Wow, what a night! Where to start….
I said before the game I wasn’t too confident. And I also predicted a wishful 0-3, for Oranje. Well, we did get the 3 goals. And we got a big hit in our confidence. Holland is back on the ground after being a little bit lifted after the Spain tapas.
And Van Gaal did something he normally doesn’t do and shouldn’t do anymore. The man who uses logic and statistics for his decision making, this time used his heart to make a decision. Feeling. Van Gaal and feeling do not mix.
He wanted to give the lads who beat Spain another go. The 5-3-2 against Australia’s 4-5-1. Now, I am not a big systems guy. I think systems are overrated. Systems don’t win you games, players and opportunities do.
From a systems perspective, Holland’s system didn’t mix well with Australia. The one lone striker up front worked his ass off against 3 mediocre building up defenders. And the rest of the Dutch team was marked. The Aussies used forward pressure almost Dutch style and never gave Blind, Janmaat, Sneijder and co time on the ball. This rattled the Dutch. In particular Sneijder and De Guzman were at a loss. Sneijder never had so many stray passes, while Robben does what Robben does when things don’t flow. He starts to want to win it all by himself.
From a mentality’desire/focus perspective, it felt we were sluggish, and arrogant even. Our pace was low, our passing was off ( three stray passes to Blind in the first 30 minutes, Sneijder not finding his feet) and we simply were too late for most challenges.
From an individual class perspective, only Robben showed his quality in that particular first goal situation. The rest of the team was mediocre. Poor even.
The first threat was Robben converting an Aussie mistake in the 0-1. In Robben style. The former Groningen man sort of felt his mates were still in the dressing room and he decided to go it alone. Which sort of got the Dutch back on their cloud. So much so that the Socceroos were able to score within the minute. A great one time played ball into Cahill and a Van Basten style volley: 1-1. Cracker of a goal.
This gave the Aussies wings and they outplayed us that first half all over the pitch.
And this is where we really got hurt. Not so much systems, but mentality. Will to win. Desire. And having an Algerian referee on the pitch didn’t help either :-).
The width of the Aussies rattled Holland as well. Spain’s wide players drift inwards when they can. Leckie and Oar however, hugged the line and created a lot of defence problems for Holland, who had to play one on one whenever Australia had the ball. And when they did, they moved their 4-5-1 into a 3-3-4, impressively.
A dramatic accident involving Martins Indi forced Van Gaal to show his cards before the half time break. A tough Cahill challenge resulted in BMI hitting the deck with his head and he is off with a concussion. Van Gaal used the moment to bring the 4-3-3 back with young gun Memphis Depay on the left flank.
The 4-3-3 gave Holland more control over the match. The 3 forwards kept 4 Aussies at the back and more fighting spirit (Sneijder, De Jong, Janmaat, Blind) in midfield helped Holland back into it. But where we created more in 10 minutes than in the previous 45 minutes, it was bad luck in our box that gave the Aussies a lead. A cross against Janmaat arm and the ball went on the spot. Australia didn’t fail and led 2-1. This is where Holland finally straightened their back and inspired by the entrance of Depay, Holland did to the Socceroos what Cahill did to us: score immediately. A good throughpass by the young PSV winger (definitely on his way out of the Eredivisie) to Van Persie who was kept onside and the Man United striker had only one thing on his mind. High and hard.
I did have the feeling we had more in us this game, but was very conscious that this applied to Australia as well.
It took something special and a fail by the Aussies to get on top though. A Depay distance strike C Ronaldo style tricked the young Socceroo goalie and found the net. 2-3 up for Holland but this wouldn’t stop the lads in green and gold to bounce back and come looking for more.
And for me, they deserved the equaliser.
But sadly for them and fortunately for us, we were able to stay in the game and with Wijnaldum and Lens as fresh legs (Van Persie limped off after a shock landing on his ankle) we did create more opportunities but somehow it never looked like we would dance past the ruggish Aussie players.
Lets just hope that this tough game will have brought some grit to the Dutch. Because we will not get away from a team like France or Germany, should they choose to play like this against us.
It is time we all become realistic again, after this fabulous win versus Spain, and realise we can only get something if we really fight and labour like there is no tomorrow all over the pitch. And then, with some class by the Golden Triangle and some tactical wizardry by Van Gaal.
And looking back at the Australia game, one can safely say that: 1) we did not show grit and workmanship but were sluggish and looked arrogant, 2) our big guns were hot and cold this game and 3) Van Gaal got it wrong with his tactical set up.
So there is a big decision to be made by Van Gaal.
Playing Chile, will we go back to 5-3-2 (as they tend to play Spain-like) or will we simply rely on our class and traditional 4-3-3 against all future opponents from now on and use Depay as our tropical surprise?
I’ll give you one hint. Skipper Van Persie was interviewed right after the game and he gave his true feelings away, as he wasn’t as guarded. “It was good to play 4-3-3 again, to be in our own style. We clearly all feel better playing that.”