It could be worse right? Eh… well… can it? We are now in the same league as Andorra, Slovenia, Kazachstan, Albania and Finland.
The thing I had to think of (a lot!) was the comment by the media when the draw for this Euro qualification was published. The top 3 go through. We are in a group with Turkey, Czech Republic, Iceland… The media went “It will be harder for Oranje to NOT qualify, hahahahaha!”. Well…we never shy away from a challenge and we did it! We did it!! We are failing to qualify… Reaching the last four in the World Cup 2014 was easier….
Well, I needed a break of a couple of days after the Turkey game. And not because I had to watch it at 2 am with Spanish commentary and delay… :-(.
I am not going to spend a lot of time on the game.
I mean, you saw it. First 10 minutes. Oranje has 6 men before the ball. Turn around comes. Turkey whacks ball foreward. Quite blind, really. De Vrij wins the essential header. But Turkish midfielder is there before Klaassen. More desire. De Vrij is out of position. Bruma doesn’t step up. 1-0.
Narsingh gets similar opportunity. Misses.
Blind looks up while ball is coming his way (Dutch throw in). He needs to shift his weight as ball comes on right foot. Bad touch. Bad throw too. Bruma was facing the open pitch as last man and Narsingh was available too. Turkish playmaker picks ball up and defeats Cillesen near post. Three big mistakes in a row. Throw of ball to Blind, Blind’s touch. Cillesen. No coaching going on. Just bad, weak, sloppy defending.
Third goal I don’t even rate. Was a foul on Van der Wiel. But everyone had stopped playing by then.
Sneijder gets a shooting opportunity on the edge of the box. He, in particular HE, should bury that ball.
Wijnaldum scores crazy header for Newcastle only weeks back. Now he has a free header and mishits the ball totally. Ball bounces of his shoulder.
If this is the way you play, it doesn’t matter who the coach is or who you field… It was a total shocker.
No confidence, no speed, no automatisms, no desire. Midfield was outplayed. We have too many “nice guys” in midfield. Blind, Klaassen, it was all too soft.
Danny Blind, again, made some weird subs. At a certain stage, it was Sneijder playing on the right wing, crossing balls in with Promes (?) playing behind Van Persie/De Jong. Why not use Huntelaar? The Schalke 04 striker was Thursday good enough to be #1 striker and on Sunday, he isn’t even good enough to play pinchhitter…
I think the final conclusion, even though we still have a small chance to make it, is that Holland simply doesn’t have “it” at the moment and doesn’t deserve to go to France…
Sad but true. We lose twice against Iceland! ICELAND!!
In Holland, one can easily speak of a crisis. The fans are devastated, the media disgusted and the sponsors and retailers see 50 bio euros disappear. The only ones who don’t see the crisis, is the KNVB. A poll under Dutch football fans says that more than half of the people believe KNVB CEO Bert van Oostveen is the one to blame. Him, and the players. Both Hiddink and Blind seem to have the sympathy of the people.
But the KNVB has positioned itself into a difficult position. CEO Van Oostveen has publically and loudly stated that he supports Blind and Staf unconditionally. He is not going to send Blind away after two games, and also not after 4 games. The CEO has signed Blind until 2018 and has previously sacrificed Hiddink to allow Blind the reigns. No way that Blind will be fired by Van Oostveen. But should the board of directors sack Van Oostveen, then Blind and co. will most likely follow suit.
Which leaves the question: if this happens (and it might, as Bert van Oostveen was also responsible for the unelegant exit of Bert van Marwijk), who will be the ideal team manager? Most candidates have committed to their clubs.
Hiddink’s demise was inavoidable. And it left Blind with a difficult inheritance. Only four games to sort things out. Four finales, with only one practice session before the first game. And Blind will have had his plan, but Martins Indi and Arjen Robben destroyed that plan. A cheap penalty made it even worse and that first game was lost in a freaky way. But there is no excuse for the dramatic loss against a mediocre Turkey. As Ruud Gullit said in an emoti0nal analysis after the game. “There was nothing, no desire, no cursing, no yelling, no dirty challenges, no provocations, there was nothing you would expect from a team that does not want to lose. It feels as if these guys can’t give all they have. It’s all too soft.”
The crisis is complex. Danny Blind might become the man to bring Oranje into the biggest qualification shame in the history of Dutch football while also being the man who is to lead Oranje into a new future, with a transformed team as the big guns (Sneijder, Robben, De Jong, Huntelaar, Van Persie) are getting slowly too old for Oranje.
What went wrong?
In my view, the first mistake was made by Bert van Oostveen by selecting Guus Hiddink as successor to Van Gaal. The second mistake was Hiddink proclaiming that he would restore the Dutch school, with 4-3-3. Louis van Gaal did very well with Oranje. Why not build on these foundations and use a coach who thinks and works like Van Gaal: Danny Blind! And instead of wanting the Dutch School, the KNVB should have realised that the 5-3-2 is currently the best tactical set up for Oranje. As it can become 3-4-3 in a turn around situation just like that. Hiddink and Van Gaal aren’t friends. Hiddink is a totally different coach. What a change of protocol and work approach for the players. Why would Van Oostveen want this??
The next big thing that went wrong was the post-WC disease that most successful teams have after long stint in the World Cup. The players had a ahort holiday, they want to focus on their spot at their clubs and the first qualification games do come very quickly in the new season. The Dutch see games vs the Czechs and Iceland as necessary stumbling blocks on the road to new Euro success. The Czechs and the Icelanders however, see the game against us as the biggest game of the year! They weren’t at the WC and finally have the chance to play against a big team. Their motivation is 110%, ours is 90%. And suddenly, we have a game on our hand… Individual mistakes (concentration, arrogance?) and lack of sharpness resulted in losses in the start of the series. The Iceland game away was a big one. We lost 5 points already and needed a result. Two moments of lack of concentration and we lost that match, which prompted the KNVB to put the pressure on Hiddink which undermined his authority and led to his demise. By then, Arjen Robben was not available for half of the games and Hiddink stuck with old hands like Van der Wiel, Nigel de Jong and Ibi Afellay… He even mentioned Nigel as his “captain of midfield” only to snub the captain months later, saying he needed more football in midfield.
Guus was on a losing streak. He got into a rift with the KNVB CEO, the media jumped on him, pundits started to wonder what was happening and it all got into the heads of the players who seemed to be playing without any confidence, adding mistake to misfortune.
Certainly, a trend to take heed of is the fact that our players might not be that good anymore… Dutch football in general seems to losing it’s way. In 1988, the Dutch clubs battled for top European trophies. In 1998, Ajax had just played two CL finals. In 2010, most of our top players played at big clubs (Inter Milan, Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City, Bayern Munich)… Today, our big guns are getting more tired and less fit (RVP, Robben and Huntelaar battled with injuries while Rafa van der Vaart is no longer on the radar). And the young guns we have are all playing for mediocre teams (on a European level) like Watford, Newcastle, Basel, Ajax, Feyenoord and Sunderland with Memphis and Daley Blind as the main exceptions. But… consider this… Would Blind and Memphis play at Man United if Louis wasn’t managing there? Probably not!
So, post World Cup blues in combination with bad management (Van Oostveen/Hiddink) in combination with lesser quality.
The perfect storm.
Some people think Danny Blind is also a problem and not fit to manage Oranje. I used to believe he was good enough. Simply due to the way he presents himself. He is a good communicator. He knows all the talents on the fields in Holland as he keeps track of all that is going on. He used to be a very tactically savvy player who has demonstrated to know what it takes to win trophies. He has worked on all levels in football. From assistant coach to technical director. From head coach to youth coordinator. And on top of that, he worked with Louis van Gaal for many many years. Doubts have arisen though, with his two games at the helm. Losing against Iceland in the way we did can happen to any coach. A quick loss of Robben, a Martins Indi red card. A silly penalty. No coach can stop that, most likely. But why did he play BMI and Van der Wiel in the first place? Why did he put so much emphasis on Robben as leader? Why was RVP on the bench “unfit” while starting three days later? Why subbing Huntelaar so early in the piece? Why using Blind as left back and not centrally in midfield? So many questions.
The Turkey game offered up even more questions… Why Riedewald? The youngster, over Pieters? Why Klaassen in midfield who proved to be too light vs Iceland? Why sticking to Narsingh who didn’t dazzle vs Iceland? Why keeping Huntelaar benched? And Blind has one Marco van Basten and one Ruud van Nistelrooy next to him on the bench? Would they have agreed to sub Narsingh for Promes, moving the youngster centrally and letting Sneijder play right wing??? Is Luuk de Jong (PSV and failed at Borussia) really a better pinchitter than Schalke 04 striker KJ Huntelaar? Really?
But most importantly… His master Louis van Gaal decided more than a year ago now, that 4-3-3 was not working for Holland. We do not have the quality (yet) to do this. Hiddink proved the point with his abysmal campaign. Why didn’t Blind immediately go back to 5-3-2? He had four games to grind out a result. We didn’t need to entertain the world. We just needed points. Why not use Janmaat and Pieters out wide. With De Vrij, Blind and Bruma centrally. Blind moving into midfield whenever possible… We could have had work horses Van Ginkel and Wijnaldum in midfield with Sneijder and Memphis and Robben up front, using Hunter as pinch hitter!
In possession, Janmaat would always move up and be the right winger Robben isn’t. And fill that space. Marathon man van Ginkel as right mid would have covered ground on that flank. Pieters is more a defender which would work well with Sneijder who likes to own that left space.
Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken, but clearly Bert van Oostveen felt “5-3-2” means the system needed fixing…
The analysts are ruthless in their analysis. You read what Gullit had to say above. Johan Cruyff pointed out that all of Oranje’s mistakes are basis flaws in quality and it is all trainable. “The defending was shocking. Weak. Positioning was totally wrong and the challenges were ill-timed. The penalty we conceded against Iceland is a typical example. Positioning: all wrong! Most of our movement in defence and in particular in and around the box is naive. The second thing that gets me is the lack of passing capabilities. The through pass forward. Only a couple of players see it and can give the pass. Sneijder, of course, but he is playing high up the pitch. From behind, it’s only Blind and Clasie. The rest rather play square balls because they don’t see it or they don’t have the skill. And it’s all trainable stuff.”
Willem van Hanegem laments the lack of quality. “The reality now is, that we need help from Iceland and the Czechs to qualify. That sums up how poor we have become. Having said that, Turkey wasn’t that good either and the only thing they were better in against us was team spirit and desire. Oh, and the fact that they converted their chances and we choked at the crucial moments. Hiddink was told he was too old or too weak and had to go. A new young coach played two games and has zero points. Well done KNVB! We think we are very good but the reality is different. A lad like Memphis is playing and acting as if he is a demi god but he spent most time on the pitch moaning to the ref. If he gives a back heel the commentator orgasms but the effectiveness of all his dancing and twinkletoes is simply not there. The player who impressed me was Van Persie. He tried to play as a team player. He was always looking for the combination. We are too soft for our youngsters. The hat, the scarf, the golden boots… Start with performing, with making a difference before you behave like a movie star. For me, criticizing Danny Blind is too easy. He started his first game and was confronted with the epitome of bad luck: losing Robben, red card, penalty… What do you do? Sure, he made mistakes but we all make mistakes. That is part of the game. But I’m telling you, Turkey will make mistakes in the last two games. They probably lost their qualification against Latvia, when they could have scored 12 but ended up drawing.”
A telling statistic, one we can’t ignore, is the fact that out of the 8 qualification games, Oranje conceded first in six!! Six times, at home and away, the opponent scored first. Six times, our lads have to play to get back into the game. That is a telling stat. It happened again against Turkey. All tactical plans can go into the shredder. The idea was to let the Turks come out and play, as they needed a win. And we would counter our way to our victory. Hence Narsingh, hence Van Persie. After seven minutes, the Turks could play that game with us… In six out of eight games, the opponent can sit deep and make the field small and give us the ball. In all these games, we had serious trouble playing our way to chances. Spain, as an example, has more than enough players in midfield able to play the through ball. They have Iniesta, Fabregas, Isco, Silva, Mata in midfield. And fast full backs using the flanks when they can. A top striker like Costa is actually not even needed in the Spanish team, that is how well they break down opponents from midfield.
Our midfield does not have that quality. It’s predictable and slow. As Cruyff said, we don’t have enough players with the sharp through ball… And therefore, we might have enough possession, but we don’t do enough with it. We don’t really dominate the game.
Another issue we have: our top guns hardly make the difference. Robben was not as instrumental as he was at the World Cup. Van Persie looks quite bland these days and Sneijder misses opportunities he would have scored back in 2010. We don’t even remember who Van der Vaart was, by now.
There are now two options:
1. Turkey fails and Oranje wins the last two games….
This option doesn’t sound like the obvious one to me, to be honest. I think Turkey has the momentum and we clearly don’t. But it we do get through, I think Blind will need to focus on the 5-3-2 system. With players like Willems and Janmaat as wing backs, with Memphis and Robben upfront. Depending on form of the day and opponents, we could play with players like Sneijder, Strootman, Clasie, Van Ginkel or Wijnaldum in midfield while Daley plays center back. The other CBs are not that key. Bruma, De Vrij, Veltman, Rekik, Van Dijk, Van Beek….
2 Turkey finishes the job and Holland is out!
The more likely scenario. I think in this scenario, Blind needs to stay on and work on a new Oranje. Time to slowly phase out Van Persie and most likely Sneijder. Time for an exciting new team to be build. And I think we have the quality.
We have decent goalies…
Our back line is not that shabby either. I believe in Tete, Van Beek, Blind, Kongolo, Riedewald, De Vrij, Rekik, Bruma, Van Dijk, Willems… I also believe in Janmaat by the way and Van Rhijn will not have unlearned how to play….
With midfielders like Clasie, Maher, Wijnaldum, Fer, Ake, Van Ginkel, Strootman, Bazoer, Ziyech, Tannane, Klaassen, Blind, Vilhena, Sinkgraven and Propper we surely should be able to field some quality there
Upfront, Memphis seems to be the man, with El Ghazi coming through, Sinkgraven, Promes, Boetius, Berghuis… The only missing player in all this is the central striker… Van Basten, Kieft, Bosman, Kluivert, Bergkamp, Van Nistelrooy, Makaay, Huntelaar, Van Persie…where is the next one? Maybe it’s Vincent Janssen….
In 2011 and 2012, Alfred Stuivenberg won the European Championship with the Under 17s. The current Man United assistant coach had players like Rekik, Ake, Hendrix, Vilhena, Willems, Depay, Kongolo, Kyle Ebicilio and Anas Achahbar under his wing. He said: “The trophies were great but it is youth football. It is different. At top senior level, different skillsets are important and there is no telling where these players will end up.”
Statistically, Oranje is one of the more dominating teams in Europe. Holland has 67% possession over 8 qualification games. Only World Champs Germany and former Champs Spain come to the same percentage. In terms of attempts on goals, Holland is in the top 3 as well. We had 151 shots on goal. Only Germany and Belgium had more attempts. 60 of these attempts were on target. Only Germany had more precision. But… out of the 60, we score the least goals. Only 13 goals out of 60 with 6 of the 13 in one game ( Latvia 6-0). England is top with 24 goals and Poland is number 2 with 21 goals…. End conclusion is: the opponent goalies are playing sensational against Oranje or the quality of the shots is wanting…