In what is most likely Oranje’s worst performance for decades (even the 2012 Euro matches were better) the team lost the midfield, Van Gaal lost the tactical battle and everone else lost confidence, but we luckily drew vs Ecuador: 1-1.
We don’t do well when we score early. We have seen it before, most famously in the 1974 World Cup finals when we got a penalty in the first minute, only to lose grip and lose the match.
Where did it go wrong?
Well, it was the perfect storm. Their tactics worked well to unravel our tactics. We did not have an answer. And when the teams play similar in shape, it means the workrate, physical strength and meters ran start to really count. Ecuador were superior in this. But, if you have better ball players and better individual quality, you can still win (Memphis! Bergwijn!) but if the key players play below par, well…you’re bound to lose.
So rejoice! We didn’t lose. We stole a point from Ecuador. How sad they must be.
And what a tremendous after-party LVG and the boys will have had, to be gifted a point.
But seriously, what have we been watching? Was it a case of an over-confident Oranje? Too happy with themselves? Or is this simply a mentally and physically weak team, which needs their confidence to be inflated by a pompous coach?
I think it’s the latter.
Before the game, Van Gaal noticed that Ecuador decided to play the same shape as Oranje. To copy Oranje man for man, meaning it would become a man v man battle in midfield. And this is where we went wrong.
Van Gaal: “We will win this. I know this, because we know how to play this system better than them. And we have the better players.”
Frenkie tried to solve the midfield problem by dropping back between our defenders, while Klaassen was instructed to push up to their back line and support the forwards, but he was swimming, leaving Koopmeiners at times as the only midfielder.
Here we see how the pass lines to the midfielders are being obstructed by the two attacking mids of Ecuador
One can remedy all this by crisper and quicker passing or using the wide players, Blind and Dumfries. This was attempted but on our right, Dumfries was wasteful whereas Ake and Blind passed the ball sluggish, allowing the opponent to settle in their roles.
This happened when Ake dribbled into midfield. The opponent needs to choose and Bergwijn and Klaassen find space in between the lines.
Van Gaal tried to remedy this by bringing Berghuis in the second half and later De Roon but Berghuis too was pulled away from the centre of the pitch often, still leaving gaps in midfield.
We didn’t create many chances, but neither did Ecuador. When Frenkie forgot he isn’t playing with Busquets at Barcelona, and played in Timber in a crowded midfield with an unexpected pass, the young Ajax defender was pushed off the ball and the defence was…non existent. Poor Noppert couldn’t do much better.
Here you see their holding mid dropping deep leaving Klaassen swimming without an opponent.
There were not many players who reached their usual level. Noppert plays as well as could be expected, with his footballing / kicking skills highly tested. I think Cillesen would have done better in several occasions. His panic kick forward resulted in the loss of possession leading up to their goal.
This is the mistake: Frenkie playing a risky ball to Timber who is on his heels, not expecting the pass and with a man in his back. Not the right decision.
I completely support the criticism by Marco van Basten on Virgil van Dijk. Big Virge thinks he plays with his voice only. His long passes, he knows how to do at Anfield, were not there. At all. Ake was Holland’s best player and that is not a good thing.
Dumfries and Koopmeiners were wasteful in possession. Memphis and Bergwijn close to invisible, while Klaassen should not have played at all in his match.
This is in the 70st minute. Frenkie as central defender. Where is our midfield??
Another example. Klaassen doesn’t even fit on the photo, he is way up the pitch leaving poor Koopmeiners to fend for himself. Where is our midfield?
And why bring Wout Weghorst?? What is the thinking there? We need guile and speed so we bring Weghorst. Not Lang? Not Xavi? Weghorst lacks the speed and skill for a match like this. You need an individual who can break open matters, when the team and the tactics fail. That is not Weghorst. Baffled.
Van Gaal said after the game that his decision to bring Weghorst and De Roon was not to win the game, but to not lose the game. To put some fight into the team. That, I can see.
2 – The Netherlands have attempted just two shots against Ecuador, the fewest recorded for a European nation in a single World Cup match since 1966. Dammed. pic.twitter.com/U6FetmhJAi
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) November 25, 2022
From a result perspective, we are still in the top 2 of the group. It comes down to the last match versus minions Qatar. So from this perspective, no worries. Just win or draw your last game and you progress. But from the performance perspective, where do we go from here?
Is Van Gaal going to experiment now, with new players? Now? That would be worrysome. But … will he keep on playing this system and with the same midfield?
After the match, Van Gaal was realistic: “This was not good. I am surprised. I thought we would have the better of them, tactically but I was wrong. The main difference is their aggressive play. We couldn’t cope with it and lacked the form, the quality to deal with it. I am not going to badmouth my players, I need to stay positive and support them. I think we still have it all to play for, we can still win the group. In every World Cup campaign, you can have one of those matches. We played a tough second match in Brazil, after the Spain thrashing, but we were able to win that late in the game. This time we didn’t, but a draw is still a positive.”
Asked about the criticism of Van Basten on Virgil van Dijk, Van Gaal concurred: “I can see what Marco means, but we decided to have Ake play the build up as he was our free man at the back. And he did well.”
Asked about the solution, Van Gaal said: “I think our defense is not the problem. That is playing well, and has adapted well to the system but the creativity in midfield and up front is what we need to fine tune. Luckily we have more options to work with.”
Memphis sat on the bench for half the game and was able to watch the team in trouble. “They were better. It’s that simple. What went wrong with us, is that we didn’t manage to offer enough options to one another. The distances were too great and it was easy for them to interrupt our flow. You need to be there at the right time so you can play on. We didn’t manage this.”
About his own game: “I need to touch the ball often and I need to be able to take the opponent on. I was simply not able to do this. There was no space, I never got into my game. We need to analyse this and we need to show a bit more confidence, a bit more courage in our attacking play.”
Pierre van Hooijdonk was clear in his commentary: “After the first match, it was all about “the pressure” and “the first match” etc but now you see it’s not an incident. This must be alarming. But you don’t create anything. It looked lethargic, without life. The opponent was more aggressive and that can’t be happening if you are really good. Virgil said that this Ecuador was a good team, but it is not a good team. It’s an ok team. So what happens if we play against a truly good team? And I know, we have four points, we might simply go on to the knock-out stages, that is great. But we did the same at the Euros and in the first knock-out game we were done. You will have to get to that level where we can all say ” oh wow, so this is what they can do!” because otherwise you cannot make any claim on the title. You have to be able to hurt the opponent, but we were not able to do anything. Nothing. It was so slow, it was walking football.”
Van Basten: “Incredible that you’re being bullied by the number 44 on the FIFA ranking. It’s crazy that they get those chances while we can’t create anything!”
I’d love to see some major changes. A Hail Mary. Forget this 1-3-4-2-1 system. If you don’t have forwards on fire and wingbacks in form, don’t play this.
Go 4-3-3. Let the youngsters deal with it versus Qatar.
Time to play Bijlow now as well.
You lose versus Qatar with this team: you don’t deserve to progress.
You win against Qatar in a bad game, you progress and can re-group and tell the media you did this to give your key players a rest.
If you win against Qatar in a good game, you have yourself more and new options for the knock out stages.
I usually post the highlights of the match here. But I wanted something uplifting for you, this time.