Koeman was fuming after the match. Serious look on his face. “Congratulations, you have one foot in the Euros,” was the interviewer’s attempt to see a smile on Koeman’s face.
Koeman did what everybody wanted him to do. Play Malen from the start, bench Dumfries and use Van de Beek instead of De Roon.
The first half ended 2-0. That could have given the impression that all was well in the Land of Orange. But it wasn’t really. A suicide block by De Ligt saved the openings goal by Belarus. And the quality of play in the first half didn’t really get us all too excited.
Van de Beek for instance… He had a strong opener and almost scored a typical Van de Beek goal, making a diagonal run into the box. His lob just landed on the roof of the goal. Otherwise, Donny got lost in traffic, where Malen, Promes, Wijnaldum and Bergwijn also tried to find space.
Malen then. A great player, who needs space to run into. Where Memphis wants the ball mostly in his feet, Malen likes to dart in behind. But vs Belarus, there was hardly any space for Malen to use his strength.
Promes had a better game, I felt. He was crisp on the ball, not as sloppy as Veltman or Bergwijn. His cross for Wijnaldum was wonderful but Promes seems to be the first player to sub, apparently. I would have used him as wingback and bench Veltman.
So over to Joel Veltman. A strange animal. Too small for centre back. Not good (fast, gifted) enough to play full back. A good defender but needing a lot of fouls (and collecting yellows) while his handling speed in attack is too slow. But, still better than Dumfries, who really needs to improve massively in his touch and ball handling. Dumfries running in to space? Great! Dumfries making dummy runs? Wonderful. Dumfries heading the ball? Very good! But against smaller nations like Belarus or Northern Ireland, he’s not good enough.
But neither is Veltman. Koeman came up with the “Diamond midfield” in a 3-4-3 system.
Knowing that Belarus played with 1 forward, Blind, De Ligt and Van Dijk played at the back, with Veltman as the right wing back. The only thing Veltman did well was his positioning, but the flow of the moves all seem to stop whenever he got the ball. He had 12 crosses (!) and only 1(!) was decent. The rest was wasted.
Another example of Koeman being risk averse. If you know Belarus doesn’t play with a left winger and we need attacking power on the wings, why not use Quincy Promes as wingback??
In this tactical set up, the wings weren’t used properly. Promes and Malen were supposed to cover the left flank, Veltman and Bergwijn the right, but we never had the proper pace to outdo the opponent. And in that central area of our attack, it simply was too crowded.
Only once did we manage to find a forward running player, when Daley Blind passed onto Promes who made a run in behind and his touch just let him down.
Other than that, it was a header opportunity for Gini and a shot from distance by Gini that made the difference, while we (De Ligt in particular) looked shaky at the back.
The change made in the second half, after we allowed Belarus their goal, was very much needed.
With De Roon for Van de Beek, we moved one body out of the busy zone back to the midfield and with Luuk de Jong we had a target man which Malen and co. could use to their advantage. Luuk got one header opportunity which he directed over the goal.
The Belarus goal was another typical example of a series of mistakes in a row, just like with the Northern Ireland goal.
In this case, I believe it was a matter of the Dutch cheering and slapping each other on the back at half time! “We have it in the bag! 2-0 guys, lets score two more in the second half. Yay!!”.
Well, that arrogance and complacency got them good! Because Belarus demonstrated in one attack that they can play!
The player who crossed the ball in, had all the time in the world to do so, as Veltman simply didn’t close the ball down. Frenkie de Jong let his man drift off. Frenkie actually saw it (as the footage shows) but decided to point at him and let Van Dijk deal with it. Blind was in two minds: do I help out or do I stay and guard my own man?
As a result, it was 3 attackers vs 2 central defenders. The cross was excellent and so was the header. Boom! And now Oranje had to battle for the 3 points.
Wijnaldum was the man who made the difference! He had another dart into the box, allowing Malen his second goal for Oranje on a plate. But it baffles me why the former Ajax talent didn’t pick the left corner of the goal, where the goalie wouldn’t have been able to stop the ball. That should have been 3-1.
And late in the game, Gini even had the legs/lungs (like vs Germany) to break out again, but a slip stopped him from scoring his hat trick.
The mood after the game was mixed. Van Dijk did have a big smile on his face, saying it was a great day! When the interviewer asked about it, he said: “Oh, that is for a personal reason. Not because of this match.” I think Virgil might have heard he is becoming a father again or something like that?
Wijnaldum was critical. Proud of his goals, but with his experience at the WorldCup 2014, he knows shit needs to improve pronto. Wijnaldum also mentioned the problem Oranje faced in the second half: “We didn’t start well in the second half. We were complacent. I think the 2-0 gave us the idea we would have an easy and fun second half. That really needs to improve.”
De Ligt was very open and honest: “I know I’m not at my best. The change I made, moving to Italy, it’s harder than I thought. There is a lot of new elements to my life now and I need a bit more time, but I’m sure and confident things will turn around. I have a lot of faith in myself and I’m not concerned. You know, in all those games I played in recently, I may not look 100% but we did win all the games, so… It’s not that bad.”
Ronald Koeman was happy on the one hand, and fuming on the other. He did make a comment on the pitch, which indeed was quite shitty. And he couldn’t resist the following statement: “Maybe we are simply not good enough yet, that we can just play these nations off the pitch…”
The Netherlands now are with one foot in the Euros. One more point is needed and if we get that in Belfast, we are good to book our tickets. Koeman does want to win the group, as that will also give us a spot as group leader at the Euros.