Tag: Dumfries

Why I think Oranje will be the next Euro champs!

There are several responses. 1. because I always think we win the next tournament. 2. Because it will be fun for us and the blog. And 3. because we have a great group of players who – even without Frenkie – can dazzle and win games.

I’m sure that the work of Ten Hag, Slot, Pep, Klopp, Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Peter Bosz will rub off on Koeman and after meddling with 4-3-3 and 5-3-2 and 3-4-3 he finally landed on the best system for Oranje, the 1-4-2-2-2.

Where he used to have the inclination to leave the right flank open (so Dumfries could bomb into space left available by Wijnaldum or Xavi or Lang or whoever played there) today he has the option to do the same at the left side and play with a more contained option (Geertruida) on the right. In this way he can utitlise a proper right winger (Frimpong) and leaving the left flank open for a player like Van de Ven or Maatsen to dominate the left flank.

Koeman would stack the left with ball players (Blind or Ake, Frenkie, Gakpo) and the right with legs and speed. Now we can do this on the right, with Geertruida,

We can play the compact game against dominating teams (Spain, Germany) and play high up the pitch against transition teams parking the bus.

Our goalies are very decent if not more than that.

Our defence is world class.

Our midfield is talented and eager.

Our forwards are getting in the groove. Memphis is hungry (playing for a new deal, remember?), Xavi and Frimpong are exciting, Gakpo has class and with the addition of Zirkzee, we do have a bit of everything. We have a real 9 in Brobbey, a roaming mercurial forward in Memphis, a class act like Zirkzee and of course pinchhitter Wout Weghorst.

It feels like the team has finally realised that 1. winning is everything and 2. we have the goods to be the winner.

So I say, we will probably beat Poland 3-0. I think we’ll have a shock win over France as well ( 0-1 Frimpong) and Austria will end up being our toughest opponent in the group.

I have a good feeling people! Hup Holland Hup!

 

 

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Koeman calls up Jan for the blog!

Hi my friends, the last months on the blog were quite….quiet. My dear friend Tarcisio is having some IT issues and as our boys will be playing for the title soon, I thought it prudent to get back here and commentate on the Oranje games.

Word of warning: I will not go into the deep end for other national teams. Focus will be Oranje and their games.

And a big ASK: I have had to spend more money into getting the site back up and running.

After years of offering this platform, there have always been just a handful of committed fans who would support the blog with some digits. You probably know the cost of running this sortathing?

At the same time, I do see some people really getting a lot of joy/mileage from this platform so I need to ask all who can, to chip in a bit for the opportunity I offer people to share stories, their comments, their comical banter and at times their less than friendly banter.

If we value this orange community, please share a bit of your materialised energy so we can keep it going.

A proper post, soon! For now, please use the link below:

 

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Oranje making up numbers at Euros

Well, we made it. We qualified. But the performance quality – or lack thereof – doesn’t instil a lot of confidence in me.

I don’t think I have seen one match after the World Cup that gave me a good feeling. And sure, we miss a couple of big players, but I can’t see how Frenkie or Memphis would have improved the play much, all by themselves. I mean, there were games with Frenkie in the side post-WC which also didn’t dazzle us.

I do think Koeman is doing the right thing in his squad selection and today’s line up, for me, was quite logical.

I personally would have doubted to put Weghorst in, but he did score the winner so people will probably laugh at me.

But i just don’t like him. And I think that another player would have scored if we had Malen as right winger and Xavi as false 9.

I probably also would have played Wieffer instead of Schouten. I’m a big Schouten fan but to put him in in his second game after being shoved aside by Van Gaal quite rudely, I would have used him versus Gibraltar. I think Wieffer is settled more in Oranje and is known to be quite stoic.

I also need to add: I think Schouten played a very decent match and will only improve.

Lastly, I think I would have picked Bijlow over Verbruggen. The latter is a great talent but still so inexperienced. He had to field two shots on goal and one went in through his legs. Ouch. Luckily for him, the Irish attacker was off side.

But overall, I think Koeman’s decisions re: line up and squad are fine.

It’s the execution (and maybe the prep by Koeman) that leaves a lot to be desired.

The excuse that we miss so many players is not a real excuse for me. We missed a lot of central defenders ( Botman, De Ligt, Timber, Ake, Van der Ven) but that area was not where the issues were today. I thought Blind and De Vrij did well. De Vrij was probably one of the best. His passing, some of his footwork, obviously his defending too. No worries at all.

The issues were in build up and the speed of play. We played walking football. Every time there was a chance to accelerate the game, we seemed to not want to take it. Where Frenkie naturally turns “open” when getting the ball and pass through a line or two, the two “6”s were too cautious. Schouten did it a couple of times, but it still was a bit timid. The pass backwards was found too easily. A simple acceleration on the ball, either with the man or by the ball in terms of a pass, was constantly an option and mostly not taken.

Up front, Weghorst seems to “block” forward motion. Every time he comes into the ball, Simons and Gakpo would move forward for the flick, and every time Weghorst would simply bounce the ball back to the midfielders. No flow.

And most annoyingly, none of the players had the urge to make runs in behind. The corner triangles you see so fluidly at Man City, Feyenoord and Arsenal were not there. The only player at times to recognise the space was Reijnders who’d run into it, but the pass never came. It was sterile and flat. There were options enough ( for Hartman, for Xavi, for Weghorst or Dumfries) to make the dart into that space, even to just stretch the Irish. But no.

My biggest disappointment was the post match interview with Weghorst, who was angry at the reporter asking him a question about the lack of flow in the game. As if the great man is above critical questions after doing his heroics for king and country. Pathetic!

There is a lot of work to do. The good thing is: we do have the players. But we need these players to realise they need to up their game two levels if they want to compete with Spain, England and France at the Euros.

 

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Oranje simply not up to it

The cliche “men versus boys” has been used here a lot. In the past. And how I hoped that would remain a thing of the past.

But the games versus Croatia and Italy have yet again demonstrated where we go wrong. Again.

And I wonder who or what is going to change this!

The System

Lets start this two-match review with the obvious: some people claim that due to the losses and the conceded goals we will need to consider a switch back to the 5-3-2 of van Gaal.

One photo will show you why this is nonsense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As one can see: we had enough defenders in the box (5!). It’s not about the number of defenders. It’s about how the defenders defend and about what they do.

Combine this insight with the fact we conceded two downright idotic penalties versus Croatia and the analysis is done: stupidity, complacency and laziness.

Gakpo trying to turn the best midfielder of the past decade on the edge of his own box. Gakpo losing the ball and then trying to pick up the little maestro from the back (and what… bring him to the kids’ stands??)…. And late in the match, Malacia with a lunge in the box. I mean, a rush of blood to the head of course but I could accept the explanation of Malacia: only minutes left to score a goal and we needed the ball so I took a risk. And failed. But either way: two cheap penalties and very unnecessary.

The Croatie second goal was a typical example of alibi defending. Or pseudo defending.  Making people believe you’re doing what you can. Dumfries, in this case not putting any pressure on the ball and staying at 1,5 yards from the forward. In his own box! That is not something you see Croatian or Italian defenders do. And Ake, Virgil and Koopmeiners all looking at each other. Typically something that happens even more with a 5 at the back system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not enough pressure on the ball. No communication. Ake can see it all happening in front of him,

Versus Italy, same old same old. Two early goals because no one really defends! No one attacks the ball, no one clears the ball, no one puts pressure on the ball and the key forwards who should track back to cover the Italian wing backs: absent!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dimarco gets time and time from Malen and his defender mates were not able to recognise or communicate the danger to him. Where is a screaming Frank de Boer when you need him?

We didn’t lose because of the system

The quality of the players

I think we all know we have a lot of players who can play some neat, nifty football. Xavi Simons, Noa Lang, Donny Malen, Joey Veerman, Frenkie, all gifted players. But tenacity, leadership, personality and mentality are also part of the complete package of qualities a player requires.

And we lacked it. Again. We did see some good moves, we did see some decent actions and at times we played some nice football. Sure. But it’s about when things don’t go your way. When the opponent finds spaces where you didn’t expect it. When team mates get sloppy.

The quality we need then, is not the step-over of Noa Lang, the shimmy of Frenkie or the dribble of Xavi. We need the leadership of a Roy Keane. The big mouth of Gatuso. The piercing look of Mark van Bommel. I can fully understand that Wieffer, Geetruida, Dumfries and Lang are not the players to demonstrate this part of the game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Virgil. Nathan Ake (treble winner!), Frenkie de Jong ( skipper at Barca) and Koopmeiners should do more in this domain. Captain Van Dijk should be in Malen’s face, if he doesn’t track back! Frenkie should be ready to make the tactical switches where need be.

It’s all too sweet. We’re too friendly. We play too many card games at training camp and we focus too much on funny youtube clips with quizes, or raps with cigars and fashion shoots.

Mentality, commitment, leadership

And these are the elements that are missing. Some players came to the Nations League final round complaining that the season was too long and if we don’t win versus Croatia, we can’t be bothered to play the Losers Finals. Koeman should have sent these players home!

If you can’t get inspired for a football game, not hoping the coach will do it for you, then you have nothing to do in an orange jersey.

Every single player of Spain, Croatia and Italy has had a long and tough season! Man up!

We believe we are great football players. But we are only great on the ball. And not great. Above average. And we suck in the mental department.

And this is not something we fix by changing systems.

The Coach

I never believe in getting a coach back for a second stint. It was a success with Michels and Oranje, ok. But not in any other instance. Mourinho at Chelsea. Van Marwijk at Feyenoord. Van Gaal at Barcelona. Van Gaal with the Oranje/Ajax contingent in 2000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a sense of “comfort”, working with a coach you know. Whenever a coach says it feels like coming home, you know you’re in trouble. It shouldn’t feel like home.

Why pick Koeman again? Because it worked so well before? Well…. did it? He bailed before the Euros. Not really a success. So in my book, a big cross should have gone through his name.

Peter Bosz was available. Just sayin’.

Koeman has end responsibility and he needs to get his players mentally ready for a match or send the ones that can’t be bothered home. And when Malen doesn’t track back twice in 15 mins and we get hammered twice: immediately sub the dude. Show grit. Show courage.

Just like our team wasn’t able to show courage versus Croatia, our coach lacked courage in his choices.

The Future

I do believe the youngsters we see in Orange will grow into good solid players for the team: Wieffer, Veerman, Geertruida, Simons and even Malen, Gakpo and Lang are still youngsters, compared to Blind, Van Dijk and Memphis. We need to give them a chance.

But we need to give Botman, Frimpong, Schouten, Dallinga and Spierings a chance too.

Bijlow was not 100% top, but was only really at fault with that third Croatia goal. It wasn’t an easy one, but it was stoppable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A back line with Ake and Botman, De Ligt and Frimpong should work. Or Malacia, Ake, De Ligt, Frimpong.

A midfield with Veerman, Frenkie and Wieffer should work. A forward line with Lang, Gakpo and Malen should work. We do have enough quality on the ball. But we need to turn it into a team and we need to wise up really quickly now and start switching that button on in their heads.

Playing for Oranje is not a summer camp outing after a tough season at the club.

It’s do or die now.

 

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Memphis’ injury a blessing?

This is not a sentence I expected to write. Ever. Memphis has been super important for the Dutch NT, ever since his appearance at the World Cup in 2014. Under coach Koeman, the explosive and talented forward led the team, scored a record number of goals and is well on his way to become Oranje’s all time goalscorer and most likely most capped player. Or so it seemed.

But, the former Sparta youngster hasn’t been able to shine for more than a year now. His Euros was lacklustre and his World Cup a big question mark. He went from injury to injury and was absent more than present, both at Barcelona and more recently at Atletico.

But, as we established here, as the Dutch have trouble to thank their heroes and force them out to make way for new stars, it was a real question whether coach Koeman would make wholesale changes or whether he would rely on the old guard. Virgil, Cillesen, Memphis, Daley Blind, Wijnaldum…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like many coaches before ( Zwartkruis in 1980, Beenhakker in 1990, Van Marwijk in 2012, Van Gaal recently), it seemed Koeman was falling back on the old hands, but reality has reared up it’s not so ugly head and helped the former snow flake a bit.

Cillesen had a couple of howlers at the end of the season and couldn’t dig a hole big enough to hide in.

Daley Blind hardly played and has already been told he’s out of the squad.

Wijnaldum is stil with the squad but with his recent lacklustre performances and with Koopmeiners’ classy run as a #10, I don’t think Gini will feature much.

Virgil was able to claw back to a decent form, after a season of mishits and stumbles and will most likely lead the team out versus Croatia.

And Memphis? Well, he pulled out himself. Not fit enough to play and prefers – smartly – to prep for the new season in Madrid.

And it’s a blessing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arie Haan in 1974

And don’t forget: we know how coach sometime end up with their success formulas just by sheer luck, coincidence or as the result of setbacks. Michels lost all his centre backs in 1974 (Israel, Laseroms, Drost, Mansveld, Hulshof) and decided to put midfielder Arie Haan in the back with young stopper Wim Rijsbergen.

Or in 1988, when the same Michels started the Euros with 4-3-3, with Marco van Basten on the bench. A player who almost didn’t make the cut. After one match – losing versus USSR – Michels went to a 4-4-2 with Van Basten and Gullit up front. The rest is history.

Van Gaal and his three at the back in 2014? This came about due to an injury for defensive mid Kevin Strootman and an experiment of Koeman with Feyenoord away at PSV.

The Memphis injury could well be a key break for Koeman. Or, as Cruyff would say it, this could be an advantage resulting from a disadvantage.

Koeman and Van Gaal both were tempted to to use two wingbacks and three defenders, to build a solid foundation and create space for his mercurial forward. Memphis needed freedom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Bosman versus USSR in 1988

But the 3 at the back system didn’t work for Koeman as he saw that his team had issues dominating the game. At the same time, Ten Hag showed how you can do it, with a 4-2-3-1 system. When Frenkie de Jong came into view, Koeman switched to the Ajax system, with two central defenders, at times augmented by the deep lying De Jong, who’d drop in between, pushing the full backs further up the field.

Frenkie made his entrance in Sneijder’s farewell match versus Peru and the new Oranje system was settled. In 2018, Koeman built his team around Virgil, Wijnaldum and Memphis. The latter two do not have the status or form they had back then and it’s time for a change.

The only two Dutch forwards who perform at a high level in big competitions are Cody Gakpo and Donyell Malen. Therefore, it seems only logical to build the team around a new #9: Gakpo.

At Liverpool, he plays like a false 9, with two offensive midfielders in his back. Fabinho, the defensive lock, will be paired with Trent Alexander-Arnold who joins the midfield from the back, a role Geertruida plays at Feyenoord. At Liverpool, Andy Robertson is the third centre back, which is the role Ake plays at Man City. Both Van Dijk and De Ligt are accustomed to this system.

It seems Oranje could well play in this same form, although Dumfries might be at odds in this role. It’s not very likely that Koeman will drop the Inter right back though, but this Liverpool/Man City system could well work for Holland.

For me, I don’t think we can go beyond Ake as left back. He can fill the job the way Blind did, as Ake too is a great passer of the ball.

This leaves space for Frenkie to explore the left side a bit and in my midfield, I would have Mats Wieffer playing the defensive mid, with Frenkie next to him but with freedom to roam on that left flank.

My number 10 in this system is Teun Koopmeiners. I don’t like him much as a six, but in the #10 role he is killing it at Atalanta. I’d pick Xavi Simons as the left winger and Malen on the right, of course.

Noppert should not start, in my view, and if it’s a toss up between Flekken and Bijlow, I’d go for the latter.

As for the RCB, I would pick De Ligt versus a static #9 and Timber versus the more diminutive forwards (like David Silva or Alexander Isak). Not sure what Croatia will bring.

This is my line up.

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Epic win Oranje

This is not a long post, people. I am still reeling behind my computer, not capable of creating a well balanced review, as the adrenaline is racing through my body. We needed a win, in this Group of Death we’re in.

Beaten 4-0 versus France was tough earlier on and having to play heavyweights Gibraltar after only 4 days of rest and recuperation is tough.

When you do win the Gibraltar game, with the vintage 3-0 scoreline, it’s cause for celebrations!

3-0 is that heroic end result we all know and remember from our game versus Peru in 1972 or Poland in 1975. People still talk about that 3-0 versus Iran in 1978 or the 0-3 versus Greece in 1987. Oh, and who doesn’t remember the 3-0 versus Canada in 1994.

The Football Gods must have interfered.

The stress in the Dutch camp was high, of course, having to face up against defending behemoths Gibraltar. Luckily, Holland had the home advantage.

We saw the team fight, battle, dazzle and being unlucky too. With Weghorst pushing the ball past the wrong side of the post, as we see him do so often for Man United. We saw Wijnaldum playing the ball back mostly and Berghuis zipping balls blindly into the box, to no one in particular.

Veteran Mats Wieffer was the best man on the pitch, as per usual and a big header by Memphis got us on the score sheet in the first half, finally beating Man of the Match [name of Gibraltar goal keeper].

But it took until Daley Blind finally came on to the pitch to make a difference that Holland put it’s stamp on the match with some brilliant individual performances. Blind and Klaassen led the Dutch to an epic history, which will no doubt result in mad parties in the street and fire works till dawn.

If you can keep France at 4-0 AND beat Gibraltar at home 3-0, it’s clear that a new generation of football geniuses is prepping to win maybe another friendly game later this year as well.

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King Kenny finds his balance

Kenneth Tete came into Ajax 1 at a young age. What is good, comes quick they say in Holland. And Ajax has the tendency of using their talented players from a young age (Cruyff, Van Basten, Bergkamp, Van der Vaart). But for any of those, there are also Riedenwalds, Bazoers and El Ghazis, who take a longer road to success (if any).

He made a name for himself as a young and un-Ajax like player: no frills, no circus skills but dogged defensive work. I remember a typical game of Tete (at Olympique Lyonnais) against Neymar of PSG. “Keep looking at the ball and take it from him.” He didn’t display the attacking prowess of his rivals (Karsdorp, Veltman, Janmaat) and was considered a top defender but lacking in the attacking department.

This season, at Fulham, he made his way back to the EPL with a debut match vs Liverpool. An assist on his striker Mitrovic displayed a Kenny Tete who had developed into a rebel rousing wingback.

And it didn’t stop there. The 27 year old had assists versus Spurs, Nottingham Forest and Southampton and is one of the first on the Fulham team sheet.

“i want to be a modern full back. I worked hard to get there. I was always the only real defender at Ajax and it gave me a status, if you like. They didn’t have many players like me, until Tagliafico came along. At Lyon, under Bosz, I was forced to add more to the attack as Bosz wants his teams to defend and attack as a unit. My move to Fulham made that even more important. In England, the game is also way more physical so I had to work even harder, both on my physical strength and on my football skills. I could have had more than four assists. I mean, you’re depending on the guy who gets the ball to score. If they would have scored, I would have had more assists.”

In this heat map, you can see how Tete indeed covers the whole flank, but also assists his central defenders where needed.

More and more forwards realise they’ll have a tough day in the office, versus Tete. He played new Chelsea signing Mudryk from the pitch. “I tell you, I never heard of this guy before. But I did hear he cost Chelsea 100 million euros. So then I thought, hmmm, he’s probably pretty good and that motivates me even more!” Mudryk didn’t get any thing going against King Kenny and remained in the dressing room at half time.

“My first big encounter against a super star was my game against Neymar. I was super nervous, but I decided: just do what you normally do but stay 100% focused and don’t start to think “oh my , I am facing Neymar”. And ever since that match, I feel secure and confident. And yes, when a guy like Mudryk gets hooked, it feels good but at the same time: at Chelsea they’ll put another top player opposite you and you have to go again. You know, Sterling or Mount or Havertz, they’re all top players.”

Tete ended the match vs Chelsea with the Man of the Match trophy.

Football players are never “safe”. Coaches want at least two players for any spot so Tete got competition from a new signing, Swiss international Mbabu. The talented defender hasn’t had a peak, so far. Tete: “I used to overthink things, you know. What if this, what if that. And I made myself anxious and lost confidence, by not controlling my mind. I’m different now. I take things step by step. I am not thinking about the matches in April, or next season, or the new signing. I am working hard on training and go from match to match. It serves me.”

“When I was at Ajax, playing in the first team at 19 years old, there were rumours of Real Madrid having an interest. And that screws with your mind a bit. You start with fantasies and with dreams and you play with the idea in your head that the next game might get you that transfer. I mean, many players made big moves in those days, and I too wanted to reach high. I ended up with Fulham and got relegated! But I stayed, I love this club and now we’re number 7 in the league! I am focusing fully on Fulham as I love it here, I love living in London and my family loves it here too. If I have to finish my playing career here, I wouldn’t not mind a single bit.”

Marco Silva’s team has found the way up and has the best season since a long time. “We didn’t lose too many players and were able to bring in some good new lads and it just clicks now. We are playing with flair, with passion, with joy and it works. And we played Arsenal twice, the number 1 in the league, and we lost to them by goals in the last minute. This does mean we are not 100% there yet, but it also means we’re getting close.”

In the past years, the Dutch National Team was a no fly zone for King Kenny, but it might well be that a mainstay in the Premier League gets another call up. Dumfries doesn’t play a lot at Inter. Rensch doesn’t convince. Karsdorp only just started playing again, Geertruida plays as a central defender… Any thoughts? “Well, I was on the prelim list of De Boer’s squad, but I wasn’t a part of the squad for a long time. I missed the Euros, missed the World Cup so I’m not a go to guy at the moment. And I will not claim I should be. But sure, playing well in the EPL does mean you’re reaching a good level, so if the invite comes, I will be ready.”

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Oranje not good enough….

Below is the original text I wrote straight after – or actually during – the match.

With the game behind us, we can make some short and snappy conclusions:

  • The Heroes of the US game, Blind and Dumfries, the zeroes against Argentina

Scoring and assisting versus USA, and letting your man go (Blind) and conceding a penalty (Dumfries) making them the losers versus Argentina

  • Confidence, mental strength and will are important

We never played with confidence, the game was sloppy, slow, measured and basically… weak. When Plan B was executed, we scored 2 (we = Wout) in 15 minutes and in the remaining 30 extra time minutes, we should have pushed on.

  • Belief in penalty science unfounded

Louis and his minion Frans Hoek had decided that a scientific approach to penalty kicks would help the takers and the goalie. A whole theory was implemented and based on the 2014 deception, Van Gaal went for penalties this time, thinking he’d done the job already. In 2014, he wanted to win in 120 mins and brought Huntelaar. It failed. Now he decided not to bring Janssen or Simons but to stick it out to pens. Another mistake (in hindsight).

  • Van Gaal’s arrogance

Louis decided before the game to explain how Messi was invisible in 2014 and how we would manage to do this again. He also said repeatedly: “Messi doesn’t do anything without the ball and they’ll be playing with 10 men”. These words were obviously picked up by the Argentinian media and Messi was fuelled like never before.

  • Where is Ziyech??

Ziyech chose Morocco, which prompted the many Dutch experts to say “how can you pick Morocco when you have more chances to win silverware with Holland??”. Well, Morocco is playing the semi finals, Oranje is on a plane home.

  • Just not good enough

There are many subtleties that could have gone different: Danjuma instead of Taylor, Bijlow instead of Noppert, Malacia instead of Blind but overall, I think it is fair to say we were simply not good enough to win the title. Quarter finals sounds just about right.

Sadly, I am at an airport gate waiting for my flight after a couple of days of business in Melbourne.

I hoped to be able to ignore the game and watch it at home, after the match, but there is no escaping Messi and co. So I missed the 1st half, and I’m currently watching the 2nd half, 2-0 down, with 15 minutes to go.

And from what I have seen, we have been kicked out of the tournament at the highest level we have a right to be. We don’t deserve to play the semi finals, let alone the finals. Not good enough.

Not Dumfries, not Blind, not Koopmeiners and in this form, not Memphis even.

I didn’t see the 1st half but I can imagine De Roon and Bergwijn didn’t bring much. I saw the 1-0, and yes, Blind didn’t look good, but neither did the whole part of the team dealing with Messi. And lets face it, that pass was sublime, as was the run. You will all tell me how bad Blind dealt with it, I’m sure but Van Dijk should have tackled with his left, on the ball and there will have been others wanting as well (Ake, De Jong).

Still 45 mins to recover, but Koopmeiners had another dreadful game, with balls bouncing off his feet, passing backwards all the time and Memphis dribbling into cul de sacs, while Dumfries – again – saw no way through as he was constantly forced into a dribbles he cannot do.

Overall, a weak performance. 1 attempt on goal, none on target in the first 70 minutes.

It’s sad, we could have gone all the way, as Croatia would be a better opponent than Brazil, but at least we can cheer for Messi as he might well win it, finally.

We can be angry, disappointed, pissed off, disgusted, but I think we can only say that we are not good enough.

Ake, Van Dijk, Frenkie de Jong were consistent. Noppert was great, but overall not that great.

And while I am typing this, Berghuis curves the ball onto Weghorst’s head: 2-1. Wow.

Ok.

Who knows.

A grand finale?

WHAT IS HAPPENING???? 2-2!!!

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Argentina is easy to beat

Allow me to start with apologising to all of you for the ongoing drivel about Berghuis and Blind. I keep on saying I won’t be baited and still it happens. I will let the opinions be for what they are. I am a fan of both players, as is now well-known and I simply can’t understand why Bergwijn, Taylor, Janssen or Klaassen don’t get the same amount of vomit from some here, it seems a focused attack on these two guys. I know they’re no Roberto Carlos or Fernando Redondo but they are among the best we have and when they wear orange, I support them. Like I support Weghorst, or De Roon. Enough said. I’ll behave from now on.

Feyenoord coach Arne Slot is currently considered the best and most exciting coach in the Eredivisie. His work at Cambuur and AZ has been applauded but his mission to coach a new Feyenoord team to a European finals has definitely put him solidly on the map as the new crown prince of Dutch football (yes, we tend to use that term for new exciting coaches… most of them start to fail once they got that moniker). This year, Slot had to replace 8 starters in his team and despite a short pre-season with shifts in his squad, he ended the first season half ( a third really) on top!

Feyenoord coach Arne Slot

As a guest at the NOS Studio WC 2022, he made some interesting points about Oranje and the chances.

About Van Gaal’s choices.

“It’s normal for a coach not to explain in detail why he does things. Everything van Gaal does or says has a reason behind it, this is how I know him. Even him joking about becoming the new NT manager for Belgium is to deflect attention away from the team and put the spotlight on him. He will always defend his players towards the outside world. Internally, he can be and will be really vocal and direct and super honest. I think he started with the players he started with, partly because some of them came in with fitness issues. All the focus went to Memphis, but De Ligt, De Roon, De Vrij, Lang and even Frenkie had had issues with injuries. Blind, Klaassen and Berghuis missed a number of games at Ajax due to different reasons as well. Van Gaal used the group games to get his full squad match fit. The reason for him to bring De Roon and Klaassen in versus Qatar had to do with this, I believe. He could have left these players out, but that would mean they would even drift further apart from fitness, which could hurt the team in the knock-out stages. Managing squad fitness and squad happiness – as I call it – is a key factor for a coach, but it hardly gets attention. The reason: coaches don’t want to let other teams know that there might be fitness issues and secondly, most people have no idea what it means to train a player “up” as we call it. It’s a science. Talking about the issues of the individual is also something that goes against the privacy codes. Imagine Van Gaal discussing the health of De Vrij while his management is negotiating with Tottenham Hotspur. It’s a tricky thing.”

About Argentina:

“I am a huge Messi fan. In club games, he never disappointed. He will always do something that makes your mouth fall open. And if Messi is in top form, he will be a problem for Holland… For any opponent. But the thing is, the other 10 players are not of his level. Some of them are actually not that good. Most of them have no clue what to do with the time and space around them. When a team press them high, there will be space in their defence for Messi to have a go at. He can hurt you then. He only needs one or two moments to score. But if you stay compact, the other guys won’t have the creativity to find him. If you lock him in, he will not get much joy and their defence has trouble defending bigger spaces. I expect a similar game as against the US. Hopefully with Oranje better in possession of course. Australia at times had the ball for two full minutes in a row. Against Argentina! Because they are not good without the ball. And when they try and press, the pitch becomes big and we can play easily in between the lines. If we play and execute the Van Gaal plan well, we will not have a lot of problems and will win that game. One condition, our rest-defence needs to be solid. Because once you lose the ball in attack, they will look up and spot Messi, who usually has wondered to some area where he is unmarked and he will pounce. If we organise our defence well, and so far we did, we will win. This Argentina is not like the Barcelona of a couple of years back.”

Van Dijk afraid to go into aerial duel 🙂

VI’s Pieter de Zwart – master analyst – on Oranje. “Despite the fact that Van Gaal’s Oranje is performing below par, the defence of the team excels. Even the wingbacks have finally gotten the headlights now, in the USA game. Let’s focus on the last line of defence.

The 2014 Argentina game is a big blot on Van Gaal’s resume. As he sees it: Oranje should have won as we were the better team (according to Louis The Sun King). And this is also why penalties are getting all that focus, with Frans Hoek – keeper trainer and guru and even with scientific approaches. They have developed so-called action types, with very technical terms like horizontal players and vertical players. Some penalty takers go for an angle. Others go for power. Others wait for the keeper to make a move. How to spot the types and what to do against them, was the main topic. By the way, De Ligt and Malacia have leaked who the penalty killer of Oranje is. In a game called 30 seconds, the question Malacia got from De Ligt was: Penalty killer? and Malacia answered: Noppert. And then both: OOPS!!

In 2014, Oranje played with a make-shift defence: an attacker who played in Turkey (Kuyt), two young Eredivisie defenders ( De Vrij, Martins Indi), an older defender playing relegation football in England (Vlaar) and a midfielder (Blind). Today, we have three top central defenders, an experienced left back and a marauding right wing back.

The Three Stooges: Sleepy, Narcy and Grumpy

In Qatar, Oranje is one of six nations who only conceded one goal. Ecuador’s goal was actually the first chance we gave away. The Dutch NT is on par with the strong nations, at this World Cup.

Our defenders all play a specific role.

Denzel Dumfries

Johan Cruyff, Rob Rensenbrink and Denzel Dumfries. A nice list of names. All Dutch players involved with 3 goals in 1 match. When asked about Dumfries’ performance against the US, Van Gaal quipped: “I gave him a kiss, the other day. But as there are cameras present now, I will do it again!” And Van Gaal bent over to the Inter defender, sitting next to him, and smacked a big pucker on Denzel’s cheek. “Thank you sir” was Denzel’s response. In the group games, Dumfries played disappointing matches, because the opponents were waiting for him in the zone, blocking his marauding runs. Then, his weaknesses become apparent. Hard feet and lack of real skills. He is the Dutch international with the most losses of possession. By far. Against the USA, he plays against Pulisic who is not the most driven defender and Denzel can bomb forward. And where the former Sparta player used to blindly hit the ball towards the area, now he picks his head up and sees the free runner.

Jurrien Timber

The only defender who didn’t start every match. Van Gaal calls the position, central back, as the right central defender needs to cover for the missing Dumfries a lot. A role better suited to Timber, as De Ligt also claims. Timber feels fine, in that role. As he also is comfortable in midfield, with or without the ball. With Blind, he repossesses the ball the most times (8 times) and like Ake he has not been dribbled past at all this World Cup. In the attacking sense, Van Gaal is not happy with Timber, as none of his forward passes to the final third ended up at the feet of a team mate. Against Ecuador, it’s partly his doodling on the ball that resulted in the equaliser.”

Virgil van Dijk

The more you don’t notice Van Dijk, the better it is. Van Gaal calls him “the General Forward Press”. When Virgil manages his troops well, he doesn’t have to do much. This is different from his role at Liverpool and it took him some time to get used to. Initially, Virgil was uncertain in the five-at-the-back system but he has grown into it. Against Senegal and Ecuador, he is too static and passive, and he gets quite some criticism from the pundits in Holland. Against Qatar and the USA he has picked it up and plays more forward passes. This is the Fabinho role at Liverpool basically. His heading capabilities are golden for Oranje.

Nathan Ake

Ake is the revelation for Oranje this World Cup, playing consistent, focused and with confidence. Ake always finds a solution and always finds a player in an orange jersey. He seems to be continuously in control of the situation. All the lessons learned from Van Gaal’s former captain at Man City. Guardiola teaches his defenders to keep the ball and dribble in until an opponent bites and makes a move towards the ball. Then Ake passes, as another Oranje player will have time and space. Against the USA, he breaks through the lines with 10 passes! He is top in number of forward passes and he has the least loss of possession. Only twice against the USA, whereas the number two and three on the list lost possession five times (Van Dijk and De Roon). Ake has surpassed De Vrij and De Ligt in this system, quite a feat. In a four man defence, he would only be able to play left back as Van Dijk is beyond reproach for Van Gaal.

Daley Blind

In the run up to the World Cup, Van Gaal says it’s unbelievable that Blind gets so much criticism at Ajax. The team manager doesn’t look at what Blind can not do, but focuses on what he can do. Against the USA, Blind’s strengths are exploited to the max. On paper, you’d expect a mismatch between the leggy Blind and the fast Weah, so Van Gaal instructs Ake to take care of Weah and pushes Blind up to deal with Dest. Blind ends the game with the most tackles (7) and the most duels won (9).

Blind also offers his attacking threat, with a goal and an assist. Against the first opponent who dare to attack Oranje, the wingbacks appear to become our biggest threats moving forward. Van Gaal was proud like a peacock. Blind had 60 forward passes into the opponent’s defensive third, with Frenkie (43) and Gakpo (35) as second and third.

Van Gaal believes Argentina might play the same way as the USA, with Messi in the Pulisic role. If they do, he believes Oranje will have good chances to win.

I say: 3-0, with Memphis, Gakpo and Blind on the score board.

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On the road to the semis: Frenkie will come good

Frenkie was the first to admit he didn’t play well against the USA. But he’s quite confident he will be present versus Argentina. Frenkie discusses some topics, and believes the Dutch were always happy to reach the finals. For him, it ain’t enough.

The Best

“I was a fan from a young age. I had posters of him on my wall, I adored him as a player. And it was just amazing to be able to play with him, a dream come true. He is the best in everything. In positioning, in ball handling, in his passing, his finishing. He sees everything a couple of seconds earlier. And you know it, but still he surprised me so often, at training or in the match. It was a privilege to play with him and now also to play against him. I mean, playing Argentina at a World Cup, it doesn’t get better. We didn’t app each other no. I won’t either, and I don’t think he will. We’ll see each other at the stadium and we might have a quick word there. And if not it’s fine too.”

Dominating

“Everyone wants to know how we will stop Messi but it’s not about him, but about Argentina. I don’t know what would work best: sacrifice a player or just deal with him as a team. We need to dominate and play better than them and mind you, he’s not the only player in the team. In La Liga, all teams were trying to stop him and tried so many things, but he will always bind 2 or 3 players and he will always have one or two things he can do, whatever you are doing.”

The System

“I wasn’t good against America, but it’s not system related. I simply wasn’t top, physically. Dealing with the aftermath of a cold. We play this system for some time now and I have done ok in it. I am still playing at the same spot and I get to play a lot of balls and get a lot of touches, so for me it’s not even that different. We haven’t lost in 19 matches and we don’t concede much while we did play against some decent teams, like France, Belgium, Germany. We didn’t make the right choices in the first half against the USA but they only got one real chance in the first half, and that was a mistake from us.”

Naive

“I am a football fan, I want every team to play full on attack, but you always need to take form and the opponent into account. Our intention is to attack and dominate more but you need to make the right decisions. If you lose the ball and you are naive and want to keep 5 players before the ball, well, you will get in trouble. It’s that simple. You have to deal with what you have in front of you. It all starts with control and if you defend well, you will not lose so easily. By the way, our first goal versus America was not a counter goal, and it surely is one of the most beautiful goals of the tournament, in my view.”

Critics

“Did Van der Vaart say I must have preferred to stay in my hotel, after the first half against the USA? Hahaha, I didn’t hear that one. Well, yes. I was bad. It happens, sadly and we do hear the criticism and we need to deal with it. I mean, we have played better and we want to play better, but then again, we haven’t lost here yet and we’re in the quarter finals, so we can not be all that bad. And I prefer winning over playing beautiful.”

Running

“I don’t think I have to run more in this system. I do have to track my opponent, yes. With Barcelona, we are usually the stronger side, so the opponent needs to follow us, that is a big difference. We do need to keep the space compact so you don’t have to run that much. If not, you do run more. I think I made the most kilometers in the first half versus the USA, because we didn’t play well.”

Expectations

“I don’t think we will play better versus better opponents. I don’t think it works that way. Sure, there will be more space maybe, but to think that this will help us play better… we need to do the things right, we need to make the right decisions, stay focused and work hard. Offer options and recognise the opportunities. I think it’s normal for people that Brazil or France have more of the ball and if the USA has more of the ball, people don’t get it. But it was not because they were so good, it was because we didn’t manage to play our game.”

World Cup

“I love this tournament, because the whole planet is involved and all the people seem to be enjoying it, everywhere. It’s beyond club colours, and when you win, the whole nation is happy, whereas when Ajax wins, the Ajax supporters are happy. It’s a difference. I vividly remember the Oranje games at World Cups. Like the win over Brazil in 2010, or the match versus Argentina in 2014. How Mascherano had to do his utmost to stop Robben from scoring in the last minute, that sort of things.”

Praying

“I have considered to go with the praying group, who pray and meditate before the meals. I am not religious or anything, but it is a grounding thing and we have players from different religions, doing this. Memphis organises it, it’s a sort of gathering. You don’t need to be religious. The mood is great, and we really believe in ourselves. I have watched most games and there is not one team that really rises about the rest. Brazil played great games, but also some lesser games. This applies to all teams.”

Stress

“There is always some form of stress and I guess you need that too. It will be even more now, with those Argentina fans in the stadium, but every player enjoys that. That is stress you need in a way. The one I found tough to deal with, was the decider against Norway, at home. In front of an empty stadium due to Covid. That was eerie. And we needed to get a result as well. We could lose something there, while now, we can only win something: a place in the semi finals.”

The Title

“We really want it now. We have the team for it, we believe in it. We also haven’t lost a match for some time now and it’s only 3 more games, hahaha. It’s that simple, right? But seriously, we will be completely bummed if we don’t win. In the past, we were so happy to reach the finals, it felt like we reached something. We don’t believe this. Reaching the finals is a means to an end. Which is finally winning the whole thing.”

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