Oranje broke the deadlock (and the horrific series) against Portugal last night with a draw.
Midfielder Strootman scored the Dutch goal in the first 20 minutes of the game, C Ronaldo was gifted a late equaliser.
Strootman is one of the three players Louis van Gaal considers starters. Before the game, he said “Van Persie, Robben and Strootman have a bit more credit points than the rest. They can consider themselves protected players. The rest? They all have to keep on proving their worth.”
Comments made, after questions on De Vrij and BMI who seem to be on edge after some lesser performances with Young Oranje and Feyenoord. “I too read and hear about De Vrij and Martins Indi lack of form. That might be the case at Feyenoord, but it’s not in Oranje. They haven’t let me down and I do not doubt De Vrij’s qualities. However, I am looking with glee at the development of Bruma and Rekik and in all honesty, if they do better than the Feyenoord couple I might be tempted…”
The following eleven were used as starters against “angstgegner” Portugal: Vorm, Verhaegh, De Vrij, Martins Indi, Blind, Wijnaldum, Stootman, Van der Vaart, Robben, Van Persie and Lens. It’s a special game for Rafael who joins Gio van Bronckhorst with 106 caps for the Dutch. Only Sar (130) and Frank de Boer (112) played more in orange.
First chance is for Portugal but the header is too weak. Van der Vaart and Van Persie demonstrated some nice build up play in the start of the game but nothing comes of it. Paul Verhaegh has a decent debut and offers Van der Vaart a chance with a good cross but Raf can’t control the ball. The start of the game is lacklustre. Both teams forgot to take the handbrake off.
In the 17th minute, it’s Kevin Strootman who scores for Holland. The midfielder gets the ball on the edge of the box and pulls the trigger. Goalie Beto doesn’t have a chance. In the 28th minute, a mistake by De Vrij allows Micael a sitter but the Portuguese aims badly and misses. Van Gaal acts his role again when Verhaegh fouls a Portuguese player and the whole Portuguese nation starts to complain, whine and provoke. Memories of 2006….
C Ronaldo does find the net after half an hour of play but the winger is given off side. His chip was nice but won’t be allowed.
Van Gaal keeps on playing his part, when the frustrated Portuguese make more and more bad fouls, like Coentrao who can’t control himself.
In the first half, Oranje played with a three man midfield with the center player in an offensive role (“the point up front”). In the second half, Van Gaal switches tactics and plays the center player as holding mid (“the point back”). It’s Van der Vaart who is rested and Van Ginkel coming in. Van Rhijn comes for debutant Verhaegh. In the first 5 minutes, it’s Vorm with a good save on a Coentrao attempt. After one hour of play, RVP is subbed for Huntelaar. Robben gets the captain band.
Robben offers Lens a decent chance but the winger mishits the ball completely. Robben gets a nice chance from the right, later, but curls the ball just over the goal.
The game starts to open up and C Ronaldo tests Vorm who won’t be beaten tonight.
In th 70st minute, skipper Robben has a good action with Wijnaldum, but is tackled on the edge of the box. Free kick. Wijnaldum, Robben….they can all do it, but it’s Huntelaar who hits the ball weakly in the wall.
The Portuguese are not happy with the score line and put more pressure on the Dutch. Machado hits the cross bar. With 10 minutes to go, Lens is taken off for Schaken. And five minutes later, it is C Ronaldo scoring for Portugal after a corner kick. De Vrij didn’t look too good there, but he wasn’t the only one. Ball watching (De Vrij), not alert enough in the marking (BMI) and more silliness (Van Rhijn)….
C Ronaldo gets a free kick in the dying seconds of the game but hits straight at Vorm, who stops the ball.
And thus it remains 1-1.
All in all, not a great game, but Oranje didn’t do too shabby. Paul Verhaegh can look back on a decent debut, as the defenders were under the microscope this particular game. They all faired well. Verhaegh set up the attack resulting in Stroot’s goal and bar one costly mistake (De Vrij), the defensive four did alright.
Louis van Gaa had difficulties naming positive points, although he did see “a fantastic Verhaegh”. Mostly he saw things that went wrong. “In the first half we did create chances and we scored a goal, so I can’t be too critical, but in the second half we made a lot of mistakes in possession. We were very poor. And with some lads, you could see the tank was empty. We haven’t lost against Germany, Italy and Portugal now, so we haven’t do too badly, but this was the poorest game.”
About Verhaegh: “I think he did very well. He played with maturity and smarts. He could leave C Ronaldo to De Vrij regularly, we knew he would try and come into the center a lot.” Van Gaal also emphasized that the door is open for Sneijder. “Listen, Wes knows what he needs to do. If he is fit and in form, I can’t ignore him. We all know how good he can be. But it will also depend on how players like Van der Vaart, Maher, Van Ginkel and Wijnaldum develop.”
Robben was vice captain and took his job seriously in front of the microphones. “I’m disappointed. When you lead 70 minutes, you want to win it. You don’t want to concede so late. And it’s a bit sour grapes for us. A deflected ball and our friend happens to be on the right spot. It’s shit. But all in all, a good lesson. These types of opponents will be at the World Cup and you will need to learn to beat them. We did well in the first half, I think but in the second half we sort of forgot to play football.”
Van Gaal repeated his words, that he is not really happy as team manager. His passion is club coaching. “I have trouble working in this role. I am not only dependent on the players but also on their coaches. How do they prepare them? Do they get playing time, etc…. As a club coach, you have more control. Now, I only see them 7 or 8 times a year. But….in the coming months it will become more fun, I guess.”
Paul Verhaegh ended the night on a high, with his first Oranje jersey in his bag. “No way I would have exchanged it, not even with C Ronaldo. This is a boyhood dream for me. If you would have told me two years ago this was to happen I would have had you locked up. But this now does give me a taste for more…. But I can’t count on anything. I will keep on doing my best at my club and then we’ll see.”
“The lads told me that C Ronaldo basically floats everywhere and doesn’t really get bothered with defending. This did allow me to attack and support the build up. He is very strong and athletic, that bloke but I still got to play my own game. ” Verhaegh was one of the better players in his passing and positioning and he started the play that resulted in the 0-1 by Strootman. But at the end of the first half, he felt his hamstring. “At my age, you know your body well. Probably the result of the tension. My hamstring tensed up and I felt I had to make way.”
Ricardo van Rhijn came in, while normally Daryl Janmaat and Greg van der Wiel are also in the picture. “Yeah I know there is competition, but that is good. I won’t say that I am better than they are. How can I?”.