember this team as honestly there is nothing to remember. Enjoy the tournament and do not take Dutch seriously: if they do not respect themselves why do we have to….

    1. Exactly. That’s the way to go and I had even prepared myself for it, but yesterday’s disaster where we matched a negative record not seen since 1966 got me all riled up and I believe has left me with a permanent scar.

  20. Watching France – Denmark and burning in envy: why cannot we play like Denmark? Why do we lack fighting spirit, why are we such a piece of arrogant meat?

  21. @JB

    Re: Five teams are averaging 6.5 shots or fewer per match – Australia, Netherlands, Croatia, Serbia and Costa Rica (Croatia, Serbia and Costa Rica have not yet scored)

    Great stats. Simple, non-convoluted and very revealing.

    People are blaming the players for a lack of energy and fight but I do not see it that way.

    I see it as a team that has been coached out of its initiative. Lvg is notorious for micromanaging and if you have the players and most importantly the TIME to interprete your vision, then you come off as a genius. But these players seem to play hesitant and the hand brakes waaaay up. When a whole team does this, it is the coach.

    And he seemingly wants to die on the hill of the 5-3-2 but have only one functional wingback. And Dumfries have never played with any one constant winger to form a partnership. It was Berghuis(for an extended period), then Gakpo, Bergwin etc

    And wingback ïs your bread and butter in this system but you’ve never willing tried anyone else in the left except an aging has-been who has to play at any cost in your book. Even when Malicua plays, you will shuttle Blind to the left three, nullifying the possibility of any kind of chemistry between Ake and him(Malacia). I mean…

    Ecuador shut down the right wing and that was the end of our offensive aggression. Ecuador knew they did not have to worry about the left side and so does every other team.

    And the build up is painstaking and painfully predictable. Give it to FDJ and see what happens whilst a Klassen or Berghuis flutters around.

    Again, Lvg is hooked on his success of 2014 and thinks he can replicate. But the dynamics are different. We had a weaker defence then but everything else was better. It was a win-win for us to play a 5-3-2.

    Now, Oranje probably have the best man for man defence in the competition. Lvg should have experimented a lot more with that in mind. Emphasize on the dynamism of wingback play, fluidity, speed of counterattacks…and lay in wait for the big boys.

    Our midfield can be nullified with a sensible press. We’ve never had an ideal partner for FDJ nor have we tried to accommodate serious potential contenders like a Struijk, Ake or even Timber for more thrust.

    It’s painful to watch. Things just remain the same to me.

  22. @ Jan

    “Before the game, Van Gaal noticed that Ecuador decided to play the same shape as Oranje. To copy Oranje man for man, meaning it would become a man v man battle in midfield. And this is where we went wrong.”

    This sounds very familiar. I was expecting this in the later stages of the tournament but well it happened earlier. this is some thing I have said through out When you have weakness in the team this is when it’s most critical.

    Lets be more practical here and admit, it is what it is and it’s just the players and nothing else. Van Gaal decsion to continue with the players who featured under him and even though some had regressed clearly is taking its toll on the team. Bergwijns expectation of delivering whenever playing for NT , Blinds forever experience mania, berghuis left foot expectation, classy one touch klaassen.Well yes these players were extensively used in the qualifiers and nation league but then all the signs were also there that they had scumbed to form dip. The counter argument I know here will be What else or option was left with van Gaal or could have done. Any coach would have done the same. Flip side, you have to go back to when van Gaal took over and why he never opted for plan b utilizing the bench players as to bring them up to above par level or close degree to starting 11 through rotation. Remember those games vs Gibraltar, Lativa. Unfortunately this not a feature of van Gaal.If this would have been done, there would have been no glitches when filling in for anyone. now he find himself in situation where he is limited to that options. and then again being conservative during subs as well. How berghuis was suppose to change the dynamics of the game vs Ecuador is unexplainable. You can agree that he is trying to pull off 2014 like what JB I think said with players who are no way near to the 2014 team was. Vlaar was equal to van dijk atmost.ake probably better than BMI and that’s it

    Then going on and big mouth claiming we can win the WC with this squad. Its interesting though what the analyst in nertherlands had to say and it’s being reflected in the team after the 2 games.

    Like I said it maybe too late to make changes vs Qatar expectating it will roll out better in the later stages. The bottom line is that the Baker has already baked the cake and there is not much that can be done now.

    Also on Dumfries criticism. How can you blame him when the team apart from the backline is mediocre. Well for the obvious reasons. The balance that Dumfries brings is something Frimpong doesn’t have. Note this down. I have watched enough of games for Bayern Leverkusen to say this..Frimpong is offensively more balanced so starting him will come at cost( defensive compromise). The expectation of Dumfries to lead the attacking line is just too much when the workload is high and others around him are mediocre.

    gakpo- Depay


    Malacia- Frenkie- Timber- Dumfries

    Ake- Van dijk-De vrij


    Depay should be pushed vs Qatar.

    On a sad note


    1. Agree France are looking better and better as they play more. backline, midfield, mbappe hungry as ever. Even with the injuries they have had. I have to say I never rated rabiot highly but he is having a good tournament for France.

  23. I have an honest question to all tactical experts in this thread. Am I wrong if I assume that a modern day team should be able to switch between different systems even in the middle of the game? Whereas you start 5321 or 433 or 442 you should be prepared to switch and adjust according to game circumstances, no? How are you supposed to deal with teams that change at will? This should part of business planning process, you get hit by disaster due to your wrongly placed team now what do you do to survive for the rest of the time left(win the game?! Isn’t this a coach’s duty?!

    1. @ Balkan:

      I would say yes. You help position players throughout the match as you see things developing. For example, if a team isn’t threatening or isn’t playing with the expected number of forwards, you can always bring a defender forward into another role. Or if the battle in the midfield is being won or lost, you can reallocate players to and from other lines. If an individual opponent is highly influential, you might also decide to delegate a certain player with the responsibility of tracking / disrupting them. You would typically make similar tactical adjustments in training as well, so that the players are used to the adjustments to be made.

      That said, when I was coaching, I didn’t radically shift formations during the match or from match to match. We always tried to play our game, our style and dictate tempo to our opponent. More often, the tactical decisions to be made were in reacting to how other teams chose to play us, and developing solutions to those strategies if they became effective. But I may not be the best one to ask, because I generally had great confidence in our players and our system to produce the performance and the result we were looking for (and did not want to unbalance our side by over reacting to what are opponent was doing).

      At the end of the day, I think it comes down quite a bit to personality, style, and the level of control you want to exert over your team. But it’s always a good practice to prepare your team for different strategies and different adjustments that you might plan to make.

      1. Thanks JB. But then why is there a debate about the NT system? Why can’t they start with a certain system and change as the game goes on? After the game yesterday I heard many saying we should go back to 4-3-3 , how come LVG doesn’t see that? Is it simple stubbornness or this team is incapable of such changes? I mean this is the pinnacle of football world. Where is the agility and flexibility? I guess this is too much to ask LVG for who seems to be a one trick pony

  24. @Wilson

    gakpo- Depay


    Malacia- Frenkie- Timber- Dumfries

    Ake- Van dijk-De vrij


    Really like this lineup Wilson.

    To think that you have a nearly two year window to prepare for a tournament like this, with games against the likes of Gibraltar and Latvia, and still, not once did you field a team as dynamic as this, if even out of curiosity, beggars belief.

    1. I’ve always thought Timber as a DM would be his best position. He isn’t the tallest nor his timing in the air is the best when he goes for a header as a CB! It must be said that it will be risky trying him in that position during the WC. The reason why I say that is because Ten Hag used him there in one game and he looked so lost. Thats why he was never used there again and Alvarez kept his spot at Ajax. Having said that, I believe a midfield duo of Frenkie next to Timber will be excellent for the years to come assuming Timber starts playing in that position moving forward.

  25. @Balkan

    Re: This should part of business planning process, you get hit by disaster due to your wrongly placed team now what do you do to survive for the rest of the time left(win the game?! Isn’t this a coach’s duty?!

    Of course it’s on Lvg. But when you are so sure of yourself, a plan b would feel like a betrayal to your genius.

    It is well documented that Oranje have always struggle with this problem of adjustment in real time. We’ve discussed it extensively in this blog and things haven’t changed.

    When Oranje is put under pressure, they concede. And it’s all up to the coaches and how they are so married to their ways they can’t see further than their nose.

  26. Wilson has a good point on the Dumfries question, that changing him will bring the backline under pressure. Dumfries was put under pressure and blocked by high pressing. Then as i have said playing the high line defence in next match is the right way as Qatar does not have strikers who cam make that run behind defensive line to score. Switching systems is not a bad idea but doing that needs a leader on the pitch with vision. The captains band should be handed over to the Goalkeeper so that Vandijk will be free from that pressure. Then he can see the situation with clarity of mind. Timber did not do anything to warrant a call back into the team. I will play Delit as he can play as center back as Vandijk goes forward more in coming games. Delit has the that tough guy nature which can put some fear into the opposition attack.

  27. Some very good comments guys. I particularly like Orangutan comment:

    “Lvg is notorious for micromanaging and if you have the players and most importantly the TIME to interprete your vision, then you come off as a genius. But these players seem to play hesitant and the hand brakes waaaay up. When a whole team does this, it is the coach.”

    Sadly, I think he is correct. It seems LVG is keen to be the star of the team. In his interviews and pressers, it’s all about him. Making those stupid comments on live tv with kids around asking his wife to come to the hotel room “for a quickie” or hugging the Senegalese journalist during the presser.

    It’s the LVG show and I also feel that players look deflated. What the H is going on with Bergwijn?

    Also the glorification of Memphis the Saviour goes too far! What are you telling your other players, indirectly?

    Telling everyone before the Ecuador match that you will bring Memphis at half time is devastating. Bergwijn or Gakpo are playing 45 minutes thinking, it’s either me or him.

    And the other players are told in a way that the coach apparently sees the Ecuador match as a friendly? You can use to train up a player without rhythm.

    I think orangutan is right, the team is playing with too many tactical tasks.

    I don’t agree – as per usual – with Wilson about Dumfries. He is not a great defender. At all. He’s strong with the head, yes, but clumsy in the duels and tends to bulldozer people.

    It’s time for Frimpong. Like it’s time for Malacia.

    Giving the captains band to Noppert is simply hilarious. I know realise that Wilson is probably the alias of a group of Dutch comedians. I’m being punked.

    @Balkan, yes teams need to be able to play multiple systems and this team does know how to play different systems. Van Gaal changes it during the game often, sometimes very clearly (4-3-3) sometimes merely subtly (from 3-4-2-1 to 3-4-1-2 for instance).

    I think San Marco said it right: you expect your key players to step up and give the ones a hairblower treatment who need it. Jan Wouters. Willem van Hanegem. Frank de Boer. Mark van Bommel. Roy Keane. Lisandro Martinez. Where are they?

    1. So Jan, just as I thought yesterday, it seems like LVG has probably messed up the mental state of his players. There is nothing else that explains the horror that everybody witnessed yesterday. This guy is f-ing nuts by what you’re telling here about him. I would really laugh out loud if he was the german or england or portugal coach. What a mess. Yet, God spared him of a bigger humiliations yesterday. Luck is the only thing going for him, until it doesn’t.
      I wonder if any journalist smacked him in the face with the OptaJohan stat. I’d love to hear how he would spin that.

  28. We are lost in midfield with 532 ..We dont have players for that especially with out Gravneberch..Forget that systemmattack is the best defense and even arjtine plays with 4 back 433 or 442…why cannot we go back to tth old with golden generation of defense..arjtina changes 5 players and it worked though Messi presence cannot be ignored..why cannot we do that..??
    Ake VS Timber as DM…i will go with calm ,experienced Ake as DM over Timber…Timber would be his Back up…more over he is an aeral threat..excellent in headers..Ake is the man for DM for me…With AkE if van gaal wants 532 again He can move with out any substitution..
    ANY one who think dropping Blind alone will do miracle is A STUPID…Blind is just one problem..We have dumfries who is also a Problem..another Problem is Memphis fitness..We can sort out first two problems easily by not playing both…Memphis doesnt have a back up this is where we Miss Brobbey/Malen etc..We cannot replace Memphis with Weghorst or Janssen..thats the dooming point…
    Noppert,Gakpo,Virgil,Ake,Frenkie are the only plalyers deserves to continue in this WC.. from last line up
    Sub in with
    Blind for Frenkie if he really wants daddys boy..So that Frenkie gets rest..

  29. @ Tomy14

    Re: Midfield

    Frenkie needs to rotated regardless if he plays for Barcelona or how good he is.he needs competition and it’s time he gets it. I have long said this three minds is better than one and with xavi now in the picture it’s time build a perfect midfield combo even without frenkie. With frenkie point back wards is often not feasible and then you have gravenberch, veerman, Taylor, koopmieners who play the same position as frenkie or thrive better as deep lying midfielders. Koeman needs to find a solution to this. The Dutch midfield contingent in ligue 1 is a good place to start with after the world cup. Matusiwa, van der boomen and spierings who play together. Above all I’m anxiously waiting for Reis to arrive on NT stage, good talent and can be perfect partner for Frenkie given he can play anywhere in the midfield. But this may take some time as he still playing in second division in Germany. By 2026 I can see the next dream team for the dutch just like the Brazilians in this world cup.

    @ Balkan

    Re Tatical change

    It’s simple, plan A and back up plan b to cater for unforeseen circumstance. The team should be build around this . You dont need anything else. These are things that are critical though. Quality bench, good depth, if a good tacticians its a bonus. You look at deschamps, is he a good tactician, he’ll no, southgate same boat, but when you have a talented generation it’s all about simplicity and letting players do what they do best. Their work is cut out and when you have a good bench, the only thing you do is to look out for where there is need for improvement and you change accordingly.

    With van Gaal its always complicated or he makes things complicated ( what’s he wants, his imagination) on how it should be played. That’s why sometimes it works sometimes its doesn’t and sometimes its borderline theatrics.


    1. Wilson, you are asking too much from a Dutch coach. Inflexibility is a trademark of all Dutch coaches, including LVG and Koeman. Once they stick to a plan, they will never change it.

    2. @ Wilson:

      A few thoughts. My suggestion below was to move Frenkie forward into a more attacking midfield position, which I think would enable Koopmeiner or de Roon, to play the holding position and might help our midfield out and improve our overall quality.

      Second, I don’t think it’s quite as simple as a Plan A and Plan B. Lots of potential adjustments need to be made during a match and I don’t think it’s necessarily just a one approach versus the other dynamic.

      Finally, I think you’re right about LVG, who is an egomaniac and a control freak, but not about Southgate or Deschamps, who are both very limited managers who happen to be blessed with generational groups of talented players to manage. For them, it’s more a matter of getting out of the way, then actually instilling any sort of tactical plan. If anything, you could argue that Dechamps is holding France back from playing to it’s true potential.

  30. The only descent phase we got in midfield where we had some good soccer was when wijnaldum was top form and playing for Liverpool , him and Frenkie made it a good midfield but after he started dipping in level things went bad for Oranje, wijnaldum was a major upgrade over Klaassen and Berghius (he was a Liverpool starter for three years for a reason)!!!

  31. @Jan Dutch has to find a way to free Dumfries from the opposition shackles as he is a key player. Vandijk has to play forward and Noppert as Captain is no laughing matter, if he can make his debut in a worldcup, why not captaincy. Vandijk, i thimk is burdened by captaincy pressure, somebody else must take up the leadership of thevteam.

      1. May be i am naive but just feel that Vandijk is pressurised and bogged down by captaincy. But there is a need for a wakeup call for virgil. Taking that captains Armband from him might be a good idea.

    1. @Manoj This is not stupid cricket,Virgil has captained many teams ..So its not a burden for Him he is a leader in liverpool,ever since that injury i felt he lacks something..i he watches when forward shoots.it happend Vs manunited this season as well.

  32. I am travelling from Detroit overseas within two days and I just realised that I come back December 9 and I have a stop in Amsterdam on my way back and I saw that 1A first in Oranje group plays that night in the quarter final against 1C who could be Argentina , so I delayed my flight back to Detroit for one day so I am in Amsterdam that night hoping that the Netherlands beat Qatar now by a good margin and not surprise us with an ugly result and come out second in the group then my plan is ruined ….

  33. Denzel dumfries is not a key player for NT..he is not Frenkie,Virgil is ,Depay was…i dont think Depay will be fit to play 120 minutes in this WC..Time to look for other options than Depay…Anyone who thinks an unfit Depay will change whole scne by himself ha sno knowledge about football..
    These are our problems
    1–Unfit Depay..We miss him,we left Brobbey,Malen at home it sucks..
    2-Berjwin looks like ghost of his own,he needs to be benched..
    3-Berghuis is just good for bench,not an oranje material but still okay for bench i feel..
    Current issues
    1-532 system is the main problem..We dont have players for that.its stupidty to play 532 when you have the best CBs in the world.
    2-Our wing backs sucks,Both Blind and Dumfries..Blind lacks the pace and negery to go up and down ,so he afils at left..dumfries has hard feet ,he cannot go forward with ball.not that great at defdning too..if we take out both our game will change..
    3-We are out numberd,out ran in mid as only players with lungs and skills can fix this..unfornuanatly only Taylor or simons we have now..so lets play them
    4-We need world class DM,whcih we have in Ake,LVG is so stuborn to play him out there.

  34. Could those of you with expertise explain more why Van Basten believes Virgil van Dijk is to blame? If it is on him as a captain, in that he’s not teaching or leading enough, I can perhaps understand. But what I saw against Ecuador was that the back line was the best part of the team, and van Dijk was not only directing the defense, but almost always in the perfect spot himself.

    Again, I’m not an expert, but it seemed to me that Frenkie was tentative and played very poorly. Does his reputation or his current status at an elite team shield him from criticism? Yes Ecuador harassed him a lot, but could he have changed any tactics to try to beat the press on him?

    1. you are asking a question similar to mine. Virgil is the leader and one who is in charge of the team, evan as delit was dropped against Ecuador and out of form Timber played badly but virgul did not respond well to the additional responsibility it brought.. In that he failed. I agree with the observation from Vanbasten.

  35. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to development of dutch football are some of the old players and commentators who asked for experienced players to be called and were dead against new in form players. Now when the experienced players failed, they are attacking the coach. Even then they are not telling the coach to bring in new players. Some of these old players hated being substituted or did not like new players when they played. But one good thing about the present team is they are welcoming the new players whole heartedly.lets hope things fall in place with the new players stepping up and getting the Job done.

  36. Just watched the game again.
    Individually, Dumfries played below par, Pervis Estupiñán won the battle of the wingback. Dumfries was rattled and didn’t impose himself. In fact most of Ecuador’s attacking forays came thru the that side. Timber was overworked trying to cover both Ener Valencia and Estupiñán.
    Blind was fast tiring in the second half, and that further blunted the attacking threat from his side. Still, he stood his ground and always looked to play the forward pass.
    Klassen offered very little; both attack and defense. He should be subbed out early along with Bergwijn.

    At this point, I would think Frimpong > Dumfries, Gakpo > Bergwijn (Depay and Gakpo upfront), Koopmeiners > Klassen with De Roon alongside FDJ. De Roon can provide the cover at midfield.
    Alternatively, Simons/Noa Lang > Klassen, and Koopmeiners alongside FDJ.

  37. From what I read here, what I saw in the last game and what LVG speaks in the media, I get the impression of a team in chaos that is extremely tired physically and mentally.

    1. Balkan, that’s another factor that almost all teams are contending with — a mid season World Cup — which is pretty unprecedented and has an unknown effect but could be the great equalizer between more and less tactically structured teams and also older teams.

      And while I’m typing, Morocco just scored a second; 2-0 vs Belgium!

  38. Just turned the tv on and Morocco is beating Belgium 1-0. This after Japan lost to Costa Rica earlier. This tournament is wide open and so we are not in such a bad position if we can just figure things out.

  39. Very poor performance by Belgium.

    I can’t wait for the 48 teams format. The quality is already bad enough this year. Imagine if we could add to this dread fans’ favorites like North Macedonia against Bhutan.

  40. Another thought I’ve had from time to time as I watch our midfield struggle to create scoring chances — should we push Frenkie further forward into a more attacking role? He is probably our most complete player and one of our most creative passers, but he plays so withdrawn that the impact he has often occurs so far away from the goal. Obviously, he’s very comfortable playing where he is — he reminds me of Beckenbauer with his long runs out of the back — but on this team, our back line is solid and we need the quality further forward. We were talking yesterday about coaches being able to adjust on the fly, but I wonder if Frenkie would be able to be as effective in another position. Honestly, I’m open to trying pretty much anything at this point. Anyone else have thoughts on this?

    Many of the other suggestions I’ve already heard, which essentially just involve replacing one mediocre player for another, seem unlikely to make a significant impact — it’s more like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    I recognize that my comments seem a little bi-polar — on one hand I’m saying that we’re not doing too bad results-wise and on the other suggesting that the ship is rapidly sinking. But in reality, other than France and Spain so far, no one has looked very good and we have a real chance in this tournament if we can get our attacking play sorted out…

  41. I believe defensive line is quite strong, one of the best. As LVG said, we were very good when opponents have ball in both matches. I would only substitute Blind for Malacia for Qatar match, and see how it goes.

    Midfield I would try Simons with Frenkie and Koopmeiners. Simons because of his fighting spirit, really needed. Upfront Gakpo and Memphis or Bergwijn. Would try this against Qatar and take it from there. I would not focus too much attention on the 5-3-2. It is just a formation. During the match it easily changes to 3-4-3 or 5-2-3 or 3-5-2. And it does happen under LVG as well.

  42. Croatia has been fighting for an equalizer and just got it against Canada!

    I will say that certain teams like Croatia, Belgium, Uruguay, etc. have really declined since their peak levels but still trot out the same group of aging players. That’s why LVG’s run with the 2014 was so impressive. We really overachieved and didn’t exhibit the same drop off. That said, we then failed to qualify for 2018, so perhaps the future was sacrificed a little for that one last run.

      1. Now I feel like the guy in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

        JB: “Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!”

        Croatia: “I’m actually feeling much better. I think I’ll go for a walk…” 😀

  43. @JB, the main reason why we failed to progress after 2014 success was wrong coach choices by KNVB. You, guys, are underestimating the core of the Dutch football failure, KNVB. Old Gus, useless and incompetent Blind, short spell with Koeman, then another incompetent FDB, and now old LVG. Shortsighted KNVB cannot boarder their horizons and bring a foreign coach who could bring a new vision of play. Not sure whether our players are ready for that new vision. It is time for a radical change in Dutch football. The way how once we introduced Total Football, we need similar breakthrough now.

  44. It is nice to see the shock or upset wins like by Morocco today. Glad that now everyone here are slowly realising that this is a open tournament where anything can happen. I have been saying for last one month or so that this dutch WC side has some resemblance to the 1982 world cup winning Italian team and in which dutch did not qualify despite being favorites and Italians being fark horses won that tournament with oldest WC winning goalkeeper. This year tournament favorites Italy have not qualified but dutch have qualified and are the underdogs but struggling in the group stage games like italy did in 1982 and dutch have the tallest goal keeper and oldest goal keeper. The omen points to Netherlands.

  45. @Manoj Kumar, I remember the 1982 World Cup quite well. Fantastic Tournament—upsets (Northern Ireland over Spain, Hungary over Argentina), drama (Poland v. USSR in the midst of the Solidarity movement), fantastic performances (the entire Brazilian midfield, Boniek, Rossi), a villain (Schumacher). And You re so right about Italy’s early stuttering; they qualified out of their group with 3 draws, having scored only 2 goals. But their squad had players such as Tardelli, Cabrini, Scirea, Antognioni , Rossi, Conti, Zoff (even if he was 40), et al. I’d say right now that the Dutch haven’t shown they have that depth of that quality. But as you say, it took the Italians a time to find their chemistry, and maybe Depay will become our Rossi—getting his feet under him during the group stage and bursting out in the knockout rounds. We can dream right?

  46. It is nice to see the blog so lively these days. Thank you Jan for running the blog.

    Watching the last two games, I don’t think we have the right forwards to play the type of football we want at this moment. Only Gakpo is in form. The rest just do not exist. Given what we have right now, I think making the Greek approach in 2004 is the only way to go.

    Gakpo Weghorst/LDJ


    FDJ De Roon

    Malacia Ake VVD De Ligt/De Vrij Dumfries

    Forget about playing football, we do not have quality. In stead focusing on the defense, defend for 90 minutes. Hope that Weghorst/LDJ can score a corner or Gakpo/Koop can score some long shot.

  47. Here we have 19 year old Musiala making a difference in German lives and we still trying to figure out if Berghuis is the way to go.

    Difference between winning and losing, moving towards the promise of a bright future and tied up to the sweet nostalgia of lala land.

  48. If we focus on our strength, which is currently our defense, then we should continue playing 2/3/5 system. If this system helps us to avoid defeats, then we should be ready for penalty shoot outs. In this system, I would give preference to Weghorst and Gakpo in front as Memphis is not fit. Midfield should be occupied by FDJ, Koop, and de Roon. In defense I would pair VVD with De Vrij, I would replace Blind with Malacia. Our game should be based on counter attacks with deep defending. Ugly, not a Dutch playing style but might be very effective. But we have to be resolute as a team. I would not even switch to 433 with Qatar.

  49. Yes, it is a nice coincidence 🙂 And we come up with almost exact same line up. If we focus on one thing, which is defend, I think we can do well. The Ecuador goal only happen because FDJ and Timber tried playing the ball, if they just kicked the ball out, that would not have happened.

    We will need huge amount of luck to go deep in the tournament but at least, this route is something that we can execute with the current crop of players.

  50. Those who think we can succeed playing “greek style”, we defended for dear life for almost 60 mins against Ecuador and only luck helped us. It was a matter of time before Ecuador scored. You’re giving our defense too much credit.

  51. One positive note is that Ake has really come into his own. Great defensively and he actually tried to make runs forward as well. I have been impressed with him.

  52. @ JB

    “A few thoughts. My suggestion below was to move Frenkie forward into a more attacking midfield position, which I think would enable Koopmeiner or de Roon, to play the holding position and might help our midfield out and improve our overall quality”.

    I remember koeman tried doing that at barcelona to accommodate both frenkie (on the right) and Busquets (deep). didnt work and had quickly revert and shifted him to the left instead. he will just get pushed back in tighter games playing high. we have already seen what happens to him when he is shadowed around and given no sapce vs czech, vs ecoudar.

    “Second, I don’t think it’s quite as simple as a Plan A and Plan B. Lots of potential adjustments need to be made during a match and I don’t think it’s necessarily just a one approach versus the other dynamic”.

    correct me if im wrong, italy 2006, spain 2010,germany 2014, france 2018, it was simple and straight forward approach, nothing out of the box or complex. I cant recall any system/tatical change during the course of the tournament for the champions.

    “Finally, I think you’re right about LVG, who is an egomaniac and a control freak, but not about Southgate or Deschamps, who are both very limited managers who happen to be blessed with generational groups of talented players to manage. For them, it’s more a matter of getting out of the way, then actually instilling any sort of tactical plan. If anything, you could argue that Dechamps is holding France back from playing to it’s true potential.”

    I think I said the same thing in regards to deschamps and southgate being a good tatician ” hell no”. but im intrigued why you say “Dechamps is holding France back from playing to it’s true potential” I think he has being playing all the right cards with luxury he has. you would recall denmark in Nation league drew and then beat them in France. rabiot selection and starting him.

  53. @ Balkan

    agree. defense along wont win you games and if you think you can win the WC by holding on and waiting top score on counetrs, might as well pack you bags, come back.

    like I said the problem for the dutch in this world cup will the to that of van gaal expectation and acceptance that players can peform better in NT regardless of their form.

  54. Roberto Martinez will be remembered as tragedy for Beligan Football. absolutely devastating having not able to win anything with their golden generation. I wonder if he will go back to belguim or straight on vaccation and resign from somewhere else. he had lois openda and jeremy doku two very good players whom he overlooked and looks like he even didnt learn anything from the NT defeats that the team sucked. over overhaul needed and it will take some time before they reach back to the same hieghts.

  55. Delit/Devrij should play. Defence is the team strength. I will go with the counter attack strategy. Greek way or what ever you call it. Faster players like Xavi need to be summoned along with opportunistic luuk de jong.

  56. Good comments. I like the idea to push Frenkie a bit more up, and to give him more freedom. He is our defensive mid and our playmaker all in one.

    I fear we’re asking too much of him it’s all on him, it seems.

    Wilson thinks that if something didn’t work in Team A under Coach B in competition C, it can not work ever in any other circumstance :-).

    Against Qatar, we wouldn’t need De Roon I don’t think but in any other match, I think De Roon is becoming essential.

    Btw, Xavi Simons was on fire at training! Both in defensive and in offensive mode. Don’t be surprised if he plays v Qatar.

    As for the armband, Kyle asked about.

    The Van Basten criticism is NOT on his role as captain but his role as leader.

    He does everything a captain needs to do (organise birthday drinks, walk in front of the team, yell loud “come on guys!” and do the toss. What Marco means is what people like Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira and Jan Wouters and Mark van Bommel had: the insights and authority to tell players off during the game.

    Or to switch tactics or shape without the coach needing to interfere.

    Or to wake up players who are not 100% with it.

    It seems Virgil might not have the tactical intelligence to do this.

    You’d be surprised, but I think De Roon is more that type of person.

Join the Conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.