Tag: De Vrij

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?

 

Bookmark and Share

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.”

 

 

Bookmark and Share

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…

 

Bookmark and Share

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).

Bookmark and Share

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

Bookmark and Share

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)….

Bookmark and Share

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

Oranje preps for Euros

My dear friends, more apologies from me. I know, it’s becoming a pattern and I’m sorry, but life at this moment doesn’t allow me to write more. Once the Oranje fever is coming up and we get closer to the Euros, you will see more of me. Just busy with work, with set up of a new company, with lots of limitations due to Covid, lower back problems, travel interstate in Oz, etc etc.

But, the pre-selection for the next three friendlies triggered me to pick up the keyboard again. Lets start with comments on the pre-selection and do a quick and dirty overview of the lads, while I prep for some more insightful articles soon again.

Frank de Boer’s pre-selection had some surprises for some and some omissions for others…

The big name missing for me, is Rick Karsdorp. The AS Roma man just renewed his contract with this club until 2025 and he is becoming one of the key players in Fonseca’s plans. The three times capped ex Feyenoord marathon man could be the ideal right full back, but Frank de Boer ignored him. Would he done this if Karsdorp was an Ajax old boy, one wonders?

The inclusions of Maarten Stekelenburg at 38 years surprised people, but not me. I have followed his career (EPL) and remember him playing a sensational match for Everton v Man City a couple of seasons ago, and he still had it. Stopped two penalties! Everton could secure Pickford, England’s number 1, and obviously, the 35 year old Stekelenburg had to make way.

But, in the words of Rafael van de Vaart, he is the second best goalkeeper Oranje ever had (Edwin van de Sar being the #1). “Maarten is technically the best. He has everything. Feet, good in the air, great reflexes and a good vocal coach”, said Rafa recently. “But he is too laid back. He doesn’t care about the jet set life, he likes a cigarette and a beer and is a bit of a stoic.”

If being 18 year young is old enough when you are good enough, than 38 years is young enough, right? He plays really well for Ajax, he has loads of experience and he won’t make a fuss if he needs to be the 2nd or 3rd goalie.

And lets face it… Bizot? He is all over the place recently. Drommel and Bijlow need some more miles and Cillesen only came back into first team playing time recently. Frank de Boer will most likely pick Cillesen as #1 and spot 2 and 3 are open.

Jeremiah St Juste is a surprise inclusion too. I haven’t seen much of him, but what I hear about him is that he can be a bit wild and unfocused at times. Why not Gouweleeuw? Other than that, I think De Boer picked the right lads. Tete does ever so well at Fulham, Veltman to my big surprise does great at Brighton. Was Man of the Match recently and scored even! I personally rate Perr Schuurs higher than st Juste, but like I said, I haven’t seen him play recently.

In midfield, Donny van de Beek is in but will only be called up to help him get fit, as he is currently sidelined with an injury. Gravenberch deserves to start, for me. What a player. Him, Frenkie and Gini in midfield. Strootman back is logical in a way, but unnecessary, for me. I rather see Toon Koopmeiners, Propper or Schouten of Bergamo there. But Koopmeiners is called up for the Young Oranje team which have some key games to play. Same is for Boadu and Noa Lang, the latter might well be the right winger we need for the Euros, by the way.

I would also love to see Bazoer back. He’s amazing for Vitesse, in a free role from the back (I compare him with the likes of Scirea or Beckenbauer). He does play in a back 5, so maybe doesn’t “fit” in Oranje. He also recently had another explosion of anger towards his coach which might have prompted Frank to bypass him.

In attack, Ryan Babel apparently is on good form currently, good on him. Stengs is underperforming and doesn’t deserve to be in the squad. Bergwijn also hasn’t played for weeks due to an injury.

Mo Ihatarren is not in the pre-squad and that is quite logical. The young talent is going through a torrid time at PSV, where the club even issued a statement to the media, saying that after everything the club, the coaches and the players have done for him he still isn’t improving his conduct, and therefore was removed – temporarily – from the squad. By now, he’s back, but rumours of him making a move to Ajax won’t make things better.

But no matter how you look at it, Ihatarren doesn’t deserve a spot. I like to think that Gakpo – now injured – is in front of him.

March 19 is the final selection.

Bookmark and Share

Oranje is back! As is Klaassen!

My friends, I am sorry for the pause in posting… I have had some tech issues on my end and still working on them to get them resolved…

This pause did give me the option to re-think what I am doing and how I am doing it. I got some great feedback from some of you here and I will probably reach out for more.

I want to get these three games out of the way and after these games and maybe during the Xmas break I can reach out to you guys for some input on how we can improve this blog even more (if that is even possible!!).

So expect me to come back to you with some questions, ideas, suggestions etc. And you can start leaving some of that in the comments, if you do have things to share already!

Now, a quick look at the days ahead. Holland playing three games again in what, 9 days? And sadly, we can’t say the friendly vs Spain is “useless” because that result does count towards a good position in the World Cup qualifications. So it does make sense to win even friendlies, these days!

Still it gives coach Frank de Boer some headaches as he believes he can’t play players vs Spain for a full match and use them vs Bosnia. And some other players will not be able to play even two games, this quickly after an intense period of club games.

The latest is that Tonny Vilhena is out, positively tested for Covid-19. He has no symptoms but has to go into quarantine. Frank de Boer will not replace him. Before him, we saw Justin Bijlow already unavailable due to a foot injury and Twente’s Joel Drommel taking his place. Cillesen is out as well of course.

Frank de Boer did say that Bizot (AZ) will be the shot stopper vs Spain, with Tim Krul the #1 goalie for the Nations League matches (Bosnia Herzegovina and Poland) . Frank will not be playing players in the three matches for obvious reasons and will be careful with players who just came back from injuries. Denzel Dumfries for instance, again important for PSV in the domestic league, will probably not start vs Spain but will play in the Nations League matches. Hateboer will be his replacement for the Spain game.

De Boer was also asked about the system he would be using: “The 5-3-2 was a tweak we needed for Italy away. It matched their style and would solve the problem we had in the home game vs Italy. In the coming three matches, we will go back to 4-3-3”.

Davy Klaassen – not very well liked here on the blog I believe- will be making his comeback. He’s been Ajax now for a short while but in the games he did play for Ajax, he impressed. His timing to pop into the box and score goals, his work rate, his leadership are all revered and there is no expert / analyst or former pro who wouldn’t pick Klaassen for the starting line up, now De Roon and Leroy Fer is absent and Davy Propper is also still not 100% fit.

Kevin Strootman used to be the alternative left footed midfielder for Oranje, but De Boer did what his predecessors never did: he called the former Sparta midfielder to tell him he won’t need him. “His situation is not positive at his club. He has hardly played. He needs to change that in order to be important for Oranje again. But he took it really well and told he would do the exact same if he was in my shoes.”

Steven Bergwijn and Mo Ihattaren also had to leave the Oranje camp with little issues but won’t be replaced.

I think it’s quite remarkable that losing two midfielders ( Ihattaren and Vilhena) didn’t prompt De Boer to get a replacement in, but he will know best.

For the Spain match, I think Frank will go with this line up:

I believe Frank’s go-to eleven (for now) will look like:

But I could be terribly wrong :-).

The Spain confrontation will always be special. We beat them the last two times we met and that 1-5 in Brazil will forever be on everyone’s favorite Oranje top 5 list, I’m sure. But the loss in South Africa in 2010 will also always be with us.

Another reason to look out for this match, is that we most likely will see Marco Asensio in Spanish colours. The half Dutch, half Spanish forward is happy to be back in Holland. “I consider this my second homeland. Half my family lives here and I always spend time here, to see my family. Every year I visit and it’s special for me to play against Holland.” The Real Madrid star played all of his youth rep matches in orange and decided to go for Spain when he had to make his choice…

Let me hear your ideal line up below AND the line up for the Spain match…

More later!

Bookmark and Share

Italy outsmarts weak Oranje

Well, it seems that after a good series of games and increasing positive vibes around the team, our lads manage to help us level our expectations and get us back with our feet firmly on the ground.

It was at times a shocker. A really sobering experience.

It was well known beforehand that 1) Italy would freshen up the team and 2) they’d come with a mission, as they dropped two points at home. A response was to be expected.

Lodeweges set up the team almost exactly like Italy (as I said before: both teams try to play a similar style of football with a similar type of tactical plan), but instead of putting fresh legs in, he decided to use the team that had a confidence boost vs Poland. He also figured that Hateboer and De Roon would find something extra vs the players they see every week.

Bergwijn, who struggled after an hour vs Poland, was rested and Wijnaldum played as a false right winger, in what was probably a 4-3-2-1. Promes and Gini close behind Memphis, with a block in midfield ( De Jong, Van de Beek, De Roon).

Italy executed the plan to perfection and coach Mancini’s only real issue was the lack of more goals.

Oranje received a football lesson from the Azzurri and will need to get its act together really fast, as the matches will come thick and fast.

The issues.

I think for starters, Lodeweges made the mistake of using 10 of the starting 11 against Poland. Two big matches in 3 days with players who are not 100% match fit… Why? Dumfries was fit. Wijnaldum can play for De Roon, and give Frenkie some protection and help as holding mid (Davy Propper was injured and not part of the squad). Bergwijn could have done another 45 minutes and Ihatarren could have easily had his debut. He’s young, fresh, eager and has that surprise factor.

Anyway, that was just one issue. Italy is also not 100% match fit but still I think the risk of injured players was relatively high and it was visible that some players (Memphis!) were struggling at times.

Secondly, the team played to expansive. The spaces between the players was too big. Putting pressure and chasing the opponent is harder this way and costs even more energy. And once you do have the ball, there are less options to find a team mate. We lost the ball constantly, after 2 or 3 touches.

Example 1: Marten de Roon pushed up while right winger Wijnaldum has no direct opponent and seems lost in space. Big hole behind De Roon, for Hateboer and Veltman to deal with…

Thirdly, the right flank was in disarray. It’s easy to criticize Hateboer. And I personally also think he is not good enough for the NT. I do believe Dumfries, or Karsdorp, or Tete or even Janmaat (when fit) are better options. Yes, he has great lungs and keeps on going, but his crosses are mediocre, his touch lets him down and his decision making isn’t great. Having said that, him being the weakest link, he wasn’t helped that well by his team mates. De Roon and Wijnaldum should have made sure he was never playing against two opponents. Wijnaldum in particular was highly disappointing. But Joel Veltman also didn’t play like De Ligt or De Vrij would. He’s too much on the back foot, tracking back and never really pushing forward.

So Hateboer became the weak link, but this was partly the fault of the team (incl Lodeweges!).

And again. Van de Beek and wijnaldum both cover one Italian, while Frenkie is pressing high up, with gaps behind him. 

Some players (Memphis!) want to overcompensate the fact we’re not playing well by making it all even more complicated. Half volleys on goal from 35 meters out, bicycle kicks and more. In these situations, one needs to play simple.

And then this… A gap between defense and midfield. Frenkie pushing up, Van de Beek and Wijnaldum lost. The Italians can find a free man all the time.

Italy could have had 4 goals, in all honesty. Their finishing wasn’t up to speed (they also are not fully fit) and Holland really had very little to show for itself in the final third. A shot by Wijnaldum in the first half. An attempt by Van de Beek in the second half. Some weaker attempts by Memphis and Promes. Luuk de Jong came to play for Ake (cramp) in the final minutes of the game and had one decent heading opportunity, but overall it was piss poor.

This happened all the time. Huge space on the right. Look at the pairings. Wijnaldum or De Roon should be covering.

Frenkie de Jong did what he could, Memphis tried a lot, Van Dijk kept his head up and kept on commanding the troops, but it was just not good enough. We looked leggy, we kept the pitch to wide, we didn’t help each other out… we never deserved anything from this game.

This is the goal. Four Dutch against three Italians. Ake is marking his man. Van Dijk should have control. But it will go horribly wrong.

So now what?

Well, in terms of standing in this group: we still have control. We need to win games, and the away game vs Italy is a game we probably have to win, but I think we can. There is nothing lost yet. And make no mistake, it is going to be worth our while to perform well in this Nations League as it could help us get a ticket for the World Cup.

In terms of playing style and players: I think we need to keep on going on this road, but we need to learn from this match and learn fast! We need to stay more compact, have less space between the midfielders and the different lines. We also need players to stand up, and read the game and take charge. Lastly, I think it is safe to say we do need Propper, De Ligt, Blind, De Vrij, Malen, Stengs, Danjuma, Karsdorp, and maybe even Berghuis.

In terms of coach: I think this will probably urge the KNVB to sign a big name heavy duty coach. Lodeweges is probably a great assistant. But doesn’t seem to have the fire in his belly and the confidence to take charge because it didn’t take me more than 10 minutes to see what the problem was.

I also believe another – more experienced – head coach wouldn’t have started the same eleven (well…ten). Louis van Gaal or Henk Ten Cate. One of those two seems needed to guide and lead this still young team. My preference is Ten Cate (it was the same three years ago, when Hans van Breukelen fukced up so gloriously).

My ratings (I got some flak for the generous ratings for the Poland game, but I took into account the fact it was the first match and we ended up winning, so….).

Cillesen – 7 – was there when he needed to be, his passing was ok, not great, and I don’t think he was at fault for the Italy goal

Ake – 6 – couldn’t bring a lot moving forward, looked leggy

Van Dijk – 5 – Not sure where he was when that cross came in.

Veltman – 4 – Very sloppy, gave balls away needlessly, wayward passing and letting Hateboer drown at times

Hateboer – 5 – Got himself in trouble, had one major howler, but fixed it again, worked hard but was left in the lurge

Frenkie – 6- worked hard, tried hard, but struggled

Marten de Roon – 4 – didn’t protect his Atalanta team mate Hateboer

Donny van de Beek – 3 – almost invisible, kept the field to long, tactical positioning was weak, had 1 good chance

Gini Wijnaldum – 3 – Wasted as right winger, hardly any threat, lost in space between players and leaving Hateboer to drown

Memphis – 3- Tried hard, seemed to be very motivated but lots of wrong decisions and not enough team play

Quincy Promes – 3 – Almost invisible, sloppy in possession, weak in his positioning

Steven Bergwijn – 4 – Could affect the game, had a through ball for Frenkie but overcooked it

Luuk de Jong – 6 – Did what Luuk de Jong does

Dwight Lodeweges – 5 – he probably had a good plan but the execution sucked and he wasn’t able to change it around. Was late with subs and should have started fresher legs

I can’t play the high lights of this game. So lets look at a game that got us all cheering!

 Bookmark and Share