The tension is mounting. Also in the Dutch players camp. The media love to interview the big name players before a game as some of them still have it in them to say something remarkable.
Most young players are afraid to speak their minds and copy the words of the press officer… “Yes it is an honour”. “No the coach decides and I play where he wants me to.” Etc etc
Memphis Depay today is such a big name. But the Man U winger decided to scoff the press and said “I am not talking to you guys!”. And marched on. Louis van Gaal would not accept that kind of behaviour when he was in charge of Oranje, as opposed to his predecessor Van Marwijk and successor Hiddink, who were a bit more loose with that behaviour.
Klaas Jan Huntelaar is always a good target for interviews. The former PSV talent, who had to make his way into the big league via AGOVV and Heerenveen before Ajax picked him up had a horrific spell under Blind. In the first game vs Iceland he had to make way after getting a start when BMI saw red and against Turkey Blind suddenly didn’t need him at all.
The Schalke top scorer doesn’t want to dwell too much on this. “I wasn’t happy but hey, it’s football. The coach decides. I was happy to start of course and the coach explained his tactical views after the game, the reason why he subbed me. The Turkey game was a huge disappointment of course and again, the coach had plans that didn’t include me but I love Oranje. I love playing for Oranje and whenever the coach needs me, I’ll be ready to play. I will focus fully on the future and don’t dwell on the past. It is not about me either. Oranje needs to qualify. And whether I play and score or someone else…. ”
Wesley Sneijder was the key man against Scotland in 2004 when he helped Oranje qualify for the Euros 2004 in Portugal. “That is a long time ago. I’m still here, hahahaha.” Sneijder laughs when he realises his buddies Rafa van der Vaart, John Heitinga and – currently – Arjen Robben don’t have the level of fitness or form to play for Oranje at this stage. “And I’m not done yet. I have much more in me. I am happy where I am, my wife is expecting, life in Turkey is amazing and now we will need to give it all to qualify. Bring it on!”
The cocky midfielder realises his role in Oranje has changed. “When I came into the squad I had someone like Jaap Stam having a go at me and putting me in my place. Today’s young players are a bit different, it seems. I do sense I am one of the older lads and like Stam, most likely, I feel like they kids don’t always listen to me. In my early days, the senior players played cards. Always battling over klaverjassen, and the young lads tried to get into the game. Today, they sit in their rooms and play Playstation. I think it’s childish. Not manly at all. I don’t do it, hahahaha.”
Asked about the odds of Oranje not qualifying. “I don’t want to talk about it like that. I simply cannot believe we won’t make it. But whatever the result, I do believe Blind should stay. He is perfect for this group. He deserves to get more time. With new players, old players, whatever. As long as I am part of it hahaha.” Wesley’s wife Yolanthe is at the end of her pregnancy and Sneijder said many times he will go home if the baby comes. “This is priority. I have played football for too many years and have put my family on the second spot for years. This time. I want to be there. I want to support my wife and see my baby being born. Once I am on the pitch, I will play the match but if I get the message before the game, I’m off. Sorry.”
Oranje will play the away game vs Kazachstan in Astana, the futuristic capital of the nation. In the past, a big steppe where nomadic tribes lived and lingered. Today, a new sort of Vegas or Dubai with a highly futuristic football stadium, Sneijder: “It is very science fiction. I never saw this before, and believe me, I have seen a lot of stadiums.” With the new oil and gas revenue, this former USSR state (became independent in 1991) has re-invented themselves and are ready for the big games. The Astana cycle team has done well, the Astana FC made it to the Champions League and the nation’s dreams go further.
As to be expected, the pitch in the Astana Stadium is made of artificial grass. This is a first. Oranje never ever before played a match or a friendly even, on artificial grass. Robin van Persie: “The last time I played on astro turf was when I was in the Feyenoord youth. Maybe 16 years ago?”
Wesley Sneijder played their recently with Gala in their CL match against Astana. “My muscles are still sore. It’s not good.”
Huntelaar despises fake grass. “For me, it is a reason not to go back to the Eredivisie in the future. There’s like 4 clubs now with this fake pitch. Not for me. I hate it.”
The younger generation of Oranje players, however, is used to it. Elia: “I don’t mind it. When you are fast, it is more reliable and you can pass the ball well too.”
Blind trained with a fully fit squad in the Astana Stadium and as opposed to the earlier games, where he picked Hunter without RVP for Iceland and RVP instead of Hunter against Turkey. For the Kazachstan game, we will most likely see both players leading the line.
El Ghazi will most likely start on the right. The Ajax winger is seen as show pony but realises it doesn’t all have to be brilliant. “We need to win. As simple as that. Even if it is ugly. My job is quite clear and this applies to all players. We’ll simply have to do it.”
Georghinio Wijnaldum went from heaven to hell. Picking up the bronze medal in Brazil, winning the title with PSV and as a result a big transfer to a sleeping giant in the EPL. But his team is last in the standings and his Oranje might not get to the Euros. “It’s crazy. People in England ask me all the time, what is wrong with Holland…. It’s hard, we haven’t played our best football but that flow can come back just like that. I am personally happy with where I am. The situation in England with Newcastle isn’t great but we are a young team in development and we play world class opponents all the time. The pace is amazing and they all want to attack attack… Against Man City, we started great and got in front but then Aguero has 5 amazing touches: 5 goals. And we gave the goals to them….”
The Spanish papers were all about a Dutch player who isn’t important for Oranje anymore…. Although some feel he should be part of this current squad… Dirk Kuyt. Apparently, FC Barcelona made up a short list of players they could get to the club to allow them to bring on a super sub pinch hitter. The statisticians were told to look for players with international careers, over 30 years old with good stats in scoring off the bench and who haven’t played CL football this season (and thus are eligible to play). A list of four players, among them Feyenoord’s Dirk Kuyt. The only one on the list without Liga experience though… The same Dirk Kuyt that was mentioned by an influential sports analyst in Holland as a potential call up for Oranje. Janmaat wasn’t replaced by Danny Blind and according to Sjoerd Mossou only Dirk Kuyt would make sense. He would be the talisman, he would definitely make an impact in the dressing room and he would be able to start at right back and end up playing fourth striker and scoring the all important winner in the dying seconds….
With Janmaat out and Dirk Kuyt wearing his Messi PJ’s it seems Kenneth Tete is about to make his debut in the Oranje team. The young Ajax right back has caught the eye of many Dutch experts, not just Blind and Van Basten. The 19 year old will be 20 this coming Friday and has a bright future in Orange. As opposed to youngsters like Janmaat, Van Rhijn, Van der Wiel and Willems, Tete is a real defender. Not unlike Terence Kongolo, Tete is happiest after a strong block tackle. Where Van Persie dreams of the perfect assist and Huntelaar of the perfect header, Tete is all about the perfect challenge. Tete grew up in the same streets as Narsingh and Assaidi and played street soccer with the older lads. “I had to really grow up fast and become tough as they’re all so good and quick and older as well… I was like a kamikaze pilot in the youth… running and flying and tackling. I am the product of an African dad and an Asian mum :-), My dad was Dutch champion kickboxing and I think I have his power and my mum’s agility. I always wanted to be a defender. Jaap Stam is my role model. I love it when the Ajax fans applaud an interception or a tackle. The Ajax supporters are critical but can really appreciate good defending too.”
And back to Memphis… The young winger is talking to the media, but on his terms. “We only talk about the Kazachstan game. I don’t want to talk Man United or working with Van Gaal or the EPL or the World Cup Brazil. Most football fans like the arrogance of the top player. Sneijder has it, C Ronaldo has it. The amateur kids know Memphis could be the one playing Oranje out of prison.
“Asked if he feels the pressure to be the man who changes things around, he says: “I understand this. I am one of the players that can win a game with one move. So I will have to deal with that pressure.”
So…people…. it’s time to give you my ideal line up. Although this time it will not be much different than Danny’s, as the injury list is bigger than I would like to see it.
I personally am not a big Cillesen fan and would always go for Krul. But Blind won’t.
So for me it will be:
Tete – Van Dijk – Riedewald
El Ghazi – Wijnaldum – Blind – Sneijder – Memphis
Huntelaar – Van Persie
I expect Holland to win 0-3 against these cats. I think Huntelaar will score the first one. Van Persie will score one and Memphis or Sneijder will score from midfield position.
Gimme your ideas!