Tag: De Vrij

Wanted: brave, strong coach for Oranje

Belgium actually had an open vacancy call for coaches, and Roberto Martinez wrote a nice letter. And got the job.

Why not find out if there is someone out there, with a soft spot for the Dutch? Wenger, Klopp, Martinez, Zidane, they all have expressed their huge admiration for the Dutch school of football. I know we can’t pay the salary Zidane would get with France or any club, but he might enjoy it. Why not try.

The national team manager’s role is a fun one, I can imagine. You don’t have the daily pressure and stress. Hell, you can sleep in most days. You get to watch all these games on the credit card of the KNVB. Travel to Paris, to Barcelona, Milan, Torino, Liverpool, Moscow, Amsterdam… What’s not to like?

Arsene Wenger and Andries Jonker

You can’t fail worse than de Boer. That is also a tick! And then around World Cup time, you enter the pressure cooker which must also be good fun when you love football!

The debate is raging in The Netherlands, and some people come up with some interesting names and combinations.

Below my comments. But before I start, let me know your ideas.

Also, the debate Dutch vs Foreign… I used to be very firm on this: only Dutch coaches please! And why? Communication (I can’t see a coach like Bielsa inspire our lads, mainly due to his weak skills in English (and Dutch). But also understanding of the football culture. But, by now, we can safely say that the long list of Dutch options is really not that long a list… Let’s face it. Koeman, Bosz and Ten Hag (ideal candidates) are stuck with their (new) clubs and happy to be in that situation.

Then there are the Van Gaal’s, Advocaats, the Van Marwijks and Ten Cates… They are getting old a bit. You don’t want them push a walking trolly onto the pitch, in 1,5 years. But, I do have a weak spot for Ten Cate. I will explain why below.

Yes, I would go for Ten Cate. Because he has demonstrated in his illustrious career to follow the rule book on Dutch attacking football. Ten Cate has balls, swagger and authority. An Amsterdam street kid, who put the fear of the football Gods in a guy like Wesley Sneijder. That says something! He would be the perfect figure head. He’s smart, he won’t get bullied by the media and he’s not afraid to tell Memphis to shape up or ship out. In combination with Gullit and field trainer Marcel Keizer, it will be a solid combi.

I would not mind a foreign coach, but it needs to be a big name and a guy who has expressed admiration for the Dutch school of football. So, in other words: NOT MOURINHO.

I personally like Zidane, the Danish coach Hjulmand, Rudy Garcia and Wenger.

I’m not a fan of Joachim Low and also not a big fan of Martinez.

The KNVB have put themselves in further turmoil. Nico Jan Hoogma was a good defender (many years in the Bundesliga) and a decent technical director at Heracles Almelo (!!). But he is way too light for the KNVB role.

Henk “The Don” Ten Cate

He was happy with Koeman. Then, when Koeman left, he went after “Koeman 2.0”. That is never a smart thing! Frank de Boer felt it as a yoke and obviously, De Boer is NOT Koeman. I mean, even Erwin Koeman is not Ronald Koeman. Koeman is history, move on man!

And now, with De Boer gone, Hoogma again stumbles and stutters in his first interview post De Boer: “eh… yes….we now will eh… dust off the requirements and…eh… have a good think…because eh… we need a strong man. Like Koeman, Koeman was the chef. The boss. That is needed…”

The interviewer: “So you want another type Koeman?”

Hoogma: “Well… I guess now, if I have to say this, my feeling now, is…yes I am leaning that way.”

WTF. Weaklings.

Time for these bozos to go too.

Kasper Hjulmand

Van Gaal will probably smile and lick his lips. When Koeman left, the nation suggested Van Gaal. But some of the players (Memphis? Van Dijk?) voted against him and the KNVB themselves were happy with that, as Van Gaal bulldozers into any organisation and demands wholesale changes. Of the trainings grounds, the media people, the assistant coaches, the medical staff, etc etc.

The KNVB wanted a weak coach who would be happy with the current staff. And they got what they wanted.

If they now do come to decide for Van Gaal again, he will probably blast Hoogma and Co away and dominate proceedings as per usual.

For the record: I would not pick Van Gaal yet again. I think his tricks have worked in the past (with the aforementioned Memphis) but most players are sick of him now.

Lets open up de debate!

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Weak Oranje Czeching out of Euros

I never did believe in angstgegners. It’s all psychological. But I too start to believe that we seem to be Czech Mate a lot against these guys! And sure, a lot of “bad luck” came our way, but seriously… If you really believe you are top of Europe – let alone the World – you can’t have such a collective off-day.

From coach to goalie, from central defender to new Barca signing Memphis. Not.Good.Enough.

And it all looked sooo good! We topped our – weak – group. We seemed to have the system down pat (ish). We found ourselves on the right side of the draw. Many experts in Holland already spoke about the semi finals, as if the Czechs and Danes don’t even compete. And whenever our “experts” get positive, it’s time to be very careful indeed!

As some commenters mentioned, it was all about the semi finals, it was about the terrible political situation in Hungary, who was supposed to team up with Memphis, should De Roon play, etc  etc.

But history should have taught us a lesson! The Czechs were resilient in the opening match of the Euro 2000 tournament. Ronald de Boer needed to dive to get a penalty, for his brother Frank to convert.

In 2004, we were on our way to victory, but then Arjen Robben got aggressively and ruthlessly tackled from behind with studs showing by Dick Advocaat.

I’m sure we played them a number of times more, the 2016 Euros qualifications are also still in my head. Janmaat’s backpass to Cillesen in the away game. Was it Van Persie’s own goal in the home game? What the hell do we have on our Bad Karma list re: these people!?!?

But let’s analyse this match isolated from the previous dramas. Because those past games are not an excuse. Even worse, they should have been an extra motivation! I actually was convinced we’d win this, partly also because of those past embarrassments! But no! We step into this big, wet turd yet once again! (not comparing Czechs with turds… Just a figure of speech. Trap. Turd. You get the drill)

What went wrong?

Well, I don’t think the line up De Boer selected is at fault. I don’t think it mattered whether we played Weghorst or Gravenberch. Even more so, I think this is the best line up, I suppose.

The system and tactics are also not at fault. The system didn’t handle the ball. The system didn’t miss that Malen chance.

We started erratic. We fell straight into the trap of the Czechs would would have said “Don’t let them combine. Suck the oxygen out of them!”. And we couldn’t keep the ball. So much wayward passing, bad touches and miscommunication.

And when you want to achieve something at this level, you need your best players to shine. You need a Van Basten ’88, a Bergkamp ’98 or a Robben ’14. If Dumfries and De Vrij are your best players, it’s hard to win games.

Memphis and Wijnaldum were invisible. Even dead balls – no pressure, no challenges – were too hard for Memphis to take. Frenkie de Jong got completely muscled out of the game. Our left wing back Pat van Aanholt did literally everything he did wrong. His touch, his passing, he ran in behind in off side positions, he was simply atrocious.

So without Memphis, De Jong and Wijnaldum firing on all cylinders, we are really mediocre.

And obviously, the Czechs left Van Aanholt as the free man. He was considered the least dangerous. Just like Dumfries was in acres of space, often. But we kept on trying to find the forward pass to Memphis through the middle. I think Frank de Boer should have taken the Palace player off. Bring Ake for Blind and move Blind to the LB position, where we would have a ball player instead of a blind runner. Malen would then take the left wing, as Blind is not a running wingback.

This would have forced the Czechs to make a decision. Now, leaving Van Aanholt open, led to so many ball possession turn around, it’s simply not funny anymore.

It has no use to criticize De Roon. Or Van Aanholt. They are not the lads to give that killer pass or make that run.

The only positives for me were Dumfries and De Vrij. Daley Blind was ok, but you expect more from him. His crosses and passes lacked precision too and he simply is not the leader we need.

But again, it’s players like Memphis – new signing for Barca – and Wijnaldum – new signing at PSG – who should have stepped up and didn’t.

Malen did what he could. As did Dumfries. They worked hard, they were positive, but it was not enough.

In the first half, our final pass was lacking. We could have been 2-0 up at half time, with some better play, but we simply weren’t good enough.

In the second half, Memphis finally had his magic touch: the flick to send Malen into space. The PSV talent should have buried it. He had so many options, and that might have stifled him. He could shoot early. Or go past the goalie, left or right, or chip the goalie. Or wait for Memphis. All these options….

One minute later, and Oranje sees red. A stupid mistake by De Ligt. Just fall on the ball. Odds are, the ref gives us a free kick. But he slapped at the ball and a red card is the logical outcome.

And we lost it completely afterwards. No belief, no leadership and also not the substitutions you’d expect.

I think  4-4-1 would have been best. Dumfries, De Vrij, Blind, Van Aanholt. The latter does have the physical strength to battle Coufal, more than Wijndal.

Use Wijnaldum, De Jong, Memphis and De Roon as midfielder, play compact and use the speed of Malen.

But for some really weird reason, our only fast runner was taken off! An Advocaat decision? And Promes (!!) was brought on??? What was De Boer thinking?

Memphis was not at his mediocre best even. I’d subbed him probably after the 0-1 for Gakpo. Who could have been the Memphis of 2014.

De Boer said he couldn’t play Malen more than 60 minutes. I don’t see why not? He’s a mature lad, strong, plays week in week out for PSV. Why wouldn’t he be able to play a whole match??

And Promes in? Why? What is his added value?

The Dutch analysts (Sneijder, Nigel de Jong, Ruud Gullit, Rafa van der Vaart, Pierre van Hooijdonk) were flabbergasted and claim this sub will also go down in history, like Advocaat’s Robben sub in 2004.

Overall, Memphis, Wijnaldum, Frenkie, Van Aanholt, Stekelenburg and eventually De Ligt all deserve a minus! Frenkie wasn’t bad, but he can play so much better. Today was the day for him to shine and he drowned.

Stekelenburg didn’t look good for that first goal, of course. But couldn’t really help that second one…

De Roon did what De Roon does. No more, no less. Malen, Dumfries, Blind and De Vrij reached a normal level.

Overall, Frank de Boer failed to find a solution for the Czech’s game and failed to make an impression with his substitutions. He might rue the fact he did pick Malen, as he might well have had a mind to play Weghorst as the target man. With Memphis as his running partner, and Malen potentially as a sub for later in the game.

He should have subbed Memphis who was completely ineffective

Either way. We are out. And deservedly so!

I will refrain from claiming De Boer’s head, but we will need to sort this very quickly, as the next World Cup qualifiers will be waiting soon!

Time to retire Stekelenburg and Van Aanholt, as far as I’m concerned and time to mould our ideal World Cup team together…

More analysis with screenshots of situations soon!

 

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Stars aligning for Oranje?

For many days, the overall view was that poor Oranje was having to slug it out with Portugal or even Germany in the first knock-out game. But it seems the football gods are with us… Even better, our march to the finals will actually be not that dreadful, considering Belgium, France and Italy – generally seen as the three favorites – are in the other leg of the draw.

It remains to be seen whether this is a good thing though. Traditionally, Oranje does well vs stronger teams. Remember the group of death(s) in 2006 and 2008? We obliterated the competition (well…) and got in trouble the next knock-out stage. Oranje now also play well versus teams that consider themselves stronger. Once an opponent parks the bus, we will find it tougher to break them down.

But, the stars in the sky might have aligned, it also seems the stars on the pitch have. The vibe in the squad is very good, players who tend to be a bit narcy when they are not the dominant player appear to remain calm ( Berghuis, Koopmeiners) and Frank de Boer is demonstrating day in day out in his interviews and press conferences that he grew as a coach. He’s likeable, he jokes, he laughs and analyses with clarity.

Malen and Memphis have produced some nice interaction. Add the quality, movement and silky touch of Wijnaldum and there is our holy trinity. Frenkie and Gini have a good understanding, as do Stefan de Vrij and Mathijs de Ligt. These two actually became firm friends in Italy and spend a lot of time, with the families together.

The PSV contingent (Malen, Dumfries, Gakpo, Memphis) work well together, as do the AZ and Ajax team mates. Berghuis might well feel at home with the Ajax lads…

I am loath to be too positive and chirpy, but I can see that with the right focus and the right line up / system, Oranje can indeed power forward.

it was quite eventful for Oranje, this past week. The group win was great, Memphis’ signature under a Barca contract clearly gave the mercurial forward a boost, but the loss of Luuk de Jong, who had to exit the camp with a nasty knee injury, means Plan B doesn’t exist anymore. And it also automatically means that Wout Weghorst will be relegated to the pinch hitter role.

Another player we will need firing on all cylinders is Frenkie of course. The player with the most successful dribbles in the Euros until now.

Playmaker, play accelerator, conductor, dreh-und-angelpunkt, we have had so many names already for the midfielder. His passing is usually mentioned as his key strength and this is indeed a highly important aspect of the game. But another aspect might need a bit more spotlight: the dribble. No one dribbles more and better than the Arkel born lad.

Goal.com asked Antoine Griezmann in 2019 which player was the toughest opponent for him and he immediately said: “Ajax’ De Jong! I tried to put him under pressure in the Nations League games with France and it was impossible, I never succeeded. He’s so slick, he just slips past you as if you’re not there.” Not much later, they became team mates.

Four players had 17 dribbles in this Euros, so far. Our Frenkie, Denmark’s Maehle, Switzerland’s Embolo and France’ Mbappe. Frenkie had 13 successful ones, compared to 8 by the others.

This is here is key moment. Holland is under pressure from Austria. Weghorst passes to Wijnaldum, who gets two opponents on his toes. Gini dribbles quickly to the side line, knowing that loss of possession is less dangerous there. De Jong gives him an option, on the side line and he has four Austrians putting pressure on. Sabitzer in front of him, Laimer and Hinteregger are lurking close while Schlager joins in as well. Most player would pass the ball backwards to Dumfries or De Vrij. But that would not solve the problem. We would still be locked in and under pressure. This is a typical ideal pressure moment for Austria.

Frenkie oozes confidence on the ball. He doesn’t panic and the four Austrians are hesitating. De Jong sees the hesitation and decides to use it. He sprints through the pressure with the ball in close control and it fits like a glove. Not only does he alleviate  the pressure, he turns defence into attack as he turns the situation in a 6 v 4 situation, what with Daley Blind and Pat van Aanholt immediately breaking out too, joining Frenkie, Weghorst, Memphis and Wijnaldum in attack. This move ends with a failed pass from Van Aanholt to Weghorst.

Another typical moment, also demonstrating the partnership in midfield. Holding mid Marten de Roon has the ball and almost stands still. Wijnaldum drops back and offers an option, leaving a gap in front of the Austrian defence. De Roon points to it, even, and Frenkie runs into that space and receives the ball.

He looks over his shoulder and sees that Laimer is too slow to react, so now Frenkie knows he can turn the player and get into a 1 v 1 situation on the edge of the box. He passes to Memphis whose shot is blocked. Another example where the obvious option would have been to pass the ball back.

The third example is in the North Macedonia match. Obviously, the pressure was off and Oranje was further helped by the offensive tactics of North Macedonia. Their pressure play resulted in space for us. Here is an example.

De Ligt has the ball and is pressured by Elmas. The ball goes to Daley Blind and Pandev is putting pressure on him. De Jong offers Blind an option, and while the ball is traveling, he looks over his shoulder, twice. Once right, once left. Before he has the ball, he knows the Macedonian defence is not pushing forward. He turns, he accelerates and he releases Van Aanholt. Wijnaldum could have done better from that Van Aanholt cross.

This type of play by De Jong makes it hard for opponents to press. A hesitation or a slow reaction and he is off and away. De Jong’s dribbles are as lethal as his passing. He can create something out of nothing. He doesn’t have a lot of assists or goals to his name. His forte is the pre-assist. His accelerations offer space and time to his team mates.

De Jong’s qualities are hard to express in statistics, although Opta Sports was able to somewhat approach it with their carries-stat. This demonstrates the ability to see a gap and the skills to carry the ball forward into that gap. The number of meters you carry the ball with your feet, basically. It’s not a surprise that the wingbacks score hight in this category as they usually have the flank at their disposal, where it is less busy. Carrying the ball forward through the spine is tough. There simply isn’t much space. De Jong is a maestro. He showed it at Ajax, now at Barca and at Oranje. Only Mateo Kovacic and the Spanish Barca colleague Pedri are able to show similar stats. But they tend to carry the ball backwards a lot too.

When Opta filters the stats in terms of carries forward, than Frenkie is the only midfielder amongst defenders.

The most important thing is, that Frenkie is completely convinced of his own playing style.

His response to a comment after the Real Madrid away game in 2019 says it all. Ajax won 1-4 but Frenkie had a difficult moment vs Benzema, when he tried to take on the French striker just outside his own box and lost the ball to the predator. This resulted in a big chance for Madrid.

Sports commentator Van Gelder: “I have a strong heart, but can you please never do that again?”

Frenkie: “No, I disagree. I think I need to do this again, but do it better. I made a good turn, but when I wanted to accelerate I got cramp in my legs and had to try and keep the ball…”

I think I need to do this again but better…. That is his mindset and that is why he can be of great value in the knock-out games. This mix of uninhibitedness and precision is exactly what we need. This puts the fear into our opponents, the knowledge that one little mistake can mean Oranje is thundering forward. De Jong’s dribbles give Oranje time and space, it also gives us a signature style of play.

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Where does Oranje stand?

Friends, we did what we had to do. We won all home matches in the group stage. And we didn’t expect anything less. Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia should be wins with any Dutch generation, really… Scoring 8 is good. Conceding 2 less so. All players fit, that is a good thing and yes, the 5-3-2 seems to be generally accepted now.

The Dutch experts/analysts are still not convinced. Where do we stand now? How good are we really?

The international media, however, seem to push Oranje to a favorite role. And I don’t think that is justified. Sure, Germany, Portugal, Spain, they’re not firing on all cylinders but you wouldn’t want them to, right? Just like with Oranje.

But can we reach a higher level, once we face them? Or even worse: France or Italy? Who knows?

I even doubt if Frank de Boer knows.

And then there are the fans on this blog, who mostly seem to be highly critical of Frank de Boer, Daley Blind and Memphis Depay ;-).

This North Macedonian game further showed why the international football world (players, fans, coaches and analysts) rate Daley Blind. If you saw the game and you still think he is only in the team because of his daddy (huh??), you should probably start supporting another sport.

Overall, the key thing every Dutch fan looked at in this last group game was: how good will Malen and Memphis (and Wijnaldum) gel, in comparison to playing with Weghorst?

The jury is out, as far as I’m concerned. Malen is a better player than Weghorst, he adds something fresh, and explosive to the team. He has depth and runs in behind and he has a daft tough too, as we saw with Oranje’s third goal. But, most importantly, he makes Memphis play better!

And if we want to achieve something here, we need Memphis to be in top form.

It was nice to see Gravenberch, but the young talent demonstrated that he’s not yet mature enough for a role in the starting eleven. In the first half, he was wandering a bit, not sure where to be, what to do. It did improve and he’ll be a top player for us.

Other than that, the other subs didn’t bring us much news. We saw Berghuis, keen to prove his worth, with sloppy moves and a couple of great passes and a top corner kick. The prolific right winger has a limited fee of 4 million euros and both Ajax and PSV are courting him. Gakpo got his debut and demonstrated his skill too in the last 10 minutes.

But what did North Macedonia teach us?

Well, the 5-3-2 might be a fine system but you do need to implement and execute it well. North Macedonia surprised Frank de Boer with a 4-2-3-1 system and their particular tactical move puzzled the Dutch eleven.

When building up, the Macedonians pushed Alioski way up, to keep Dumfries quiet, but Trajkovski would push up left next to Pandev. As De Boer is focused on man marking, not zonal, this resulted in a mess within Oranje. Normally, the player in the zone would pick up the wandering Elmas. Wijnaldum in this case and Frenkie would be available to pick up Trajkovski.

The situation above is how we did it, with man marking. Frenkie is completely out of position because Elmas is his man. There is a gap behind him, which forces De Vrij to move forward, far away from his comfort zone.

Another situation, in which Frenkie and De Vrij are lost in space. The number 62 of the world is capable of playing from under Oranje’s press. And by then, it is not even a surprise that Trajkovski is the man rattling the post next to Stekelenburg with a fine attempt.

Before the break. Oranje ends up in situations in which the distances between the lines are too great. The midfield was all open and bare as our players follow their man and are lured out of position. You can see, there are no holding mids to protect the back four. This will be noted with glee, by the scouts of the remaining nations.

On the other hand, Oranje is constantly threatening on the break. It seems to always find ways to hurt the opponent. And even when the pass and move positioning game breaks down, with Malen, Wijnaldum and Memphis, there is always the chance on a break. And this is how we come to our first goal. A ruthless Blind tackle, a pass through by Gravenberch and Malen on his moped to launch Memphis after two 1-2 combinations: 1-0.

Dumfries gets another chance, to become golden boot candidate, in the 29th minute. Alioski is playing left winger so Dumfries has acres of space. Malen’s ball is fine but the goalie ruins the party of the PSV boys.

After the break, De Boer opts for the 4-2-3-1 as well and brings Timber and Berghuis for De Vrij and Dumfries. This is what De Boer calls the “Italian way”.

In this set up, De Boer does what Koeman did: one penetrating full back and one conservative one.
Under Koeman, Dumfries was the penetrating one and Blind was sitting. In Frank de Boer’s version, it’s Van Aanholt with the penetration and Timber the one staying back.

Now it’s truly a man-to-man battle and North Macedonia can’t find any openings anymore, simply due to the difference in individual qualities. Not because we suddenly defend so well. Because our back line is still vulnerable. The only gain in this system: there is no confusion who marks who.

Before the tournament, Dutch fans and analysts feared that the 5-3-2 wouldn’t be attacking enough. It seems that this is not the real issue. The real problem with the 5-3-2 is the defensive structure. North Macedonia has pointed out that the bigger nations could really hurt us.

 

 

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Oranje’s dilemma: plan B or more of the same…

Memphis Depay signed a deal with Barcelona. In the past, this would have been a major headline in The Netherlands and maybe across Europe. Not today. The Euros are on and Denzel Dumfries appears to be way more in demand than our #10.

Oranje scored 5 goals and Dumfries was involved with all (scoring two of them). His rushes, his strength, his aerial strength, his speed, it’s been noted across the globe. Where originally Everton seemed in pole position to sign the former Sparta talent, today the likes of Juventus, Inter and Bayern Munich have joined, while apparently the whole English football community has him on the radar.

Dumfries was playing with the Barendrecht amateurs in 2014, when 17 years old, telling his mates he would start working on improving himself so “he could claim the RB spot in Oranje”. Sparta signed him and when coach Alex Pastoor allowed him his debut, he was at fault for 3 goals in his first 45 minutes. He asked his coach if he could be subbed, during the half time break. Pastoor refused. “This is what will make you better!”.

He went to PSV via SC Heerenveen and his journey hasn’t ended yet. Is there anything Dumfries can’t do? “Hahaha, there is lots I need to do better. My positioning play is weak and needs to get better. So I can have more time on the ball and make better decisions. I also think my cross needs to improve. My overall yield needs to improve, although this Euros is going well for me.” Asked whether he has enough energy to sustain his game in this tournament: “Of course, we only just started! I have heaps of energy. And I don’t need motivating either.”

Ryan Gravenberch is another publicity magnet. His performances at Ajax in the Champions League has caught the eye of many and like Dumfries, he’s a sought after talent. Where Dumfries played at the amateur level at 17, Gravenberch made his debut for Ajax. Dumfries: “I am totally in awe of that kid. I see him now, he’s so mature, and level headed. When I was his age, I went to high school with my mates and trained three evenings in the week. Over the years, I matured as a player and as a man. Ryan is there already.”

Gravenberch: “It is going fast yes. I really have trouble keeping tally. It’s hard to process it as the next game is already around the corner. The Ajax season was tough, I had times in the winter where I struggled with my energy. Now I’m fine again. I usually need a couple of days to recharge. Otherwise, I am very happy. It’s great to be with Oranje, this is a truly amazing group of players. And yes, I do want to play more, of course, but it’s not for me to say. Should the coach need me, I’ll be ready.”

There is a fair chance that Frank de Boer will make the decision to rest players vs North Macedonia.

It’s a tough schedule, after a tough season. Frank de Boer will take the input from the medical staff and scrutinise the data to see which player should rest. In the past Oranje had a situation like this before: in 2006, we won the first two group games and could rest the A-team against Argentina. The result was a break of rhythm for the A-list, and our first knock-out match (v Portugal) became a debacle. Or even worse: a national embarrassment (the Battle of Neurenberg). In 2008, we were in another Group of Death, but after beating Italy and France, we were up against Romania and Van Basten again rested some key players. The break of rhythm might have contributed to the loss vs Hiddink’s Russia in the knock out stages.

What is better: keep the first team together and in rhythm? With the risk of injuries or fatigue later down the track? Or is it better to let some fresh legs play? To keep the others save but also to give the B-team a chance to present themselves. That might contribute to the group dynamics.

It’s a tough call. Only De Boer in combination with his players will be able to decide this.

I have the feeling Frank will use the players from the A team who are still super fit. He also suggested he might go for Plan B, which is the “Italian version”, with a right winger in the team, whereas the left winger has a free role.

I hope Frank will use the 4-3-3 as a template. As both Gini and Frenkie are key to our success, I hope Frank will play like this:

Your views?

 

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Oranje needs more oomph!

Talent? Check. Energy? Check. Balance of experience and young exuberance? Check. Goals? Check.

But still, despite all of this, we still look like a team of juniors, the way we play. In particular compared to the likes of France and Italy.

Austria shouldn’t be a problem for us, but despite an early 1-0 after a foul in the box on Dumfries, the Orange were not able to get more light between the teams, despite some good chances!

I can see a couple of reasons.

For starters, yes Weghorst is a work horse and a handful but he simply is not good enough in open play. His lay offs and passes never come off, he’s lacking speed and guile and really doesn’t belong in this team. With the space behind the Austrian backline, I started shouting for Malen from the 15th minute onwards.

Another problem we have, is the lack of ruthlessness up front. Again, we saw opportunities for Memphis and for Wijnaldum but the finishing is just not good enough. Too weak. We seem to have a team with talented players but not enough real hunger and desire.

You see this in the physical duels as well. Not when De Ligt or De Vrij are involved. These “Italian defenders” understand what is needed in the duels, but Dumfries, De Jong, Memphis, it’s regularly too soft.

The third problem, as has been mentioned here a couple of times by others, our key players are our wingbacks and Dumfries and Van Aanholt are simply not good enough.

That last problem is not resolved in this tournament. We’d need Karsdorp on the right and a player like Malacia or Willems as left wingback. Or Vilhena even.

The intensity and hunger is a typical Dutch problem, I fear. Compared to the Portuguese or Argentines or even the South Koreans, our youngsters are spoiled and lack the grit some of the youngsters from other countries possess.

The most simple solution to the issues we have is: Malen! With De Ligt and De Vrij and Dumfries, we have enough header strength. But we lack players with depth. Memphis wants it in his feet, and so do Wijnaldum, Weghorst… Malen has everything to be our “Mbappe”.

In the second half we see similar situations. Lots of possession, lots of passes but in the final third it becomes weak. Undecisive. Hesitant. Lacking quality.

After 63 minutes, it’s Malen on the pitch. Lets see…

Well, he’s 2 minutes on and he does exactly what I want to see. Use his speed and run in behind. Well done Memphis, with your pass and well done Denzel Dumfries in running along with Malen: 2-0.

The number of times the Dutch were able to break but then stop playing, start walking, looking around, and then playing back. They just were able to get back from right wing position to the left back position where Ake simply pays the ball out of bounds… That really needs to improve!

Statistically, we probably played an amazing game. Austria literally had zero chance. I don’t think Stekelenburg needed to flex his gloves during the whole game. But against the tougher teams, we will not be able to play this sloppy.

We did see some quality moves, the individual class of Wijnaldum, Frenkie and the two central defenders were on display and even though Memphis played a mediocre game, he still scored a fantastic penalty and is always threatening.

As it stands, we’ll win the group and I hope Frank will mix it up a bit and use some other players. I’d love to see Timber as right back, Gravenberch and Malen from the start and Koopmeiners instead of De Roon…

85th minute in… Ake, whom I really like, dribbles into the midfield with some nice long strides and then he passes the ball square into the feet of…an Austrian player… This is just maddening.

So, in terms of results, nice work Oranje. But looking at the quality of the performances (Ukraine and Austria), I think we need to man up a bit more if we want to get into the quarter finals.

We need to have way longer spells of intensity and pace and directness. Not vs North Macedonia or Austria, but against the big guns.

By the way, a big fat congrats to Mempis Depay for his big transfer: he is now formally a Barca player!

After the match, skipper Wijnaldum said: “We are happy to qualify and to be the first group winner. That is awesome, but I don’t want to become complacent. We cannot relax. This team needs to work hard for it’s success and we need that intensity to stay up.” The PSG midfielder admitted that there wasn’t as much “flow” in this match, compared to the Ukraine game. “We lost the ball too quickly, our short passing wasn’t up to speed. And then a game goes up and down. And we didn’t score the chances in the first half, which also doesn’t help. But, at least our pressure worked well and we did create chances. That remains key. But this is tournament football. We didn’t give a lot away and we want to grow into the tournament. You know, we finish the group as leaders so we should be happy and focus on improving.”

Daley Blind: “We have a plan for the press and in this match we wanted to use the press to push Austria to one particular side. If you then win the ball you can open up fast on the other flank. The plan was very good, the execution was not that great. Yet. But there were also moments when we were pushed back but we remained compact and I think Stekelenburg had a relatively easy day today.”

Blind continues: “It’s ok to not always have the ball. You can dominate without the ball too. If you saw France vs Germany, I don’t think France really cared not having the ball.” The Ajax defender was surprised to see his number on the substitution board. “We didn’t plan for my substitution and I felt I could go on, but hey, the coach decided. It took me two glances to see it was me, but the coach has his reasons and it’s all good.”

Memphis definitely didn’t play his best game, but he’s again crucial when it counts. The penalty kick was converted with gusto, and it was Memphis’ smart pass in behind which launched Malen into space. The PSV forward decided not to be greedy and allowed Dumfries his second goal of the Euros.

He did get a very good opportunity to score. “That was a superb ball by Wout and I should have scored it. It is that simple. I was a tad late and the ball bounced up and didn’t get my leg behind it, not well enugh. It happens, luckily it didn’t have negative repercussions. Next one will be in the net! Today we were sloppy, yes, it wasn’t top. But we worked hard, we kept to the plan and we pressed well. I think we can be pleased, 6 points, clean sheet today and top of the group. It’s fine.”

Marco van Basten was not happy with Mathijs de Ligt: “He is playing in Italy, but I don’t think he learned a lot. He has been playing football for, what… 15 years? It’s always the same. Eleven v Eleven. And as a central defender, you see the game in front of you. Twice, he allowed himself to be pulled into midfield. Twice, there was a gaping hole. Unbelievable. Austria didn’t know what to with it. Against France, Italy, Spain, England, Portugal, Germany…you’re out.”

 

 

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Spectacular start Oranje after 13 years…

It took 13 years for Oranje to win at a Euros again! After 45 minutes, my title for this post was “Everything but the goals” but after 90 minutes, we saw 5 of them. And all beauties too!

With the news that Eriksen will be ok (as a person, maybe not as a football player), things couldn’t be better.

Next time, I would be fine with Oranje just keeping a lock on the backdoor and not allowing the opponent a way back into the game. Because we did end up sitting fairly uncomfortable on the edge of our seat, with Ukraine getting back to 2-2!

But Man of the Match Denzel Dumfries ( a title he’ll have to share with Frenkie and Stefan de Vrij for me) had other ideas. The former Sparta man had never scored for Oranje and decided to start doing it now.

Fun to read all the negative comments now, after this match. I believe Dumfries and De Roon were the biggest targets of the criticasting vinegar pissers :-). I will withhold from being to celebratory about it…

But the facts are the facts.

Frank de Boer realised that Wijndal is not comfortable in the 5-3-2, while Van Aanholt is. He made the switch. Like we hoped he would. He played Daley Blind for 60 minutes, because the Ajax man is not 100% match fit, but we want him to be. After his 3 months angle ligament injury, he needs to be brought back to 100% and this match will have done wonders. Although, he almost didn’t play at all.

Blind: “Christian is a close friend. His family and mine are always in touch. And when I saw what happened, I was almost in shock, plus my own experiences with my heart issues came back too. I couldn’t sleep and felt really down. I almost decided to let this match go… But I’m happy I did play. All the emotions did come out when I was subbed off, and probably also the tension in my body from trying desperately to get fit in time. This match meant a lot.”

Both he and Van Aanholt would get 60 minutes, as both players are still not 100%.

Otherwise, Frank went with his trusted eleven and the performance proved him right.

I personally think Marten de Roon played a super first half. I’m not his biggest fan, but it was clear what his role is in that first 45. He mopped up many a ball in midfield and kept pressure on the Ukraine, with his tough physical challenges. He is also used to cover as RB for when Dumfries is up and away. I think De Roon was fine!

Dumfries definitely showed he made some progress. His first half was a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, he made use of the space in front of him and was a constant threat, but his finishing in the first half should have been better. As the whole team was a bit toothless in that first half. We should have been 3-0 up at half time. Denzel could have had 2, Wijnaldum could have scored and even Van Aanholt was face to face with the goalie suddenly.

Normally, not taking your chances can result in an upset, but Oranje added a gear in the second half and they really grabbed Ukraine by the neck and suffocated them. The two goals were justified, with a good role for Dumfries, but allowing Ukraine back into it was weak and unnecessary. The subbing of Blind and Van Aanholt was probably part of the cause although Yarmolenko’s shot on goal was really top drawer. No goalie would have stopped that ball. The second goal was a waste. The pressure on Zinchenko wasn’t there, resulting in a De Vrij foul and free kick. And our defending was bad. Weghorst was marking the wrong side and I think De Vrij or any other player should have been attacking that ball earlier.

Still, Oranje fought back and a perfect Ake cross resulted in that Dumfries header. You see, he does know how to head a ball.

I think the performance was quite good overall. Frank de Boer is correct in his comments post-match: “I think the players do understand this 5-3-2 after all” and he is right. They looked good. And sure Ukraine is not Spain or France, but still. It’s a good step forward.

As per usual, Wijnaldum, Memphis and Frenkie de Jong were playing at their usual level. Wijnaldum leading by example. Frenkie relentlessly looking for openings and Memphis a constant threat. He didn’t score or assist today, so that might be poor, considering his usual output, but he played a good game.

Weghorst still has massive debates with the ball at times. His passing, his flicks, his touches, it’s not top level and never will be. But he compensates a lot with his mentality, work ethics and physicality.

I personally think De Vrij played sensational as well, while Timber played as if he has 20 caps to his name. He had some moments in the game where he could have taken a bit more risk, dribbling into midfield, but that will surely come. The future is bright.

I do believe things will only improve from here. This was a massive confidence booster (and three points of course) as the usual vinegar pissing had started already amongst Dutch analysts and “experts”. This win will settle the team. It will further strengthen De Boer’s belief in the system and players like De Roon, Dumfries, Timber and Weghorst will take a lot away from this game.

Daley Blind had another hour of football under his belt and will be back to total fitness when/if we get to the knock-out stages.

Winning your first match is key!

I think Frank will not change much vs Austria, on Thursday, if everyone is fit. He might pick Wijndal instead of Van Aanholt (depends on who plays right wing for Austria I guess) but he won’t change too much, I don’t think. A draw vs Austria and a win over North Macedonia will probably get us top of the group…

 

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Is Oranje good enough…?

In the past weeks, we saw some negativity posted here about the team which prompted me to respond. There were so many things said, that I felt a counter-post was warranted. I mean, Wilson and Tiju tend to vent their frustration with certain players and coaches here, but Jean Venette took it to a whole other level.

In general terms: you don’t need a team of world class players to win trophies!

For every France 2018 or Spain 2012, there is a Greece 2004 or a Leicester City 2016.

You need the best team to win trophies! And a bit of luck. I could end this post right here. Point made.

But, below I will quote Venette (and others) and respond:

“Jan is gonna write his opinion tomorrow and trying to convince folks that this team is good. HAHAHA”

I don’t do this. I am usually trying to explain why a coach does what does and why I think it might work. You can say a lot about our coaches from the past, but they all have a good pedigree and considered to be experts in their fields. We did have inexperienced coaches, but I am not 100% sure you can blame Van Basten for our exit in 2008 or Rijkaard for the dreadful misses v Italy in 2000…

What I do do, and what I do believe in: as a fan you need to support your team. You can be critical of your coach (I am), but the players deserve support. Yelling from the stands “Wijndal, you suck, you don’t deserve to be in this team!” is not my type of supporting.

And lets face it: how often did this group of followers here criticised players… Van Bommel, Nigel de Jong, Dirk Kuyt, Daley Blind… Every player less than Cruyff, Van Basten, Bergkamp or Sneijder gets insults, at times (on this blog).

“This Dutch team isn’t going anywhere. The team is suck….. Berghuis is suck and again he is a starter. LOL Most of these players as sucks.”

I don’t know why I would respond to this. Sounds like a spoiled kid criticising his dinner ( “this meatball sucks, this spinach sucks, I don’t want to eat this!”). The team doesn’t suck. This team (with Virgil) beat France, Germany, England and drew Italy away. So…

I think people in Lyon don’t think Memphis sucks. People like Pocchetino and Klopp don’t think Wijnaldum sucks. Apparently, Frenkie de Jong is the highest valued player in Spain now. So no, we don’t suck.

“You have a bunch of players in this squad that are bench players in their clubs or went abroad and could not perform.”

Someone remembers a certain Marco van Basten, in 1988? He didn’t play. He was not considered first team material by Michels.

The reason that Donny van de Beek doesn’t play at Man United is not hard to fathom (if you follow football, you’d know).

“You have to admit that this generation is suck except for a very few.”

We all know that Spain and England and France are stronger in terms of individual quality and options on every position. That is sadly the fate of The Netherlands. Small country. Less options. England has 5 top right backs, we only have 1 (in my opinion: Karsdorp). This is true. But having said that: how often did England win a big trophy in recent decades?

If you understand football, you know it’s not about the individual players. How many big trophies did C Ronaldo win with his country? Only the last Euros. When he was 33 years old. How many World Cups did Leo Messi win again?

Belgium has been playing several tournaments now with a top notch team with “world class players”. How many trophies exactly?

We have two of the top defenders of the Serie A. We have a true class act in Daley Blind. Frenkie de Jong is top notch. Wijnaldum is a world class player, anyone who begs to differ is not paying attention. He won heaps of trophies at Liverpool, played practically everything, scored key goals in the Champions League and at 30 could sign at PSG, Barca, Bayern or stay at Liverpool.

For me, Liverpool is World Class. So any Liverpool Legend must also be world class.

We have Memphis as top attacker and players like Gravenberch, Timber, Malen, Gakpo will surely follow suit. We don’t need a team of super stars. Those teams never win trophies. We need players like Klaassen and Weghorst who will put in a shift and help support the stars.

“Any tactical decision wouldn’t make any difference.”

Tell this to the German coach who won the Euros in 2004. Tactics are there to allow the players to play at their best level. Did you see the tactical change Koeman made at Barca? And the impact his shift to three-at-the-back made?

“If Berghuis was good enough he wouldn’t be in the Eredivisie by now.”

Why wouldn’t a player be able to decide to stay in Holland? Danny Blind never left Holland. He is considered one of the greatest liberos. How well have some players done when moving abroad (your own observation). So some move abroad and get criticism if they don’t break into a big team right away (Bergwijn, Van de Beek, Kluivert). Others stay in Holland and shine every week and then they get criticised for that?? That is not fair. Berghuis made a transfer to Watford. He decided to return to Holland and play weekly. He was offered a massive pay-check at Feyenoord and decided he wanted to be a big fish in a little pond. But don’t worry, there were more than enough suiters for Berghuis and he’ll make a move, for sure.

I compare him with Ziyech. Elegant technicians, with a tremendous left foot and great vision. But Ziyech is wasted in the high octane style of Tuchel (sadly) and Berghuis was wasted at Watford. I think we should be grateful that Berghuis stayed in Holland.

“For me I think we have to accept the fact that we have failed to produced talented players that we use to and figure out where and how we fell short and look into the future.”

You are behind the times. This process started in 2016 already (actually, after 2012’s debacle) and since, we have started to produce a lot of great talents… De Ligt, Gravenberch, Stengs, Malacia, Lang, Timber, Rensch, Ihattaren, Gakpo, Bijlow, all these names are coming through now and some hav established themselves (De Ligt, Gravenberch, Bijlow), others are on their way after suffering some setbacks (Gakpo, Lang, Malacia) and others struggle a bit with that last step up (Stengs, Ihattaren, Boadu)… The future is quite bright. Wijndal has indeed not progressed enough, I agree with that, but that is normal with young players. That last step is huge.

I pointed out that in The Netherlands (and I was there before the 74 World Cup and the Euros 1988) and before most tournaments, the overall attitude is shifting between “what the F are we going to do there” to “we’ll win this”. And everytime we believe we’ll win it, we go home disappointed (1990, 1996, 2002, 2012) and everytime we believe we have nothing to win, we do exceptionally well (1974, 1978, 2014).

Before the World Cup 1974, the expectations were truly low. We had qualified as a result of a referee blunder (Belgium had an onsite goal ruled out!) and we were missing all our central defenders.

In 1978, we didn’t have Cruyff and Van Hanegem.

And back then, players like Haan, Rijsbergen, Jansen, Jongbloed were not considered World Class.

And like with the criticism poured over Bergwijn, Van de Beek and co: Rep, Jansen, Suurbier, Rijsbergen and others did not have a glorious career abroad. Wim Jansen played in Japan and the US and returned to the Eredivisie, for instance. Rijsbergen made a name for himself at New York Cosmos but that was never taken as a serious team.

Wim Suurbier, party animal

In 1978, we had Poortvliet, Wildschut, Van Kraay, Nanninga, Brands…definitely not world class players.

In 2014, we played with a back 5 of all Eredivisie players. Except for Vlaar, who was playing relegation football with Villa.

In 1988, we had elegant and skilled players galore ( Van ‘t Schip, Vanenburg, Mario Been, Frans van Rooy) but Michels opted for a balanced squad with hard working players (Erwin Koeman, Suvrijn, Bosman, Wim Koevermans, Sjaak Troost) as he understood that these players would not upset the apple cart if they wouldn’t play.

But Van Basten was considered not match fit and Vanenburg was forced to play in service of the team, while 37 year old Muhren was brought in to add some experience and intelligence to the team.

And were we really brilliant? We lost our first game. We won vs England, but with luck.

So why would we now suddenly need 11 world class players??

In 1998, we had a very strong squad. Didn’t win. In 2002, we had one of the best coaches of Dutch history and amazing players. Didn’t even qualify.

“The world will not be talking about these players in 30 years time. Wijnaldum isn’t no Iniesta, nor a Donadoni, Enzo Scifo, Franchescholi, not even an Edgar Davids.”

I think you are wrong. Wijnaldum is on his way to play 100+ caps for Oranje. If you manage that, you will be considered a legend, whether you like it or not :-). He’s been exceptional at Liverpool, much loved there and respected and with a full trophy cabinet.

Memphis is a very colourful player. His foundation work, his clothing line, his funny hats and outfits, and mark my words, he still has his best years in front of him.

Daley Blind will go into history as one of the most gifted left footers we ever had. Frenkie de Jong will become one of our best ever midfielders. I think that in itself is already something to be happy about.

The thing is too: players are considered TOP after winning a big trophy. So, should Holland manage what Greece did in 2004, players like Weghorst and Klaassen and Dumfries will be considered “European top” suddenly.

I think we all have subjective opinions about coaches and players, and we need to accept that there is no such thing as “the truth”. Vincent Janssen is now somewhere in Mexico. Off the radar for most. If he would have picked another club than Spurs, who knows, right? He played 62 games for Monterrey, and scored/assisted 23 times. Which is one goal/assist every third game. Those are way better stats than Luuk de Jong. Janssen could have been on the radar if he would have chosen to play for Gladbach or Mainz or Club Brugge.

Frank de Boer is considered “a loser” but I think that is truly extremely harsh. Sure, his communications is not every enticing. It’s monotonous, he drawls a bit and has a lot of uhs and ohs and ahs… It’s like Emery when he was with Arsenal. He came across as a joker. But despite that, Emery is definitely a top coach, with trophies to prove this. De Boer won the Dutch title 4 times in a row. That is not bad, considering he coached Ajax in a period where they struggled.

He went to Inter, because they wanted to change from a negative, catenaccio style to a more dominant attacking style. The player revolted and the Inter board lost their spine. It took 3 coaches since De Boer and the appointment of Conte to change this. And guess what: Conte is out already, because according to him, the Inter board is constraining him too much.

Same story at Palace: the owners wanted a continental style football. De Boer could have had results in his first four matches but bad luck resulted in a ridiculous loss late in the (fourth) game, which meant the Palace owners shat the bed and chucked him out. They got Yoy Hodgson in and he went back to typical counter football. De Boer was sacrificed to appease the fans and some senior players.

His Atlanta gig can not be seen as a failure. He was there for a good spell and won trophies. What more did they expect?

I remember constant criticism on our teams and players. In 2010, Bert van Marwijk was considered a cautious coach. Our defenders were considered mediocre (Mathijsen, Ooijer, Heitinga). Before the tournament, our two friendlies were considered shambolic. In 2014, no one had any confidence in what Van Gaal was doing. And the story goes on and on.

As for the development of players, look at the 2016 squad and lets look at some names of exciting players who played for Oranje then:

Karsdorp – got seriously injured and missed two whole seasons

Fosu-Mensah – never was able to deliver on that wonderful promise

Hoedt – had a great spell at Lazio but had to re-invent himself after his Southampton move

Jetro Willems – got seriously injured and is now on the prowl for a new club

Bazoer – lost the plot and is now rebuilding his career

Davy Propper – got injured this season and struggled to get back into Brighton, after a solid spell there

Bart Ramselaar – never cut it at PSV, is now back at Utrecht

Van Ginkel – dramatic series of injuries, might return next season (PSV)

Vilhena – great move to Krasnodar where he is one of the key guys, but off the radar a bit

Obviously, Hakim Ziyech should have been on this list too, but his heart decided differently.

As a European football nation expressed in terms of population, we are 8th on the list. Poland and Romania have more people than us. But in terms of football ranking, they are way below us. The top 6 are: England, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland.

It is logical that these countries have more talent to pick from than we do.

Only Portugal is way below us in terms of population, while being able to beat us regularly. All other nations below us (Belgium excepted at the moment) should be considered nations we can beat.

In conclusion:

We don’t need 11 world class players to win a trophy. We don’t need to play well in the pre-season friendlies. Even worse, we don’t even have to play great games in a tournament to win it.

Lets get some comments in on this topic (with respect please).

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Predictions and Ukraine analysis

My friends, it’s been 7 years but we’re back at the top level. Sadly, my web developer and myself have not been able to reach the knock-out stages of the Website update League :-(. We wanted to present you with a cool Football Pool for the Euros, with real prizes to boot, this last week but the code simply doesn’t want to do what we want…

We tried until just now, but it is too hard. Our apologies! No Football Pool this time around…

So, we will lead this post with my predictions.

And I predict an Oranje win, of course. I have to!

But yes, I do see France, Belgium, Spain are ahead of us. And England! Probably Italy too. And one can’t rule out Germany, ever. Nor can you rule out Portugal.

So we are probably 8th in the top 8, but I can see us win. Traditionally, the World Cup title holders perform badly after a win (Spain being the exception to the rule). So France is out. We’ll play Germany in the Round of 16. I don’t care who else is left standing but we’ll beat them all. We do well against stronger teams, and we’ll pounce on the counter.

We’ll beat England in the finals, while Belgium and Spain play for the 3rd spot.

I will focus my attention on the Ukraine game now and will come back to address the criticism by some Oranje fans here ;-).

Ukraine has had an eventful past few years, with a complete overhaul as their main story. The Shakhtar Donetsk core of the team replaced by the Dinamo Kiev core. Coach Shevchenko was forced to refresh his team. Before the 2020 summer, they weren’t beten for 18 months. After the Corona restart, they imploded and lost six out of eight games.

Spain beat them 4-0. France was more ruthless: 7-1. They conceded 22 goals in 8 games. Shevchenko went the same route as De Boer, implementing a 5-3-2 and it wasn’t a full blown success. This time they kept France at 1-1  but that was also the result vs Finland. When they started their practice games for this tournament, they shelved the 5-3-2. And got the exact same result playing Bahrein: 1-1.

It seems the abandoned the 5-3-2 and will be playing a form of 4-3-3.

In this system, Atalanta midfielder Malinovskiy and Man City left back Zinchenko are key, in midfield. In the 5-3-2 system, the coach can’t play these next to each other. Dribble king Yarmolenko is also lost in the 5-3-2 so it seems unlikely they’ll be starting like that against us.

Defensively, Ukraine plays a 4-1-4-1, which is clearly the hand of assistant coach Mauro Tassoti, the former team mate of Gullit, Van Basten and Rijkaard at AC Milan. The former world class defender has learned his lessons from magician Arrigo Sacchi: always protect the centre.

They don’t play the high press game, like Kiev used to do. They don’t mind sitting and press with the full backs.

For us, the options are behind their defence line. Their lines play compact so there will be space to run into. This would beg for the use of Donyell Malen. The Ukraine defenders are not too comfortable in spaces and having to deal with speed.

We need to be very careful when we seem to be dominant, for instance with dead balls or corner kicks. Turkey scored twice from a Dutch corner, basically, on the counter and Ukraine seems to want to do this too, as they recently demonstrated against Cyprus. Other than that, they’re not a counter team anymore. The most likely forwards are Marlos and Yarmolenko, two players who want to get the ball to feet.

This is Ukraine breaking vs Cyprus

And Turkey on a break vs us…

With the Zinchenko and Malinovskiy on the pitch, Ukraine tends to want to play a pass and move game, not unlike the Dutch.

Based on this, using the 5-3-2 against this 4-3-3 seems ridiculous and unnecessary. Anyway, the cliche opinion that Ukraine is a counter team is obsolete. They do defend compact, zonal, and they like to build up from the back. Our chances is with a quick ball over the top. If there is no pressure on the ball in midfield, we should be able to penetrate and create chances.

I say: 3-0 for Oranje.

I hope Frank will play 4-3-3 in this line up

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Experts on the 5-3-2

Us Oranje fans here on the blog knew it already: The Netherlands consist of 18 million national team managers. Everyone is an expert. Everyone has an opinion. And like you guys here, everyone wants to voice his/hers.

Below are some excerpts of comments by the Dutch experts :-).

Louis van Gaal was national coach twice. The abysmal campaign for the WC2002 we all remember but so do we still dream of the successes in WC2014. He was the one to push for the 5-3-2. His words: “I think this is the best system currently available. I had to get used to that, as I too was brought up with 4-3-3. But this gives you so much options: you can attack, defend, you can pressure the opponent or if you want, you can sit deep and counter. You yourself are better protected with three central defenders. The balance in the team is better with 5-3-2.”

Van Gaal does get criticism on his beliefs by people who like to point out that the Oranje of 2014 got their successes every time Van Gaal changed back from 5-3-2 to 4-3-3 but a thorough analysis demonstrates this is actually not correct. We beat Spain with 5-3-2, as we did Chili. Our only game where the 4-3-3 didn’t really work was against Australia but the winning goal that got us the point was not a result of a tactical switch, but basically a lucky distance shot by Memphis. Didn’t really have anything to do with tactics.

Van Gaal: “In the top, everyone plays like this. And it can work, but the players need to believe in it. If they don’t, like the Dutch media doesn’t like it, then it will fail. Take Memphis, for him it’s a perfect system. He is the creative one. Leave him be. And there is creativity at the back and in midfield as well, with Frenkie de Jong and Daley Blind. The media and the fans are always mesmerized by individuals. Mbappe, Neymar, Messi, C Ronaldo. They didn’t win the Champions League, recently. It’s the best team that wins it. Chelsea: a team! Last season Bayern and before that it was Liverpool. It’s always the best team that wins.”

“I did have one thing going for me, back then. I had the Dutch players two weeks early in my prep camp. And these guys – with Vlaar from Aston Villa- were my defenders. So I could work for two weeks purely on defence, before the big guns (Robben, Van Persie and Sneijder) joined in. And the key to success in a 5-3-2? The defenders need to defend forward, press forward. Never walk back. Keep pressure on and you will smother the opponent. The result vs Scotland is not so relevant for me. It was a practice match.”

Huub Stevens meister

Huub Stevens (former Europa Cup winner with PSV, former coach of PSV, Schalke 04, HSV Hamburg, PAOK): “The Scotland game was not great but I do understand why De Boer wants to try this. Sadly, he doesn’t have the time to perfect it. We missed Daley Blind vs Scotland, Marten de Roon is not a playmaker. And I want to see Frenkie play central. I also missed the flying wing backs. These are essential in this system. We made it easy for Scotland. I can see it work for Oranje, even with Memphis as lone striker, who can move about and make space for the penetrating runs from midfield. When you do have Klaassen, Van de Beek, Wijnaldum and even Frenkie, they can all join in and arrive in the area, versus already being there.”

Foppe de Haan (former Heerenveen coach and national team manager of Young Oranje winning two trophies): “I think we shouldn’t make the system so important. When my team plays 4-3-3 with one holding mid, you can stop the tape and different situations in a game and see all sorts of systems being used. It’s all about the execution, not about the name of the system. I would use a system that players know. I don’t think there is time now to perfect the 5-3-2, so just stick to 4-3-3 and tweak that where needed.”

Jonker as Academy Director with Arsene Wenger

Andries Jonker (former assistant to Van Gaal, Arsenal Academy director and football tactics “professor”): “We played this system vs Scotland without Blind and with Frenkie and Wijnaldum playing 30 minutes. These are your best players. So how can you judge this team performance and system, based on that one game? I think Frank can make progress with this. And don’t forget, the other big nations are not playing their opponents off the pitch either. Belgium? Draw against Greece. Our players are smart and all play for demanding coaches. And lets look at 4-3-3? We don’t have the typical wingers you need for this. We don’t have a Robben. Our wingers are not world class. But Memphis is. So use him in his power. And with either a dynamic Malen or the static #9, he can run rings around defenders. I think the 3rd midfielder will be key. Who will Frank pick next to Frenkie and Gini? I’m sure Frank will get it right.”

Cruyff instructing his coach, De Mos

Aad de Mos (former Ajax, PSV and KV Mechelen coach, winner of Europa cup): “Within 5 minutes you could see that it’s not easy to get a performance from this team in this set up. We are schooled in 4-3-3 and the players are clearly having problems with the changes. 5-3-2 can work against strong opponents, but then you need to play on the counter. But for the first Euro games it makes no sense! And the reactions from the players afterwards were clear: they don’t like it. Memphis, De Ligt, Wijnaldum… You don’t have 3 weeks anymore, you need to build your winning team now. Or better, you should have it already. Now you need to work on details, specifics. Dead ball situations, patterns, partnerships. I don’t think Wijndal and Dumfries are right for this 5-3-2. Wijndal is tactically still immature. He is constantly looking and probing and looks puzzled. And Dumfries… he has limited ball skils for a player who needs to cross a ball in. He has hard-nosed boots, it seems. It hurts my eyes at times….”

Super scout Piet de Visser

Piet de Visser (ex coach, educator, discoverer of Ronaldo, Neymar, De Bruyne and Ronaldinho and super scout for Chelsea): “Are you going to play 5-3-2 vs Scotland?? Really? It was an abomination to watch. I never spoke about systems. Systems are being made very important, but it’s about what you do in certain situations, no matter what the system. I used 4-3-3 with some variations. Keep it simple: use a De Roon type player when you face Spain or Italy. Use a football player when you play Scotland or Austria. At times you play 5-4-1, at times you play 4-2-4. Keep it simple: Krul in goal. Then Blind, De Ligt, De Vrij, Timber. Midfield: Frenkie, Wijnaldum and Klaassen and up front: Berghuis, Memphis and Weghorst. And against strong opponents, you play Memphis as 9 and use Malen as left winger and sacrifice Berghuis or Klaassen.”

Theo Janssen: “Frank de Boer is inhumane”

Theo Janssen (ex Ajax, ex Twente, currently coach of Young Vitesse): “I think we can play 5-3-2 but not without Blind. You need a smart build up player from the back. He has the vision and the passing range. Yes, De Ligt needed to get used to it, but he will. He’s a smart player. De Vrij doesn’t know better. And lets face it, we don’t have top wingers. Berghuis is top but on the left, Gakpo is still young and unexperienced. Promes didn’t have a great season and I don’t think Memphis should be playing from the left. Memphis needs to be your false 9. I think a player like him needs to play where he wants. Period. And if this Oranje can only play 4-3-3, well, maybe we simply don’t have players that are really good.”

I think we’ll see another 5-3-2 attempt vs Georgie, but this time:

But I also believe Frank will play 4-3-3 in the Euro group games and if that goes well (and I think it will) we will keep on playing that until we bump into a very strong opponent (France, Spain, Belgium)….

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