Oranje fights itself into semi finals

At some point, you stop worrying about the how and just want to celebrate the result. The first semi finals since 2004, when Portugal defeated us in the semi finals. A great comeback – the first since the 3-2 win over France in 2000 – and it’s always good to win a game when you don’t play great.

Oranje’s start was pretty good. Turkey played with 5 at the back and in the first 10 to 15 minutes, our “box” in midfield performed really well. Xavi found space in between the lines, Memphis was threatening and Schouten penetrated well on the right hand side.

Memphis had the first chance in the first or second minute and with a bit more balance and luck, he could well have scored the first for us.

But Holland can’t repeat the positioning game we played versus Romania. The main issue is the lack of patience. We try to make every touch count and the somewhat erratic play went against us. Sloppy touches, wrong decisions and on top a tactical change by the Turkey coach and as a result, our dominant midfield…well… disappeared.

This image from the 8th minute shows the triangles we should be using more often.

Turkey does what it has to do to avoid the Dutch press, by playing long opportunistic balls towards their speedy forwards. As a result, De Vrij stays hanging deep a bit and this means Schouten is forced to move to the right to create space and as such abandons the box concept. De Vrij is too static and we can see Virgil gesticulating to him at times to move forward more.

This is an image from late in the first half (Turkey is leading) and Turkey forces us to one side and tries to suffocate us there, stopping our flowing build up. It is during the stage in the game when Oranje loses grip on midfield that Turkey scores and we make a series of errors leading up to the goal.

For some reason, Dumfries allows the ball to go out of play, resulting in a corner kick. When Guler has the chance to bring a cross in, several things go wrong: Dumfries is not aligned with the defence and he puts the goal scorer on side. It’s Simons and Ake’s job to block the cross but they lack the aggression and allow the cross in. And to add to this, the rest of the defenders are all ball watching and “forget” the three Turks at the far post. I also think Verbruggen could have done better there.

Koeman knows he has to respons and takes a page from the Austrian text book, when Rangnick decided to bring a typical #9, a target man.  In our case: Weghorst. The not 100% fit Bergwijn makes way and Simons moves to the right, while Memphis becomes the new #10 behind Weghorst.

Still, we keep on doing things wrong. The combination Schouten / De Vrij falters and stutters, we try to find the complicated solution instead of the simple pass and our defence was too scared to press up, due to their speedy attackers. Still, we manage to get back into the game as a result of a good opportunistic attack. First it’s Memphis offering Weghorst a chance. The goalie could have let that one go in to the side netting, but he touched the ball, so it become a corner. Schouten and Memphis take it short and the club-less talisman puts the ball with feeling onto the head of De Vrij: 1-1. A symbolic assist for Weghorst for blocking the defender.

Montella’s Men do lose their head a bit after the equaliser. Their defenders start to trickle back, and their wingers leave their position, making the spaces wider for us. Koeman immediately responds by bringing speed in Van der Ven and guile by bringing Veerman.

Some good play between Veerman and Weghorst brings the ball to the right flank, which is abandoned by Kadioglu, who had a top game again, by the way. Dumfries hits the ball low and it’s Gakpo ghosting in from the left to surprise the Turkish defender: 2-1 (goal attributed to Muldur).

The 2-1 is the sign for Turkey to throw everything at Oranje. Several top blocks by defenders (Van der Ven, Schouten and even Weghorst) save the day and Bart Verbruggen had a top save right at the death to secure the win for us.

The Turkish left flank offers us problems so Koeman brought Frimpong to fix that side of the pitch and Zirkzee – in his debut – to keep the ball a bit longer – in stead of Memphis.

We can conclude that Oranje got a bit lucky and needed fixing by Koeman to get the win. It’s the Austrian Opportunistic Target Man approach that got us the win, and not the famed positioning game. As a result, we don’t really have a foundation to build on for the England game. And luckily for us, neither have England.

Despite the less that great execution of the plan, I do think the core of this Dutch team will need to start versus England.

I don’t believe making wholesale changes will help much. Expect the same back four and the same goalie.

I also think Schouten and Reijnders will start, but i wouldn’t be surprised to see Weghorst from the start.

He will make war, he will keep 2 or 3 defenders busy and he will be a nice target man for Memphis to play off of.

For me, Xavi and Memphis are not compatible as #10 and #9. Memphis needs a runner behind him to find the space he abandons. Xavi is a “ball to feet” player. Weghorst deep and Memphis circling him will be more effective.

The question was and will be: who will be our right winger? Malen will be less useful as I don’t see England playing high up the pitch. I think it will be Xavi, Bergwijn or Frimpong.

Now we have two classic semis to watch, with the four strongers European teams at the kick off. Any team can beat the other team. Who knows?

I think Verbruggen and De Vrij were the top performers for us (despite de Vrij’s limited build up play against the Turks). I found Virgil wanting in some situations, a bit too easy, to lacksydaisical (?). Schouten was fine, Reijnders a bit more anonymous. Memphis in the #9 role was again disappointing with lots of loss of possession but showing class as the #10. I thought Xavi was wasteful, at times looking too much for the complicated pass. Gakpo had his moments during the game and did get “his” goal. And Weghorst did exactly what he needed to do. We can’t ask more from him.


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  1. Is there any semblance of a chance that we will wear our blue jerseys against England? I can’t think of anyway. England predominantly plays in white.

  2. That game vs Turkey was a rollercoaster of emotions. Everything until the 1st Dutch goal was going bad. The midfield simply disappeared. Reijnders was meek, Simons was anonymous. Only Schouten was at least trying to make something, but without much to show for.

    I don’t think I have seen enough from Simons and Bergwijn to make them automatic starters. And it was clear Memphis should not be the #9. He does better as a #10 behind the striker. I am hesitant to see Weghorst start the game. He is building a legend as a super impact sub. I am not sure Koeman is bold enough to start Brobbey or Zirkzee, and drop Memphis to the 10 role.

    On paper at least, we are the underdogs of the final four teams. I am just not sure which Oranje team will show up. At this level, any slight mistake will be penalized by the opposition. Then again, this team has shown that they can somehow win a game without playing good.

    With a lot of teams playing not to lose, the prospect of penalties looms again. Dutch teams do not have a reassuring record when it comes to that. Painful exits are not a distant memory. I just don’t get it why it’s so hard for some teams to win a shootout, while others like Argentina relish going into one. Yesterday’s performance by the England team was impressive. Well hit, with confidence. Very hard to stop even when a keeper guesses right.

    I am not sure how good is Verbruggen is at penalties, but I always think Tim Krul should be part of the team, and be subbed in at the last min for a shootout. It was a genius move when Van Gaal did it.

    Final note, Zirkzee is transferring to Man United. Lots of pressure to deliver. He did very well in the Serie A. Considering the recent history of Dutch players at Man United,I would have rather seen him move first for a non-top 6 Premier League team. But hopefully, Ten Hag can guide him well, and he doesn’t turn out to be another Memphis or Van de Beek, but rather a Van Nistelrooj or Van Persie type legend.

    1. Some good comments! Verbruggen is known to be a penalty killer. He once stopped all five in a penalty series AND scored the 10th himself with a rocket high in the net.

      I want to see a team versus England with Brobbey as 9, Memphis as 10 and Xavi as right winger.

      I personally want to really see Frimpong and Geertruida on the right, but I think Koeman will never bench Dumfries.

    1. Dear Jan,

      I attempted to provide some commentary analysis leading up to the Turkey match (specifically in the posts regarding Ian Maatsen and Couhaib Driouech), but I’m afraid that since there were so many articles, some of my thoughts were lost to your readers (although at least Aloysius was able to provide his typical unhelpful feedback).

      In fact, I believe that Aloysius will be providing his words of tactical wisdom in advance of the semifinal against England. I have not heard from Hendrik since his earlier confusing discussions regarding Roberto Martinez…

      I truly enjoy your site and the analysis you provide and am curious to see how Ronald approaches this upcoming matchup.



  3. Jan, excellent anaylsis (as always). While waiting for Aloysisus giving the final word (the word “final” is a bit redundant, no?), my two cents is that if Depay were to drop to the 10 (behind a Brobbey or Zirkzee), Frimpong should play on the right, even if it means pairing him with Dumfries. His speed would give the England lwb (Trippier) real problems.

  4. A win is a win is win. Having said that I think regardless of the outcome of Euros, the Dutch national team needs a different direction, different leadership. This team needs a different coach that would be willing to bring new players and try different things. From Van Gaal to Koeman, this team hasn’t impressed no one. This team hasn’t improved one bit. We need to keep trying out new players.
    Xavi Simons has made zero impact so far in opinion. Frimpomg is ok but has a size of a 13 year old. We need a left back badly. Dumfries is too limited. Depay has shown everything he got already. Not much going forward. Our midfield needs lots of improvement. There is no chance for improvement if koeman stick around.

  5. Greachte fans of the Iron Tulip (and also Oranje),

    I am back to offer you my tactical recommendations for the upcoming Euro semi-final match between the Netherlands and England. And as an added bonus for you, having managed in both nations myself, I have even more tactical knowledge, wisdom and insight to impart than just usual! But please, save your applause until the end of the presentation.

    First off, it is always a challenge to step into the shoes of another manager, because coaching a team to success is a long-term philosophical undertaking. It is not simply a matter of arranging players in a formation and giving real-time instructions. You have to take the necessary steps to build and train the team so that they learn how to exemplify your philosophy. So of course, I can recommend a system for a team that I have managed, but it is guesswork to formulate something for an entirely different squad.

    Having acknowledged that, I have in fact directly managed a number of the players in the current Dutch team and have perhaps passed on some of my expertise and my football DNA to them, so I will give this a go. And I must say, Ronald Koeman has certainly landed with his nose in the butter in these Euros. Imagine the odds of finishing third in the group to find only Romania and Turkey standing in the way of the semi-finals. But now to advance, Ronald must prepare his team to have a mutual understanding and absolute tactical discipline. Haha! I know, you have the same reaction as me. You are as crazy as a door if you think Ronald can instill any of these qualities. And yet here we are…

    For me, each player must know where he has to be and how to support his teammates at all times. And so, I see little use to varying Rnald’s established system now. So let’s continue with his 1-4-2-3-1. As you know, I can work with any and every system. But within any system, there must be four primary components – both attacking and defensive organization, and then attacking and defensive transition. And within each of those components, there are sub-components or phases – such as in the attacking transition there is the construction phase, the movement and circulation phase, the chance creation phase, and the finishing phase. The key again is organization and discipline in the players’ movement and interaction in each phase, and so we need to select only those who are selfless working together for the collective.

    Unlike how Nicolaas thinks and his amusing psychological analysis of opposing coaches and their game plans, I tell you that the opponent’s set-up and tactics are a secondary consideration, or maybe even less than secondary. In fact, in your approach to the match, it is you who must dictate how the opponent plays their football. It is important to be proactive and to take the attack to the opponent, and not to sit back and let them play in the manner of their choosing. So my advice to Ronald is to keep the ball, keep it circulating, maintain possession and be patient in exploiting spaces. Yes, I know this is the opposite of what Holland has done so far in this tournament, but it will be very successful against England despite having their own squad of talented players. And all Dutch players need to be moving in unison to maintain possession and provide support. There is far less thinking required when players are already in the correct position, and then everything can proceed almost automatically. That is why consistent preparation, instruction and coordination are so essential.

    For this match, Verbruggen must start Holland’s attacking movements with short to mid range passing. If England begins with a high press, as you might expect, either Schouten or Reijnders must drop between van Dijk and de Vrij and allow Dumfries and van de Ven to advance further up the pitch (yes, I would use both of those fullbacks for their speed and physical qualities – as they can easily “out-English” their English counterparts. Haha!) In doing so, we will create numerical advantage in the back and diffuse their press and wear them out.

    And then once in the midfield, one of those three central players will push forward as well to maintain our numerical superiority. From there, we will continue to circulate the ball, right to left and left to right until we have created a gap that can then be exploited. Some say this approach is boring (and I agree with that when Frank de Boer is the coach), but more than anything it tests the patience of the opponent, and it is ultimately their failure in that area that dooms them. England feel all the pressure in this match with this coming home nonsense. They think this is finally their chance to win! We have no pressure, so use their desperation against them – prod and provoke them into making errors. This of course will require Ronald and his team to be patient themselves – sadly, there’s a slim chance of that! But the more opposing players you can displace and draw out from the back, the better opportunity to have to work through and past them! All the midfielders, including at this stage Dumfries and van de Ven, will need provide full horizontal width, because that is how we find the vertical spaces in between the English hedgerows. And remember, every pass backwards can be a positive — the commencement of a new attack! Further, as you may recall from my earlier tutorial, the transition phases are probably the keys to any match. At those times, the opponent is disorganized, so we must be prepared to strike them and to know how to do so. It is essential to be both quick and patient. Again, both are oxymorons to Ronald Koeman.

    In defense, we have seen disappointingly little true pressing from Ronald’s team in this tournament, and that again is a major mistake. You are conceding possession and allowing the opponent to play mistake free football. Who in England’s back line is capable of making accurate passes under pressure? Stones maybe? Declan Rice if he drops deep? Other than that, no one! Which means by pressing, you will regain the ball quickly in dangerous areas. So for me, mobility and work-rate up front is of great importance – so I start Gakpo, Simons and Frimpong in the attacking midfield, with either Brobbey or Zirkzee at the top. But even with aggressive pressing, you need the full team to retain proper spacing and remain compact, because as I always say, you need to keep defensively thinking even when you attack.

    So that in summary, would be my basic approach to this match. There are countless details that I would go into with my own players were I the manager, but suffice it to say that England is there for the taking. Keep possession, make them chase, spread them out and make them pay. And when we lose possession, press with organized vigor to regain the ball in dangerous areas and dissect them in transition. They will not know what hit them!

    If Ronald carries out my instructions, I predict 2-0 Netherlands. I will be happy to take any questions in the comments section below. It is fine now to applaud

    Tactisch de jouwe,


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