It was a must win game, said Danny Blind. And he was able to find and fuel the spark in the starting eleven as the Oranje lions started with focus and determination against a tight and compact Belarus. Not to be underestimated. Their youth representative teams did well in the past years, and Belarus does not lose games easily. But the signs were clear in the first stage of the game, with some solid attacking flank play on the right (Karsdorp and Promes), some first time passing and some good centre striker play from Janssen, who was close to a goal already early in the game.
It fell to much criticised Promes to break the resistance of the White Russians. Blind kept faith in the Spartak Moscow star and said he sees him play weekly as one of the best players. “He will show his class in Oranje, I am sure”, Blind said. And how he did. A Man of the Match performance for Promes, who with his quick feet scored the first one, nutmegging not one, not two but three defenders: 1-o in the 14th minute. Holland dominate play in the first half hour, with more than 70% possession and good movement. In the 23rd minute, Oranje should have been up 2-0, when Van Dijk guided in a Sneijder free kick in an on-side position. Two other Oranje players showed up in front of the goalie in off side positions, one might argue, and maybe this is why the linesman decided to rule Van Dijk’s goal out, but in my view, again, we were robbed. Sneijder look leggy in the match and it was no surprise that the young legs on the right offered up most threat to Belarus, who saw Janssen in typical striker style turn and shoot in one move, without any backswing, but the ball was too close to the goalie.
On the half hour mark, Oranje got what it deserved when Promes came in from the left, on the edge of the box, to take a dropping ball from a corner kick on the volley. A confident player does this and Promes made his own luck, as the ball got deflected and went into the goal out of reach of the keeper’s outstretched arms.
Holland was coasting, it seemed, and dropped the pace a bit which allowed Belarus to get back into it. The Belarus team has the ability to counter with some good runners up front, able to pick the moment. Whenever Karsdorp would push up it was Bruma’s role to cover the space and in the last 15 minutes before the break, he lost his man a couple of time, allowing Belarus the opportunity to score a goal. Or two.
Holland reached the break without conceding, and returned sans Sneijder who was left in the dressing room with a hamstring problem (indirect result of the thigh injury of last weekend, no doubt). I think he overstretched late in the first half when sliding for a loose ball. Davey Propper was Sneijder’s replacement and Klaassen went to play in the Sneijder role, with Wijnaldum moving into the Klaassen role. But before the players could settle, it was 2-1. Sloppy defending by Bruma again and a late reaction to the situation by Daley Blind allowed Rios to tap in the ball. Stekelenburg hadn’t been called to action, really, up until that moment and the Everton goalie could only watch the ball go into the net.
Confidence might have been rattled, one would think, but instead of Belarus pushing on, it was Oranje taking charge, under the leadership of Strootman in midfield and the excellent off the ball movement by Janssen, Klaassen and Promes who were always available for the out ball. A horrific defending error by the Belarus centre back got Oranje back into the game. Promes kept harassing the player, who couldn’t get the ball out of his feet. Janssen on the turn took the shot on and hit the post. A very attentative Klaassen still had some work to do to guide the ball – coming straight at him – into the net: 3-1.
This seemed to break Belarus who never looked likely to get back into the game. By then, the threat was dealt with and it was simply a matter of will-we-score-again and who-will-it-be? Janssen was very keen to get his goal, while Wijnaldum was making more moves into the box. Promes was on a hattrick, so you couldn’t blame him for trying. But – as one might expect from a good striker – it was Janssen who’d clinch the best goal of the night. Another error at the back, Janssen – not the quickest – took the ball and sprinted away from the slipping defender. One look up and he was only going to do one thing: with his gifted left, he guided the ball high and composed into the top corner. Janssen looked relieved after not scoring yet in the EPL but this game will show the Spurs fans what a prospect he is: 4-1.
Oranje professionally played the game out, but had chances to score at least two more, with Wijnaldum hitting the post (and a great opportunity in the rebound to pass into Janssen) and some good interplay between Karsdorp, Promes and Janssen in the box, trying to set up Wijnaldum yet again. Take the disallowed Van Dijk goal and Oranje could have won this 7-1.
All in all: a bright performance, Promes finally showing his class, Janssen a hand full, an assured performance by Karsdorp and solid performances by a not 100% fit Strootman and Wijnaldum.
The only real question mark for me is Bruma, who has his ups and downs and sometimes seems to fall asleep. With De Vrij back and Vlaar hopefully fit soon, Blind will have more options at the back.
Rick Karsdorp was on Cloud 9: “I think I had a good debut. We played well and I think I did ok. It is no use to play great at your debut but lose the game. So I’m happy. The win was important, and I think I played my part. It is a dream come true to play for Oranje at my home ground. I was 9 years old when I started to play for Feyenoord and now this… It really means something to me…”
For the France game, Danny Blind won’t be able to use Wesley Sneijder. The Gala playmaker will stay with the group and there is a small chance he will get fit, but Danny has called on Tony Vilhena to join the squad for the France game.
Sneijder: “It is the same muscle as the one I had trouble with last week. It’s always a risk to play after a problem like this. And it was when I had to make a sliding. It’s a good thing we were 2-0 up. We couldn’t take chances. It will be hard to reach France, we only have 3 days or so, but we’ll see….”
It seems Stekelenburg will defend our goal vs France as well. Blind: “With the goalies, there is so little difference. It’s just details. I just feel Stekelenburg is making a slightly better impression. Hard to explain. It’s a gut feel. Zoet hasn’t failed me, at all, but I will go with Maarten. It’s a tough decision to make, but that is part of the job.”
Blind also hinted at playing with five at the back versus France, which had an impressive comeback vs Bulgaria.
Danny Blind after the Belarus game: “I am pleased with the result and I think we’ve seen some very good things. But for at least 15 minutes in the game, we were sloppy. We got away with it, but against France, that will be lethal. We need to work on that. But overall happy with the performance.”