This post is dedicated with gratitude to my dear friend Bob. You know why :-).
NOTE: English highlights at the bottom of this post!
We all like to say and think that Dutch football is on the way up, but at the same time…we’re all still quite vulnerable… Frenkie isn’t playing on his favorite spot at Barca, De Ligt makes a number of obvious mistakes at Juve, Memphis wasn’t able to make a move to a top club, Promes isn’t really making it hard for Ten Hag at Ajax and has to work his way into the Ajax team, and more.
So when Arch Enemy #1 Germany is on the roster, a lot of people would watch the match with an extra set of diapers on… The Germans… they always have a tough team to beat, they always develop talent and they know how to win games…
In the Volkspark Stadium in Hamburg, where Oranje dealt with West Germany back in 1988, Holland started sparkling. Forward pressure, high up the park, quick pass and move play while Germany clearly was playing compact from a more deeper position.
Germany playing counter football in their own home? Deja Vu to the 1980s?
Marathon Man Gini
But despite Holland getting the first shooting opportunity (Memphis testing the fists of Neuer), it’s Germany again, countering to 1-0 in the first 10 mins of the game.
A series of “mistakes” allow this to happen… No pressure from Wijnaldum on the ball (Toni Kroos!), Blind and De Ligt pressing forward – even with Koeman explicitly telling them not to “bite” to early – while Van Dijk drops back a bit and blocks the offside trap!
And Promes not realising Kloostermann was sprinting away from him, just on-side, and preparing the Gnabry goal… Cillesen did his best but the rebound was too much.
With the 1-0, Germany even sat deeper still waiting for more counter opportunities (which did come and Cillesen had to act with a strong hand to keep Werner from scoring their second).
Oranje had the ball but failed to really create chances. The flow wasn’t there. Reasons? For starters, Koeman’s tactical trick didn’t work.
The idea was to have Babel as centre striker (like he did at Galatasaray) and Memphis in a free role. Promes was supposed to cover the left flank – as Blind doesn’t do wingback – while Dumfries was supposed to cover the right flank – he does do wingback. De Roon would drop into the right back zone to cover for Denzel and to assist in the build up.
Blissful contributions by Babel
This is where it went wrong. The Germans were happy for De Roon to build up and allowed him the ball. And De Roon is a good player, but not a great play maker or passer. What definitely didn’t help either, was Dumfries inability to keep the ball and/or do something solid with it.
The PSV right back is lauded for his strength, his mentality, his legs/lungs, and his fighting spirit… But he is also known to have “hard feet”. Meaning…lack of technique. And it showed.
Dumfries was launched into a very promising opportunity by Memphis, getting into the box but almost stumbling over his own feet. Most of his actions failed on the flank, and it was clear Oranje’s right flank (De Roon, Dumfries, Babel) wasn’t working.
Orange jersey suits Malen really well
It happens. We’re not going to suddenly crucify Dumfries for being who he is. But we do need better quality. If Holland wants to win trophies, we do need top notch players on all positions. De Roon and Dumfries might just be lacking in that. They’re good, but not world class (like Memphis, Wijnaldum, Frenkie and Van Dijk).
When Propper and Malen came on (and Promes moved to the right) in the second half, there simply was more pizzazz and class in the team. And with De Roon suspended for the next game, I expect Propper to come in and stay in (maybe until Van de Beek is fit again).
The switch in the second half to bring Babel back to the left worked, with Wijnaldum now having more space to work with.
What a photo! Memphis at the top of his game!
Oranje remained patience and was fully focussed on attacking Germany when they looked vulnerable, with Babel and Wijnaldum setting traps all the time. And it was Babel who was instrumental in getting Holland back in the game, with a cross that was finished by Frenkie in perfect style. A wonderful first touch, followed by a side footed controlled finish: 1-1.
We love emphasising how good we are, but truth be told, Germany defended horrifically. New central defender pairing Ginter and Tah made a mess of most situations and a corner and Virgil header was the prologue to another howler. Memphis brought the ball back into the 5 yard zone, Babel did some silly step over – back heel trick (that failed) and Tah decided to stick his leg out: 1-2. Babel walked away with a sheepish grin on his face.
I was personally confident that my 1-3 prediction was going to make it, but not long after the 1-2 the ref decided to help the poor Germans a bit, with the execution of a poor new hand ball rule.
Part of the problem. Five Oranje players high up the pitch against a compact Germany… Hardly any space to operate in, with a disappointing partnership between Babel, Gini and Memphis.
“Every hand ball in the box is now a penalty” is the new rule, apparently.
So Matthijs de Ligt blocks a cross successfully. The ball goes up in the air. De Ligt loses sight. The ball drops on the ground but brushes past De Ligt’s arm. There is no way the German player could have re-capture the ball. There was no threat, danger, whatsoever, but the ref decided: penalty.
Cillesen is starting to become a better penalty killer, but there was no stopping Kroos’ decisive spot kick: 2-2.
Germany seemed to think the 2-2 was fine. The pace was slow, they were sloppy and Holland simply wanted the win more. And did more to force the win.
And boy, did we have another trap ready for them. We took the ball high up the park, on the left hand side, again. Babel playing his part, Memphis slotted the ball through to Wijnaldum who – under pressure – was able to flick the ball perfectly to Donyell Malen who was able to celebrate his first goal in his debut game for Oranje: 2-3. A brilliantly worked goal!
The German goal: no pressure on the ball, Blind/De Ligt pressing forward while Virgil drops back and ruins the offside trap while Promes is surprised by the run of the full back….
Germany needed to find a third wind, to salvage a point and in doing so was vulnerable even more.
Koeman felt 2-3 was good enough and took Babel off. The veteran did his job and Nathan Ake was brought in to secure the win. Blind moved further to the left and Malen and Memphis played upfront, with Frenkie, Propper and Gini Wijnaldum in midfield.
A wonderful interception by the fresh Ake resulted in a wonderful pass to Memphis, who saw in his peripheral vision one of the strongholders of Oranje making a 60 meter dash – we are talking the last minute of the game!! – into the box. Memphis pass was pitch perfect and Wijnaldum only needed to put his side foot to the ball: 2-4.
A perfect final chord from one of Oranje’s key performers.
And the result of all of this is quite good…
The result is perfect: 3 points and in the bilateral match up, Holland now edges Germany and might win the qualification.
We also demonstrated to the world that we are a team to be reckoned with.
We worked on our confidence and flow.
Koeman will have seen that it’s time for a better right back and time to have a player like Propper back in the starting line up, versus workman De Roon.
Oranje under Koeman seems to be strong in coming back into the game after conceding and Koeman impresses with his subs, but…one could also say: stop coming back from behind by not conceding in the first place and start the game with the right eleven! Hahahaha :-).
The future is bright, with Rick Karsdorp getting back into full fitness (my preferred RB option), while Kenny Tete will also be back soon. Hateboer and Janmaat (when back in the starting eleven for Watford) will also be options, as is Hoeve.
As for the midfield, Van de Beek will make his return, Ihattaren will be a great prospect to have and on top we also have Eijting, Stengs and even Adam Maher as options.
I will post more on the talent coming up soon!
For now, lets enjoy this one more day and then focus on that ever difficult away game vs Estonia!
And share your thoughts below!