The Dutch need the three points against Luxembourg. Period. All the other story angles are fluff. There is a record to be had as well though. Oranje has won 9 times in a row from Cyprus and Hungary before and can do the same with Luxembourg now. We played each other 16 times in history. With 13 wins for the Orange Lions. Twice, the Dukes won. In 1963 Luxembourg beat Holland in De Kuip, 0-1. The last victory they had over us. The last two games we played against them though, we only scored once in every game too. In the 2008 Euros qualifications, under Van Basten, we won at home thanks to a Mathijsen goal and in the home game, it was Danny Koevermans who got us the goal and famously, Edwin van der Sar even played for time in the home game, to get the needed win across the line.
Luxembourg is seen as a football minion but they managed to be despicable in this WC series. They lost against Bulgaria in injury time, only lost 1-0 at home vs Sweden and got the draw vs Belarus! Former Willem II and RKC Waalwijk striker Joachim already has 3 goals to his name.
Jeffrey Bruma remembers the name, vaguely. Different than Griezmann, Gameiro, or Berg and Guidetti. But still a danger. Is Bruma capable of keeping his concentration vs Luxembourg: “Well, this away game will be different than the France or Belgium fixtures of course. Now it’s us who need to make the play. But we’re still Oranje. We are obliged to beat Luxembourg and we will!”.
The Belgium press was clear, after the Holland – Belgium derby. If Belgium could get two players in their team from Holland, they’d pick Van Dijk and Bruma to replace their modest players at the back, Kabasele (Watford) and Ciman (Montreal Impact).
Van Dijk and Bruma turn into a fine pairing at the back. “Well, if Stefan de Vrij is fit, it will still be a battle for a spot,” says Bruma. “But I did play every game under this coach. But I believe in competition. We need to fight for our spot, and I want to make it hard for the team manager.”
The former Chelsea prospect has 24 caps now, but his debut was already back in 2010. Finally, he believes he can be a mainstay. “I came from far. I had to miss a couple of tournaments. Even with Young Oranje. But I will always fight to come back. Same with Wolfsburg. I had a weak start but competed and battled and I’m back at level. I know that mentality is the key.”
Bruma played 11 internationals with Van Dijk at his side and is comfortable. “We do have a good click, on and off the pitch. He’s in the EPL, I’m in the Bundesliga. We both are up against top strikers every week. Luxembourg might be a minion, but watch it. They do have players who are with Schalke 04, Gent, Olympique Lyon, Metz… The time that these guys couldn’t play is over. Joachim is not an amateur. But even without Janssen and Lens and Schaars… we’ve got Robben back. And when Robben is on the pitch, you feel more confident. And the opponent knows what time it is, you know what I mean. They’ll always fear him. He alone can decide matches.”
Joel Veltman and Marten de Roon
Lens would most likely not have played against Luxembourg. Which is why the Fener winger opted to go for a full match vs Belgium, despite not being 100% fit after a hamstring scare. And after 1 hour of play, the former PSV man got injured again. With the Turkish club furious for the risk Danny Blind took on him. There’s even talk that Blind ignored Dick Advocaat’s wishes to get back at him for leaving Blind high and dry as assistant coach, when he chose the money over loyalty. Danny Blind: “I heard these accusations too and it’s rubbish. I spoke to Dick and he told me Lens had an old knee irritation from his Sunderland days. I told him I wanted to use Lens vs Belgium and not against Luxembourg, and Dick was like “fine”.”
Arjen Robben is happy to play against Luxembourg. It’s almost exactly one year since his last cap for Oranje. Robben: “I recently heard I have missed almost as many games due to injury as I have played. Incredible. But I’m happy to be fit and hope to stay fit for a long time. Every time I get injured I have to dig deep to come back, but when I do return, it feels like I’ve never been away.” The Bayern star shows confidence with his feet and lips: “It’s not about winning vs Luxembourg for me. It’s about winning with lots of goals. It will help us to create more confidence and moral support from the fans. It was painful to see so many empty spots in the Arena vs Belgium. We need to do better and against Luxembourg we can not allow them to breath even. Grab ‘m by the throat and keep on working them.” When asked if a 10-0 was possible, Robben laughed. “Well, those days are over. Not because we are not capable but the football dwarfs are not that easy to beat anymore. The gap between top and second tier is getting smaller and smaller.”
What does remain a big difference between top and second tier is the quality of the pitches. The Luxembourg pitch was used for a rugby match mere days ago and looks like a potato field. Robben: “We knew this and went a day early to check it out. We’ll be fine.”
Danny Blind: “We know the pitch isn’t great, but that will never be an excuse. You simply adapt. You can’t keep on wishing things to be different. It is how it is and we deal with it. We like a pitch that allows for nice passing play, but if it’s not like that, we can’t hide behind that. We’ll deal with it.”
Daley Blind will most likely play his 41st cap for Oranje and will join his dad Danny on the list of most capped internationals. Danny Blind made his Oranje debut against Luxembourg, interestingly enough. Other players to make their debut against the minions are Clarence Seedorf and Pierre van Hooijdonk. Marvin Zeegelaar could well be another one. For Sneijder, there is also a nice record up for grabs. Two actually. He played 125 caps for Oranje and is on his way to beat record international Van der Sar (with 130 caps). Should Wes score against Luxembourg, this would be the 25th nation he will score against. Only Huntelaar and Van Persie are ahead of him on this list.
In the final presser before the game, Bind said he’d return to 4-3-3 for the Luxembourg game. “They will let us have the ball. We will dominate and attack and we’ll do so with three offensive midfielders.” The coach hasn’t released the line up but it seems that Dost will play for Janssen, Robben for Lens and Ramselaar will make his full debut in place of Schaars. It’s also highly likely that the weak Veltman will be replaced by Joshua Brenet, who is a much more attacking option on the flank.
Should Holland win vs Luxembourg (oooh… exciting!) it will jump to the 2nd spot in the group. Blind: “It was disappointing that Sweden couldn’t hold on to the 1-1. We would have had a good view on the lead in the group. But, whatever France does, we simply need to win our games. And we’re all very aware.”