Tag: Arjen Robben

De Boer on his Euro plans

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 Frank thinks it’s an outdated concept.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.”

Bookmark and Share

Arjen Robben: Legend!

Arjen Robben has retired. He has hung that left boot of his on a hook (the right boot was never that important). He won his 12th national title (!) and the domestic cup and that was it. No more adventures in the sand pit, or in China, the US or even Eindhoven and Groningen.

How did you experience those last days at Bayern?

“It was bizar… That farewell was edging closer and it made me more and more emotional. Too many moments where I had to swallow the tears away, hahaha. I noticed it with Robin’s farewell at Feyenoord. That really grabbed me. It was good to see how Robin really enjoyed it all and then you sort of project this onto your own farewell. And its all so close suddenly. Chapters are being closed, and actually, the book is almost finished. Not almost… It’s simply finished. Done. Over. I have so many great chapters, and particularly here. I had intens moments here. Assistant coach Gerland, for instance, he is here for decades, he teared up in front of me when he told me that he couldn’t say goodbye… Club people, people with whom you shared so much. His emotions, this was not just for what I meant for Bayern as a player, but also what I meant to him as a human being. Beautiful!”

We saw you in tears when warming up for the title decider, last month. We saw your tears when you played your last cap for Holland, during the anthem. You are not that ice cold northerner, are you?

“Certainly not. I’m quite emotional, particularly with those big moments which impact me and my family. I was very aware that I was playing my last match for Holland, vs Sweden. I was packed with adrenaline. I wanted to show everyone what I could do, one last time. Even though we lost our chance to go to the World Cup, I wanted to eat up the pitch and do all I could. And I think personally, I was able to say farewell with grace. I played well and scored two goals. The challenge is to park your emotions once the match starts. And I can do that. I can focus fully on my performance, this is a skill I mastered at the start of my career and helped me a lot!”

What does that mean, in terms of preparation?

“Van Gaal called it visualising. It’s a way to start programming your body on what it needs to do and to show it a way to success. I hoped to start vs Eintracht, our title match. I did experience not being picked as a hit on the head. I really wanted to show the fans that I still have it and say farewell in style. That was the ultimate. But, I got my sub turn and got my goals, so that is great. We won the title and the cup, so that is a top notch end for me.”

You now have 12 titles to your name. No other Dutch player has done it more. Not even a certain Johan Cruyff. Do statistics like this mean anything to you?

“Some stats I don’t care about, some stats I do. This one is absolutely a big one. This is a confirmation of your career. I don’t really linger too long, but personally, I think this one is very meaninful. Because Cruyff. The biggest player we ever had and I took him over on this list. That is a special milestone, no?”

It feels as if it’s 30 years ago when you left PSV for Chelsea. Do you feel that like this as well?

“I do know what you mean. It’s been a long career. I made my debut at 16 and after two years PSV I left for England. I’ve been gone for 15 years. And you do experience so many things while not having time to really process it all. And there are moments when you can appreciate it, but mostly it is a day-by-day routine. Living in the here and now.”

Do you remember your debut at Bayern still?

“I remember everything. I had the best entry one could wish. Bayern had started the season badly. Two draws and a defeat. And we had to play the 4th game vs the title holder, Wolfsburg. I had just made my entry on Thursday. I had my medical on Thursday and my first practice on Friday. Louis van Gaal had me starting from the bench. In the second half I came on, and scored twice. The German commentator said “the circus has arrived into town!” when I scored the second :-). That afternoon was a start of a long and tremendous period in my life.”

In 2012 you were booed in your own Allianz Arena home when you played there with Oranje, and a year later you were the hero when you scored the winner in the Champions League finals. Was that the toughest year at Bayern?

“That was an extraordinary story. The one year, you lose out on everything and all the disappointment is aimed at you. The next season, you win the treble. A lot of people tend to want to pick that period as the story for me at Bayern, but I look at it in a much broader perspective. I was here 10 years, and you have so many ups and downs, including the injuries of course. And I was down a lot of times, but I came back up. Every drama was followed with a victory. That is the overarching feeling for me. We had a lot of successes. I also enjoyed the time under Guardiola, for instance. I don’t want to speak negatively about other coaches, but Pep was the best I ever worked with. It was so good to play in his structure and vision.”

What makes him special?

“The way he sees the game and the way he translates it to the players. That was really quite incredible. And with every club where he worked, the Guardiola DNA remains. He will always leave his mark. He develops players and he is able to let them play as a team. Look at Raheem Sterling at Man City. Three years ago Sterling vs Sterling now. Unbelievable!And I experienced this too. When Guardiola came to Bayern, I was 30 years old. Normally, you won’t develop too much anymore. But I think I did make some key steps under him. I played on different positions under him: right wing, but also as central striker and as #10. I also covered the whole flank under him. That variance was amazing, challenging, educational and super fun!”

It is no coincidence that pros like Van Persie, Kuyt and yourself are able to play at top level until well into your 30s. Is that the results of taking good care of body and mind?

“I suppose so. It’s about understanding what top football demands, both physically and mentally. You are basically constantly preparing yourself for a peak performance. It must be a way of life. With as much focus on career and as little distraction as possible. It’s wonderful once you can reap the benefits.”

You always challenged the laws of match fitness. How is that after an injury spell you could return immediately to top level?

“That was always a huge benefit I had. I think it has to do with my way of recovering from injuries. I always worked at the highest intensity, and the result is that once you are ready to return, you’re immediately top fit. And then it’s a mental thing. Once the first match works out, the confidence and faith will boost the performance even more. I always studied what it takes to return from injury, because I was injured so often. Remember the World Cup in South Africa and that hamstring? I did an intense revalidation project and was able to play the World Cup and reach a decent level. By the way, ask people about that tournament and they’ll say “Robben and the toe of Casillas” and that is normal, I guess. But for me, the World Cup 2010 theme was the miracle of me being able to play in the first place. And I had a contribution in even reaching that finals and that is the special memory for me.”

How do you experience the revival of this new Oranje?

“That is great to watch. And we have delivered another bunch of exceptional talents, who give football a lot of positive impulses. We saw it with Ajax and now with Oranje as well. And I’m keen to see how this develops. Some lads have the ability to become world class!”

Which players do you see in that category?

‘Frenkie de Jong is a super talent of course, but I’ll limit myself here to players I played with: Matthijs de Ligt and Donny van de Beek. Talent and quality enough but it will be key to see what kind of character they have, their personality. I have seen a lot of young players come through in my career and I can really judge the type of personality they have. And I’ve seen top talents fail. But about De Ligt and Van de Beek I have zero doubts. These kids are top notch in personality and mentality and I can see these two make it big. I could see how they prepared and how they live for the sports and that will pay dividends.”

You had a 5 month injury spell this last season. Did you ever think: lets forget about it all, and throw the towel?

“At times it crossed my mind. I was getting to the finish line with my recovery and then I had a set back… I was banging on a door which seemed locked. I did get some sense of depression of it all, hahaha, but that feeling disappeared really quickly. I didn’t want to end my career like that. So I kept fighting. The problem was that for a long time, the medical peeps didn’t know what it was. Their was no diagnosis to work with. Where was the pain coming from? When you tear a muscle, it’s at least clear! Anyway, once you can work with the group and the ball again on the pitch, I feel like a kid, like a school boy playing. And the level at Bayern is very high, so it’s like you’re suddenly in Disneyworld, you know?”

Do you see yourself in a role here, now your career as a player is over, at Bayern?

“The door will probably always be open for me, here. Bayern is now my club, it’s part of my life. I had sensational times everywhere, but this bond with this club… But I haven’t thought about life after… I think I’ll take a long break first. I’ll take my distance and re-order my life.”

Robben scoring his first goal for Bayern Munich

Is your family excited about you finally retiring?

“I think so. I am a weirdo. My mindset and mood is determined by my sports life. When things go well, I’m relaxed and happy go lucky. But when I’m injured, I’m a bit of a dickhead. I am really intens with my emotions and my wife and kids are used to this by now. They know what exquisite joy football brought us and also what I had to give for it. That rollercoaster ride of emotions is now over. I can re-establish my self as a husband, partner, parent, etc.”

Arjen Robben Stats:

19 seasons pro football

12 domestic titles

96 international games

206 club goals

Robben is the Dutch top scorer of the Bundesliga with 99 goals, with Willy Lippens (92), Roy Makaay (78), Klaas Jan Huntelaar (82) and Rafa van der Vaart (45) completing the top 5.

He is also the Dutch Assist King of the Bundesliga, with 53 assists (Rafa van der Vaart is second with 38).

Robben scored 84 goals of the 99 with his left.

And the Robben trick is always, threatening to go outside, cutting inside, a quick burst of acceleration and a curler in the corner. Goal!

Why is this so hard to defend?

“I think it’s about the fact that defenders cannot be 100% certain I cut inside. I do have the ability to the other way and they will always leave me that split second to take advantage of. So I use that to quickly accelerate slightly and I always had more touches in my dribbles than most players… Not as many as Messi, though, hahahaha. But that gives me a little window to finish and then it’s all about the finish, the quality of the shot.”

When comparing Robben’s stats with other top attackers from the past 10 years, he is the most prolific of all, bar Neymar.

Robben is involved with 1 goal every 101 minutes.

# of minutes per goal:

Neymar: 84

Robben: 101

Di Maria: 115

Ribery: 118

Reus: 118

Bale: 124

Sanchez: 126

Hazard: 145

Bookmark and Share

Why Robin van Persie will ROCK this coming summer

There is and always has been debate around Robin van Persie in Holland.

It seems like we – Dutch – don’t understand players like him. We like two types of players: players that perform (and we don’t care if they’re arrogant or annoying) and players that are humble and work their arse off.

In category one, we have Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Willem van Hanegem, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart…. Cruyff was very egotistical, Willem cynical, Marco aloof, Dennis didn’t fly, Wesley is cocky, Rafa overweight, etc etc. We don’t care. Actually, we love them all for it.

cruyff-bergkamp-van P

Three characters: RVP, JC and The Iceman

The humble ones? Jaap Stam, Jan Wouters, Phillip Cocu, Wim Jansen, Johan Neeskens, Gio van Bronckhorst, Edwin van der Sar, Aron Winter.

And there is a huge category we do not really warm too. The ones that think they’re better than they are. And the ones who rap. Although this second category is basically a subgroup of the first one :-). Drenthe, Babel, Elia, Kuyt, you know who you are.

In that category players who over-estimate themselves are the ones that leave for greener pastures early in their career. Again, Drenthe, Babel, De Ridder…all those players who disappear.

Robin van Persie was one of those lads, almost.

Terribly annoying at Feyenoord (sure, very gifted too), headstrong, streetwise (talking with a Moroccan accent as a result of hanging out mostly with Moroccan kids… Robin ended up marrying a Moroccan wife and according to some converted to Islam).

Bert van Marwijk (and his staff and senior players) couldn’t contain the young prodigy. He was amazingly talented, although Bert didn’t really know how to use the youngster best. Was he a winger? Was he a playmaker? A striker? Whatever he was, the playmaker role didn’t exist in Feyenoord ( Bosvelt played from deep, with runner Tomasson upfront behind Van Hooijdonk). Pi-Air was untouchable of course so left wing was to Robin’s spot.

When he moved to Arsenal, it still took some time for Robin to make it in the first team, as a starter. Sure, he had his games in his first seasons, but also his fair share of run ins with team mates and coach Wenger and even got a red card for a lunge, which resulted in Wenger yelling obscenities at Van Persie from the side line. Van Persie played a wide role for Arsenal for quite a while and had a number of goes as midfielder behind Adabayor. In the 2008/09 season, he took the role of Henry as main striker, when the Frenchman left for Barca.

It would take a bit of time for Van Persie to shine in that role due to injuries.

Robin has quite a reputation from his early days in Holland. He was known to be a misbehaved streetkid who was sent away from school many times. Later on, after a Dutch World Cup qualification game in 2005, he was arrested on suspicion of rape. He was held in custody for 14 days and circumstances were so bad in the little holding cell that RVP passed out at a certain point. The case was dropped as there was no proof that sexual contact with coercion happened and the “victim” – a former Miss Nigeria/Holland – admitted she claimed to be rape to “gain publicity”. RVP did have sex with her and cheated on his wife, in other words, which didn’t help his public reputation. It later emerged that over 200 police officers had had access to the case file, most of them not authorised to do so.

RVP was always seen as a tremendous talent but his personality and his vulnerable physique made it hard for him to be the dominant player he wanted to be. In 2008/09 he reached the 20 goals per season at Arsenal for the first time, but the season after, he dropped back to 10 (in 19 games) as as result of injuries. In 2010/11, his last season for the Gunners he produced a whopping 22 goals in 33 games, a feat he’d better last season for ManU when he scored 37 out 48 games. This is basically 0,8 goals per game!

RVP Bert

Here’s a tip for you: don’t sub me!

In the Dutch team, he scores once every second game (this year, he is on 4 goals in 5 games, which is as good as his ManU stat, by the way). This is certainly not bad for a striker. But somehow, the perception is, that RVP doesn’t deliver in Orange.

The reason being, of course, that he scores easily and prolifically against smaller nations (qualifications and friendlies) but hardly in big games or big tournaments.

In 2006, the World Cup in Germany, he scored one goal at group stage.

In 2008, RVP didn’t start until Romania and he scored two goals before Russia ousted Holland. Robin played as a winger, supporting Van Nistelrooy.

In 2010, RVP played as central striker, but only scored one goal (Cameroon) in a successful campaign.

Sadly, RVP’s performance stood out like a sore nail during that campaign. Sneijder and Robben were the heroes of the World Cup, with Kuyt, Elia, Van der Vaart and Stekelenburg getting headlines as well.

In 2012, the world expected more from him at the Euros, but a disastrous game against Denmark (in which he missed a number of good chances) resulted in a downward spiral. RVP only scored one goal, with his right, against Germany. A game in which he could have had a second one (and maybe saving Holland from disgrace).

The widely heralded striker can not look back on an international career like Ruud van Gol, San Marco, Patrick Kluivert or Johan Cruyff can in a similar position.

But…is it because he is not good enough? Is it because he chokes in big games?

I don’t believe that. To be able to play at this high level for so long (EPL, ManU, CL, etc) your mental state is totally fine. You will NOT survive one week at ManU if you are not mentally strong.

I would call that evidence #1.

Not good enough? There are many YouTube clips demonstrating how good Van Persie really is. His athleticism, his speed (both with his feet and his brain/vision), his ability in his left foot, his ability as a header of the ball, his ever improving right foot, his finishing ability, his ability to set a goal up…. There is nothing he can not do. I believe he’d even make a good goalkeeper.

Messi is probably faster with the ball and a better dribbler, C Ronaldo might be stronger, but other than that, RVP is the complete package.

So what is it then, that held the former Excelsior player back?

I believe it has to do with team-dynamics and hierarchy on the one hand, and team tactics on the other.

I believe Robin and Bert did not have the best of working relationship. I believe Robin may have genuinely liked Bert as a person, but I believe Robin thrives with a coach who really emerges into the team… Someone like Wenger, Mourinho, Guardiola, Ferguson and Van Gaal.

Van Marwijk is more distant. More like Mancini, Benitez, Capello, I’d say. Van Marwijk was very laissez-fair.

Let the alpha dogs sort it out.

We all remember how the Sneijder clan ( Robben, Van der Vaart, Mathijsen, Heitinga, Stekelenburg, Kuyt) knotted together while the RVP clan ( Van Persie, Afellay, Boulahrouz) had their own little circle.

Bert made Wes the man. Kuyt was his #2. And in the team, despite RVP’s role as central striker, it was Sneijder who dominated the game and would always look for Robben as an outlet, as these two complement each other so well.

I am not saying Sneijder did it on purpose to spite Robin. Playing the ball deep to Robben in space behind the defence of the opponent was simply how Sneijder could contribute best. RVP prefers the ball in his feet and Sneijder and RVP would frequently block each other’s space.

But Bert didn’t care about whether Robin shone or not. He cared about winning. When Bert started the WC2010 campaign he did so wanting to play attractive and attacking football. Like Holland did in the qualifications. He was happy to go with the Fab Four (Wes, Raf, Robben, Robin) but Robben’s injury changed those plans. The way we started at the WC (Denmark and Japan both parking numerous busses) determined how we proceeded.

Robin van Persie

“No, that is where the problem is, Louis….”

Louis van Gaal is also all about results but more so about execution and using the weapons you have at your disposal best. Van Gaal knows that results are the result of something. You focus on execution and the results will come.

The system we played in 2010 was not suited for any center striker. Our 4-2-3-1 was executed from a counter football perspective. You can play 4-2-3-1 in a forward pressing mode, which would definitely result in many opportunities for the center striker. But the way we played, sitting deep, allowing space behind the opponents back line, results immediately in a difficult role for the striker. In our case: Robin van Persie.

His tasks, in that set-up, are putting pressure on the opposing defender with the ball and making himself available once they lose the ball. The first pass would go to Sneijder or RVP, the most forward man, who holds the ball up and redistributes towards the midfielders coming forward who then pass to the fast wingers exploiting space. The Robbens, Narsinghs, Lenses and Elias…

It is no coincidence that Elia, Kuyt, Robben and Sneijder were the goal scorers, as rthe wingers would move inwards towards the center position. Robin hardly got a real chance at the World Cup.

Again, playing 4-2-3-1 in an attacking mode would change this significantly, but in 2010 we were not able to do so, unfortunately.

Now, LVG will not play 4-2-3-1.

His 4-3-3 is set up in a very strict, almost rigid way.

People execute 4-3-3 in several ways. With two sitting midfielders (Bayern) and one forward midfielder, or with two creative forwards and one holder ( Barcelona)…

Louis has distinct roles for his players. One holding mid (De Jong, Clasie, De Guzman, Strootman, Fer), one box-to-box runner (Strootman, Fer, Van Ginkel) and one creative forward, playing as a false striker close to the striker (RVP, Lens, Huntelaar). For this role Louis thinks Wesley, Rafael, Maher and Siem de Jong are his candidates.

As long as Robben and the right winger keep it wide, or allow the full backs to overlap, the field will be wide.

It will allow space for Robin and the playmaker to play off each other.

At the same time, we do need to realise that the time the oft scoring striker are over, in modern football.

robben rvp

“Trust me Robin, in the next game I will pass the ball to you…”

Adabayor at Spurs, Benzema at Real Madrid, Torres at Chelsea, Carrol when at Liverpool, the French dude at Arsenal (forgot his name)…. It is less and less their role to be the final stage of the attack. These lads are all key in allowing the runners around them to take position (the coming man vs the player who is already there) and become the most forward playmakers in the box.

Against lesser teams, sure, these guys will score their goals. But against tougher opponents, even in this 4-3-3 I do expect the Sneijder role, the Van Ginkel role and the wingers to be scoring more. Simply because the central striker already is in position (and easier to mark) while the others will jack-in-the-box into the box…

But whether RVP scores or not, I am convinced that (if he is fit etc etc) he will be of the utmost importance to us.

And I do hope Arjen Robben will finally with the Ballon D’Or this year, allowing Robin to snatch it up next year, after winning the EPL title again and the World Cup with Holland. ( He won’t win the CL, as Frank de Boer will claim it this time around….)

Bookmark and Share

Oranje 2014

So Louis van Gaal will stop after the World Cup 2014.

What does that mean? That he doesn’t really like the job? Or is he so confident we can win it that he won’t be keen to go on?

Or is he all about “Louis me me me” and only cares about him experiencing the World Cup as a coach (as he said so often).

I don’t know the answer. What I do know, is that we will have a real chance on the title. No matter what whoever says. Even no matter what Louis says.

He said: there are eight other teams with as much or more chance on winning it. Of course. On paper, that is true.

But England? Really? I believe the traditional nations will be on the list: Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Italy, Holland.

France? Belgium? Portugal? Mexico? England? Outsiders….

I think Holland will be a candidate for the title, because of the following names: Louis van Gaal, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie.

Maybe we can add Wesley Sneijder to the list. Maybe Rafael van der Vaart. Maybe.

Add a mix of Stekelenburg/Vorm, Strootman, Huntelaar and a couple of young talents and people will look at us as an exciting team.

And Louis will make sure we will play exciting. Maybe not as good as his Ajax 1995, but with the right intentions.

And yes, our squad will be young. Our defensive four will probably be on average 23 years old or so.

NL Brazil

Oranje scored prolifically last time in Brazil

And it’s quite likely that our midfield will have a 22 year old or younger (Fer, Maher, Van Ginkel, Clasie). Just like we will have a couple of young bucks up front.

And it is ALL good. Louis van Gaal has demonstrated a couple of things. 1) he is a very good coach, 2) he is a difficult bloke to work with, 3) he will clash with experienced players and 4) has reached his best results with young players he can mould.

And don’t forget: our only real prize we won in 1988 was won with a young and relatively inexperienced squad. The Milan Three only played in Italy for one season and one Marco van Basten sat most of the Milan games on the bench or in sickbay. Koeman was not yet in Spain. Arnold Muhren was 37 years old and Van Breukelen wasn’t a spring chicken anymore, but players like Van Aerle, Rijkaard, Koeman (2x), Vanenburg, Kieft, Bosman and Van ‘t Schip were not seen as world beaters, outside of Holland. Talents, for sure, but not much more. Tiggelen played in Belgium, Kieft was with a second rate Italian club, Erwin Koeman in Belgium, Vaantje at PSV, Schippie at Ajax….

And they won it.

Just like we can win it.

We have two of the best forwards. We have a couple of great goalies. Talented defenders and razorsharp midfielders.

If someone can make it work, it is Louis.

I am positive!

kuyt brazilKuyt even scored a brace!

 Bookmark and Share

Arjen Robben, from "Loser" to Legend

I remember the little lad making his first steps on the field of FC Groningen. 16 years old. Didn’t look like a football player. More like a chess afficionado or a math expert. In a time when most if not all talents was developed by Ajax and to a lesser extend, PSV or Feyenoord, it was vv Bedum that developed this player. Or should we say that actually no one really developed him?

So much skills and feeling and intuition on that left foot.

A comment Johan Cruyff made, when Robben was still at Groningen, playing as a left winger. “Very talented, but sadly he only uses his left foot. He will never get to the top if he doesn’t learn to utilise the right foot too.”

And indeed, I vividly remember seeing him dribble past opponents to end up in a scoring position… But, what happened? He took the ball, went all the way back to the other side, past flabbergasted opponents, only to enable his left foot to take the shot.

Robben only stayed at Groningen for two years. The fast and highly skillful dribbler was bound for greatness. The headstrong player was invited to come to Amsterdam and Eindhoven many times in his youth, but his dad (and manager) kept the clubs at bay until after he finished high school. He picked PSV as Guus Hiddink was to be his manager there.

In a team with a young Mark van Bommel, Ji Sung Park, Johann Vogel and Mateja Kezman, Robben became the top scorer in the 2003 champions team. Many international clubs were on the prowl and despite a good conversation and contact between the Robbens and Man United Sir Alex Ferguson, Arjen didn’t end up at Old Trafford. ManU only offered 7 Mio euros. The PSV chairman quipped that they could just get a autographed jersey of Robben for that kind of money. When Chelsea interjected with an 18 Mio euros offer, the deal was swiftly closed.

In the summer of 2004, Robben went to Chelsea. Signed by Claudio Ranieri, but never worked with him, as Jose Mourinho made his way into the club that summer too. Robben was part of a squad with the likes of Makalele, Lampard, Terry, Drobga and Joe Cole. His first season there was amazing. He started late due to injury but ended that season as number 2 on the “Young Player of the Year” list, behind Wayne Rooney. Robben won two league titles with Chelsea and there is a tremendous video with highlights of the winger of those Chelsea days. Amazing stuff. The speed, the skill and the courage.

Robben won everything with Chelsea, bar the European title. In 2007, Real Madrid courted him. Coach Schuster actually wanted Michael Ballack, but the Real Madrid chair pushed for Robben. His exit was abrupt at Chelsea and he never got to say farewell to the fans. Real Madrid allegedly paid 35 Mio euros for the former Bedum talent.

At Madrid, his first season won him the Spanish title. He owned the left midfield spot and played 28 games as a starter. He would be instrumental in the 2008-2009 season,playing 25 games and scoring eight goals. At the start of the 2009-10 season however, Real Madrid wanted to sign C Ronaldo and Kaka and needed to free up some cash. Bayern Munich wanted to spend 25 mio euros on the winger and Madrid struck a deal. Robben was pressured to move, against his will. To this day, he claims that life was good for him in Madrid and he never wanted to leave if the club hadn’t forced him to.

Robben started on fire for Munich, wearing the number 10 jersey worn by Roy Makaay before. He would win the title in The Bundesliga too (after Dutch, English and Spanish palmares) and he won Footballer of the Year, in Germany. The first ever Dutch player to do so.

In 2010, after the World Cup, Robben returned injured. According to the Bayern medical staff. This situation resulted in quite an upset, as the Dutch federation didn’t think he was injured and Bert van Marwijk played Robben at the World Cup (where Robben was a key figure for Holland).

It took 6 months for Robben to get back to fitness.

When Oranje came and played Bayern Munich for a friendly, the home fans booed Robben while off the pitch the Bayern management started to comment on his egotistical style of play. All his injuries and these shenanigans had quite an impact on him, and he even tried to change his playing style. Losing the World Cup finals with Oranje and losing two CL finals (one against Mourinho’s Inter and one against his old club Chelsea, with Robben missing a key penalty) gave him the stigma of a loser. How many times does one player have a shot at winning the CL in his career? You’re lucky if it’s once. Robben had three nips at it and eventually got it right.

Jupp Heynckes knew that his counterpart at Dortmund knows everything about Bayern there is to know. So he had to come with a trick. And the tactical trick was: play Robben centrally.

In the first half, most of the Bayern team played too slow and without real drive, allowing Dortmund to dominate proceedings. It was clearly visible however, that Muller was moving from the wing while Robben played in the shadow striker role.

As such, he had two massive opportunities in the first half. In both cases, it was the Dortmund goalie who got the better of him.

In the second half, he was able to escape the offside trap and offered Mandzukic a chance he couldn’t miss (although we have seen them missed…).

And late in the game, at 1-1, it was Robben with his vision, speed, velvet touch and alertness who sealed the deal. He was Man of the Match. He won it for Bayern. And for himself.

Next up, the Super Cup game, against his old chums and his former coach Mourinho. “I already got warm but also taunting texts from JT (John Terry) and Lamps (Frank Lampard)… And we have the Fifa World Cup game too. Life will only get more interesting from now on. As if it will start now.”

Asked if he will stay at Munich, despite his success, Robben is flippant. “I love this club. I love playing at Bayern, we have a lot to win still… I still have a two year deal, so who knows…”

With Pep Guardiola coming in and the likes of Mario Gotze and Lewandowski making the trip from Dortmund to Munich, one wonders….

Johan Cruyff might have some influence on this topic. The Ajax and Barca icon now sees Bayern Munich as a role model club for Ajax, more so than his second love Barcelona. “Bayern has been able for decades to operate financially sustainable and they engage many ex players. That is exactly like I see it for Ajax.” Cruyff highly enjoyed the CL finals and in particular Robben.

“Some months back, when Robben was benched I already predicted that this period of rest would do him and Bayern good. And in the last months, Robben was constantly involved with all chances. He either prepares them, from corner kicks to set pieces or he gives the assist, like with Bayern’s first goal. That last goal was a superb example of his strength: intuition, technical skill and his forward thrust. He is an amazing player!”.

And so the CL party on Wembley (and Dutch grass, for that matter) became Robben’s party. One Marc van Basten had said in 2006, that Robben could turn out to be the planet’s best player ever. And when you score the winning goal in the dying minutes of a game, you are certainly top class.

The player Robben has now thrown off his trauma. His lost finales, his missed opps, the dramatic penalty kicks, the injuries, the unhappy face, the looks at the refs… Robben, the boy with leggings and gloves became a man.

He is typical a star who divides the masses, like C Ronaldo does as well. Some love him, others hate him. The play-acting, the dives, the complaints to the ref, the disappointments when he is not a starter…. Robben is beyond frustration now. He can enjoy, finally.

Bookmark and Share

And we have a new king…

With a little wink to that other Oranje news that dominated the media ( another clueless person can now dress up for all sorts of festivities and wear a crown and wave at the masses, thinking “what have I done to deserve this??” ), I am of course referring to Bayern Munich taking the crown from Barcelona as the team to beat.

For a decade almost, Spanish football but in particular Barcelona dominated the football pitches with their skillful play, their artistic abilities, their winning ways and their magic.

Football analysts drooled over one another to explain how great it all is and clubs from all over the world (in Australia even) tried to emulate the Barca way.

But yesterday night, in the Camp Nou, the fabulous football machine got a second dressing down within 7 days. Football lessons, the Dutch newspapers called it…

And the club that has been so tremendously influenced by Johan Cruyff ( as Pep Guardiola this week again confirmed in an interview with Spanish paper “Sport”: “We owe Cruyff our eternal gratitude”) has been kicked off the throne of Europe (although Dortmund won’t agree with me yet) by a club that was influenced tremendously by….eh…well….actually Johan Cruyff again….

It does seem that the somewhat one-sided game play of Barca has finally been countered in the right way by the South Germans. Mourinho did it earlier on with Inter Milan (and Sneijder), in 2010, but he did it in a fairly unattractive, destructive manner. Jupp Heynckes and his team have done it in a way that even led the Barca socios to applaude them. With passionate forward pressing, with impressive individual play (Robben, Ribery, Lahm) and with tactical prowess and leadership ( Schweinsteiger, Muller).

The Kings are Dead (for now) and Viva the new King. Sehr geil.

I have never been a Bayern fan. And I have always been a huge Barca-man.

And I still am, but this Bayern is something else. Since the Louis van Gaal days, Bayern has impressed me. With good football, sure, but also with the way the club is managed. I still don’t like the numerous attacks on Robben/Van Gaal/Van Bommel etc by icons like Hoeness, Rummenigge and Beckenbauer. But… Bayern is a tremendously run club.

And this is what I like most about this upsurge of German club football (I really don’t like their national team, so lets hope they keep on sucking like they do for decades now….). They play positive football, with good attacking style, on great pitches in fab venues and they are able to do this while balancing the books!

Something they can’t do in Spain or England (yet!!). Yes, I’m talking to you too, Barcelona!!

It is always easier to sign big name players if you do not have any financial regulations to take into account. “Sure, let’s get C Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema and Modric in. Who cares…?”.

Well, I care!!

So I was delighted to see how CR7 choked again in a big match and to see Ozil miss face to face with the (excellent) Dortmund goalie. I was also delighted to hear Mourinho say that he will move on. I think his three years at Madrid can be seen as disappointing.

I won’t mention the Dortmund – Real game too much in this post. I think Borussia deserved it though, and I really like their team too. But fair is fair, with some more killers up front, Real Madrid could have been up 2-0 in the first 15 minutes and I think they would have exited the Germans in that case, with a vengeance. Somehow, Real switched off aftter 60 minutes of play and almost handed the game to Dortmund. Who also were not sharp enough in front of goal, thinking the tie was theirs already.

But Madrid will be back, as long as they can spend spend spend.

Barcelona will most definitely be back. Because with or without financial fair play, they have football in their dna. They have the youth academy, the charisma and the vision.

Valdez, Puyol, Villa and who knows who else might move on to other clubs, Barca will return. Neymar is rumoured to sign for Barca, just like Hummels might join them and Vorm is on the short list to succeed Victor Valdez. THere is certainly still a lot of life in this Barca team. I can see a Paul Scholes sort of career ahead for Xavi for instance. But Barca will have to diversify a bit. Bring some more game play options to the pitch. Maybe that Dortmund striker would be a good signing for Barca too??

I can see Bayern win the DFB Pokal and the CL trophy. I think they earned it. Their loss against Inter was deserved. Inter was the better team on the night. But the finals against Chelsea last year should have been won by the Germans. A certain Arjen Robben will remember that night…

And then next season, with Pep Guardiola, who knows what will happen?

I can see Gomez moving on and Ribery might be making his big move to Real Madrid finally.

With Gotze coming in, I can see Pep moulding the Munich team like the Barca he brought to domination. The main thing he did, was to eliminate the static central striker and place Messi as a Cruyff like roaming center forward/playmaker into the team. Something Gotze and Arjen Robben can easily do.

Robben, who impressed immensely in the two Barca CL games, might be on his way out though, as Galatasaray apparently are prepping a mega offer for him, to reunite him with his buddy Sneijder.

But whatever happens with Robben, the Bundesliga and German football in general took notice of what happened in Holland, around the 2000 Euro tournament and realised they needed a shift in vision.

Since 2000, the German youth system delivered exciting players ( Schweini, Muller, Kroos, Reuss, Hummels, Gotze, Gundogan, Ozil, Draxler, Hunt) and exciting coaches too… And all that, while carefully managing their finances as well.

I noticed that with more Dutch players now active in Germany (Van der Vaart, Robben, Huntelaar, Afellay, Dost, Luuk de Jong, Elia), I am watching the Bundesliga more and more and I do like what I see….

A quick word on Robben…. He played tremendous for Bayern every time he came on and with Kroos sidelines, Robben again is a mainstay and powerhouse for the Bavarians. It does feel like he has changed his game a bit. He plays from the right for his club while LVG uses him preferable on the left, so at Bayern he does come inside a lot, allowing Lahm the right flank and as Robben’s first goal showed, he comes inside with great effect.

It seems like he is a bit less selfish though. He is quick to pass (as he did on that opportunity when it was 0-1 and Ribery crossed the ball to Robben, it seemed Arjen wanted to flick it on to the striker. But like Ribery, he puts in a lot of work. He seems to be playing smarter and more like a team player. Less speed, for sure, less trickery but more a team player. I think Robben could be a great playmaker as well ( in the second half, Muller played from the right a lot, and Robben drifted more).

Whatever people say: to me Robben is in the top 5 of best players in the world, with Messi, CRonaldo and RVP. Who is number 5…? Yaya Toure? Zlatan? Bale? Rooney? Something for another post topic :-).

Lets hail the new Kings, and mark my words: this year, a German club will win the Champions League!!Bookmark and Share

A boring win is still a win: Holland – Estonia

I told you this before, I do not like friendlies. Oops… forgot…this was a real qualification game. It looked like a friendly… A smaller football nation doing its best not to get smashed.

Holland not looking too ambitious in the first half. Or maybe that is not the word, it’s more that there was a disconnect between the eager Sneijder, Robben and Van Persie upfront and the cautious trio of BMI, De Vrij and De Guzman at the back.

I don’t want to be negative. We did get the three points. We did score three goals.

We are on track. Blabla.

But Lens? Really? Playing against a team that will offer space at a premium, you need players with skills on the square foot. Like Ola John, for instance. Lens is not a real winger, he lacks rhythm due to a suspension (for attacking a fellow international colleague) and seemed lost.

On the positive side of that, Daryl Janmaat had the game of his life. Two assists, could have been three assists or four even! Man of the Match for me.

So Louis wasn’t consistent here. He omitted John, who played not so good against Italy. But he totally ignored Maher, who played very good against Italy? The latter coming back in for the injured Sneijder.

Van Gaal said: “Leo Beenhakker taught me early on that consistency doesn’t get you points…”. Huh?? If you need to borrow wisecracks from Don Leo, you are really in trouble!!

Leo Beenhakker, the worst team manager in the history of Oranje. Look at his performance in the 1990 World Cup. Or hang on….not the worst… We didn’t even qualify for a World Cup in 2002…!! That team manager….oh…that is Louis van Gaal of course…

Hmmm ;-).

So, what we need is more speed. Quicker passing. And players who can add individual skills to that game. So, for speed, I suggest to bring Jordy Clasie. As much as I like De Guzman (Anita, Fer, De Jong, who ever) we need a player with very quick feet in that position, in particular with BMI and De Vrij being still a bit timid.

I love Van der Vaart, as you know, but Maher might simply be a better option in our 4-3-3. He puts in more work, simply said.

Furthermore, this was supposed to be Wes Sneijder’s come back. His first 30 minutes were promising. He is eager. But his shooting boots seemed old. He missed the target three times at least. And had to be subbed with a sad groin injury. Adam Maher is taking his spot in the squad.

And lets put Robben on the right of the Romania game and give Ola John another go. The youngster excels at Benfica. The Black Pearl Mark II. Expect a piece on him soon…

All in all, good perfomances by Vermeer, Janmaat, Van Persie, Van der Vaart and Robben.

Mediocre performances by the rest. A bit disappointing performance by Lens.

GO ORANJE.Bookmark and Share

Arjen Robben motivated to the T

Arjen Robben is injured. This is not news. And it will also not be the last time. But Robben is feeling good. He seems to be on top of things. The time of weird and unexplainable injuries is behind him. Robben is happy, in Munich and in the Dutch team.

He is happy to look back at his weird year behind him.

“I am often wondering which was the hardest blow: the missed penalty against Dortmund, the missed penalty in the CL finals or the drama that was our EK campaign. I took a number of blows full on the chin and they all hit home. It took quite some time to get over all this, but once the pre-season in Munich started I sort of had put it all in its place. Time to look ahead.”

Robben worked with Van Gaal at Bayern Munich and he worked with the coach in the beginning of his career when he was in Young Oranje. “Van Gaal is probably always the same Van Gaal. He is who he is. He has this distinct style. As a kid, I was super impressed with him. Now, it’s almost normal, but he definitely is one of the best ever.”

Robben thinks back at those days and realises he is now quickly becoming one of the old hands in Oranje. “Haha, yes.. I’m in Oranje nine seasons… That probably makes me a veteran, haha. It’s fun. When I was young, I was totally focused on me, me, me. When you are in the mid twenties, you become more aware of team tactics and now I guess I am seen as a potential leader. I am totally cool with that. All the players of my age are happy to be mentoring the young lads. It’s important that we do, as we are all the same team.”

Was the shift from the typical Bert van Marwijk squad to the refreshed group a big one?

“Well, it was a bit . But no problem really. It’s normal that with new lads, the so-called automatisms are gone and you need to communicate more but what can you say? All the youngsters have done really well in the first games and I think we are in great shape with these players.”

During the EC you had a fall out with Van Marwijk and you even yelled at him? Was the bottom reached?

“Huh? No… That story, that I yelled “Shut up!” to him? That is fabricated… He was instructing me to track back and I was yelling something back at him… But certainly not shut up… I had a good relationship with Bert. I wanted to perform with him, get results. But in sports, you sometime lose your head. He shouted at me, I shout back…it happens all the time. At the end of the game, it’s all forgotten. But the media wanted to have a go at this one. But the lipreaders had it all wrong.”

It’s interesting how the youngsters easily fit in while the more experienced players like Van der Vaart, Sneijder, De Jong and Kuyt seem to struggle to keep up? Van der Vaart injured, Sneijder not playing, you are injured now… Only Van Persie is killing it week in week out…

“Yes and Robin used to be the one who never had a full season free of injuries… I think if you look at someone’s career you will find periods where his body doesn’t cope and periods where you can do everything. Sneijder had a killer year in 2010…. But we will come back… Don’t worry. I love playing with Wesley behind me, of course. His passing, his vision… I have never seen anyone better.”

Do you see disadvantages in Van Gaal’s wish to play with only one defensive midfielder?

“Theoretically, you could become more exposed, but you don’t have to. I don’t believe in those “systems discussions”. We need to make sure that the right type of players play. If we can use a penetration midfielder with good lungs, that player can assist the defensive mid and he can assist the strikers. Someone like Strootman, or Fer or that new kid Van Ginkel.”

At the Euro, the space the team left in midfield was outrageous. And was the death for the team. No midfielder was able to cover that. How can you remedy that?

“Well, our intentions do not change with our system. We still want to play dominant, press up the park and play high paced. We can not allow that space like that appears. If it does, we are not executing it correctly. And we need to work on this.Compact play is key! We need to learn from the mistakes and make sure everyone understands what is required. And we now have to focus on regaining respect. From fans and media and from opponents.”

What was the most important lesson of the EK?

“I wish we could stop looking back. I think it looked worse than it was. If we would have scored three of the many goal opportunities we got against Denmark, the whole tournament would have been different. Football is a game of little details. A ball just a bit more to the right and it’s 1-0 for us. Etc etc… We had chances against Germany to make it 2-2 and we even started with 1-0 against Portugal. But it wasn’t to be.”

Arjen and wife Bernadien

Greg van der Wiel made some negative comments about the team spirit?

“He did so right after the Portugal game. That is something he shouldn’t have done. I won’t comment or react. I will keep my comments for internally. Our meeting right after the Euros with Van Gaal was good. We could say what we wanted. And it is supposed to be like that. You should be able to have a go at the coach or team members behind closed doors. As long as it’s not going against the groups process.”

Did you have specific method to let the disappointments slide off you?

“It was not the best summer holiday ever. But…it was a long one, thanks to our early exit of the EC, haha. But seriously, kids are the best distraction. When I look back on this in 10 years time, when I’ve retired, I’m sure I will hit myself in the head… We shouldn’t have let this EC go like this. All of us. The quality we have… This can never happen again!”

Arjen Robben and Kate Perry

It was a hefty season for you and when you played with Oranje against your club your own fans booed you? How hard was that for you?

“That was ok. That is how it works with fans. On my first practice day, the fans were warm and fine. I really enjoyed the support from Bayern’s management. It’s a warm club. And listen, no one really wanted that game. Everyone was a bit awkward about it.”

In Munich you play on the right, in Oranje suddenly you are back to the left wing. Surprised?

“I didn’t see it coming but it’s not a shock for me. Or a big deal. I can use my best leg for crossing and passing… Louis wants me to keep the field wide so I won’t be in a position to shoot on goal that often. I think it will work out fine. I’m sure I can keep changing position as Robin likes to drift a bit too. Variance is important and with our squad I’m sure we can keep surprising opponents.”

People think the right wing is not working out anymore as opponents tend to prepare well for your signature moves?

“I think that is not the case. Everyone knows what Rooney does… Or Van Persie, Messi or C Ronaldo. And still they do it. Because they are in form. I simply wasn’t good enough last year. I didn’t bring my normal level. I don’t think it is the position I’m in. The year before, every second ball I shot on goal was a goal. The last season, I couldn’t score from the spot. That was not the “fault” of my position. But simply me. The first season’s half was a drama. I had that horrible groin injury. It took me months to come back. But at the start of the EC I was topfit. But simply missed the super form. I was close, but not good enough. The ball on the post, against Denmark being a typical example of a couple of percentage points “off”….”

Arjen and Bastian Schweinsteiger (Pig-climber?)

And the reason being….?

“Simply not free in my head. I was working on getting fit and dealing with the injuries. I had stuff happening at Bayern… Some board members criticising me for being too egotistical. I started to think too much on the pitch. Allowed that stuff to get into my head. My strength is playing purely on intuition. Once I desert that, I become less threatening, less unique, more predictable…”

What have your learned from that period?

“I have talked about it with people close to me. I need to go back to my foundations. My fundamentals. I need to do what I’m good at. Playing with pleasure and it might sound weird, but I need to become more egotistical. Make my actions. Go for it. I still haven’t reached my top. There is still much upswing in me… I want to be the best I can be. That is still ahead of me.”

Robben being rolled up as a ball has become a funny image in many Photoshop attempts.

Here are a couple:

Bookmark and Share

Bert van Marwijk's career in 5 matches

A bit of a shocker: the Queen yawning when presented with the Dutch squad in 2010

Bert van Marwijk coached us to the WC finals in 2010. And now he’s gone… Never before did Oranje perform as well as under Bert van Marwijk. We’ll say goodbye using five historic games…

Holland – Brazil 2-1, July 2, 2010
Quarter finals of the World Cup. Holland hadn’t really shown up on many radars. Winning against Denmark and Japan is not really something “remarkable”. The Brazil game was a crazy game. Brazil was bossing Holland aound in the first half. In the second half, Oranje gets back into the game, based on mental strength. Nigel de Jong: “We outplayed them on passion and through a couple of little smart things.” Holland is a strong collective and demonstrates a winning mentality. This game is seen as the high point with Bert as big inspiration and motivator. After this game, Bert says: “There is a big difference between someone saying that he wants it, or someone actually demonstrating that he wants it. A big difference between belief and real belief!”. Bert helped the players believe in it. In 35 minutes, Oranje did everything right. Even good football returned. And playing to your strength. And having confidence. And be ballsy. After this game, Oranje was unbeaten for 24 games. A record! And the world looked up… Oranje? Again?

Holland-Spain 0-1, WC-finals, 11 July 2010
32 years after the last World Cup final Holland is at the highest level again. A tremendous performance by Van Marwijk and the team. Arjen Robben had the winner on his shoe in the 61-st minute and could have written history for the Dutch, but he didn’t. Oranje was prone to dirty play and Spain was a tad better. Holland capitulated in the 116th minute. After the hangover, pride and surprise reigned and Amsterdam filled up with a million fans. Bert van Marwijk entered the realm of Great Coaches (move over Rinus, Ernst and Guus….).

Nederland-San Marino 11-0, 2 september 2011
In September 2011, Holland takes the number one spot for national teams in the FIFA ranking for the first time ever. Despite the lost World Cup finals, Holland is the best team of the world. This honorary title is being celebrated with an 11-0 win over San Marino and Holland is the leader of its qualification group. This could well be the high point of the Van Marwijk era. The papers call it the “appetite of a insatiable team….”

Germany – Holland 3-0, 15 November 2011
Two months later, it’s all different. Some Dutch internationals are having issues. They are injured or benched or out of form. The EC qualification is no problemo, but the Clockwork Orange is starting to choke. First a loss against Sweden, than this friendly against Germany. It’s a horrible game. The national papers call it the “worst game under Van Marwijk. No passion, no quality, no discipline. No nothing, really.” There were some players absent, but the level of the Dutch defence was “shocking”. And the national papers start to focus in on the age of some players: Kuyt, Mathijsen, Van Bommel… They are all well above 30 and aren’t getting better. And apart from Strootman and Afellay, Van Marwijk failed to find new blood for his team.

Holland-Germany 1-2, EC 2012, 13 June 2012
The Denmark defeat at the EC could still be regarded as a freak loss. Two years before, Denmark didn’t get into the game, and Holland had an easy victory. Now, Denmark scored and Holland simply couldn’t convert any of the chances. The deception came against Germany. Holland had a good 10 minutes but lost stamina quickly. The Germans made the Dutch defence look like amateurs and Gomez didn’t even cheer after his second goal. The ultimate humiliation was the comments by the Germans to “do their duty to give Holland a lifeline”. The national papers: “Holland lacked chemistry, strikers, defence and midfield. The team went down under stress and impotence.” Van Marwijk’s magic was over. And it was practically the same team that reached the World Cup finals. Was this Euro performance a disaster? Or was Holland’s performance in South Africa a rarity?

We will find the answers in the coming months and years…

Stick with me and join me on this journey to follow the Orange trail. Don’t forget to check out the donation option on the homepage. Some of you have found it and some of you were really generous! Thank you :-). Please support this site…Bookmark and Share