Before the World Cup, many Dutch fans felt we shouldn’t even go… We didn’t have any defence to speak of, we missed Strootman, De Jong would be over the hill, Sneijder wouldn’t be fit, RVP and Robben wouldn’t be able to carry the team leading from the front and LVG would be too intense and too self obsessed to do the right thing.
Depay, Blind, Cillesen, Wijnaldum, De Vrij….nice players for the Eredivisie. Not good enough for world class level.
I was one of the ones who didn’t like Van Gaal in the job. I actually also didn’t see Koeman or Gullit or any other “normal” coach in the job either. For me, it was Co Adriaanse because of his courage and then as soon as possible Frank de Boer.
I felt Van Gaal was too much about Van Gaal….
Whole tv programs (VI Oranje) were established with one goal only: to ridicule Van Gaal and criticize Oranje. But this particular program is now losing many viewers, as one can criticise anything and anyone in Holland, but you simply don’t touch the Dutch National Team. The ratings have dropped enormously and the icons in the program – Dutch football journo Derksen and ex PSV and Oranje winger Rene van der Gijp – are at each others throats.
But the unfathomable has happened. And the whole nation is going berserk as a result. The team that was expected to go home after three games and the coach who was expected to self destruct have performed beyond expectations and have made a huge leap from a talented group of outsiders to the favourite semi finalists of many international football fans.
Arjen Robben might become the Player of the Tournament. The Dutch youngsters have tripled their transfer value and could be on their way to bigger things (BMI, Janmaat, Fer, De Vrij, Blind, Depay) while Nigel de Jong, Dirk Kuyt and Wesley Sneijder have re-established themselves as football royalty.
And what about Tim Krul: the man of the moment? Or Klaas Jan Huntelaar? Deadly in the box. 8 minutes on the pitch, 7 touches, 1 assist, 1 goal.
But the real Man of the Tournament is not Robben or Kuyt or Krul for us. It’s none other than Louis himself.
He was responsible for the systems change, for the intense focus on match fitness, the emphasis on commitment and team spirit and the many substitutions that really worked out well.
He truly shines on this platform and it feels as if he is not ready yet.
The Dutch supporters at home can’t get enough. The clips on Youtube of groups of Oranje fans watching on big screens or in cinemas and pubs show masses of orange clad people partying like its 1999. Oranje is getting crazy popular again and there are more and more spontaneous celebrations in fountains and parks and streets….
And the love-fest continues with Van Gaal declaring that this is the best and most professional group he ever worked. “Not because they are the best players individually. They’re not. But because of their commitment, spirit and mentality.” Van Gaal has worked on this on purpose. Two years ago he already said “we might not have the best players, but we can make sure we have the best team”.
Bar Jordy Clasie and Michel Vorm, everyone already had a chance to contribute. And not for sentimental reasons. Van Gaal changes players with a clear solution in mind. And as a result, they pay off. Depay needed versus Australia. Fer needed versus Chile. Huntelaar needed vs Mexico. Kuyt back into the frame. Krul needed versus Costa Rica, and who knows, Joel Veltman vs Messi.
When Kuyt started the preparations weeks ago with Oranje he secretly hoped LVG would allow him to make some minutes in the team as to reach his 100st international game for Oranje. Nope. Louis doesn’t do sentiment. But at the World Cup 2014, a thoroughly motivated Kuyt plays as a 25 year old. Wesley Sneijder was told, 12 months ago, that he needed to shape up or ship out. And a super fit Wesley Sneijder is currently assuming the role of field captain again. Or Klaas Jan Huntelaar? A negative noise generation is 2012, has already tweeted numerous positive little messages to his followers. After the 120 mins vs Costa Rica, Van Gaal walked on to the pitch to speak to his troops. He saw that Kuyt and Robben took the word and started to instruct the players. Van Gaal stepped aside. “Robben was saying the right words and Kuyt made a lot of sense too. I wasn’t needed. It is super when you see the players take care of things.”
And before you know it, Stefan de Vrij or Georginio Wijnaldum could be word champions in a week. And six other Eredivisie players as well. Quite an achievement. Or better: reaching the semis can already be regarded as a tremendous achievement.
Its interesting to note that second to Bayern Munich, Feyenoord is the the club with the most players at the World Cup. I will post soon more on that topic!
So we’re about to take on Argentina and if we or when we do, we get to beat the Germans!
Perfect revenge for the Dutch: we took Spain and now we will go for Argentina and then the Zjermans!
Bring it on!
As for fitness updates… Sadly, Robin van Persie didn’t look to fresh. Bowel and stomach issues. He didn’t train yesterday but LVG is quite positive: “He is my captain. He normally always plays. But it is too early to tell now.” Leroy Fer has trained with the team but is still not in the clear. Ron Vlaar is most likely fit in time to fill in his spot (although I wouldn’t have minded Veltman) and the biggest miracle of all is that Nigel de Jong might actually be fit for the semis!!
There is a bit of a risk in that, of course. For Nigel and for the Oranje. Because it might happen again: Nigel only 8 minutes into the game, he gets another jolt, Messi runs away from him and scores while Nigel needs to be subbed….
Van Gaal didn’t say much about the options he has. But he did say he thinks he has a plan. “I think it will be a close game. A typical 50/50 game and we need to hope the dime falls our way. They are well organised, experienced, have a couple of extraordinary players and always a tough opponent.”
Argentina won all their games with only one goal difference while their opponents all seemed to approach Argentina with a open game. Belgium even used three forwards. The main question for us will be: will we see Depay or Lens upfront or will Van Gaal go back to the 5-3-2 we started the tournament with. Against Costa Rica, we used the 3-4-3 system, and were able to create a lot of opportunities but we simply didn’t score.