Oranje press masterclass v USA

Louis van Gaal has been talking about his “provocative press” quite often. This works well against teams that are expansive, want the ball and want to attack. It’s not a high press, so much, but a press around the midfield. They make the opponent think they are on top, they have possession but once they come 5 yards or so before the midline, the Dutch press starts. The pitch becomes small and the more intense and more neat ball players will turn the game around.

A couple of things are important: 1) recognising the moment, 2) neat and tidy in the passing, 3) some courage to play the ball one time forward and move forward to offer an option again and 4) understanding of one anothers movements.

Van Gaal also analyses the opponent of course, and the USA do not have the best central defenders, not in terms of defending and not in terms of build up. Adams is their holding mid/playmaker and Van Gaal made Memphis, Klaassen and Gakpo or to Adams. The other two would block the passing lines from the defenders to the wide players, as that is how the USA builds up usually.

This is what LVG wanted: crisp fast passing forward, this is the run up to the 1-0. Amazing team goal.

When you can stop these passes, the danger man – in this case Pulisic – will not get much to play with and will not be able to stamp his authority on the game.

The defensive organisation was superb, and a nice bonus of this way of playing is that the USA is allowing the field to become stretched. The two defenders will not dribble into midfield, so whenever there is a turn-around, the smart players (Frenkie, Koopmeiners, Blind, Ake) will find the space to attack the opponent.

Central defender with the ball, pass lines are closed off. Next step: loss of possession

Look at that first goal we scored. It’s Frenkie probing, turning, trying to find the space. Once he has it, it’s accelerating, it’s one-touch football and Gakpo carrying the ball into the danger area. And Memphis has learned from Messi: don’t run into the box but pause a couple of beats and arrive in the box right in time: 1-0.

And this:

What was quite remarkable too, was the presence of both Klaassen and De Roon in the box ahead of Memphis, which allowed the Barca man to drift to the edge of the box, unmarked, Lionel Messi style.

The second goal was the result of a nice overload, late in the first half. I think it was a second phase attack on the right, with an overload of Oranje players, playing short combinations.

Smart Memphis went to search out Dest, the US right back to keep him busy and distracted, allowing Daley Blind to move into space undetected. It might have been a blessing that Blind had to finish with his weak foot. Sometimes players try to hit the ball too hard with their favourite foot, while they kick a controlled shot with their weak foot.

After his goal, Blind ran to the bench to celebrate with Weghorst (I have yet to find out why) and to have moment with dad.

Yes, it all worked out well but we can’t ignore that Pulisic chance in the 3rd minute, when that same Daley Blind was too lethargic coming out of defence to stay in line with Van Dijk. That almost cost us dearly but goal stopper Noppert saved the day.

I have to say, I was quite suspect of using Noppert but he has completely convinced me. What a story.

This would be the wingbacks game, finally the two wide players got the chance to shine.

Van Gaal assumes Oranje would get more space in the second half, with the USA needing to attack and he brings Koopmeiners and his passing skills and Bergwijn, with his speed. The Atalanta midfielder had a good turn and was close to scoring. Bergwijn had a couple of opportunities but wasn’t sharp enough to turn them into goal chances. It seems Bergwijn needs to shake something off still.

Oranje fails to convert the chances and kill the game, despite more opportunities for Memphis and Blind but when it remains 2-0, USA can still get back into the game and does so through a fluke goal.

The disciplined Dutch do get their third goal, as mentioned, another wingback to wingback opportunity, with Dumfries unmarked at the far post. Typical for a team defending with four at the back, they simply didn’t have enough bodies at the back and looked a mess.

Xavi Simons is the youngst debutant in Oranje, at a World Cup knock out stage. 19 years and something. In the 83rd minute he replaced Memphis. “This is a dream come true!”.

Denzel Dumfries was the Man of the Match, unchallenged. Two assists, one goal and those trade mark marauding runs. It was all rosy after three weak performances in the group. Dumfries: “I can tell you, the criticism hurt. It was not easy for me, mentally. I do have a great team of people around me and they helped me. Since my Sparta days I am working with a sports psychologist. I have had contact with her twice via Zoom during the World Cup. Sometimes this is a taboo but I don’t care. I am super critical on myself, even more so that others. And it affects me But I am super happy with played well and won, even though we can and need to do better. We had to kill the game before they scored. Their goal made things a bit harder.”

Frenkie de Jong is usually one of the best Oranje players, but this time he played a so-so match. “We did allow them the ball and allowed them to move up a bit. This way, there would be more space in their third, which we could penetrate and exploit. I think that worked well. But, we can do better in possession. I was not good today, I was actually quite bad. Not sure, I was flat, missed the energy and was sloppy. I think it might have been that cold I had. But it’s ok, we now have 6 days until the Argentina game, that should be enough.” When talking about the strengths of this team: “We are good in exploiting the spaces, that is a weapon. And that 1-0 move, that was us good in possession. We need more of that.” When asked about playing with Marten de Roon: “I like playing with him, but I can play with others too. You know with Marten, that he will always guard the space, when I roam, he is a certainty for me.”

Louis van Gaal couldn’t help but emphasize that his plan worked: “We were going to allow their two central defenders to build up and just pin their key players further up the field. This allowed us to play our provocative press. And those goals were fantastic, as it all worked out as we planned. That second and third goal: one wingback assisting the other wingback. Amazing. But we need to improve when we are in possession. Without the ball, we can dominate and we are very good, but with the ball, we need to grow. And if you don’t, you won’t win this tournament. Now, I will give my players a day off. I think they will be pretty sick of me by now.”

Some people call this Oranje a counter attacking team, a bit condescendingly (you know who you are Pierre van Hooijdonk) but Davy Klaassen is not ashamed: “Yes, it is one of our strengths. It always sounds so negative, but we have speedy and capable forwards. The 1-0 was amazing and that is how we like to play football. This is how we discuss our game. And today you saw the power of the system we use. But, we do want to play higher up. When players drop in, you need to decide whether you press forward or not. And that needs to be finetuned between the other players as well. But, all in all, the USA didn’t create too many chances. Still, I think we needed to press more aggressive even, we could have done better.”

Blind was asked how it came to be that it worked so well against USA and not in the group games. “When teams play deep and compact, Denzel and I simply don’t get the space we need. It’s hard to go past them. Now, there was space. And when our strikers can hold on to the ball, we can move up and support. And there was space behind their backs, as they also tried to move forward. That is all relevant. In the past group matches we pressed higher up. Which limits our space as well whereas against USA we decided to let them come higher before we pressed. I do think we can improve in that but we got some good results. When you play this system you know you might see less of the ball. But it is effective.”

Blind had to cop some criticism before this match. “I personally believe we tend to focus on the negative too much in Holland. You can do 20 things right, but when you make a mistake, all the focus is on that. It’s a Dutch thing, I think. But we are super critical ourselves as well. We know what needs to improve but you cannot just flick your fingers and there it is. It’s like a jigsaw, you need to find the right pieces that fit together. And when we do what we agree on, we can come a long way.” When the interviewer kept on coming back to the criticism, Blind cut him off: “Lets not make a big thing of it. We won, lets talk about that. I can see many nations trying to find their top level. We are the only country without a loss. I am not claiming we are playing perfect football, I know we need to do better. But if we can’t, we need to stick to the plan and do our job. The criticism is justified at times, but not always.”

This team had some outstanding performers. Noppert needs a mention, because of his saves (playing sweeper at one point), Dumfries as Man of the Match of course, and Daley with a goal and assist. Memphis is clearly getting better and better but the defence deserves a separate mention as well. Van Dijk and Timber played sober, but did everything right, while Nathan Ake is Holland’s most consistent performer this tournament. He is slowly but surely becoming one of the world’s best defenders if he keeps on developing like this. Great player. The modern defender.

All in all, after 90 minutes of play, the USA has had more possession, a higher passing accuracy and more attempts on goal, but the most important statistic – goals – is in for the Dutch.


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  1. Great article, Jan! The “provocative press” sounds exactly like something LVG would say!

    And Blind is right! This is the right time to focus on the positives. Each match from here on out is going to be a major challenge and a unique tactical battle. Here’s hoping for many more successful moments for Oranje!

    1. One other quick aside. I coach basketball as well, and there are many similarities between the two sports. In basketball, many teams excel in their half court offense, while others prefer to fast break / run the floor at every opportunity. But every team is capable of doing both.

      In football, the same should be true. There are times and opponents where it is best to build an attack, and there are times and opponents where is best to attack quickly on the counter. A good team should be able to do either and take advantage of the specific situation.

      It is usually where a team chooses only to play one way that they tend to struggle and become boring. I think we have shown the ability to do both so far, and I think that’s a great thing!

    2. And LVG’s “provocative press” is a common basketball tactic, although it can be even more effective in that sport, as once a team crosses the half court line with the ball, they cannot pass into the backcourt, and so the space they have to work in is even more limited.

  2. @ jan- Great post as always and congratulations to the team. Let me ask you; this teams has not changed since Koeman. It has been the same roaster except maybe for Babel who is not there. How do you explain under Koeman, we’ve played great possession and great passing and now under Van Gaal we can even hold the ball for 2 minutes. It is per Van Gaal instructions? Looked how we beat France, Germany and played very well against Portugal during the nation league. De Jong used to make runs, dribble into the midfield and yesterday he was rating 6.5. I’m just confused. How do we allow a team like USA to have more ball possessions? Do you think we can allow a team like Argentina to do that. If Argentina has the ball for that long, they are going to score. They have more skillful players that can score. What happen if a team score first?

    1. @jean. I think you’re misremembering the squad from koemans time.

      Against Czech Republic we had stekelenberg de ligt de vrij van aahnholt wijnaldum and malen starting. Blind also was at cb.
      4 of those aren’t in our squad. 2 are bench players and 1 is playing in a different position. The subs list also looks a lot different.

      Add to the fact that it’s been 2 years for players to develop (like ake) and we have a very different squad make up.

      It also does not help that van gaal uses tactics that are not possession focused.

  3. @Jean

    Re: What happen if a team score first?

    They will bring in the lethal left foot of Berghuis🙃

    Unbelievable how it took the Euros, Nation league, qualifiers and three world Cup games to figure out that Berghuis may just not be the way to go.

    Hup Holland. Argentina are not that special.

  4. It will be interesting to see how this England – Senegal match turns out. We obviously defeated Senegal in our opening match, and just defeated the US, who in turn tied England 0-0.

    Senegal is playing a different formation than they played against us as well. So far this has been fairly cagey with neither team really getting many real opportunities 20’ in

    1. Not sure where England’s playmaking is going to originate. Declan Rice and Jordan Henderson are not really providing going forward, and Foden, Saka, and Kane are really hanging out up front and doing more waiting around than anything. I haven’t even noticed Bellingham on the field for the last 10 minutes.

  5. Hey guys, if there’s anyone currently underperforming at the moment that you want me to inspire via online comments, just let me know. Here’s how it works:

    1. Player / Team / Coach X slightly underperforms in the early stages of a match.
    2. JB posts online comment saying “Wow, Player / Team / Coach X is really underperforming. They’re not nearly as good as we thought.”
    3. Comment is passed on to Player / Team / Coach X mid-match.
    4. Player / Team / Coach X says “Alright, I’m going off! JB, you’re an idiot!”
    5. Player / Team / Coach X then makes JB eat his words, and in the case of Mbappe, scores an extra goal for good measure after being called a diva…

    Just let me know how I can help, but beware, I’ve already unintentionally used this strategy on LVG, Dumfries, Blind and Memphis, so not sure if it will work again for them…

  6. 3-0 England now after Foden finds Saka. And the two of them are now subbed off for Rashford and Grealish. Must be nice to have that type of depth in attack

  7. If we try to analyze Argentinas game, one can’t help but agree that 90% of their attacking threat comes from Messi dropping deep trying to create something. If he’s allowed to turn, the opposition is automatically in danger. Even if he fails to turn, the fact that he is able to drag his opponent (sometimes two of them) out of position gives an advantage to his teammates making the forward runs by having more space to run in to. It’s too bad that our team doesn’t have an Edgar Davids or a Nigel De Jong in midfield to be able to better cope with this and to allow Frenkie a bit more freedom in midfield making a forward run.

    Interesting to see what Van Gaal’s midfield will be. Will he go again with Klaassen, De Jong and De Roon or will he try someone else instead of Klaassen. I thought that the current Oranje lack good forwards but watching how our midfield has been, made me change my mind as to where the bigger problem is. Apart from De Jong, there isn’t anyone that I can surely say they need to start alongside Frankie.

    Lastly, I’d like to see Malacia start vs Argentina. Defensively he is hard to beat and boy do we need to be good defensively against them. Although Blind was good going forward one can’t forget how defensively he isn’t good anymore and how his pace has been an ongoing issue. The US team tried to exploit his side and if it wasn’t for Ake’s good defensive game and Noppert save on Pulisics shot, we’d probably have a different conversation now. Knowing how Van Gaal is, one thing is certain that Blind will definitely start in the quarterfinal game and hopefully he proves Van Gaal right and each and every one of us who have criticized him wrong.

    1. Tomy:

      What would you think about pushing Ake up into the midfield to deal with Messi and playing either de Ligt or de Vrij in his place in the back line? Or are we better off leaving that unit completely intact and just take our chances?

      1. JB, stop it. You can’t joke like this. DeLigt is only good as a sub in the 89th minute when we’re 2 goals ahead. I get scared sh!t.less when I see him warming up.

      2. @JB I wouldn’t take Ake away from his current position. He has been alongside Noppert, the two most consistent players of the team. If I had to experiment, my choice would be Timber! He’s great with the ball on his feet, agile and has a decent forward pass. I always thought he is more suited to playing that position. Needs to be said that it will be very risky playing him in midfield in a such high pressure game.

        I doubt Van Gaal would take a risk like that though, assuming all his current midfielders are available and ready to go. Most likely De Roon will be next to Frankie and Klaassen in front of them. I must say that I’m not the biggest Klassen fan, but against Argentina, we need players to run their butts off and Klassen, although isn’t the super fancy and skilled player, but will never stop running.

        I personally see no changes from Van Gaal in the starting 11 from the game against the US.

  8. I have a feeling Timber will be the one assigned to cover Messi. There’s no way this one ends 0-0 and I pray it is solved within 90 mins (with us going through). Argies are thugs and I hope our players play smart and get them carded.
    England vs France will be epic. I am fully rooting for France but both teams have some beastly players. I couldn’t but find it ironical that England (9 white players in it) took a knee before the game while 11 Africans on the other side didn’t bother. Empty gestures but whatever.

    1. Strange post. England has had well documented struggles with racism/bigotry in football. They need to root it out of their football culture. For this reason, these are not empty gestures as you call it. African countries have their own issues, but their failure to kneel is really irrelevant.

  9. Please, refresh my memory but in 2014 we controlled a younger Messi very well. Vlaar and De Vrij neutralized him. So, Van Gaal should now.

    What about marking him by Malacia or Timber ?

    I like @Jean question about the possessive Koeman team vs this team. Why is so hard for us to play in possession? We used to do it not just under Koeman, but also under Van Gaal few months ago. What changed? Missing Wijnaldum was so critical?

    The midfield still is a question mark. De Roon and Klassen lose many balls. Berghuis haven’t played well, but he can rise up, who knows, Koipermaners still sometimes nervous… so…

    What about playing Taylor alongside Frenkie plus our playmaker? Maybe Gapko as playmaker and we use Depay and Jong or Lang up front?

  10. @wilson

    For me he and Berghuis were playing very good at Ajax lately. Berghuis was the best Ajax’s player, and Berjwin played very week once Schreuder put him on the left wing. When he played on the right (to keep Tadic on the left) he always underperforms. Agains USA he played more in the right.

    I really want to see him playing more in the left at Orange. He was one of the best players for Orange before the World Cup and I cannot understand this huge gap we are seeing now.

    1. Well that will be a problem with Depay starting and gakpo as well. They did inter exchange few times if I recall correctly. I mean Depay and Bergwijn but was closed down fast by lanky defenders.

  11. Some answers from me:

    The Provocative Press is just a term he uses, to explain something that has been done for decades. He likes to make it special by making us believe he invented it. Mourinho got the better of LVG in 2010 with the same tactics. LVG went from “possession is everything” to “give them the ball and hang back”.

    The comparison with Koeman is interesting, Jean. Koeman tried to play 5 at the back but abandoned it and went back to 4 at the back. Only when FdB came in, it was 5 at the back again and LVG is now playing around with it. The players (De Ligt, Van Dijk) have said many times it’s not their preferred system.

    Against the US, LVG wanted to lure them and give them possession as they don’t know what to do with it. Just check the video in the post. That guy explains it well.

    Against Argentina, it’s a matter of keeping Messi quiet. They are not that good. Their full backs are very erratic. I think we will win.

    Frenkie was subpar as he was recovering from a cold. It’s all in the post.

    Piet de Visser, super scout for PSV and Chelsea, the man who found Romario btw, said he would play a 4-3-1-2, with Timber on 6, Frenkie on 8 and Berghuis on 10, with Gakpo as a striker.

    Orangutan will be pleased to know that in a recent interview Mario Been (Mariodonna, former assistant to Bert van Marwijk, ex coach of Feyenoord, Genk and former Oranje international) and Gert Jan Verbeek (former coach of Heerenveen, Twente, Feyenoord) and Piet de Visser (super scout who “discovered” Ronaldo, Alex, Leonardo, NEymar, David Luiz, Van Nistelrooy and Overmars to name a few) would all have Berghuis in the starting line up. Add to that Arne Slot, Erik Ten Hag and at times Van Gaal.

    Orangutan must be the least known superscout on the planet hahahahaha

  12. @Jan

    Re: Orangutan must be the least known superscout on the planet hahahahaha

    Dear Jan, you can bring up all the experts that seem to agree with you about Berghuis, but I have the one that really matters on my side. Lvg. He seems to agree with me.

    Berghuis have been given all the chance in the world since Lvg took over. Qualifiers, nations league, friendlies and a few games into an actual world Cup. All starts.

    Lvg, probably the stubbornest coach in the world, and a man whose ego would literally not allow him to be wrong, has finally relented.

    In the Oranje’s most important game of the world Cup, Berghuis did not see a single minute of playing time. Why? Because the old fox has finally caught the drift. Buddy is not quite fit for purpose.

    I know you might come up with the rebuttal that he was taken out of the firing line of the physical, athletic and mighty USA.

    For that I would say that Berghuis was a substitute in the final group game against our weakest opponent, Qatar. Conclusion?. He of course failed to convince against Ecuador and Senegal.

    Again, you cannot squeeze water out of stone. Those same experts you bring up, including Lvg, have been wrong countless times. Lvg’s recent actions towards Berghuis is indicative of his fruitless investment.

    Orangutan may not be a superscout but common sense he applies, and, he enjoys the luxury of an outsider vantage point, that hasn’t be clouded by Dutch talking heads and a media that tries to convince a populace that Ajax is a big team.

    If Ajax is, so is Celtic.

  13. Japan vs Croatia underway. Japan has seemed pretty sharp so far, but not surprisingly has not had much success lofting balls into the box. Until just now — GOAL JAPAN!!!

    And ironically scored by Daizen Madaea, a striker for…. Celtic!

    1. These japanese players seem to operate on Duracell batteries. They’re like bunnies everywhere on the field. They’re about to claim another big scalp.

      1. I agree. They’ve been like a much more fun, energetic and fast-paced version of Spain, but without all the diving and whining. It’s hard not to like them

  14. A few quick initial thoughts re Argentina:

    As with the USA, van Gaal will have likely anticipated Argentina to be our possible QF opponent and I’m sure he has a plan in place for them already. Although I do expect his line-up to be pretty similar, Argentina is obviously far more dangerous in possession than the US, and so I don’t think he will be so willing to let them have the ball and boss the game, at least not to the extent he did against the US. A few comparative stats from Argentina’s first four matches:

    Against Saudi Arabia, Argentina had 69% possession, took 15 shots (6 on target), completed 508 passes (vs their opponents’ 181) and had 2.26 expected goals (they lost 1-2)

    Against Mexico, Argentina had 58% possession, took 5 shots (2 on target), completed 446 passes (vs their opponents’ 284) and had 0.32 expected goals (they won 2-0)

    Against Poland, Argentina had 73% possession, took 23 shots (12 on target), completed 800 passes (vs their opponents’ 245) and had 3.69 expected goals (they won 2-0)

    Against Australia, Argentina had 61% possession, took 14 shots (5 on target), completed 610 passes (vs their opponents’ 359) and had 1.69 expected goals (they won 2-1)

    In contrast, against Oranje, the USA had 58% possession, took 17 shots (8 on target), completed 473 passes (vs our 315) and had 1.49 expected goals (they lost 1-3 :))

    The closest statistical comparison for our recent strategy against the US is Argentina’s match against Australia, but I think we will take a bit of a different approach against the Argentines, and it may end up looking more like their Mexico match statistically. I imagine that we will still look to counter and let them have possession in less dangerous areas, but the emphasis will likely be on limiting service to Messi and forcing him off the ball as quickly as possible. Even at age 35, their national team still revolves around him, both from a positive and negative standpoint. Everything has to flow through Messi (he has ranged from 65-97 touches per match this tournament) — that’s just the team dynamic and likely will be until he retires. For example, it’s stunning to me that Paulo Dybala, probably the second or third best player on the squad but who plays a similar role as Messi, has yet to play a single minute in this World Cup.

    That said, the Argentine starting XI is still very talented outside of Messi — Otamendi, despite being 34 himself, is still a stalwart for them defensively, and the midfield, primarily Rodrigo de Paul, Enzo Fernandez and Alexis Mac Allister, have all been pretty energetic and influential. And Julian Alvarez has done well up front in several different roles. Di Maria as an injured foot and/or thigh, and it’s not clear yet whether he will play.

    In this match, the Netherlands and Argentina will be by far each other’s toughest opponent yet in this tournament, and so it will likely be a real war from the opening whistle. Unfortunately, I think we can all expect to see some very Messi-sympathetic officiating, particularly since this is likely his last World Cup, and so we need to do our best to avoid giving the referee any opportunities there.

    Ultimately, if we can maintain our confidence and composure and execute the game plan, I think we can beat them, but it will not be easy!

    1. Thanks JB, great stats. They suffocated Polonia pretty good, it was a bit shocking. Composure will be key for us. Everybody is crazy about Messi and want him to win this WC + he is a great marketing tool for the powers that be. This game will be the real test for this team and nerves of steel will be key.

  15. Perisic equalizes for Croatia on a nice header! Japan’s lack of size may have played a role in that, but still a great goal! The last 30 minutes are going to be exciting!

      1. Going back to the 1982 worldcup anology which i had brought up earlier. Italy had beaten Argentina and then brazil in second group stage in 1982. Interestingly dutch are set to face Argentina in quarter finals and likely Brazil in semi finals.

        1. That would be an amazing instance of history repeating itself. But we might have to wear blue to emulate the Azzurri at some point, which might undercut the advantage of wearing orange so far…

  16. Another stat for NT in this WC is that it has not suffered a goal first and has never been behind. In fact for as far as I can remember under LVG we have not ever fallen behind in a game but I could be wrong. I hope we don’t get to experience this type of situation in this WC :-).

  17. @orangutan

    Berghuis shone at practice again, hattrick and seen joking around with the coach.

    You seem to be critical on Van Gaal on his decisions and line ups but when it’s Berghuis he leaves out you suddenly agree. Now you are contradicting yourself only because it helps you with your point. No, mate I can see through you now, it took me a while.

    So Van Gaal might not start him but that doesn’t mean much. He doesn’t start De Ligt or Luuk de Jong (yet) but he surely rates them. Berghuis is part of the NT squad in case you haven’t noticed

  18. What a barrage of shots and crosses by Japan at the end of the first half of extra time. They continue to win headers against taller opponents, and are clearly Yoda’s favorite team of the tournament! “Size matters not. Judge me by my size do you?”

  19. @ Jan- Following up with your response earlier. It don’t think it’s a matter of tactic. Are you saying Van Gaal’s tactic doesn’t allow them to keep possession of the ball? If the team used to do that under Koeman, that means they have some type of ability to do so. I think under Van Gaal regarding the WC they have lost confidence because Van Gaal’s approach is
    (play not loose but if we get a win GREAT) and that’s exactly what’s been happening. Rember, JC always said (if you have the ball, the opponent can’t score). If you allow Argentina to have the ball for that long, I guarantee you they are going to score. Also, can you please comment on De Jong performance so far at the WC? People were expecting a lot more and so far he has not deliver. He is supposed to be our super star. He was supposed to be the man that every team is afraid of but it has not been the case. Any explanation to that? My second question; what happen if a team score first?

    1. @jean, DeJong might have been sick and he really looked sick. In my opinion he has only operated at 50% of what he is capable of. I hope this is the case and the few days until Friday will help him recover. Without an FDJ at about 90% we are surely to be eliminated.

    2. @ Jean: I actually do think that LVG’s tactic was to let the US have the ball more, bring them out and stretch their formation, and then hit them on the counter and attack the space behind them. Overall in this tournament, I also think he’s assessed our team’s strengths and weaknesses and feels that we are better served defending and then striking quickly rather than trying to dominate possession, particularly against the US, where he didn’t feel like their possession was going to lead to lots of goal scoring chances. So in essence, I think our relative lack of possession so far has been deliberate.

      Regarding Frenkie, I think he has actually played reasonably well this tournament, although he was not up to par in the last match against the US, when I understand he was sick. I still don’t think we’ve found a midfield trio that functions fluidly, although bringing de Roon in has allowed Frenkie to play higher and contribute more in attack. I think that overall de Jong has played the role he’s been asked to play and met those expectations, but we’d all like for him to be more influential and dynamic.

      Finally, regarding playing from behind, I think LVG’s system and tactics are designed to be played at 0-0 or up one goal or more. If we do fall behind, I would expect us to look to control the ball more, push Dumfries and Blind (or their understudies) higher up the field, and maybe bring in Berghuis or Simons for more creative attacking play. As I said previously, hopefully we won’t have to find out what the plan is but we’ll see…

    1. S Korea should have let Uruguay go through and spare themselves a tennis like score humiliation. I can’t stand the way brazilians celebrate. It is like they’re mocking their opponents.

      1. It is so disrespectful, I totally agree. Of course the American commentators love it because it’s the same kind of cocky trash-talking BS that dominates sports culture here. The Koreans are too disciplined, but in other football cultures (at least the one I grew up in), you’d put the hurt on a guy like that just to teach them to be a little more respectful.

        Also that penalty was unbelievably soft. Softer that that, there’s no way that’s a penalty. it scares me because it reinforces what some of you guys have been saying- that it’s so likely that the presumptive winners and the big name stars will get favorable treatment from the officials. Messi is certainly at the top of that list.

        1. That’s what was refreshing about the Japan – Croatia match. No narrative, no play acting, no posturing, no officiating bias. Just two teams working hard trying to score and advance with their own style of play.

          Brazil has always played with an attitude of “We’re better than you and you can’t do anything about it!” But they were utterly humiliated by Germany 7-1 in the 2014 World Cup and still have not lived that down. They haven’t won anything since then, save a sole Copa America in 2019. This group wants to restore Brazil’s reputation as the best in the world, and they finally have a team with enough talent to do it.

          But they aren’t without their own weaknesses, and if they can get past Croatia, either our team or Argentina could beat them. Unfortunately, the success of every team without a Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar or Mbappe is going to be dependent on unbiased officiating so we’ll see how that goes…

  20. @ Jan

    can you recall any big games or vs a worthy opponent where berghuis has lived up to expectations/ has proven critics wrong. just give me against one team?.

  21. @ JB

    “Finally, regarding playing from behind, I think LVG’s system and tactics are designed to be played at 0-0 or up one goal or more. If we do fall behind, I would expect us to look to control the ball more, push Dumfries and Blind (or their understudies) higher up the field, and maybe bring in Berghuis or Simons for more creative attacking play. As I said previously, hopefully we won’t have to find out what the plan is but we’ll see…”

    this you think argentines will entertain this going 1-0 up? just asking

    1. I guess it depends on how the match unfolds. If it’s open and end to end, Argentina will likely look to continue to possess the ball and attack themselves. If it’s a grinding, grueling midfield battle (which I think is more likely), then maybe they’ll be more comfortable defending once they get a 1-0 lead.

      The challenge, which I think is what Jean is alluding to, is can our team really revert to a possession-oriented, building-the-attack style when necessary? I’m not sure that we can do so, particularly against a team like Argentina that will typically look to competitively maintain possession themselves, which I’m guessing may be your point as well?

  22. @ JB

    “Brazil has always played with an attitude of “We’re better than you and you can’t do anything about it!” But they were utterly humiliated by Germany 7-1 in the 2014 World Cup and still have not lived that down. They haven’t won anything since then, save a sole Copa America in 2019. This group wants to restore Brazil’s reputation as the best in the world, and they finally have a team with enough talent to do it.

    But they aren’t without their own weaknesses, and if they can get past Croatia, either our team or Argentina could beat them. Unfortunately, the success of every team without a Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar or Mbappe is going to be dependent on unbiased officiating so we’ll see how that goes”

    I dont agree to this. this brazil team is not dependent on neymar compared to in 2014 when they collapsed after neymars injury. neymar this time around is no more a central piece in the starting 11 and the workload is evenly distributed with respect to other upcoming players. neymar being shifted to the middle is also a highlight to this and so they can work more efficiently. I think this was clearly evident vs korea. neymar was merly operating at 50% .

    Now compare this to argentina, they have already said 99% is messi and 1% is the rest. This could haunt them.

    1. Thanks Wilson. I agree that this Brazil is not so Neymar-dependent. I was honestly stunned when watching them in the most recent Copa America and the overarching tactic was “get the ball to Neymar” and then figure things out from there. But now, they are much stronger and have many more diverse ways of attacking (Richarlison, Vini Jr., Martinelli, etc.).

      My point above was more directed at the marketable nature of certain teams based on their star power — I don’t think that the referees will necessarily look for fouls particularly against Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo, etc., but instead will reward the teams they play for so that those marketable personalities can continue forward in the tournament.

  23. Japan indeed looked like duracell bunnies but they didn’t have enough batteries. Shrewd Croatia got there. I love the way Japan played, I think I expected that from our team.

    Jean: the plan was never to not have possession. Football is about 4 key situations: 1 you have possession, 2 you lose possession, 3 you don’t have possession, 4 you win it back.

    If your opponent is not good on the ball, than 4) is the situation you can pounce. It’s not like LVG told our boys to gift the ball back to USA. Just look at how Mourinho got Inter the CL win in 2010. It’s compact, it’s letting them make the mistake. It’s like how Djokovic plays tennis.

    Then De Jong. IF the team doesn’t perform well, it’s hard for De Jong to shine. He needs freedom to show his class and he needs options around him. He is not the type of Neymar or Messi player who scores and assists. He is the man for the pre-assist.

    I agree he didn’t play amazingly well, in the group stage, I think no one really did. Gakpo got the spotlights, but that is due to his goals. Janssen, Bergwijn and Memphis were not great in the group games. We were struggling with our midfield, so naturally De Jong was not brilliant either.

    When your left CB and your goalie are the most impressive players, you know you are having problems.

    But against Team USA Frenkie was crucial for the 1-0. That should have been enough for you to see his qualities. Other than that: he was under the weather and struggling with a cold.

    it’s all in the post mate. do you read them?

  24. @Wilson Berghuis was the best player versus Poland in the away 0-2 win.

    Hands down. More questions?

    And it’s not like a player in Oranje needs to be the best on the pitch to be selected? Why is this important for Berghuis? Why is this not asked of Van Dijk? Or Klaassen? Or Simons? Oh hang on, Simons hasn’t played a full match.

    It’s about balance and roles. If you have runners up front (Bergwijn, Gakpo) you need passers in midfield.

    Koopmeiners is a good passer of the ball and he can hit the ball.

    Berghuis can do all that but also has a wand of a left foot, has legs and lungs to run and has a dribble. Berghuis is your man for corners and free kicks.

    Koopmeiners is better tactically. More neat on the ball.

    Berghuis plays with more risk.

    It’s about the TEAM Wilson

    Famously, in 1984, Cruyff wanted to have a left back as the left winger at Feyenoord. He wanted mercurial Vermeulen out of the team and Brard in. Why you think?

    Come back to me once you know the answer.

  25. Valentijn Driessen, chief sports editor De Telegraaf (biggest newspaper in holland):

    “I saw the reserves play vs the starters. And none of the reserves impressed. Not Luuk, not Wout, not Vincent. They won’t help us win the World Cup. The exeption being Berghuis. He is out of this world in form now. He is amazing. The best player of all at the moment. He can make the difference”.

    1. @jan

      I truly rest my case 🤣🤣

      Here you have a football news editor, based in the Netherlands,telling you that Berghuis is in the form of his life.

      Let’s ignore the fact that he’s just lost his place in the first 11 for being ineffective.

      Let’s not talk about how Lvg didn’t play him a single minute in our biggest game to date.

      Practice! Let’s shove aside the fact that this assessment by sports journalist extraordinaire was made from practice. Practice! When the intensity is lower, when everything is different from a real game. Can’t wait to see him start against Argentina.

      My first 11



      Malacia, Ake, Van dijk, Dumfries

      FDJ, Timber

      Lang, Simons, Gakpo


      I don’t believe us waiting for Argentina to make mistakes and run at them, like we did the USA is going to work. We have to be on the front foot and play our game. Dribblers in Lang and Simons would cause problems and push back Argentina. I think if we have a go at them we can come out victorious. Too cautious and we might just be run over.

  26. @ Orangutan- Amen to your line up. At the very least any coach for this match would start with Malacia and Lang. Malacia because Bilnd is 32 years old, too slow for this type of game plus he already played 4 games and looked very tired. Lang because against Argentina we are going to need people with the technical skills that can not only hold the ball but can also create and pose a threat. This is definitely not a game for Blind. If we give Argentina they are going to score. Jan, since you are very well connected, can you pass along this line up to someone on the ground in Qatar? lol I
    By the way, I would love to see Timber in a # 6 position. I kind of see him as an N’Golo Kante.

  27. @ Jan

    “Berghuis was the best player versus Poland in the away 0-2 win.

    Hands down. More questions?”

    Is Poland a worthy opponent from dutch level standards or big stage team. Thanks but not acceptable but will say though Poland is his tempo level team to thrive.

  28. @ Jan

    “And it’s not like a player in Oranje needs to be the best on the pitch to be selected? Why is this important for Berghuis? Why is this not asked of Van Dijk? Or Klaassen? Or Simons? Oh hang on, Simons hasn’t played a full match”

    because he never lives up to exception in big games. What the use of investing him then?

  29. Wilson, we didn’t play Brazil, Argentina, Croatia or France in the past year did we? Poland got to the last 16 in this World Cup. Not good enough for you?

    Laugh all you will, orangutan, I don’t care. Berghuis is not my brother or anything. I don’t care what you think.

    The point I am making is: He plays for Ajax, he is with the squad, he is the favorite of many a pundit, analyst, ex pro, ex coach and he probably also doesn’t care about what a couple of random people think.

    1. @Jan, I feel you take replying to comments from Wilson and Orangutan too seriously lol. No need to defend Blind and Berghuis. They are both great and when used, they can help the team. We know Berghuis is not Robben, but he’s more than ok.

    1. @ Jan

      So now you want to compare giroud to berghuis. Giroud record speaks for itself. What record does berghuis has. Man of the man vs Poland. Berghuis played under FDB and euros and also under koeman. If you forgot to sum up.0ll

  30. @Wilson, I am not comparing the players but their situation. I am merely saying that a top striker like Giroud even gets hate from his fans. There is just no pleasing everybody, is there.

    It goes to show that fans are 1) not always the sharpest in judging the value of a player and 2) communicate from the underbelly.

    It’s not about records. What records does Xavi have? or Noppert. it’s about the team and the role a player can play.

    It disgusts me to see so much vitriol against a player who is busting his gut for the team you claim to support.

  31. Dumfries recently admitted he gets really upset by criticism on the internet aimed at him and he uses a psychologist to deal with that stuff. I admit, I am one of the people critical on him. We don’t need to think all they do is amazing, of course. But lets criticise their actions or decisions and stop assassinating their characters.

    Lie with Kuyt and Blind, it becomes a bit spiteful. Or is it me?

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