Well, that title had to wait for years to be written again. After a failed Euros in 2012 and a missed one in 2016 (and a no-show at the 2018 World Cup), finally Oranje seems on track to qualify for a big tournament again.
This is mostly good news, but keep reading until the end, as I will finish this post with a horror scenario….
We lost vs Germany at home but got the points back by beating them even better in Hamburg (last Friday).
There’s a couple of smaller footballing nations in our group and every one knows, you can’t win trophies if you don’t beat the small opponents.
And Estonia away is one of those matches. We drew twice against them before (and those were the big highlights in their football history) and Koeman and Co were warned for another deception. Imagine grabbing 3 points in an epic match in Germany and spilling the points vs Estonia!?
The 0-4 was the result of a patient, focused and at times lethal Oranje, with Ryan Babel and Memphis as Men of the Match and special mention for Donyell Malen!
The PSV youngster got his first starting spot, after scoring as a sub versus the Teutons.
Koeman: “When you play the smaller nations, they will make the space limited and we’ll need extra depth and speed to break open their defensive structures. Malen is a player who can do this.”
Malen came in for Promes.
He also selected Propper for the midfield spot, over Marten de Roon: “Davy was a starter before he got injured and he’s proven himself to be a potential starter, like a couple of others in the squad. De Roon’s strength is repossessing the ball. That is what does so well. But vs Estonia this quality is less relevant as we will have most of the possession anyway and I can use a player like Propper more, as he has the same passing qualities and fleet of footness of Frenkie de Jong. Davy plays simple, but he also has an eye for the forward pass.” Propper for De Roon in other words.
The last member of the right flank – Dumfries – was also sacrificed for Joel Veltman. “Veltman has better ball control. Denzel lost possession a tad easy and got us in trouble as a result. We won’t be needing Denzel’s runs forward, as we won’t have the space vs Estonia. So I prefer a more thrifty player, who also has a very good cross, which could be useful.”
Tactically, Oranje set up differently to the Germany start line up. Ryan playing more to the left, keeping the field wide, while Malen was the ideal distractor with his runs, contribution in particular to Babel’s second goal, with a superb run.
It was two defenders with the first opportunities to score, early on. Virgil tried it with a blistering shot from distance, just sailing past the post and Joel Veltman broke the line once but ended up in offside and a second chance came to him when the goalie boxed the ball right towards him. His side-footed attempt sailed over the bar.
It was Frenkie in the 16th minute who found Daley Blind on the left winger position with a nice pass, and the left footed Blind placed the ball with a curve right in that danger zone between defence and goalie, allowing for any hungry forward to have a tap in. It was Ryan Babel, 32 years old but playing like a 22 year old, who was first at the scene: 0-1.
The Galatasaray forward was already one of the better players vs Germany, this time he got his reward. All the potential excitement about the game was gone early in the second half, when Babel scored his second after a great attacking move. Malen set it up, and made a forward run into the box, pulling a central defender away from Babel… Memphis got the ball on the right flank and crossed it in sharply in one go. Babel is not known for his heading skills but he nodded the ball with great composure into the corner: 0-2.
Great stats for the former Liverpool winger, but the King of Stats is still Memphis, who played a super game yet again. He saw a gap, ran into the space while De Ligt carried the ball forward. The former Ajax skipper recognised the opportunity and passed the ball perfectly into Depay’s stride. His first touch was brilliant, the turn was as well and with his left, curled the ball into the corner: 0-3.
The objective was reached. And from that moment on it was important for all to keep their ankles and knees healthy. Late in the game, a fourth goal was scored, Memphis with the assist from a set piece and Wijnaldum nicking the ball from Virgil’s forehead and heading in the final goal: 0-4.
Memphis could have had 2 assists AND 2 goals but he kicked a sitter just next to the post, otherwise his stats would have been even better!
Koeman allowed Berghuis 15 minutes, with Strootman and Luuk de Jong getting playing time as well.
Donyell Malen does deserve a special mention even though he didn’t score and didn’t have an assist. From the first minute onwards, Malen did exactly what Koeman required from him: making runs in behind, even if only 10% of these runs get rewarded with a pass his way.
Usually, the forwards will be facing their own goal (and back to opponents goal) when the opponent parks the bus. Memphis will make runs in behind, and Wijnaldum will attempt this now and then, but with Malen we have a player who will do this all day long. And his running actions will add to the chaos at the back of Estonia and in particular with the 0-2 you can see what the value is of an unselfish dummy run.
There is one aspect though, that will potentially give us all a headache!
Koeman’s contract ends formally in 2020, after the Euros. There is an evaluation moment in the contract, allowing both Koeman and the KNVB to part ways. With all the successes Koeman is having and with the fact that he still has Barca blood in his veins AND the fact he knows exactly how to use Frenkie de Jong, it’s quite likely that Barcelona will knock on his door once Valverde is done and dusted in the Camp Nou.
Examples above and below of the typical runs Donyell Malen kept on making….
And will Ronald Koeman have the strength to say no? Probably not.
He had two dreams as a coach. One, to coach Holland (tick!). And the other, to coach Barca.
Should that second dream be close, he might accept abandoning dream 1 (with a Euro title?) and hop on the Barca-train (to use Koeman’s expression).