Last time the Big 4 started together was against Hungary pre-World Cup 2010
The Dutch team is preparing on the two upcoming games against Estonia and Andorra. Not really big name opponents but Oranje has shown in the past ( way before Bert van Marwijk to be honest) that small time opponents can be hard to break down.
The results machine that was Bert’s team has made way for a younger and more inconsistent team. Will they be able to break down teams parking the bus.
Whatever happens, old hand Van der Vaart won’t contribute. The prolifically scoring playmaker had to leave the camp with a hamstring injury. Adam Maher (PSV) is his replacement. Just like old hand Sneijder was called in to replace the injured Wijnaldum.
The 93 times capped midfielder appeared to be the first replacement on LVG’s list, before Maher and Van Ginkel.
Rafa van der Vaart was in camp when the news broke and the HSV midfielder immediately called his old Ajax buddy. “He was still in Istanbul but he’ll be in the camp soon enough. He was incredibly happy. He has worked very hard to get fit and didn’t expect this to happen this soon.”
Van Gaal surprised a bit with his action. Only a week ago, he claimed Sneijder was not yet ready. “You need 7 weeks to get fit. He is on the way. In possession, he already has the “oomph”. But without possession, he still needs to improve. But a fit Sneijder is not a question mark but a key player you can’t ignore.”
With Van der Vaart not part of the squad and Maher not impressing too much at PSV, there is a fair chance Sneijder will start in the team.
“Sneijder, if you keep eating too much I will send you away again!”
Kevin Strootman is walking with his chest out in the Oranje camp. The Roma midfielder was important in the recent win over Verona and received an applause substitution in the last minute of the game. The former Sparta man was impressive with his positioning play, passing and lungs. The American owners of AS Roma have invested heavily in their new squad, with names like Maicon, Gervinho and Benatia. “It’s great to be with Oranje now. Last week, it seemed I was not able to play against Verona, as I had this ankle issue. We have a good group with Oranje, with some new faces. That is always good. If we beat Estonia and Andorra, we might be the first European nation to qualify. That is nice, but not that important. It’s important to impress and win once we are in Brasil.”
Another player chased by the media in the Oranje camp is Bruno Martins Indi. The Feyenoord defender was supposed to leave for Everton or AC Milan. The strong holder laughs. “I think the media were busy with my transfer. I wasn’t. I didn’t expect anything, as I said earlier: I wanted to stay with Feyenoord. This is where I will have the best development phase. I want to grow as a central defender. I’m not ready yet.”
Van Gaal said on the press conference that he found it very hard to pick a squad this time. “Some players are not in their best form. Still I believe I was able to find the best ones.” Nigel de Jong is not part of that list. “De Jong is on the radar and I can see he is quickly coming back to his usual standards. But Estonia and Andorra are not opponents for De Jong. We won’t need a defensive mid like him in those games.” Heitinga, Mathijsen and Van Ginkel were not selected, as they simply don’t play enough. “Not picking Mathijsen was a big decision. I respect him a lot. I worked with him at AZ and he is a super professional. And important off pitch as well. But I decided to try out the youngsters from PSV.”
Goalies Krul and Stekelenburg are also not ready yet, according to Van Gaal. “We are missing some big name players still, but despite that, we are able to qualify already, as first European nation. We will play France in March, 2014. That is when I will start to work towards a more fixed squad.”
“I want his hair….”
On his way to the trainings camp for Oranje, Arjen Robben had a little distraction. The presentation of a kid book, based on his career. With as theme: boys dreams and as title “Arjen Robben and the finals of the Champions League.”. Robben didn’t write it, but he is proud as a peacock to be the poster boy for this book, which is a collection of stories by primary school boys and their dreams….
The Dutch newspaper AD (my main source) has executed a poll amongst readers, as most people in Holland are getting nervous about all the different goal keepers being used. And with all due respect: Jeroen Zoet??
5000 people responded and 40% of the voters (of this Rotterdam based newspaper) wanted ex Ajax goalie Stekelenburg as the number one between the sticks. Tim Krul ( a fave amongst Feyenoord fans) snatched the number two spot, with 21% of the votes.
This coming Friday against Estonia, it will most likely be Michel Vorm in goal.
Wesley Sneijder is at peace with his coach. When he came to the press conference zone, he found a lot of media people waiting to interview him. “Ah, so many press people. That is probably because I am a debutant, hahahaha.”
He basically only missed the Portugal game, but was settling in next to Yolanthe on the sofa to watch the upcoming games in Turkey. “Things can change quick in football. And I do realise I have Wijnaldum and Rafa in front of me. But, you know me. Once I’m fit, I do think I am the best player for the spot. I have a couple of months to go still.”
He admitted that Van Gaal was dead right. “I hadn’t played for 5 months at Inter and at Gala, I wanted to show myself. I gave 110% and my body wasn’t able to bring 80%. So it snapped. Van Gaal was right when he told me I wasn’t fit.”
He never ever considered throwing the towel. “Of course not! That is not me. I’m a fighter. I worked all the way through the summer break to regain fitness. And I like Van Gaal’s approach. He is hard and direct, but always honest. I’m like that too. But I don’t need him to motivate me. I am self motivated. I know what the coach wants from me and for that, I do need 100% fitness. I was never scared that the China game was my last. But it it was, I would have finished on a high with that goal, hahaha.”
Van Gaal: “In my system, the number 10 is not a shadow striker, but a midfielder. And my number 10s always worked for the team. Like Jari Litmanen at Ajax in the 90s. Sure, they score, they give assists, but they also work. And when Sneijder reclaims a ball on Friday, against Estonia, the first one he reclaims, I will be cheering alongside the byline. You can see me do it.”
Van Gaal was clear about his choices. “Sneijder for me was the best choice after Wijnaldum had to leave. He has demonstrated to have the quality to play in Oranje, if not the full fitness. I need players to be at a certain level, for Oranje. There are some question marks, some players who can but who don’t play and than there are the ones that can. Like Sneijder. He is highly motivated. Fitness is a criterion, but only when I have options. If I don’t have options, I prefer a player who can place a ball anywhere he wants, like Sneijder. He demonstrated he can do this.”
Jari Litmanen, master shadow striker of Ajax, Finland, Barca and Liverpool fame, lives in Tallinn, Estonia and couldn’t help himself. Van Gaal invited the Finnish icon to come and spend some time with the Dutch team. Which he did.
Van Gaal was a satisfied coach yesterday. He checked the venue for the Estonia game and said: “The pitch is perfect. Very nice. Twelve years ago, that was a different story. No excuses this time.”
Van Gaal talked about his first away game with Oranje back in the 00s… “We were trailing 83 minutes into the game. We were 2-1 down but won 4-2, eventually. And every game lasts 90 minutes at least. We recently learned this against Portugal and Italy. We could have won those games, but gave it away late.”
Van Gaal gave away nine of the starters. Robben, Van Persie and Lens will lead the line up front. The defence will be Janmaat, BMI, De Vrij and Willems. Michel Vorm is most likely the number one between the sticks. Strootman and Sneijder will most likely start, either with De Guzman or with Schaars as holding mid.
Oranje can get very close to the Brazil ticket, winning against Estonia. And if we beat Andorra too (BIG IF) we could join West Germany ’69-’85 in their record of 16 World Cup qualification wins in a row.
But, in typical LVG fashion, he doesn’t want to talk about Andorra.
“We don’t win easily against this Estonia. History shows this. We won at home, 3-0, sure. But they did have the first chance and we needed the second half for the goals. This is not a bad team. We were in good shape in the home game, I am not too confident yet for this one here. We need to be razorsharp and quick in our passing game.”