Tag: England

Van Gaal’s plans for Oranje

In the seven international games under Van Gaal since his return, the former school teacher played the usual 4-3-3 with one holding mid and two attacking midfielders. This, because the players asked him to play this way. The coach realised he wasn’t going to drill a new system in, in the limited time available. Now, the coach claims to have the time and he announced to go into an intense week, in which he would practice the 5 at the back concept. A practice week disturbed by a positive Covid test by the coach himself.

Three experts on the system change.

Pierre van Hooijdonk ( formally of NAC, Celtic, Nottingham Forest, Vitesse, Feyenoord and Fener. Played 46 international games for Oranje): “We don’t need to stick to that so-called Dutch School. It’s naive to think the 4-3-3 is the only way to win. We won the 1988 Euros with a 4-4-2 system. I think 5-3-2 is a very good system too, and we might have the players for that. We don’t have top wingers anymore, but we do have good wingbacks, good central defenders. And 3-4-3 is also an option, with three forwards.”

Ronald de Boer *(formally of Ajax, Barca and Rangers, played 67 international games for Oranje): “I think we should stop thinking we need to dominate matches. You do need your identity and a system you can fall back on, but coaches like Pep Guardiola also adapt their system to what the opponent can do. Man City at times plays with 3 at the back or an extra midfielder. With Oranje, there is less time to work on a system. so it’s useful to zoom in on where the weakness of the opponent is. Is this with two strikers and wingbacks, sure, do that. Why not? I always look at “how can I win this match?”. The way Benfica beat Ajax, that is something we should learn from!”

Hans Kraay JR (ex defender of De Graafschap, Den Bosch, Telstar, Brighton and Hove Albion): “If playing 4-3-3 works for the team, why change? I do get that we have great central defenders and no real right winger but I would simply play 4-3-3. Keep it simple.”

This is the way Oranje beat Norway in the key match securing the World Cup ticket. Bijlow, De Vrij and Berghuis weren’t available, so Van Gaal played with Cillesen, De Ligt and Bergwijn.

At the last presser, Van Gaal started to talk about the reversed triangle. He talks about the forward line of the 3-5-2 which he used in Brazil 2014. In the image below we can see how that worked in the match versus Spain. Of that squad, only Daley Blind, Stefan de Vrij, Jasper Cillesen, Clasie, Wijnaldum and Depay are still squad members.

We had two oldies up front, Van Persie and Robben and oldie Sneijder right behind them for his passing. Van Persie was the shrewd distractor for Robben’s runs. Blind and Janmaat were the wingers.

Another option is the square, which Chelsea uses. Van Gaal is clearly a Tuchel fan and mentioned them a number of times in his press conference as an example. Below is the line up Tuchel used in the CL finals versus Man City. In Oranje, Memphis could be the striker, with Wijnaldum and Danjuma or Lang or Berghuis or Gakpo behind him. Malacia on the left, Dumfries on the right and Frenkie and Koopmeiners in the engine room, for instance.

As we have seen at Atalanta and Barcelona, both Koopmeiners and Frenkie can also play in a more forward role.

Lets check the Tuchel way and how he inspires Van Gaal. Van Gaal: “I don’t want to play with 5 defenders at the back. Many teams play like this and you invite the attack of the opponent. The way I want to execute it is more like Chelsea does it. Pressure on the ball. Sometimes, provocative pressing.”

Van Gaal has three reasons to zoom in on the Chelsea way of playing.

1 Circle Pressing

Van Gaal uses the Norway match as example. “Against Norway, we decided to press around the mid circle which gave us space behind their back line to use our speed.”

This is what Van Gaal calls the provocative press. With total high press, the pressure starts at the edge of the box of the opponent. With circle pressing, you start the press around the mid circle. Hence the name.

With three central defenders it is easy to cover the central axis of the pitch. In a 4-3-3 you’d have six players in the axis ( two central defenders, three midfielders and a striker), whereas in a 3-4-3 it’s eight players ( three defenders, two controlling mids, two attacking mids and a striker).

Chelsea demonstrates how they use their systems in a flexible way. Around the mid circle, the team is organised from a 3-4-2-1 system (See above) but once they end up on their own half, they go 5-4-1. This system allows the defenders to press forward. Playing against Chelsea “between the lines” is hard, as there will always be a defender ready and able to pick you up.

Chelsea’s 5-4-1 on their own half….

2 Central Defenders.

Van Gaal thinks this system was made for the current Oranje squad. “I try to use players in their strength, not their weakness. With the qualities we have, it screams for a 5-3-2 variant. My players weren’t ready for it, but now they will be.” Van Gaal sees it well, with Van Dijk, De Vrij and De Ligt we have world class defenders. Nathan Ake is a valued defender at Man City, while Joel Veltman plays everything for Brighton. Sven Botman won the French title last season and Pascal Struijk is impressive at Leeds. In the Eredivisie, players like Timber, Schuurs, Blind, Teze and Geertruida are options. And even Koopmeiners and Frenkie de Jong can play at the back. The reason to go for 5-3-2 now is different than it was in 2014. Back then, Van Gaal did mention he used the system to have less defensive duties for this (older) forwards while shoring up the relatively inexperienced defence.

Now, it would be a system of luxury for us.

Keeping the width and the designated areas to be populated…

Van Gaal is not sure about the actual execution. “I think we will play with three defenders and four “flat” midfielders, which allows for the ideal press. Up top, we might play with one 10 and two strikers or one striker and two half 10s behind the striker. The coming games will demonstrate what works best.” Van Gaal wants six or seven “loyal” players, supporting the creative ones like Memphis and Gakpo.

Important to note: Van Gaal always wants a left footed central defender in the line up, so its seems he is not thinking about Van Dijk – De Vrij – De Ligt. In his view, Ake or Blind will be playing that left central position.

3. Wingers

Ever since his return to Oranje, Van Gaal laments the lack of real wingers. And he’s referring to the types of Van ‘t Schip, Overmars or Andy van der Meyde. Players who take on their man and go to the byline to cross a ball into the box.

Van Gaal hails this generation of players for their professionalism and focus but also sees he misses attacking power. In the five big competitions, it’s not easy to find Dutchies. Weghorst, Malen, Memphis and Danjuma are all starters or close to being starters and they all play central striker or in a two striker system. Bergwijn is benchwarming at Spurs, while right winger Berghuis plays on 10 for Ajax. Gakpo hammers on the door as a left winger and Noa Lang is also more comfortable on the wing, but they are all players with a tendency to come centrally. Which is exactly how Van Gaal wants it in his 3-4-3.

Tuchel plays according to the Dutch School at Chelsea, creating the free man in midfield. He uses his wingbacks as the only players on the wing, to keep the pitch wide and long. Chelsea has four midfielders close together on the pitch. Together with three defenders, they play with seven players close to each other, players who are all very good in confined spaces.

Pep Guardiola and his analysis: “Why does Chelsea play so good? They have three central defenders and two holding mids close to one another. Really close. And they keep the pitch wide with their wingbacks. And they have depth, with the speed of Werner or Lukaku in behind. You can’t keep the pitch small against Chelsea. They will push you both in width and in depth. And they have amazing players in the engine room. It’s so hard to play against them.”

Up top, Van Gaal keeps his options open but the 3 at the back and the 4 in midfield seem to be settled on.

Chelsea uses the reverse triangle against teams that want to build up from the back. Against teams like Liverpool, Brighton or Man City, they use this to put pressure on, as you can see below. The opponent uses two central defenders and a holding mid to find the way forward. By using this pressure system, the opponent is forced to open up and build up on the wings.

Chelsea can change system without a problem. From 3-4-3 to 3-5-2 or 4-3-3 and 4-4-2. Depending on how the opponent want to play. Tuchel has response for them all. It’s very likely that Van Gaal will copy this for Oranje.

These two friendlies, we will see the first glimpses of this system. I think we won’t bother with the results, so much, although I do think we’ll beat England and draw against Denmark. Will be good to see Eriksen play again ( if he does).

Expect a line up like this for Denmark. Flekken is a cert, I also believe Koopmeiners will play. Van Gaal is a fan of the Atalanta midfielder. Danjuma and Memphis up top.

NOTE: Jordan Teze, Cody Gakpo and Jurrien Timber will not play due to fitness issues.

If this line up works well versus Denmark, expect Flekken to keep his spot and expect Malacia and  Klaassen to come in versus England. I also expect Malen to get playing time probably in place of Memphis, who just returned to fitness.


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Oranje bucks the trend!

And loses again vs England, for the first time in 22 years.

Now you all know that I don’t rate friendlies, usually. Particularly not when a settled team is practicing to prepare for a world cup or something. This time, it’s different. This is the first game of the new coach Koeman, using a number of new players and having to quickly forget the likes of Sneijder and Robben.

He was going to do things differently and he did. He started Zoet, he started Hateboer and he started with a 3-4-3 which at times became a 5-4-1.

The first phase of the game was for the strong English side. They kept Germany at 0-0 recently and I don’t have to remind you that they will be going to Russia. And we won’t. But somewhere mid first half, Oranje started to play a bit more adventurous. The centre backs had time on the ball, Hateboer and Van Aanholt pressed forward and at times we had good movement by Promes and Memphis, resulting in a first chance on a free kick (undeserved) when Promes ran into space in the box. His first touch let him down. Before that, some attempts by England and a distance strike by De Ligt.

There was a massive sweeper keeper action by Zoet around the 35th minute to stop an English counter, another Oranje highlight of the first half.

All in all, the interplay by the English was much better than the Dutch, but that was to be predicted, as they tend to be a settled side, as opposed to Oranje. Our defenders had time on the ball but to find the killer pass forward was still a problem. In particular Strootman and Wijnaldum could not make the turns to open up and find the forward pass. The Dutch left flank worked a bit better than the right side, with Promes coming inside a lot, allowing space for Hateboer but his attacking actions didn’t pay off in the first half. We got our first corner in the 40st minute. Great corner by Memphis but Dost didn’t seem to know how to deal with it, timing it wrong. Was a big opportunity for the struggling Sporting striker.

I can’t help but think that the 5-3-2 didn’t work vs this 4-4-2 English team. We always had an extra man at the back and without the likes of Daley Blind playing in the CB role, we simply lack good passers from the back, with De Vrij and De Ligt in particular probing but not having a lot of effective passing. In the final stage of the first half, the game became more open and end to end, but everytime we had a break the flow was stopped by a pass behind the man, or a touch to much.

England looked more composed on the ball but Oranje did show some promise. In the dying seconds of the first half, loss of possession in the final third allowed Memphis a shooting opportunity with his gifted right foot but he aimed straight at Pickford.

A good first half for Zoet, Van Aanholt, Hateboer, the back three and Memphis. A bit low key for Dost, Strootman and Wijnaldum, while Promes showed his…well…promise…in a couple of moments in the game.

Holland started well in the second half and might have scored the opener, when Memphis made a move to the goal line and crossed the ball to De Vrij who scored, but the goal was disallowed as the ball allegedly was over the line. Even in extreme slow mo it was really hard to tell, and the goal should have stood.

Not much later, the ref didn’t see a penalty in the challenge of De Ligt on Rashford. Could have been 1-1 by now.

England put the pressure on since that incident and Oranje’s defence started to look a little shaky. Even with 5 at the back, England found space and containing the ball or England became harder and harder for the Dutch.

Oranje at times tried to play out with long balls towards Dost, which definitely didn’t work too well, with Dost loose in possession and again, not used properly.

Around the 57th minute the organisation let Holland down, when Strootman was played out of position and possession got overturned. The smart Lingard found some space, the ball fell kindly to him and his low shot was too strong for Zoet: 0-1.

Oranje started to press and play with more intensity, resulting in two attempts on goal from Memphis (blocked) and Promes (row Z). Not much later, Bas Dost gets a flick on a low drive and tries to backheel it into the goal, but it was straight at Pickford. Oranje pressed more, with a long ball to Dost, heading it back to Promes who did get purchase on it, but again a good England block. Van Aanholt crossing a wonderful ball in where Hateboer flying in from the right flank almost was able to have an attempt on goal. De Light took a shot from distance.

Memphis started to get better into the game, with a nice take on the chest and a swivel and turn, but the shot lacked venom. By then, Babel and Propper were into the team to add some energy (Babel) and passing skills (Propper), shifting to a 4-4-2, with Babel deep and Memphis hovering around him.

In the 81st minute the fans sat up when Memphis got a free kick to take just out of the penalty area. Ronald Koeman territory. Memphis hit it with power but straight at the goalie.

Another Memphis instigated attack ended with Hateboer in the box, who got his shot away on the turn but the shot got smothered. In his debut game. Van de Beek and Weghorst would come on still for the final stages, where Oranje would play more opportunistic to try and get the draw. Babel from the right, Weghorst up top and Memphis floating.

Another Memphis action led to a shot from Van Aanholt ending up at the corner flag and Depay left another good mark on the game with a late side splitting pass diagonally into the feet of De Ligt, in the box. The young Ajax defender was ruled just offside.

The Koeman Work in Progress wasn’t able to get anything out of the game, but they had good spells in the game.

Strengths: desire, workrate, Van Aanholt, Van Dijk, De Vrij, Memphis.

Weaknesses: lack of flow, lack of creativity in midfield, Dost, Strootman, Wijnaldum.

I liked Propper in his short stint and Van de Beek will surely become a regular starter in years to come.

With the likes of Frenkie De Jong and Daley Blind and Marco van Ginkel added to the team, we might see an improving side under Koeman, surely good enough to qualify for tournaments.

Ronald Koeman: “We should have created more, but we weren’t as solid on the ball as I would want. But listen, it would have been silly to expect us to play England off the pitch. Defensively, I’m really satisfied. De Ligt was my Man of the Match but they all did well, including Hateboer. I won’t be making a lot of systemic changes, but I do need to see more from the forwards. I’m not depressed having lost my first game, it’s early still. And we were playing against top players. I think you could see that well at certain stages in the game.”

Skipper Virgil van Dijk was quite annoyed. “I really am annoyed we lost. We can play better, we were poor on the ball and didn’t create enough. Defensively it was ok, but we need to improve. Still, we’re playing a big nation here. It’s never easy against England, but I am not happy with the result.”


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Oranje hasn’t lost since 1996….

….against England. It’s interesting, the Dutch were reigning supreme in the Golden Age, with the English Empire and the Portuguese seafarers… And England and Portugal are our up and coming opponents. We don’t do too well vs Portugal, but England…we never lost since that 1996 1-4 upset at the England Euros.

Ronald Koeman himself was part of some of these amazing games, with some significant contributions.

Koeman made it clear that he would be playing another system than 4-3-3. “I can tell you this, the system I’ll be playing is not 4-3-3.” That should be enough for us.

He also appointed Virgil van Dijk as the new skipper. With Daley, Strootman and Wijnaldum as vice-captains. No one seemed to disagree with the choice. Van Dijk has the potential to become a world class defender. He is vocal, he has personality and coaches prolifically in the Liverpool team as well. And, like Ronald Koeman before him, Van Dijk will have the game in front of him, which helps when having to re-position players and alert players.

Van Dijk will be the next in a line of wonderful Oranje players who wore the band before him.

Frank de Boer is the record holder captains of Oranje, with 71 caps with the band. He took the band from Danny Blind in 1995. Ruud Krol, a defender as well, wore the band 45 times, taking over from a certain Johan Cruyff in 1977, when JC retired as international.

Ruud Gullit comes next with 41 caps with the band, taking it in 1986 from Bennie Wijnstekers. Ronald Koeman wore the band 33 times, while before he took it – in 1987 of his rival Ruud Gullit.

Other names in the skipper top 10, are Gio van Bronckhorst, Puck van Heel, Cor van der Hart, Edwin van der Sar and Harry Denis.

Oranje in the Johan Cruyff Arena against England… hours away and a debut for Koeman in a full house.

The total balance between England and Holland is in favour of the English. The Three Lions won 12 times, and lost eight. Ten times both nations drew. The last match was at Wembley, in 2016, which ended in a win for Oranje with goals by Narsingh and Janssen.

The last time England was guest in Amsterdam, in 2009, Bert van Marwijk was the coach in a friendly ending in 2-2. With goals by Kuyt and Van der Vaart.

Kluivert scoring the 4-1 for Holland in a loss in 1996, but securing Oranje’s progress.

The last win by England on Dutch soil was in 1969. A team with Cruyff, Van Hanegem, Mulder, Israel and Muhren lost 0-1.

Justin Kluivert could be the ninth son of an international to make his debut. Ryan Babel will be the most experienced international in the young Oranje. The Besiktas forward played 46 caps and is the older player in the squad, with his 30 years.

The other father-sons: Martin Koeman and sons Ronald and Erwin Koeman. Martin only wore the orange once. Wim van der Gijp, also 1 cap, and son Rene van der Gijp (15). Johan Cruyff’s huge shoes couldn’t be filled by Jordy but he made it to the National Team anyway. Jan Mulder was a famous striker in the JC era and his son Youri played the same role. Just like Danny Blind and Daley Blind are almost carbon copies of each other. Steven Berghuis’ dad Frank – or Pico – played 1 cap for Oranje. Then there was Jan Everse SR and Jan Everse JR and lastly Nigel de Jong who’s dad Jerry played 3 international games for us.

The Oranje staff: keepers trainer Patrick Lodewijks, assistant Kees van Wonderen, Ronald, assistant Dwight Lodeweges and fysiology coach Jan Kluitenberg

The infamous England – Holland in 1993, when the 0-2 loss meant that England missed the World Cup in the US. Koeman scoring the first.

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Buckle up! Oranje starts again!

We had our time, for crying, for mourning, for self-obsessed analysis and for memories…

Now is the time to look forward again. As our EC2020 campaign will start now basically!

Huh? I hear you think… no, the campaign doesn’t start until the qualifiers? But Koeman is quite clear: we will take every minute moving forward serious. There will be no “friendlies”, we will not have Wesley Sneijder being carried off the pitch as a sentimental gesture.

Koeman made his intentions clear from the start: no more Hotel Oranje, no more press in the hotel, no more visits to cafes and restaurants and beach walks… We work behind closed doors now and we work.

Koeman bring a level of urgency to the job. Impatience. But the former Barca skipper also has a bit of humour. When an English reporter asked him at the press conference why his statue wasn’t among the statues in Zeist of Oranje legends (Cruyff, Michels, Bergkamp, Gullit) he responded: “Well, I wasn’t good enough clearly. But in two years I might get a statue…” Followed by a wry smile.

When players or guests walk onto the Zeist complex, they’ll see several photos. We can see the Oranje 1988 group, photos of the Big Four in South Africa 2010 (in case you forgot: Van Persie, Van der Vaart, Sneijder, Robben) and the last photo on the wall is the current generation: Memphis, Wijnaldum, De Vrij, Dost…

The world class player has left the building for now, and Koeman will have to replace these players by building a solid team. “The reality is, that team spirit and playing style will be more important than the individual quality we can muster.”

Koeman and Dwight Lodeweges

Koeman stepped into a record low situation before. He joined Feyenoord in 2011, when the proud club was number 10 in the Eredivisie and had lost 10-0 against PSV only months before. He came in and created clarity. He developed a simple playing style, he gave the youngsters his trust and he demanded one thing: sharpness. Focus. Commitment. (That’s three things, Ronald!)

At his first training session, they did a rondo (circle of players with 1 or 2 in the middle having to take the ball from the others). Koeman joined in and never spent a second in the middle. He was still the best player. Last Monday, with Oranje, he did the same thing. He joined in the rondo and showed them who he was. “Sometimes you need to demonstrate why you are the Boss.”

At Feyenoord, he said: “My door is always open. If you don’t get something, just come in and ask me.” No player ever did. Not because they were afraid, but because he was crystal clear in what he expected.

Koeman is happy with the move to Zeist. “In Noordwijk, they would take 15 mins to go from car to the lobby, due to all the media and friends. Then they’d shake hands and go to their room to come out later for dinner. Now, it’s different, we close the door behind the complex and we’re free to roam, we hang out, some players check the gym, some starting to play table tennis. Its more intimate for us. Less distractions.”

Koeman spent his weeks before the coming together of the Oranje lions with a plethora of people. Former coaches Hiddink, Blind, Van Gaal. Ex players Robben, Sneijder. Coaches Van Bronckhorst, Van de Brom, Cocu, Ten Hag and others. “I want to have a clear and broad picture. You only have one chance to prepare for your first weeks.”

One of the things he heard: Oranje needs more discipline. “I think we will work hard now and in May (Italy and Slovakia friendlies) to create clarity. Once we start with the Nations League, we need to be ready. Players need that clarity, but so do I.”

What can we expect for the England game? Koeman: “You can expect to see a team with an attitude, with a will to win. A team that will play for a good result.”

Dost, Hateboer, De Roon

Asked about the potential return of Van Persie, Koeman says this: “He never retired from international duties, like Robben and now Sneijder. And I’m not interested in age. I’m interested in quality and you can see even in his short runs in the Feyenoord team that he still has that quality. So, when he’s fit and in form, why not?”

A new system also seems to be way to go for Oranje under Koeman. New hotel, new training complex, no more dominant superstars and also a move to the 3-4-3 or 5-3-2. Hans Hateboer, the right wing back of Atalanta: “Yeah, I guess that is why I am here.” Stefan de Vrij of Lazio: “I am feeling comfortable in the 5-3-2 system and I think most players do, these days.”

A lot of smiling faces, but Bas Dost’s face predicts a storm. “Well, I came here to show my worth, dammit. I’m getting sick of being told that I’m good enough to be top scorer in Portugal but I can’t do shit in Oranje. I’m sick of it.” Dost never made a dent in Oranje. “I made my debut in a friendly, in which we played 5-3-2. After that I had some sub turns in different systems, with different players around me. I was never sure what was expected from me. After the Sweden at home game, I was done with Oranje. I had had it. But that was then. I’m feeling super fit, I’m good in my head, I really want to be part of it again, under this new coach. And I do hope we will get clarity. If Koeman tells me he wants to use another player, fine. As long as I know.”

Guus Til

Memphis is very aware of the clock ticking. The former worldclass talent is now 24 years old and still not a certain starter for Lyon. Ronald Koeman is convinced: “I wanted to sign Memphis for Everon. So I invited him to my home in England and we spent some time together. I actually think he’s a great prospect. Sometimes I see things of him in the media and I think: you should have done that differently, but he’s definitely a great kid with the potential to be our future leader on the pitch. He has above average qualities. But it’s up to him too. I’m willing to do what I must to get the best out of him, but it takes two to tango.”

The Oranje team vs England will probably look something like this:


De Vrij    Van Dijk   De ligt

Hateboer   Wijnaldum   Propper   Van Aanholt

Promes    Dost    Memphis

Strootman and Berghuis will most likely play the second friendly vs Portugal. The choice of goalie is still a question mark but I think Koeman will go for the PSV goalie, who is in good form and plays regularly, with Cillesen as #2.

The last decision to be made: the new skipper for Oranje.

Strootman was in the hierarchy before. De Vrij skippered Feyenoord under Koeman and Van Dijk seems to be a strong candidate as well, with Daley Blind on the short list as well, once he’s fit and playing regularly again.

Below, photos of the new Oranje home at Zeist.

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Oranje back in action…..

If you start writing a post but don’t have time to finish it you can punished! The prelim squad becomes definite, new players come and existing players get injured…

Never a dull moment. Please accept some “old” news in this post but I will make it current as I write (and you read) along….

Coach Danny Blind gave his prelim squad and happy to see he went for the usual suspects and gave Davey Propper the highly deserved nod.

The PSV midfielder is one of the revelations of this season and reminds me of elegant classy midfielders like Phillip Cocu and Kevin Strootman. More technician than breaker but always on the move, and never to lazy to throw in a tackle or two. Like Bazoer of Ajax, it seems time slows down when he has the ball and he shows great composure.



Davey Propper, elegance and class

Also good to see Jetro Willems back in the selection. The PSV man was out for a while but has demonstrated his form and class in the matches he played for PSV since. What a left foot! Timo Letschert is one of the key players of FC Utrecht, which is aiming for a #3 or 4 spot in the Eredivisie under coach Erik “Pep” Ten Hag. The former Twente player worked as a coach for smaller clubs and worked as assistant for Pep Guardiola at Bayern. His style of coaching and training is similar to Pep’s and it is starting to work wonder for the Domstad club. Ayouteb and Ramselaar are also players close to Oranje, while Nassar Barazite is showing his class on a weekly basis after been in the jungle for years since leaaving Arsenal. French striker Haller will also be on the short list of many a big European club, with his goal scoring antics.

AZ Alkmaar is also impressing with Ron Vlaar strong in their defence and one Vincent Janssen scoring like there is no tomorrow. Two years ago, Feyenoord sent him away. Via the Jupiler league, Janssen came to AZ and after a slow start he made his way into the squad. In the last months, he can’t stop scoring. He’s not the quickest, not the tallest, doesn’t have a Marco van Basten style technique but he’s a killer in the box. Left, right, head, distance, tap ins, he can do it all. But make no mistake, Janssen is not the only striker to make it big after starting in the Jupiler League. Huntelaar, Van Nistelrooy, Hasselbaink, Pierre van Hooijdonk and Bas Dost all made the same journey.



Vincent Janssen, 20 goals in the league

Then there is Mitchell Dijks. The Ajax left back. Tall, strong but also fast and with a gifted left foot. If Willems has the best cross of the Eredivisie, Dijks comes second. Sent away by Ajax and making his way back to the forefront via Willem II. Ajax signed him again, something they hardly ever do and he is a consistent threat on the left flank, with a good early cross, but despite his body shape also has the speed to dash past defenders.

And there is more to come. Danny Blind is confronted with disappointing turns by his usual suspects. Arjen Robben is still going strong at top level, but Sneijder’s Galatasaray is disappointing this season, Van Persie is struggling at Fener, Huntelaar lost sharpness and speed, Nigel de Jong is off to LA, while Van der Vaart doesn’t even play anymore. Ron Vlaar is another 30+ player who is making his way back to full fitness at AZ.

So Blind is looking at a number of players to come in. Kevin Strootman is fit and needs to play games. Promes is still doing well in Russia, but other names pop up on the list and have seen either Blind or Van Basten visiting them in the past months. Bazoer and Propper are no-brainers, but others are knocking on the door.


25 year old Patrick van Aanholt went to Chelsea at a young age and via several loan spells, one of which at Vitesse, the left back is now a firm fan favorite at Sunderland. The relegation candidate might struggle in the EPL but not as a result of Van Aanholt’s exploits. He scored 5 goals (of which two were consideren own goals) and had 5 assists, which is the highest combination for a defender in the EPL. Strong in attack, lively, fast and a gifted left foot. Defensively vulnerable, but that applies to all our full backs, incl Janmaat and Willems.

21 year old Nathan Ake is a favorite at Watford, which is placed above Chelsea in the EPL standings, the club that owns Ake. He can play left back, center back and defensive mid and has been exceptional going forward and even scoring goals for Watford. He looks like Gullit but plays like Edgar Davids. He himself hopes and believes he will return to Chelsea and be offered a shot at a spot in the squad.

Riechedly Bazoer is considered one of Holland’s biggest talents. Ex PSV defender turned midfielder under De Boer. Composed, great vision, all round qualities and a good distance strike. Napoli and Wolfsburg have been brushed off by Bazoer but Chelsea has started talks. The Utrecht born player has his hopes set on Barca. No lack of ambition… We all hope he stays at Ajax for another two seasons at least.

Robben Bazoer


Bazoer in his first game for Oranje, hamstring problems. Robben is an expert on the topic

29 year old Ryan Donk was part of Foppe de Haan’s successful Young Oranje almost 10 years back. The AZ defender made his way to Belgium where he was hot and cold but his good season last year got him a transfer to Galatasaray. He plays a lot but hasn’t been able to stop the rot in Turkey. Still, with his length and experience, he could be a candidate still.

23 year old Marco van Ginkel had a tough three years, since leaving Vitesse for Chelsea. Ajax offered more than Chelsea but Vitesse didn’t want to see him go to a competitor in Holland. Poor Van Ginkel got injured at Chelsea and since played for AC Milan, also injury stricken, and had a spell at Stoke City where he couldn’t get in the team. The dynamic midfielder seems to soft for defensive mid in England and not good enough for offensive mid, but in Holland, at PSV, he already demonstrated his worth with goals, passes and tackles.

22 year old Wesley Hoedt only played 28 games in AZ Alkmaar when Lazio decided to offer him a deal. Against the advice given, he went. No one expected him to make a big impact any time soon but partly due to De Vrij’s injury, Hoedt started to get games and is now playing like an experienced defender in the land that invented defending.


So the definitive group got announced and pretty soon after a number of players had to give their thanks… Daryl Janmaat got injured, Ron Vlaar got injured, Propper got injured. Locadia and Erik Pieters won’t be available either, so Ibi Afellay is back as is Patrick van Aanholt and Feyenoord back Rick Karsdorp made his debut into the squad. Arjen Robben was already off the list, so Danny Blind will have to go for a team without the danger man upfront and with heaps of players missing out.

Despite all this: Robin van Persie is still not part of the plans.

Blind “I haven’t written Robin off, but he needs games and he needs fitness. He knows this. He is exceptional when he is fit and I would love him to get back to his full form, but he knows he’s having a tough season.”

Asked about the significance of these games for Oranje: “Listen, we need to start winning again. For us, this is the start for our WC campaign. Simple as that. Two tough opponents and it’s good to see where we stand. The fans need something back now, from us. And it gives me options to use a different system and to see if some younger players will step up.”

Timo Letschert is one of the new names. The Utrecht defender was developed at Ajax where he failed to make it into the senior team. He wanted playing time and moved to Groningen, after which he signed for FC Utrecht. Under Erik “Pep” Ten Hag he has been impressive. Blind: “Timo is a modern defender. He has it all. Length, power, speed, balls and he can even score. Good to have him.”



Timo Letschert

Oranje will have a good series of games in the coming months. France and England now of course and later on we play Poland, Ireland and Austria in May and June. Blind will also go on a training trip to Portugal with the team after the season ends.

In September 2016, we’ll play our first WC qualification game vs Sweden.

Blind: “We might not have a group of world class players at the moment, but it is always about the team. We have a good enough team to compete and I still believe we should be able to qualify for the World Cup, even if it won’t be easy.”

He is keen to go back to 5-3-2 but only to regain composure and confidence. “I don’t want to be pinned down on systems. 5-3-2 can work with the players we have, as we have demonstrated. Both Memphis and Robben fit in that system, as does Sneijder and we have flying wing backs like Willems and Janmaat so it does fit. Once we gain more consistency I still want to be able to switch to 4-3-3 but the system is not sacred for me.”

oranje training

Asked about Robben’s importance: “Arjen is still world class. He’s important for Bayern, that says enough. But we still have players with that unpredictable character and loads of talent. Memphis, Quincy Promes are two of those players. We have an exciting young striker in Janssen and ourmidfield is actually quite promising, with Propper, Wijnaldum, Clasie, Klaassen and Bazoer. We can’t rely on one player, we need to focus on the team performance. PSV demonstrated this vs Atletico Madrid and there are many examples like this.”

Wesley Sneijder (32) is adamant to keep on going. He wants to play the WC2018: “I would be so proud to somehow be involved in a young team that will win the cup one day. And I would be able to say I played my tiny part in that. We have good young talents coming through and I enjoy my role as the old player, hahaha.” And on top of that, Sneijder is keen to take the record of most capped Dutchie from goalie Van der Sar. Currently, Wes is number two, with 12 matches to go.

I believe the coach will start with 5-3-2 vs France and hopefully 4-3-3 vs England.

I think the 5-3-2 vs France should be:


Veltman  Bruma   Blind   Van Dijk   Willems

Klaassen   Wijnaldum     Sneijder

Promes  Memphis

Veltman is playing really well as right back, with Bruma making big steps at PSV. Blind and Van Dijk are no brainers and Willems isn’t 100% fit but needs games, so why not use him. We need Klaassen and Wijnaldum in midfield as they form an aerial threat, without a real striker.


Against England, you want to play 4-3-3 to keep their full backs in check and they’ll play with four at the back so I’d go:


Veltman   Bruma   Van Dijk   Blind

Bazoer    Afellay    Sneijder

Promes     Huntelaar    Memphis

Or something like that?

Your views?

Anf for the fans, the German media found this old clip of a teenager Arjen Robben at FC Groningen, where he played in the youth academy. It’s in Dutch, with German subs. But it basically says: “Hi, I’m Arjen Robben and I’m going to teach you a cool trick.”



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