And loses again vs England, for the first time in 22 years.
Now you all know that I don’t rate friendlies, usually. Particularly not when a settled team is practicing to prepare for a world cup or something. This time, it’s different. This is the first game of the new coach Koeman, using a number of new players and having to quickly forget the likes of Sneijder and Robben.
He was going to do things differently and he did. He started Zoet, he started Hateboer and he started with a 3-4-3 which at times became a 5-4-1.
The first phase of the game was for the strong English side. They kept Germany at 0-0 recently and I don’t have to remind you that they will be going to Russia. And we won’t. But somewhere mid first half, Oranje started to play a bit more adventurous. The centre backs had time on the ball, Hateboer and Van Aanholt pressed forward and at times we had good movement by Promes and Memphis, resulting in a first chance on a free kick (undeserved) when Promes ran into space in the box. His first touch let him down. Before that, some attempts by England and a distance strike by De Ligt.
There was a massive sweeper keeper action by Zoet around the 35th minute to stop an English counter, another Oranje highlight of the first half.
All in all, the interplay by the English was much better than the Dutch, but that was to be predicted, as they tend to be a settled side, as opposed to Oranje. Our defenders had time on the ball but to find the killer pass forward was still a problem. In particular Strootman and Wijnaldum could not make the turns to open up and find the forward pass. The Dutch left flank worked a bit better than the right side, with Promes coming inside a lot, allowing space for Hateboer but his attacking actions didn’t pay off in the first half. We got our first corner in the 40st minute. Great corner by Memphis but Dost didn’t seem to know how to deal with it, timing it wrong. Was a big opportunity for the struggling Sporting striker.
I can’t help but think that the 5-3-2 didn’t work vs this 4-4-2 English team. We always had an extra man at the back and without the likes of Daley Blind playing in the CB role, we simply lack good passers from the back, with De Vrij and De Ligt in particular probing but not having a lot of effective passing. In the final stage of the first half, the game became more open and end to end, but everytime we had a break the flow was stopped by a pass behind the man, or a touch to much.
England looked more composed on the ball but Oranje did show some promise. In the dying seconds of the first half, loss of possession in the final third allowed Memphis a shooting opportunity with his gifted right foot but he aimed straight at Pickford.
A good first half for Zoet, Van Aanholt, Hateboer, the back three and Memphis. A bit low key for Dost, Strootman and Wijnaldum, while Promes showed his…well…promise…in a couple of moments in the game.
Holland started well in the second half and might have scored the opener, when Memphis made a move to the goal line and crossed the ball to De Vrij who scored, but the goal was disallowed as the ball allegedly was over the line. Even in extreme slow mo it was really hard to tell, and the goal should have stood.
Not much later, the ref didn’t see a penalty in the challenge of De Ligt on Rashford. Could have been 1-1 by now.
England put the pressure on since that incident and Oranje’s defence started to look a little shaky. Even with 5 at the back, England found space and containing the ball or England became harder and harder for the Dutch.
Oranje at times tried to play out with long balls towards Dost, which definitely didn’t work too well, with Dost loose in possession and again, not used properly.
Around the 57th minute the organisation let Holland down, when Strootman was played out of position and possession got overturned. The smart Lingard found some space, the ball fell kindly to him and his low shot was too strong for Zoet: 0-1.
Oranje started to press and play with more intensity, resulting in two attempts on goal from Memphis (blocked) and Promes (row Z). Not much later, Bas Dost gets a flick on a low drive and tries to backheel it into the goal, but it was straight at Pickford. Oranje pressed more, with a long ball to Dost, heading it back to Promes who did get purchase on it, but again a good England block. Van Aanholt crossing a wonderful ball in where Hateboer flying in from the right flank almost was able to have an attempt on goal. De Light took a shot from distance.
Memphis started to get better into the game, with a nice take on the chest and a swivel and turn, but the shot lacked venom. By then, Babel and Propper were into the team to add some energy (Babel) and passing skills (Propper), shifting to a 4-4-2, with Babel deep and Memphis hovering around him.
In the 81st minute the fans sat up when Memphis got a free kick to take just out of the penalty area. Ronald Koeman territory. Memphis hit it with power but straight at the goalie.
Another Memphis instigated attack ended with Hateboer in the box, who got his shot away on the turn but the shot got smothered. In his debut game. Van de Beek and Weghorst would come on still for the final stages, where Oranje would play more opportunistic to try and get the draw. Babel from the right, Weghorst up top and Memphis floating.
Another Memphis action led to a shot from Van Aanholt ending up at the corner flag and Depay left another good mark on the game with a late side splitting pass diagonally into the feet of De Ligt, in the box. The young Ajax defender was ruled just offside.
The Koeman Work in Progress wasn’t able to get anything out of the game, but they had good spells in the game.
Strengths: desire, workrate, Van Aanholt, Van Dijk, De Vrij, Memphis.
Weaknesses: lack of flow, lack of creativity in midfield, Dost, Strootman, Wijnaldum.
I liked Propper in his short stint and Van de Beek will surely become a regular starter in years to come.
With the likes of Frenkie De Jong and Daley Blind and Marco van Ginkel added to the team, we might see an improving side under Koeman, surely good enough to qualify for tournaments.
Ronald Koeman: “We should have created more, but we weren’t as solid on the ball as I would want. But listen, it would have been silly to expect us to play England off the pitch. Defensively, I’m really satisfied. De Ligt was my Man of the Match but they all did well, including Hateboer. I won’t be making a lot of systemic changes, but I do need to see more from the forwards. I’m not depressed having lost my first game, it’s early still. And we were playing against top players. I think you could see that well at certain stages in the game.”
Skipper Virgil van Dijk was quite annoyed. “I really am annoyed we lost. We can play better, we were poor on the ball and didn’t create enough. Defensively it was ok, but we need to improve. Still, we’re playing a big nation here. It’s never easy against England, but I am not happy with the result.”