The Deer in the Headlight look of Paul Verhaegh
The first international game in the new season. After that breezy Asian tour, important wins over Indonesia and China, we are now facing our menace Portugal. 2002, 2004, 2006, 2012… Just some random numbers for you.
And in the lead up to this friendly (…) there is some unsettling news:
– There is LVG’s criticism on our former skipper Wes Sneijder… Is it justified? Is LVG motivating the little playmaker?
– There is everyone’s criticism on De Vrij (and Martins Indi). Can the Rotterdam man face the pressure?
– There is the generic criticism on our young and somewhat naive back four ( Janmaat? Blind? De Vrij? BMI? All untested)
On top of that, LVG has demonstrated his fickleness in his selections. No Nigel and Siem, for instance. Although Siem would have had to thank for the invite anyway (as Schaars and Janmaat had to do). Schaars is injured. Janmaat has the flu. But Siem de Jong is in hospital with a collapsed lung? He is out for weeks.
The media can’t help themselves. When Dirk Kuyt came to the Dutch trainingscamp, most journalists wanted to hear what Dirkie thought of Wesley’s fitness. The two recently played the Turkish Super Cup against each other and Sneijder (and Drogba) won.
Kuyt: “I see Wesley a lot in Turkey. And we talk about football of course and about our families… Wes is really disappointed about the whole thing but he is committed to fight his way back. That is how he is. He really wants to be part of Oranje of course.”
Asked about Sneijder’s game, Dirk said: “He is fit alright. He trained all summer and he played really well against us.”
The largest Dutch newspaper was quite critical on Van Gaal and his selection criteria. As per usual, Van Gaal loves players he can mould to his own liking. Players like Maher, Wijnaldum, Van Ginkel (the ideal sons-in-law) and doesn’t like player with a mind of their own ( Sneijder, Robben, Van Bommel). With a number of key players lacking the form and rhythm it will be interesting to see how things will develop.
Paul Verhaegh is the player most media jumped on, as he is the big unknown in the squad. And the Augsburg player has just gotten the chance to get used to the idea being part of Oranje, or the next surprise came in: Daryl Janmaat can’t make it. So there is a fair chance that Louis van Gaal will let the former PSV prospect start against one C Ronaldo….
Verhaegh: “I will see what happens. I heard Janmaat is not here so who knows. All I can do is do my stinking best and hopefully I get the chance to show myself. And sure people are surprised hearing my name. I was surprised! I will turn 30 soon and this coach is known to go for youth, so….”
Paul Verhaegh was with one Klaasjan Huntelaar at the PSV youth system and like Hunter, Verhaegh was moved to AGOVV which played first division back then. He moved to FC Den Bosch and after a year he was signed by Vitesse. He somehow made a move to Augsburg in Germany, which has since moved up to the Bundesliga. “I took a long and winding road, haha. Many of my team mates from back then play for big clubs now. Augsburg is not a big name. Most people think of Schalke, Bayern or Dortmund when you talk Bundesliga.”
As Verhaegh is somewhat older and not playing top drawer football, people wonder why Van Rhijn and Van der Wiel are not above the debutant in the Oranje squad hierarchy. “I don’t think I am above them at all. I would not even state I am better than them. How can I? I think Van Gaal wants to see me up close. I am not even considering the World Cup. That is so far away still. I will take this one step at a time.”
Although the Portugal game is “but” a friendly, Holland does need a good result. A win – and maybe a draw, will keep Holland as number 5 on the FIFA ranking. The first seven nations will have a protected spot in the draw of the World Cup. Holland is well on its way of qualifying of course but the differences in the Top 10 are small. Portugal is now number 7 while Belgium is on the rise, as the number 10. If the draw was today, the following nations would be group leader: Spain, Germany, Columbia, Argentina, Holland, Italy, Portugal and Brazil.
Jeremain Lens and his dad, former PSV winger Sigi Lens