Oranje: Russian Roulette

While Abba plays in the background, Dick Advocaat is enjoying a smorgasbord of questions at the press conference. All the country’s mathematicians and statisticians joined in to calculate Oranje’s chances and the different scenarios, but the 70 year old still doesn’t seem to realise it’s about goals. “I don’t get that fuss about scoring. As if we can simply decide how much we’ll score. The criticism after the Bulgaria game also went over my head! A 3-1 win is a good result. You can’t expect to score x times. I also don’t believe Sweden will score a lot versus Luxembourg. Nonsense. We will focus on winning our games. And during the game, we’ll find out what is possible in terms of number of goals.”

The nation is baffled. Surely, Dick will understand he simply needs to instruct his players to go out and get as much as possible? We won’t settle for 3-0 vs Belarus with – say – 25 minutes to go? And surely, Dick will field a team with goals in them? Janssen. Dost. Robben. Memphis. Klaassen. Wijnaldum. Propper. Van Dijk. Or…?

The main punters out there are not too positive. Willem van Hanegem is adamant. “We won’t get to Russia. I’m sorry. I do hope I’m wrong, but we simply aren’t good enough. Let’s rebuild after this World Cup.”

Most of the players tend to excel in wishful thinking. They all come to the camp with bravado and bold statements. Except for Arjen Robben. He happens to be experienced, world-class and the skipper of the team. “It will be very very hard. I will not say “never” but it will be a tough job. The odds aren’t great. But, we are in it still, so we will need to do what we can. But winning three games in a row has proven to be hard for us, so I don’t share all that optimism.”

Robben made his debut for Oranje in 2003 (with Sneijder) and has had mainly good times in the orange jersey. Should Oranje not qualify in the coming two matches, it’s highly likely that Robben will retire from the NT. “This is not a topic for now. I want to focus fully on the matches.”

arjen dick

Robben did have a certain “oh geez” moment. “I’ve been coming here for 14 years. And I thoroughly enjoyed it and still do. Man, I get goosebumps when the national anthem plays. But it’s strange. I made my debut with Wesley and we sort of went on this journey together all this time. The high points and in retrospect, we didn’t have that many lows… But now Sneijder isn’t here. And that hit me. Because if we can’t qualify for Russia… is my career in Oranje over? His as well? That sort of hit me. And I’ve seen the downturn, and felt it. We used to win all our qualification games. Like routine. Now, we struggle… Things have changed.”

The first training session was a bit of a jolly event. Dick Advocaat let his two assistants (Fred Grim and the physio) deal with the group, jostling with tennis balls, a game of handball and a silly mini match with the small goals facing the wrong way. Some light entertainment, while Ruud Gullit was in deep conversation with Karik Rekik and Dick Advocaat spent time with skipper Robben.

oranje training

Virgil van Dijk was called up as a late replacement for Stefan de Vrij. “I’m so happy to be back. Seriously, I needed this. It was a tough six months but I’m 100% fit and motivated. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy playing for Southampton, but like any athlete: if you can better yourself and play at world top level, you want to make that step. I don’t regret my actions and I also don’t blame Southampton for their stance. My aim is to be important for the club again and for Oranje and my next chances will surely come. I’m ready to play, although I’m not sure what the coach wants to do. I may lack rhythm but I’m top fit.”

Stefan de Vrij’s absence was frowned upon. The central defender played an hour for Lazio vs Sassuolo and scored even. “But it’s not good. I can’t play without pain. The groin is not good. I left the pitch after an hour and the groin stiffened up and it’s now impossible to play. I probably need a week of rest and treatment and then after the international break, I might be able to train with the ball. Every pass I gave hurt. It’s not good.”

People in Holland now doubt whether you’re motivated to play for Oranje?

“Nonsense! People who know me know better. It’s quite simple. I got the call from the KNVB re: my fitness, last week. I told them I wasn’t 100% but that my coach was keen to use me in the Sassuolo game. If that would go well, I would be ready for Oranje. But I was subbed due to the injury and I don’t think I would be able to train until Friday. So the coach decided not to use me and I can totally understand. You don’t want a player who can’t practice all week for these key games.”

De Vrij

You didn’t even want to talk about the whole thing?

“Because it shouldn’t be about me or my injury. It should be about the players who are fit and available and it should be about the Belarus and Sweden matches. That’s why I avoided the questions, but it became such a thing that I simply had to come out and explain it all.”

Kevin Strootman will join the group on Wednesday, if all goes well. Strootman got injured too after a collision and is in Rome for observation. He might have a concussion or other ailments which might stop him from joining Oranje.

A player who is fit and in form and eager to play is Ryan Babel. He hasn’t been with Oranje since 2011. Introduced to the world stage in 2006 by Marco van Basten and a benchwarmer in 2010 under Van Marwijk, Ryan Babel is now in the autumn of his career. “Boy, I still knew the way to Noordwijk (where Oranje usually has its trainings camp, but I had to introduce myself to most of the players! I know some lads, the Ajax lads like Cillesen and Blind of course and I replaced Arjen Robben in my debut, but the other players I only know from television. But I’m proud and humbled to be back. In all honesty, I came home to play for Ajax partly to get back on the radar with then coach Van Gaal. He gave Eredivisie players a chance and I felt it would do my career good. I did have a good season and won the title with Ajax, but I never made it back in Oranje.”

Babel had a spell in Spain before moving back to Turkey, where he’s been a key man for more than a season, even scoring in the Champions League. “I’m in form, yes and fit. I’m not saying I will save Oranje and all that, but I can play my part. I’m also now one of the older players, so maybe I can even help some of the younger lads. It’s an honour to be back.”


Babel played in the Middle East (sand pit) for a while but devised a plan with his dad to return to the European (sub) top. “That move to the Middle East was really purely for the money. I’ll be honest. That paycheck, I couldn’t resist. But when Spain came a-calling, I did want to move back into a serious competition. And now back in Turkey. I’m loving it.”

Babel credits Advocaat for his judgement of the Turkish league. “I think I’m lucky with the fact that Advocaat worked at Fener. He knows that the Turkish league is tough. And he’s seen me play a lot. Any other coach might have overlooked me.”

The players who are fit and available all have some sort of baggage to deal with. Jesper Cillesen is definitely one of the best Dutch goalies, but warms the bench in the Camp Nou. Surely, he will have improved just by practicing with Messi, Neymar, Iniesta and Suarez and a goalie doesn’t need the rhythm of match play like an outfield player. I hope.

Kenny Tete does will with Lyon but doesn’t play every match. The same applies to Janmaat. Yes, he has experience in Oranje and lungs and legs of a horse, but he hasn’t played more than – say – Frenkie de Jong at Ajax.

Welsey Hoedt and Virgil van Dijk both lack rhythm and might be rivals for the same spot at Southampton.

Daley Blind does play his regular matches and always reaches a high level at Man United but he will never be beyond criticism.

Gini Wijnaldum is a favorite of Jurgen Klopp but Liverpool only won 1 match in 8 games in all comps and the criticism is coming. Wijnaldum’s effectiveness will be judged seriously.

Janssen bulgaria

Kevin Strootman is not without criticism either and we all have witnessed his lack of form in Oranje recently.

Davy Propper went from a dominating team, playing possession football on the front foot (PSV) to a weak team that doesn’t have the ball often and when they do, play the long ball over Propper’s head. The gifted technician is a holding midfielder at Brighton and has yet to make his mark.

Davey Klaassen is seen as a huge mistake in England. The agile midfielder hasn’t made any impact for Everton yet and wasn’t even among the used subs in the last match in the EPL (which Everton couldn’t win).

The good news is: Vince Janssen is playing and scoring for Fener, Babel is on fire (for a while already) and Memphis Depay shows his class when he plays. The latter also made an impact in Oranje’s first training on Tuesday.

Bas Dost, lastly, is still a goal scoring machine in Portugal but his coach doesn’t use him in big games. Dost has never impressed wearing the orange, although he did score a 100% legal goal versus Sweden, which was disallowed.

line up

There might be one player key for Oranje in the coming matches. And he won’t be wearing orange, by the way. Gerson Rodrigues, he plays for Telstar in the Jupiler League in Holland and he’s a forward of Luxembourg. The quick attacker is keen to help Oranje qualify for the World Cup and he is eager to prove his worth by intending to hurt Sweden. Against France, he was close scoring a late winner, but his attempt hit the post. “I’ll try and get a least a point for Holland. And I’ll return here to join in with the festivities!”

In the coming days, we’ll learn more about the shenanigans of Oranje on their mission to qualify.

Until then, we finish with a nice news flash re: Louis van Gaal. The former NT coach’ name is mentioned as one of the candidates to replace Carlo Ancelotti at Bayern Munich. Yep, you read it properly: the arrogant Dutchman who was axed at Bayern by his nemesis Uli Hoeness might be asked to come back to the club.

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  1. Jan I totally don’t like that squad. I would rather see toornstra,vilhnea and van ginkel in the Midfield who are in better form. I still can’t understand how come propper has moved above van Ginkel when at PSV van ginkel was a sure starter.

    1. Jan would not start that squad either he is just saying that unless Advocaat stops using whatever drugs he is taking he will most likely use that squad.

  2. —————-Cillessen————–




  3. U19s started of their Euro qualification campaign with a 3-0 win over Malta.must say this is very special squad with both kluivert and De ligt also eligible to play here.

    Netherlands U19 line-up: Van de Meulenhof, Bakboord, Wijndal, Obispo, Schuurs Kadioglu, Van de Looi, D’Encarnacao Duarte (Vente), Malen (Aboukhlal), Nunnely (Lonwijk), Piroe

  4. France also have been hit by injuries as kurzawa,Mendy,Progba,Dembele and koceilyn have been ruled out from both belarus and Bulgaria match.
    If they drop any points in either of the games the group will become very intresting.

  5. Based on AD for the game vs Belarus

    possible attacking line


    Possible defenders Van Dijk and Janmaat (Janmaat considered more attacking than Tete). Rekik might get a spot too as CB.

    Vilhena, Wijnaldum,Pröpper in the middle.

    Team flies tomorrow to Borisov.

        1. No no..Babel is awesome whenever he works hard…he had played some amazing games for Liverpool vs tough teams…While Depay only performs vs minows like mitjland,brgge etc…
          Babel is faster,stronger,taller,team player and amazingly skiiled ….We need Babel
          would be ideal for us..

          1. Exactly, Memphis plays amazing vs terrible teams.maybe for France he should have sat but for trash teams like Sweden and Belarus he will run circles around them

  6. I’d also go with Babel over Depay. We need more speed in our attack and Babel is scoring every week. As for Depay he has played well but he is not on fire as Babel is at the moment.

    Wijnaldum has received plenty of criticism but he works his ass off. He should attack more with his skills he’d be a threat going forward from time to time.

    I am not a huge fan of Propper but he has to play after the Bulgarie game he deserves to start.

    Blind as LB is doing great. His crosses are very good.

    Janssen didn’t score against Bulgarie but him and Propper made a good partnership.

    1. It’s confirmed babel and janmaat will start as well as rekik. Disappointed because it should be depay he is known to destroy dusty teams like Belarus. He did it against Luxembourg both times and will do it again. He just needs a chance

      1. Babel is better quality player than Depay….so he must start end of the story…Depay is just overweight,flashy player,with less workrate and speed..
        I like to Propper as false striker…Propper seems abetter striker than Dost may be better option than Janssen…
        Wijnaldum can be beast in final thirs if he play as forward.guy is really skilled..

  7. After tying Peru 0-0 at home tonight, Argentina is on the brink of non-qualification as well. I wonder how frequently two semifinalists have failed to even qualify for the following World Cup?

    I really hope that we can win these last two games and somehow sneak in, but a lot of these line-up debates are like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Who should start, mediocre energetic midfielder A or immobile but skilled mediocre midfielder B? Who is our best scoring threat, flashy occasional starting wing with low work rate, hard-working striker who can’t finish, or forward who disappeared from the face of the earth for 5 years? We simply need better players than we have right now in order to compete at the highest level.

    1. At some level, it’s actually kind of reassuring that there is still some meritocracy in football. If Argentina, despite being Argentina, can’t beat Peru and Ecuador, then they don’t deserve to be in the World Cup. And if the Netherlands, despite being the Netherlands, can’t beat Sweden and Bulgaria, then we don’t deserve to be in the World Cup either…

      1. But we can beat Sweden and Bulgaria because we have. Why does Sweden deserve to go when Netherlands beat them and they didn’t beat us. Just because of a couple bad games doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to go. There are trash teams like japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia but not one of the greatest soccer nations of all time. Even if Sweden makes it they will just be eliminated at the group stages. Holland will actually have a chance at winning the whole thing. But we still don’t deserve to go…

  8. GROEP A

    1. Frankrijk 8-17
    2. Zweden 8-16
    3. Nederland 8-13
    4. Bulgarije 8-12
    5. Luxemburg 8-5
    6. Wit-Rusland 8-5


    1. Engeland 9-23
    2. Schotland 9-17
    3. Slowakije 9-15
    4. Slovenië 9-14
    5. Litouwen 9-6
    6. Malta 9-1

    Litouwen – Engeland
    Slovenië – Schotland
    Slowakije – Malta

    if Scotland ties in Slovenia, then with two victories we are better 2nd than them. We will have 19 points and they will have 18. So… the calculations continue. We will have to do our part with two victories and hope that Sweden leaves a point or we score a lot more than them and we sort it out in the last game.

    Wow, what a squicker …

  9. That 4-0 loss to France skewed the goal difference big time. After the first goal and a red card to Strootman, the team should have cut their losses and assume a defensive posture. A 1-0 loss would have been acceptable under the circumstances. This is clearly a coaching failure to add insult to injury. As experienced as Advocaat is, he should have done a better job.

    Our only hope now is that Luxembourg can contain Sweden or at least keep them from scoring multiple goals. They did a great job against France and I hope they repeat that feat again.

    Nothing is over yet!

    1. and we could have scored more goals vs bulgaria as well….
      We made a horrendenous mistake to hire
      Danny as coach…that loss vs bulgaria was THE WORST..

  10. Is it just me who is having this question ?

    Yes we all know Babel is on fire and without any current strikes on form , it is defiantly a smart choice . But it is also a gamble . He hasn’t been working with orange for how many years ? Does he gel in with try current players ? It could be either working very well or either all things will go wrong . Dost is another example , he is shit when playing for oranje

    Also , I know that yes there are teams like Saudi Arabia or Sweden that may go in , they are shit teams bla bla and it’s not fair bla bla

    Sorry guys but let’s be honest if we cannot go in the World Cup we have no one to blame but ourselves ! We are the only one that have put ourslelves into this shit and painful situation . I watched Holland since 1988, and I know well enough that yes when you fail to score and win the matches you should be able to , then you get punished !

    And th punishment can be very cruel

    If we don’t score 5-0 or above , and at the same hope hoping Sweden score less than we do and close the margin , then see u all in 2 years later

    1. Belarus drew France in first match….if u r logic right then we could loose…
      We could hve easily drawn 2 matches vs france…the win another 8 home and away games..that means 20 points after all these 8 games..but we are left with 13 points..

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