Today is the Day. First WC qualification game for Oranje.
Based on the game vs Greece and the training (and talk) sessions of last week, we can expect some changes.
Not confirmed, but according to the AD (official partner of KNVB), Blind will use a defensive heart of Bruma and Van Dijk (who’ll have to deal with the lone striker Sweden will deploy). Daryl Janmaat is now match fit and will take the right full back position – as predicted – and Jetro Willems will lose his spot to Daley Blind.
Blind will most likely play more as a midfielder, with Klaassen coming into the team to strengthen midfield and add legs and penetration, allowing Sneijder in a more protected play-maker role.
Danny Blind: “We need to play more compact. Keep the lines more tight. We did well before the Euros in our friendlies, but we didn’t manage to do so vs Greece.”
Wesley Sneijder (hitting the balls in the goal at practice from every single angle), with a cheeky grin: “Tonight is a night for Big Boys. Let’s see how many Big Boys we have in our squad…”
With all the drama we had to endure in the last months (Hiddink gone, no Euro qualifications, Robben still injured, assistant coaches resigning, Hans van Breukelen axing Jorritsma’s tenure), the loss to the Greeks in a friendly seems just another little annoyance.
We started well. Janssen impressed again. Sneijder looks superfit. Stekelenburg and even Vorm are back in good form and Strootman is back (with Robben not far away).
But individual mistakes (and some unfortunate substitutions) helped Greece to the victory.
Mistakes that we’ll need to iron out of the team. And fast!
I’m sure Danny Blind has a way to go, still, in finding the right line up for Oranje. Janmaat disappeared from the squad a tad, Willems is not at his usual best. Promes hasn’t set Oranje on fire yet and it is not yet clear who should be partnered up with Daley at the back.
But, his options are limited. Ron Vlaar is out for Sweden (injury) so it will be between Van Dijk and Bruma now. Van Aanholt is a good sub for Willems, but like Willems, the Sunderland man is vulnerable in defensive terms.
Veltman doesn’t cut it as right back for me, but somehow Janmaat doesn’t have the coaches’ confidence.
Zoet has been impressive for PSV but didn’t look solid in those two Greek goal situations.
Work to be done.
It also has to be said: we didn’t have a lot of luck. The two Janssen attempts deserved better, Sneijder had a solid crack and when Zoet boxed the ball away for the second Greek goal, the scorer was quite fortunate that the ball came straight at him. If that ball was pushed one yard either way, the guy wouldn’t have scored.
For me, in the state we’re in, 4-3-3 should not be sacred. We lack physical presence at the back. Defensive killer mentality paired with length and speed…it seems only Ron Vlaar brings that to the team. Van Dijk, Bruma, Veltman, Kongolo, Riedewald…it all seems to timid still. Hopefully De Vrij will get back into the team soon.
Our two top class players are Sneijder and Strootman, for now. These two should play in the axes of the team. A diamond in midfield for me. With Klaassen on the left, Wijnaldum on the right, for instance. Sneijder in the #10 role, and Strootman sitting deep in front of the defence. I’d use Janssen and Berghuis upfront, with Robben replacing Berghuis asap!
Should Depay or Elia get back into contention, we’ll see how we can utilise them.
I’d also go for Van Dijk over Bruma, personally, and I’d use Willems on the left and Janmaat on the right. Although Willems needs a stern talking to by Blind, as he was not really tracking back when the Greek broke for the second goal.
In the meantime, rumours are rife re: Blind’s new assistants.
I think it is key for the KNVB to add some warmth and grit to the bench. Blind is a good analyst of the game and a good communicator, but not really warm and passionate. Someone like Henk ten Cate or Ruud Gullit would complement him on the bench.
Aad de Mos (ex Ajax, PSV, KV Mechelen) and Willem van Hanegem (ex Feyenoord, FC Utrecht, assistant Oranje)
In Holland, a sort of lobby has started to get Aad de Mos and Willem van Hanegem to join the coaching staff, potentially with a fourth assistant, someone like Fons Groenendijk. The latter has done exceptionally well with Excelsior and used to be in the Ajax youth academy after his playing career (Ajax, Manchester City). Aad de Mos will bring grit and venom (and tactical smarts) while no one works better one on one with players than Willem van Hanegem.
If Van Breukelen is smart, he’ll drop his idea to replace Hans Jorritsma. The players wrote a collective urgent letter to him, asking him with force to reconsider that move. Sneijder in particular is very close to Jorritsma and everything De Breuk does now, should be in service of the First Team.
The pressure is on though, and Blind will realise that a loss vs Sweden will put him under a lot of pressure. As the KNVB will have to replace the two assistant coaches, they might well decide to let Blind go as well. At this stage, it would be hard for any inexperienced coach to keep his head clear and the KNVB might be forced to go to the aforementioned Aad de Mos or Co Adriaanse to rejuvenate the team.
The power brokers from left: outgoing Van Oostveen, Michael van Praag (ex Ajax chair but sadly invisible at KNVB), unkown and new general manager Gijs de Jong (no reason to smile, but probably happy to be promoted)
Despite this pressure, the players are quite stoic. Kevin Strootman simply believes that we shouldn’t get to worked up about results in friendlies. “We need to do the business on Tuesday. We shouldn’t be too focused on a loss or a win in a friendly. When we need to do the business, we will, I’m certain. And don’t forget, it we would have beaten Greece, everyone would have said “yeah nice guys, but don’t forget: we need to win next week!”. We conceded two goals and that was too easy. But it’s not the fault of this player or that player. It’s a team failure. We lost too many duels at one stage. We need to act better as a team. We did ok in the friendlies before the Euros. And we didn’t give away too much. Even against Greece, we only gave them two chances, but they did score in both situations. But hey, Greece at home… we should have won that game of course…”
Wijnaldum: “Whether we lose 1-2 vs Greece or win 5-0… Our plan for Sweden remains the same. The Greek game could have been 3-2 if Janssen had been a tad more lucky. We are focusing too much on the end result. My coach at Liverpool always says: The best players aren’t key to winning and even the best team is not key to a win. What is key is the best game plan. I don’t think we’ll have more pressure due to this loss. The pressure is on due to us not going to the Euros. We know this and we can handle it. Portugal won the Euros. Were they the best? Not really, but they worked as a team, gave it their all. Leicester in the EPL. And even Oranje at the WC2014. That is what we need to focus on, instead of the fact some players are injured or we seem to have a weaker generation. Klopp always says: “99% is simply not enough. You have to give 100% or go home.”