Or actually: three losses…
Friendlies are there for coaches to try things out, test the team, build confidence, let players gel together and for federations to make money….
However, prestigious friendlies against rivals might do the opposite: a loss will not build confidence and as Oranje already had to make so many changes, letting players gel together was a big ask.
And typically for the bigger mess we find ourselves in, Danny Blind loses three key players in run up to Luxembourg! Stijn Schaars: calf. Vincent Janssen: concussion. Jeremian Lens: hamstring.
Sure, it’s only Luxembourg, but again Blind needs to re-shuffle and again we will miss an opportunity to build on a new foundation.
Danny is almost able to field a complete team of players not available due to injuries or not available coz they don’t get playing time…
The good thing is: Arjen Robben will be back.
Watching Nederland – Belgie was watching a team of top class players playing against a team of rookies, with one top class player: on the stands. And it was a boring ass game. Belgium didn’t seem to want too much, Holland couldn’t do too much.
Belgium is stacked with players from the big leagues / teams who clearly didn’t want to put too much into the game. As a result, they had nice dominance, nice possession, some flowing passing but no end product. Not having a real striker but Dries Mertens as a false nine didn’t serve them too well.
Defensively Belgium was vulnerable and looked off the pace at times but I don’t think they will have been too shocked with the Dutch attacks.
They have sensational players and I’m sure they’ll do well.
As for Oranje: yes we have injuries, yes we lack team composure and automatisms, but it was definitely not the sort of performance that instills confidence in the average fan (like me).
It was poor. Team tactics were fine and to see us go 5 at the back in the second half with young Brenet coming in was actually refreshing. At the WC2014, it worked at times. In the friendlies (Van Gaal, Blind) it didn’t work at all (France at home!) but against this Belgium it did. Veltman in particular was dramatically exposed on the right flank in the first half and the fast and hard working Brenet, playing fearlessly, add some spice to the team in the second half.
But on all other aspects of the game, we looked second-best constantly. The result is ok (if you care about this), but the performance was poor. No creativity, lack of speed and sense of urgency off the ball and poor passing.
Joel Veltman would be the first player to take off the team sheet for me. Defensively weak, build up play even weaker. He had several opportunities to launch the fast Lens with a ball over the top and he hardly used those.
Virgil van Dijk was the only player for me who stood out, with Vincent Janssen second best, purely because of his hustling and ballsy duelling. Van Dijk is becoming the real deal. Plays like a leader. Will make a big move this summer.
Stijn Schaars started well but got knicked twice in a midfield duel and had to go off with a bad calf. He actually got the knock last week in the Eredivisie game vs Sparta, and might have agitated the muscle by changing his movement a little to avoid that knock. A dependable player. Low in risk taking. But not moving too gingerly anymore with his 32 years on the clock. He might not wear an orange jersey anymore, once the suspended and injured players return.
Lens was good on the ball but it was visible that he hasn’t been part of Oranje for a while. A lot of miscommunication between him and the midfield/defenders.
Janssen is able to make something out of nothing. Goes for everyball and will happily clash into goalies if the game needs it. Reminded me of Huntelaar eating grass at Wembley a couple of years ago, in a friendly.
I think he should have had two penalties for the two clashes with Mignolet, to be honest. The first one he knicked past Mignolet – ok, foot was high – and the Pool goalie grabbed him. Second clash, Janssen was there first and Mignolet crashed through him with his elbow hitting the Spurs striker on the head.
Lens did well to create the pen for us. On the ball, he looked solid. Sad to see him leave with a hamstring.
In typical fashion, Janssen played on for a spell – refusing to go off – but a concussion is not something to fool around with, and he’s out for Luxembourg.
For me, most players were average to poor. Clasie needed time to find his feet and rhythm and had some poor balls. Daley Blind didn’t reach his usual level. Wijnaldum still can be wrestled off the ball to easily for me. And to top it all of, sub Memphis Depay was not able to shake the cobwebs off and do something special.
Joshua Brenet has clearly put himself on the radar though. After 1,5 years of “not talking to each other”, Danny Blind and Brenet made peace. The PSV defender once said on tv that he thought Danny Blind only selected Ajax players, which is why he was ignored for Oranje. A gutsy thing to say. But also stupid.
Obviously, it isn’t true. And secondly, you don’t make the coach select you quicker. Brenet was ridiculed in Holland for these statements, as he was playing average in those days. Like many Dutch defenders: good on the ball, good going forward, but shocking defensively.
Brenet and Blind had their pow wow last week, shook hands and move forward. I’m sure he made an excellent impression and he could have had an unforgettable debut with an unforgettable goal, with a massive counter-attacking run when Belgium was out of position. Sadly, he missed the target.
Marten de Roon and Leroy Fer are called up for the Luxembourg game. I don’t think Blind will add another striker. Surely, Dost, Luuk de Jong and Fer as pinchhitter should be able to do the business.
It will be nice to take some rest from Oranje and hope for the likes of Elia, Bazoer, Willems, Janmaat, Memphis, De Vrij, Karsdorp…
Danny Blind said after the game he was happy with the result and the defensive performance. I can’t agree fully. The Belgiums didn’t really try. We were not really tested. The center backs did ok. The defensive mid did ok. The work rate of the team was ok, but parking the bus and stopping attacks is not “defending well”. Our out ball was poor and we had many chances to play out from the back only to dwindle too much on the ball and losing it again.
The key difference for me, and not just in this game, is the running and positioning off the ball by Belgium. As opposed to our play. Our defensive mids (Strootman, Schaars, Clasie) simply sit in that space. Not enough dynamics. Our midfield runs to support the striker (Sneijder, Wijnaldum, Klaassen) are lacking. The change of position up front and diagonal runs (De Bruyne/Hazard versus Janssen/Lens) was absent. It is not so much a quality thing, but more a sense of urgency thing, if you know what I mean.
Klopp, Conte, Pep, Pochetino, Ancelotti, Simeone…these are the coaches demanding this from their players. And players like De Bruyne, Hazard, Dembele, Vertonghen, Carrasco bring this to the team. In our team, only Wijnaldum has it (at times). Sneijder doesn’t have the legs. Lens doesn’t have the wherewithal and I think Clasie/Strootman/Schaars are simply not allowed…
Unless we don’t adapt to this new level of play soon (Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV, Oranje) we will slip and keep on slipping…
Iceland, Wales, Portugal, Leicester City… These teams do not have amazing quality players. Still they beat England, Belgium, France and the whole EPL last year…