Strong Oranje beats weak Belgium

We need to be honest. Before this Derby Of the Lowlands, the stories coming from both camps already seemed to predict what was going to happen.

The Belgium camp (Kevin de Bruyne) clearly wasn’t keen to play these 4 Nation League games after the long season most players had. Questions about the playing calendar, comments about the lack of real necessity of these matches…. And understandable. Belgium as a National Team stands firm. Martinez has been around for years. Our Southern neighbours are a settled team. It’s clear how they play and they already have several tactical systems in their backpack.

Louis van Gaal himself sang the Dutch anthem before the match

So different from the Dutch camp, which has been infused with a sense of urgency by Coach van Gaal who blew up the importance of these games for the Dutch. Not because of the Nations League trophy, but because Van Gaal sees it as the first prep period for the World Cup. And with Van Gaal as a relatively new coach this time, with his ideas of implementing a different system ( 3-4-3 instead of 4-3-3) and the fact that not all positions are certain yet, these 4 Nations League games will be considered as really necessary.

It was noticeable in the match. Yes, Belgium started spritely, they had some threatening attacks, culminating in the rocket smashing onto the upright by left wingback Castagne who repeatedly benefitted from Dumfries swashbuckling runs.

But one they lost Lukaku (Ake fell on his ankle after a Lukaku push… karma is a bitch) and saw a couple of great chances for Oranje, the Belgiums seems to give up. The shoulders dropped, the midfield couldn’t get close to our players and the veteran defenders started to make error after error.

Berghuis should have scored after 15 minutes, facing Mignolet. Memphis got a sweet volley chance, which just missed the goal, while Daley Blind had a good effort on goal after a brilliant Berghuis pass to Memphis who found his former Mancunian team mate on the edge of the box.

Holland could have been 0-3 up by then and all Belgium could do was a De Bruyne free kick on target after a rash Timber foul. Cillesen could easily collect the ball.

Oranje could smell blood. For sure, players like Van Dijk, Blind, De Jong and Memphis will have sensed that this Belgium was second-best in everything. Led by a Frenkie on overdrive, Oranje hunted for that goal.

It was no coincidence that Spurs man Stevie Bergwijn scored the opener. Always moving between the lines, always available, he was found by Frenkie with a short forward pass. The ex PSV forward took a touch to turn and found the goal without looking up: 0-1.

Oranje was almost able to score a second soon after, when the ref pointed to the spot for an alleged handball, but the VAR was able to dispel that notion: the ball hit the defender in the face, not on the arm: no penalty.

The usual question arose: was Holland playing so well, or was Belgium playing so weak. Probably a bit of both. The Dutch tactics Van Gaal came up with for this match worked wonders. Initially, it was Castagne on the left who had the better of Dumfries and after 20 mins or so, Van Gaal instructed the Inter wing back to be less adventurous to quiet the Leicester City man.

With Davy Klaassen on the #10 position, Van Gaal wanted him to make it hard for De Bruyne to dominate the game. The result was a less attacking Klaassen. Instead we got the fighting, duelling, battling and hoovering Klaassen. Never shining brightly, but oh so very important.

Berghuis played next to Frenkie. A bit deeper. But with the freedom to roam and support the attack. As Van Gaal said before the match: “Berghuis is my creative player. He can go wherever he wants.” And thus, we saw a deep lying Berghuis pass some great balls to the forwards – he created Memphis’ 0-2 for instance – or he himself came into scorings positions. The first one, I mentioned. He also had a shooting opportunity which sailed over the bar. His third attempt ended up at the feet of Blind who found his wing back partner Dumfries for the 0-3.

At that point, The Netherlands ruled the roost. Van Dijk and Ake were solid as a rock. Blind played his usual strong passing game, Timber might have put his hat in the ring for the right CB spot, while Frenkie de Jong payed at his regal best.

Memphis and Bergwijn upfront were unplayable for the older Belgium defence. They were constantly on the move, threatening and playing in between the lines. Memphis started slow, but grew into the game and ended up scoring one more in Oranje than a certain Patrick Kluivert. “Robin van Persie, here I come” was the message of the Barca forward.

Van Gaal didn’t see the need to change much. Ake was subbed after 75 minutes due to rhythm issues (the Feyenoord developed talent was informed by Man City that he is allowed to look for a new club… Newcastle United is a strong candidate).

Oranje could have gone further than 0-4. As said, the first half chances could have made it 0-7 and if Holland pushed really hard, they might have gotten more goals in the second half too. But, the friendly vibe between the players probably resulted in Van Dijk putting the foot on the brake, but not before he himself launched a long ball towards the sprinting Blind, who smartly took a position in between right back Meunier and centre back Aldeirwereld. The latter didn’t even see the Ajax man and his smart header was perfectly controlled by Memphis who didn’t hesitate: 0-4.

The Belgium team fought for a consolation goal and after a chalked off attempt for off side, it was Batshuayi who knicked one for Belgium: 1-4.

Obviously, the home fans booed their players off the pitch, whereas the Dutch were glowing with pride. After 25 years, Holland won a Derby of the Low Lands in Belgium. About time.

Van Gaal was particularly happy with the way they played and he was overly positive and complimented his players. “It was a joy to watch. Everything we discussed, everything we worked on and practiced worked out. The midfield positions, the movement of the forwards, the organisation at the back. Every single player was outstanding.” Asked about the key players, he smiled broadly and said: “Stevie Bergwijn! It’s unbelievable. He scored 5 out of the last 8 goals for us. He is so good in what he does. And Frenkie. But Frenkie… he is always good. I also thought Berghuis played a great game. But… they all did.”

Berghuis was not surprised with the way Oranje played: “I am not surprised no, because I know how good we can be. On a day like this, when it all clicks, we can reach this level. I know this. We need to find ways to always get to this level, which is the hard bit. I am not unhappy, far from it, but I do think I should have scored. That is a blemish on this match for me.”

Stevie Bergwijn was asked why he can perform like this in Oranje and not in London. “This coach believes in me. He has a role for me that works for me, I can play my game and I know what I can do. I feel really good here.”

Daley Blind had two assists in this game and created four chances for the team. He was key to Oranje’s attacking game. He opened his press talk by saying: “See? You don’t need to be fast to go deep!” This resulted in some belly laughs among the press. It was not a coincidence that both Dumfries and Blind were present for that third goal. When Berghuis shot on goal, both wing backs were already on the same level as the midfielder, ready to pick up a loose ball.

Daley Blind: “There is always that debate, whether this is a more defensive or offensive system. With Denzel playing higher on the right side, we can mix it up. He can go deep with his speed, I tend to play to the level of the box and try to get on the ball there. We sometimes slow the game down and try to just pass the ball around. This is not because we don’t want to attack. It’s the other way around: we do this, so we can explode into attack. We try to lure the opponent, we maybe put them to sleep a bit only to recognise where the space opens up and then an acceleration of the play gives us the attacking option.”

With the assist on the second Memphis goal, Blind demonstrated that speed is not always key. The moment you leave is key, the direction of the run is key (in between two defenders) and some spacial awareness to know where your team mates are is helpful too. Daley Blind running deep and heading an assist to the striker, is not a footballing situation you’d relate to the 32 year old. With Blind, it’s not about speed, but all about football intelligence.

Louis van Gaal is a happy man. He always speaks of Van Persie, Sneijder and Robben as the three key players he had for the 2014 World Cup. In this Nations League game, it seems the trio of Berghuis, Bergwijn and Depay have taken over these roles. Long may it last.

Jasper Cillesen – 7,5

First half build up passing could have been better. Second half, the Valencia goalie had one horrific build up pass but he also stopped some decent attempts on goal. His distribution improved. It seems Flekken, Bijlow and Cillesen will be slugging it out.

Nathan Ake – 7,5

He had one slip up in the first half, but played strong on the ball and very tight defensively. His starting berth in the team is not far away as a left CB.

Virgil Van Dijk – 7.5

Played like a rock. Supreme in the air. With a nice long pass to pre-assist Memphis’ second goal.

Jurrien Timber – 7

Played good, dribbles easily into midfield. Reads the game well but still has the odd rash challenge, in this match allowing Kevin de Bruyne a free kick from a dangerous spot.

Denzel Dumfries – 6,5

Had to slow his marauding runs a bit to keep track of Castagne. His hard feet resulted in some mediocre crosses from the right (one ball hit hard to Bergwijn at hip height) but always alert and on the front foot to score a goal.

Daley Blind – 8

Faultless game by Blind. Strong in possession, alert without the ball. Excellent distribution and two assists for the Ajax man.

Frenkie de Jong – 8,5

Played like a Roman emperor. Everything was his. Glided past players as if they didn’t exist. Always on the front foot, always driving forward.

Steven Berghuis – 7,5

Had some key passes (for the 0-2 for instance) and some great attempts, although he should have scored at least one. His distance strike resulted in Dumfries 0-3. Was available always, recycled the ball well and was alive constantly. With a goal, he would have scored an 8.

Steven Bergwijn – 8

Constantly on the move, constantly a threat. Always finding pockets of space and the most likely to open the score, which he did with a glorious goal. Ajax’ mission to sign him just got harder.

Memphis Depay – 8

Like Bergwijn, always a threat. Strong on the ball, aware of his team mates. Cool as a cucumber face to face with Mignolet and adding two more to his total tally.

Your views?

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  1. Started watching the game at the 51st minute and thought oranje was fascinating. A scintillating performance from top to bottom and this is my take from the minutes I was privy to.

    The Cillesen conundrum was always a manufactured one and though he had a nervy moment playing from the back, he is clearly better than the rest of our goalies. No brainer…like I have always reiterated.

    Saw here and there of Berghuis. Lvg touts him as his creative outlet. I still don’t see what’s the promise about. He will play ok against minnows but believe you me he will disappoint when push comes to shove. He’s always done. And this propensity of not converting his chances…

    Klaessen shouldn’t be overlooked. He is technical enough and rugged. Could come in handy against the bug guns. Berghuis, not so much.

    Impressed with Timber and Ake.

    Blind can be mighty useful and played a great game. He may even deserve the extra cover (3-5-2) that allows him to flourish. Anything else and we have a liability in our hands.

    Hard feet or not, Dumfries scores goals. Quick enough to be defensively solid too.

    Fdj and Memphis are our talisman. Have we ever addressed the issue of a bad luck injury to any of these guys?

    Iron Tulip. 10/10 Loved to see Pitbull among the backroom staff. Let’s go.

    1. nice one Orangutan. I think Danjuma will be Memphis’ replacement and trust me, the other Timber ( Quintin, who is now at Utrecht and Young Oranje) will be a trusted Frenkie replacement one day. I rate that kid!

      I’m also excited to see Jerdy Schouten playing amongst better players. He has the scanning and orientational awareness Frenkie has.

      And if Mo Ihattaren keeps on growing at Ajax under Schreuder, Berghuis might lose his spot to the gifted youngster.

      1. @Jan Danjuma cannot replace Depay…Depay works his butt off for the team always available,like Berjwin who also wroks his butt off….Danjuma has talent,but poor work rate and decision making is not that great at final third..Brobbey is better for team than Danjuma…We struggled to create cahnces with danjuma ,it was down to his bad work rate…if you dont work hard you should not be playing for NT…Just liek old Depay…Depay had that poor non working attaitude,who larg;ly depened on other players work,he decided to change that after that he is history…Danjuma s work rate makes me piss off…We are better team when Danjuma doesnt play..i wish Danjuma had the work rate of kuyt and kuyt had the talent of Danjuma..

        1. I’m not saying they are the same. But when Memphis is injured, you will need to find another player to make it 11. The other player will not be a Memphis clone. We should stop thinking like this.

          1. We play is in system and other players are used to it…We need exact replacemnet,if we clone ,its better..We should stop thinking that Danjuma is the only option…we have many..Brobbey and Boadu is alos available now..

  2. i think we are becoming a monster team…Hope Van gaal continues,though koeman is not a bad choice..
    Quinten Timber,Gravenberch,Sven botman,Rensch,Jurien Timber,de ligt..,Brobbey ,slory ,u17 has some serious players…

  3. —Berjwin——Depay———
    ——-Ake——De vrij—Deligt———-
    Krul for penalty shoot out,Weghorst for emergency pinch hitter…
    Stand bye
    Quinten timber

  4. When its comes to Danjuma its better he stays on the wing rather than as a striker where he tends to drift to the left and is inefficient coming in from the right. Gakpo is in the same boat as well.
    I would also say the same for Depay but he uses his body well to his advantage holding the ball in awkward situations and is able to bring other players into the play. Typical strikers job. Danjuma cant do this and his explosiveness and pace are his strength which suits a winger. Danjuma next club could also decide this

    For Memphis replacement I feel Boadu, Piroe, Brobbery, and Zirkzee are solid options coming up. If either can have a big upcoming season, should get the call up.

  5. The team now under LVG has a lot of movement on and off the ball, and players are interchanging positions which made it difficult for opposing team to contain.
    And the usual bugbear continues to be the inability to convert chances…finishing got to be clinical.
    Klaasen is assuming the role of Wijnaldum, a box-to box player. Also disrupting play. A technique player compared to De Roon.

  6. Guys, I don’t care if we beat Belgium 6/1, you bring this starting 11 to this world cup, You may not even make the 2nd round. Belgium just had a bad game…..
    Jan kept on bringing that one pass by Berghuis, to justify his role on this team. Berghuis, brings very little to this team. We need at least 4 major replacement on this team if we have to go far in this up coming world. ” Dumfries, Blind, Klassen and Berghuis. Everyone is talking about Van Gaal this Van Gaal that. To achieve anything, you got to have the squad to do so. If at least we had a better (right and left back and a good #10) Wo could have been ok. I would not read too much into the Belgium game.

    1. Jean, I mentioned the two passes by Berghuis because even if they look “straightforward”, they were not. The one pass that allowed Memphis his first goal, was sublime, mainly due to the weight of the pass. To do that in a split second, taking into account the 3 defenders, the distance to goal and the pace of Memphis is just brilliant.

      I am sorry for you if you cannot see this. The Dutch analysts have also identified Berghuis as one of the key players in the Belgium game. I’ll post an analysis, for educational purposes.

  7. The decision of who can substitute Depay and fdj in their respective positions, if ever need to be, will not be based on empirical observation.

    And that’s just it tho. The unwillingness by management, for even a game or two, to slot in different prospects and see how they fare on in these positions.

    There will be a tactical upheaval and roles reversal if one or both of this players ever gets injured. Why? Because we would have to play the accomodation game and lean on what’s familiar or risk experimenting during a tournament.

    And LVG has the tactical savvy and experience to pull it off. But it is still a great risk. That’s why I will always be in favor of experimenting in less-pressure times. And always skeptical of geniuses who ultimately are too sure of themselves.

  8. Thanks Jan for writing all those articles while traveling to Europe. It helped me keeping up with Dutch football those days. It will be interesting to see what Van Gaal will do in the next two games. Will Lang get minutes? After his claim, i would like to see if he can back it up. Will Janssen or BMI start?

  9. @wilson: I think you are counting chicken before it hatch. We should aim to finish at least QF next WC and it is not an easy task itself. This is the same logic FDB walk into last Euro. Hey this squad is getting good enough for this round, let twist it without material. Who is the big name left out of the current squad? I do not see anyone. I know you want to mention Brobbey, Kardorsph, Botman and other. While I agree with you that some of those names have good merit to be in the squad, they are not Benzema, Modric or KDB. My expectation of the coach is to guide this team to QF because this is a material that we have.

  10. Did anyone see the interview Lang gave about leaving Belgium. He’s got a bit of Ibrahimovic ego to him, talking about how the league will miss him and never see anyone like him.

    I think Wales will be pretty flat in the next game. It feels a bit like Holland is the only team out of all the top nations taking the Nations League seriously, partly because the majority of our players didn’t play 60+ games this year.

    Also @Jean, you’re being too critical. Remember, Greece once won the Euros with a team full of nobodies. No we don’t have a superstar in every position, but we’ve got a bunch, and we’ve got some hardworking guys. At the end of the day it comes down to 90 minutes.

  11. Wales is relaxed and will be in hangover…So we can experiment ease..only poland looks tough..i considering the beating of Turkey 6-1,montengro 4-0,Denmark-4-2,Belgium 4-1,Norway 2-0….i would not suprised will reach semis of Nations league just after 4 matches….LVG has done a marvellous Job..dutch national team will gain more fans across the world…like me became fan of ducth since 1994..i mean Just opposite to Bert van marwijk and his biased selsish slection and not nurturing for future…anyway he got humiliated in 2012..
    LVG is the key…This team would not have been qualfied with out LVG for WC2022..once again thanking God and cezec republic ….

  12. In case people missed the Noa Lang comments. Here is a summary.

    “I made the Belgium competition hot. I added flair and pizzazz.”

    “I won titles in Holland and Belgium. Time to move on”

    “I will make a move now, but not yet to Real Madrid. I hope to end up at Real Madrid”

    “If I have not won a Champions League, a Euros and World Cup title and a Ballon D’Or, my career will be a failure”.

    “Louis van Gaal told me: he thinks I am a world class player in potential.”

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