The competition is done, in The Netherlands. The biggest shock probably Emmen’s relegation. After a dramatic return to form the popular club fought themselves back into a relegation play-off and after 90 minutes of attacking and creating dozens of chances vs NAC Breda, they failed to score and got relegated after losing the penalty-series. The big leagues will all be done with competition football this weekend so it’s time for a look at the Euros, with Frank de Boer.
“It’s key to create a good vibe. We’ll be together for weeks and having a good atmosphere or not-so-good atmosphere will be key. I have been around when the vibe was not good, in 1990 and 1996 and look at the results. Whereas in 1998 we had a real connection in the squad and we overachieved.”
Johan Cruyff liked to use the conflict model to drive players to higher levels. Frank thinks it’s an outdated concept. “You can use the conflict model with individual players. Not everyone responds well to it. But overall, I am a fan of the Deschamps method. Any coach would want Benzema in his squad but Deschamp left him out for many years, as he would be toxic in the group. No Benzema in 2018, in other words.”
Louis van Gaal tweaked the traditional Dutch 4-3-3 for the 2014 World Cup after realising that Oranje couldn’t beat the strong teams in that way. Arjen Robben back then was the only real winger in the top of Europe and different playing styles were needed. Bert van Marwijk was also a pragmatic coach and Frank de Boer soaked it up when he assisted Bert in 2010. “I will definitely sit down with Bert before the Euros to revisit that World Cup. He got the maximum result out of the team and we weren’t the favorites back then.”
How long would you want the squad together prior to a tournament?
“I’d say, ideally 3 weeks. Now it’s less than two weeks. We have four days between our friendlies vs Scotland and Georgia. But…”ideal” is out of the window. Ideally, we have full stadiums too. You also see big droves of Orange coloured fans marching towards the stadium, that is all not going to happen. Or maybe at least a bit.”
How do you look back at that Euros in 2000, also in The Netherlands?
“Very positively, actually. I don’t see those two missed penalties vs Italy as my trauma, no. I think we are all proud of what we did, despite that match. And playing in our own country. And now again, three games in Amsterdam. We are favorite in the group, I get that. We won’t skirt away from that. But, Ukraine kept France at 1-1 and also beat Spain 1-0 in the Nations League. The same Spain that embarrassed Germany 6-0, you know? And Austria, they do have quality players from the Bundesliga in their squad. You may have heard of one David Alaba?”
What is the objective for Oranje at the Euros?
“I want to say semi-finals, at least. That is where I think we should aim for. Final four. But, everything needs to work with us, no injuries, no silly red cards and key players in form. Anything beyond semi finals would be a tremendous results. Our first 13 players are all top class. And I see we’re homogeneous, as a team. I can see parallels with the 1998 team. And we have some exciting youngster on top of the 13 and some great utility players. The mix is excellent. We can reach far but I think we are not the real faves. I think we’re an outsider. Belgium, France and Spain are top favorites for me. And don’t underestimate Portugal, England, Germany and Italy. I think we belong in that second series of 4 nations.”
How will we play?
“We’ll vary, I want to be able to shift systems instantly, during games. I want to move from 4-3-3 to 5-3-2 or 3-4-3. We will work on this in the prep period. I have discussed this with the players already and some of them, those 13, are used to this already with their clubs. As a coach, I used to play 4-3-3 predominantly. We want to be dominant. Holland isn’t a team that parks the bus. Also, counter football is not our thing as we lack pure speed up front. Whether it’s Memphis, Luuk de Jong, Berghuis or Weghorst, speed is not their weapon. Only Malen has that in his arsenal. But we need to make decisions. What happens if we lose possession here. Or there, you know. Do we have the lock on the door? Is the rest-defence properly organised? Turkey away, for instance… What went wrong? Two goals conceded from a turnaround moment in the game. That is completely unnecessary. In Poland, same thing. One moment of concentration loss and boom, you concede because you’re wide open. That needs to improve. When we played Italy in Bergamo, we did way better. The Italy version of Oranje, and whether you call it 5-3-2 or 3-5-2, I want to use these systems and want to switch during a match, if need be. But not in the first round. Only when we play tough opponents who want the ball even more than us (Spain?) We also need to assess which players are top, which are truly fit, after this long and tough season. And then find a way to have your best players excel. The good thing is, all players, even the youngster, have played with a back three, so no one will say “Wtf is De Boer cooking up for us now??”….
What will be Ruud van Nistelrooy’s role?
“Well, among other things he will work with our forwards. If there is one player who knows what it takes to score, it’s him. He is also a very good analyst, so he’ll do scouting and analysing for us as well. I also want him to talk about 2008, under Van Basten. We played a sensational set of group games, only to lose focus afterwards. And in the first knock-out match, we get beaten. Ruud has seen it all.”
How was your own debut in 1992 and what did you learn from that?
“I was never coached or guided by the older players. What can you expect, how to behave, what to be aware of, etc… I want to do things differently. Back then Michels said: “You’re in the squad. Do your thing.” He never said how he wanted me to play, for instance, what the plans were. But also 1998 was a big lesson. I remember thinking “Wow, we’re playing a nice tournament!”. But the team focus was never “We can win this!!”. We were quite happy with ourselves and when we lost the semis vs Brazil, we even felt like “Wow, being beaten by Brazil…yes, that can happen…”. Now, I look back and think: we should have approached that game differently. And many 1998 players look back at that match and feel the same way. We were satisfied with playing the semis. That is not good enough, hahahaha.”
What does it mean for the hierarchy in the dressing room, now Captain Virgil isn’t present?
“We will miss him dearly. His leadership, his charisma and of course his football qualities. But the hierarchy… there won’t be a vacuum, don’t worry. Wijnaldum is very vocal in the dressing room, Memphis as wel. They’re leaders. Then we have players who lead by example, like Blind and De Ligt and Frenkie. We have enough leaders. Our training sessions will be intense and no one will pull out of a challenge.”
Did you not select Weghorst in the past because he might disturb the vibe in the squad?
“Huh? No… I never thought about that, with him. Never looked at it like that. No, Weghorst position was already doubly booked, so to speak. Babel and Malen on the left, Stengs and Berghuis on the right and Memphis and Luuk de Jong centrally. End of story. And Wout is doing so well, he is a top striker and whether he is an asshole in the match or not, I don’t care. But as long as he’s an asshole to the opponent, hahahaha.”
You know already which 26 players will be selected?
“I have a couple of players where I am not 100% sure yet. I still need to lay that egg. I also considered bringing Virgil as one of the three additional players, even if he couldn’t play, just for his presence in the squad. But I won’t.”
How will you deal with the social media stuff?
“It’s part of life now. Players do a lot with this and it’s all good. We do have someone in the back room staff who will take care of films and photos, so the players 1) don’t have to worry about that and 2) can be assured they’ll look good on the pic, hahaha.”
Do you support a mandatory vaccination policy for the players?
“No! That is an individual decision, people should be free to decide for themselves.”