I’ve said it many times before: I don’t like friendlies. There is nothing to win (lots to lose, ask Van Persie vs Chielini) and mostly it’s boring.
But…this particular game, I liked. Why? Because Van Gaal decided to play a very young (and Feyenoord friendly) team against the number 2 in Europe.
Maher, Blind, John, Clasie, Janmaat…how would they fair?
And I have to say… A Dutch team playing at 80% of it’s capacity (slippery pitch, slow pace, never played together before) was able to play a 50% Italy off the pitch.
We beat them in the first 80 minutes, 1-0. But we should be 3-0 or 4-0 up by then. Lens with another big opportunity, Kuyt with a golden chance (thank you Adam Maher), a couple of Maher chances, a Robben opportunity, Ola John with a free attempt… Seriously. If you want silverware, these opportunities need to be put away.
And then in the last 10 minutes, an 80% Italy beat a 50% Holland (changes, forwards not tracking back anymore, fatigue) 0-1.
And if they were a tad more composed, they could have won it 0-2, in the last 10 minutes. I’ll grant them that.
So we saw two interesting matches :-).
But seriously… Our back four did pretty good. Krul was never really tested and we know how good he is, so no questions there.
But Janmaat was shaky before (and got some criticism here) but he played a faultless game. Both defensively and in attacking sense. De Vrij was not too bothered by Balotelli (BMI was tricked a couple of times, but hey…Balotelli is world class). Only Daley Blind saw himself outmanoeuvred a couple of times before the break, thanks to reluctant backtracking of Ola John.
Blind would push up like he does at Ajax, and every time when Abate would run forward, John was supposed to cover.
Our midfield impressed me. Clasie and Strootman had a good rapport and De Guzman did great in the second half (although he maybe was a tad too offensive in those last 10 minutes).
Adam Maher was probably one of the best players on the pitch. The 19 year old AZ midfielder played with flair and always looking to find a great option up front. He could have been more selfish for me and he should have converted at least one chance. But other than that, Maher was great and had a good understanding with RVP. I am sure Robin van Persie talked to Maher a bit about life at Arsenal, as Patrick Vieira was on the stands to check the AZ midfielder out.
Van Persie played one half and was strong. Creating space, leading the line, coaching his compatriots. Lens scored a good goal and had a good second half, where he played centrally and enjoyed the freedom.
The only dissonant in the team was the very nervous Ola John. He made a couple of wrong decisions and lost possession often. His back tracking was wanting as well. Louis van Gaal: “I noticed before the game that he was edgy. But he didn’t play bad. I simply think he can do much better.”
Adam Maher had something to prove. In the last decade or so, the number 10 in Oranje was worn by either Sneijder, Van der Vaart, Van Persie or Huntelaar. Afellay is normally before the midfielder in the pecking order but with all these players not present ( bar RVP of course) the playmaker jersey went on the lanky shoulders of the hot prospect from Alkmaar. And Maher took the chance to shine.
“I think I did well. We had initiative and pushed up. I could easily play with Van Persie, I sensed what he wanted and he knew instinctively what I wanted. This leaves a taste for more.”
Jordy Clasie played a good first half and was tough in the challenges. But a slight groin stiffness prompted him to signal for a change. “Not sure if the coach would have subbed me anyway, but it didn’t feel smart to play on…”.
It’s remarkable to see how invisible Kuyt was in his half hour. He supported Janmaat (and later Van Rhijn) defensively and killed a great opportunity to score.
At the same time, it’s quite remarkable to see how sovereign and strong Stefan de Vrij is. Defensively very strong in an anonymous way. No showboating a la Frank de Boer but also not in need of flying tackles a la Jaap Stam. Very focused and with a tremendous long pass. The duo De Vrij / Martins Indi might be Oranje’s defensive center for the next 10 years…
The future is bright.
We might have drawn tonight (who cares?). But who cares…
We have amazing talent between the sticks ( Krul, Vorm, Vermeer, Velthuizen, Zoet, Mulder, Stekelenburg).
Pretty good backs (Van der Wiel, Van Rhijn, Janmaat, Blind, Van Aanholt, Pieters, Willems, Buttner).
Very decent center backs (Martins Indi, Vlaar, De Vrij, Pieters, Marcellis, Van Dijk)
Amazing midfielders ( Fer, Clasie, Anita, Emanuelson, Maher, Strootman, Sneijder, Van der Vaart, Afellay, Van Ginkel, Wijnaldum)
Fingerlickin’ forwards (Lens, Van Persie, John, Elia, Van Wolfswinkel, Robben, Boerrigter, Huntelaar, Dost, Narsingh)
We are not complaining…