Tag: Estonia

Lots of work to do for Oranje

Not a title you would associate with an upcoming game vs Andorra.

But the State of the Union of Oranje is not too positive after the shock draw against Estonia.

And it’s not like Holland is not allowed to draw. After the amazing run we had under Bert and under Louis, it’s not a drama to not win for once. But what is a drama, that it happens in a game where we led 0-1 after 2 minutes. A game inwhich we dominated in the first 20 minutes. And a win would have secured our spot in the top 7 of the Fifa Ranking and would have given us that record to snatch away from Ze Zjermans.

The way we let this game slip away and the way we had to salvage a point were embarrassing, really.

Johan Cruyff is per usual the biggest contrarian. Where people only see good things, he sees negative elements. And the other way around. “It’s probably a good thing that Holland is not the first nation after Brazil to qualify. In all honesty, if we would qualify that easily and quick, people might believe we are really good. And we are not. Now, Van Gaal can work on the elements that need improvement, without bringing the qualification in trouble. This is maybe a blessing in disguise, this draw. Because now everyone realises: oops… We are not that great….”

JC Est

The oracle talks on: “Take Tiger Woods. If he plays without concentration for one day, he can simply tumble from the 1st to the 10th spot. The differences are minimal in the top. If we want to go for silverware in Brazil we will need to work really hard. And that is easier for Louis van Gaal now. Because if we would have won, criticism would not have its desired effect.”

The other Dutch icon, Willem van Hanegem, spoke as well. “I like Louis and I can’t really criticise his football vision. But the last weeks he seems to be losing it a bit. He has lost his consistency, it seems. First he claims he doesn’t need a type like Sneijder anymore. But when Wijnaldum gets injured, he calls Sneijder up. At first he’s not fit. Then he is fit enough? And the result? Sneijder feels the pressure and plays his own game. In order to prove himself. You could have predicted that. And Sneijder does play too close to Van Persie, basically suffocating the Man United striker. He needs movement around him and space. Sneijder doesn’t offer movement and doesn’t allow space. When Kuyt came to play centrally, things changed a bit. Another problem Van Gaal generated is that weird switch of Robben and Lens. Why? He was adamant that Robben should play on the left flank and now that is not needed anymore? Sure, Robben scored. It took the Estonia coach a couple of minutes to realise Robben played on the right, but since that goal Robben and Lens did not produce one single cross for Van Persie and Robben blocked Janmaat too. I think Van Gaal should sit down with his key players (RVP, Sneijder, Robben) and determine what system will be used. And lastly, De Vrij vs Bruma. Everyone who watches the Eredivisie can see that De Vrij is not in his best form, while Bruma is very strong. Why would Van Gaal use De Vrij and then sub him when he made a mistake? This is not good for the lad, not for the team and not for the coach… He should have simply said: Stefan, you will be rested, I wanna try out Bruma for this game.”

Oranje needs to regroup and will do so by acknowledging the weaknesses of the team: defence. With players like Van der Vaart, Sneijder, Van Persie, Kuyt and Robben, most international opponents will be very careful. But with big names like De Boer, Stam, Rijkaard and Reiziger missing in the current squad, most opponents feel there is something to be had against this Holland team.

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Skipper Robin van Persie does not allow criticism to creep into the camp. “It’s normal that the fans and the media are unhappy with that performance, but internally, we are not negative. The last thing we will do is point fingers. We need each other. We need to play and act like a team.”

The media asked Van Gaal about his substitution of De Vrij. Was it because he was to blame for that first Estonia goal? “No. I subbed him not for that. If someone makes a mistake, the team makes a mistake and the team will need to resolve it. I subbed Stefan because he lost confidence and didn’t play the vertical, deep pass anymore. That needed changing.”

Kevin Strootman: “The Feyenoord lads have been starters this whole qualification series. We did very well. Do you seriously think they forgot how to play football?”

In 2004, Holland played an away game against Andorra, and that was a special game. The 34 year old AZ midfielder Barry van Galen made his debut in Oranje under Van Basten. The current AZ scout would never be called up again. “I am eternally grateful to Marco for this. I think he simply felt I deserved at least one international game. And sure, I’d love to have played that game against Brazil, like Bart Latuheru, hahaha. But it was the best day in my whole career. And Marco asked me after the game: what did you think? And I said: I was shit. Because I was. I didn’t do anything right. And Marco nodded, hahahaha. And after the game, I was interviewed, and who was standing next to me? Johan Cruyff. My hero. Ah, those memories. I played with number 10, even. Van Basten made me the happiest man ever.”


Barry van Galen against Andorra, 2004

A won against Andorra will give Holland a ticket almost for certain. Romania would have to bridge 6 points and 15 goals in two games, something that is highly unlikely of course (*cough* Spain – Malta!!! * cough*).

If Romania drops points vs Turkey, Holland will be definitely certain of Brazil.

Van Gaal has to make some changes, as Arjen Robben and Bruno Martins Indi are suspended. Ruben Schaken is the obvious replacement for Robben. The Feyenoord defender will most likely be replaced by Vlaar. Karim Rekik is an option too although he is not 100% fit. However, Van Gaal could decide to play with three defenders only, taking into account that Andorra will probably only field one striker.

In this case, we might see Janmaat – De Vrij / Bruma – Willems/Verhaegh

And maybe four midfielders, with De Guzman to support the build up. I wouldn’t mind seeing Sneijder, Maher and Strootman together.

And Lens – RVP – Schaken upfront.

RVP most likely wants to play, as he is only 4 goals away from Patrick Kluivert’s record of 40 goals in the Orange Jersey.

rvp kluiv

Arjen Robben is the unlikely vice captain. The egotistical self kicker Robben, as vice captain. “I like the responsibility. I love coaching and supporting the young lads. And it gives me great honour to wear the band, you know.” Robben’s drive has not diminished after winning the CL at last. He was furious when he left the pitch against Estonia. “If you score after 2 minutes and you are the better team, you simply need to win. Period.” Asked about his drive and his loathing of losing….” Ask my wife. I haven’t changed a bit since winning the CL at Wembley. I still play as if it’s my last game. But Guardiola said something interesting to me. We had a good chat and he said: you have nothing to prove. If you simply play good football, I will put you in the line up. Just enjoy yourself. I loved that…. I need to learn how to do that.”


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Oranje in trouble: an incident, or a symptom?

We had all the reasons to play well and to get a good victory.

Qualifying for Brazil is an important one, obviously. But there is also that West German recond we so dearly wanted.

There is prestige. The need for the Dutch to present themselves again on the international front after the abyssmal Euros.

And there is the FIFA ranking issue, which will enable the top 7 nations to become group head in the World Cup this coming Summer.

And there were no real reasons for Oranje to perform badly. We have the Best Coach Ever ™, we still have a core of Great Players ™ (like Robben, RVP, Sneijder, Strootman, Vorm) and some exciting young talents ( Willems, Janmaat, Maher, BMI)…

The pitch in Estonia was considered very good and LVG even allowed Robben to pay from the right.

When the game was only 2 minutes old, Robben seemingly demonstrated his conviction by scoring a zinger. In typical Robben style. A dribble inside, a curler in the far corner.

In the 20 minutes after that, Oranje was boss and could have / should have scored two more. Van Persie, Janmaat, Robben…. It was quite easy for Holland to kill off the game.

But as most of you have seen it I won’t do a minute by minute rundown.

Basically, weak defending (and mediocre goal keeping) allowed Estonia back into the game.

And a great passage of play by Estonia (and did we say “weak defending” already?) made it 2-1.

oranje est

By then, Oranje’s quality had left the game. The swift pass and move, the positioning game, the wing play, everything that makes Oranje Oranje was non existent. Sneijder wasn’t able to carry the team, the defence seemed scared to build up and play a risky pass while Robben, Lens and Van Persie failed to work together to create anything solid.

Until the last minutes of the match, when lionheart Kuyt passed the ball to RVP, who did well to wiggle away from his opponent, saw he would lose the duel but used the hand he felt on his shoulder to go for a spot kick. The ref saw it and gave it. It was a soft one, for sure, as RVP had his hand across the chest of the defender, but at that time….RVP had possession and the defender did have an arm on Robin’s shoulder…. A good reason for a ref to give a penalty.

RVP didn’t make a mistake and is creeping up to Pat Kluivert’s record as goal scorer.

The big question LVG needs to answer is: what went wrong…

Do we lack quality? I don’t think so. But we did lack confidence. Why? How? What can we do to instil that back into the team.

Were the tactics bad? Robben on the right? Lens on the left? And is there maybe a chance that Sneijder and RVP don’t work too well together ? Sneijder maybe too static?

Or did the players simply not execute the tactics well enough?

Normally, I would not be concerned about our goalies. Vorm didn’t look good with that first one, and Zoet actually conceded a similar goal from Boateng in the AC Milan game. But Vorm remains a top shot stopper. And once Krul and Stekelenburg return, we truly have goalies who are surely good enough for Oranje.

Our full backs are good enough too, I’d say. On the right, Janmaat, Van Rhijn and Van der Wiel should be able to sort it out.

On the left, I believe Pieters will make a return, although I do like Blind and Willems too. Sure, Blind is slow and Willems a bit inexperienced, but I am all for using young talents if there are no better options.

rvp est

The central defenders do concern me. De Vrij and BMI are both potential top defenders, but the emphasis here is on “potential”. We need them to be top in 10 9 months. Is that possible?

De Vrij is too sweet, not a killer. BMI tends to be a bit cocky and too confident at times.

But are Bruma and Rekik better? Very hard to say.

Vlaar is a killer, for sure, but does he have the speed needed and the build up skills?

Mathijsen and Heitinga should be phased out. I can imagine a coach wanting to use them still but the latter hardly plays and the former is not free of mistakes himself.

Pieters could be an option, by the way but other than that LVG might chuck a Michels ’74 trick and place one of his midfielders in the central defence role. Strootman or Fer maybe? Both tall, strong and Rijkaard like players….

Our midfield is fine, as long as Clasie regains form and Van Ginkel gets some runs on the board. With Maher/Clasie/Strootman/De Guzman/De Jong/Van Ginkel/Wijnaldum/Vaart/Sneijder/Siem de Jong we should have more than enough options.

The central striker position is also not a big deal: RVP, Hunter, Ricky, Dost, Luuk de Jong/Siem de Jong… Options galore.

In terms of wingers, though, we’re back in doubts… Robben is no problemo (as long as he stays fit) but there is that long list of potentials… Elia, De Jong, Boerrighter, Depay, Boetius, Lens, Narsingh…. And Kuyt, despite all he has done for us, I don’t really rate anymore.

Never saw him as a winger, really. He is a great asset, and might have a role to play, as he is a smart and hard working, disciplined player. But in reality, looking at LVG’s tactical plan, Dirkie doesn’t qualify as a winger.

I am not sure whether – as Louis says – the team needs a boost of confidence, or whether the team needs to lose its arrogance.

rvp sneijd est

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A boring win is still a win: Holland – Estonia

I told you this before, I do not like friendlies. Oops… forgot…this was a real qualification game. It looked like a friendly… A smaller football nation doing its best not to get smashed.

Holland not looking too ambitious in the first half. Or maybe that is not the word, it’s more that there was a disconnect between the eager Sneijder, Robben and Van Persie upfront and the cautious trio of BMI, De Vrij and De Guzman at the back.

I don’t want to be negative. We did get the three points. We did score three goals.

We are on track. Blabla.

But Lens? Really? Playing against a team that will offer space at a premium, you need players with skills on the square foot. Like Ola John, for instance. Lens is not a real winger, he lacks rhythm due to a suspension (for attacking a fellow international colleague) and seemed lost.

On the positive side of that, Daryl Janmaat had the game of his life. Two assists, could have been three assists or four even! Man of the Match for me.

So Louis wasn’t consistent here. He omitted John, who played not so good against Italy. But he totally ignored Maher, who played very good against Italy? The latter coming back in for the injured Sneijder.

Van Gaal said: “Leo Beenhakker taught me early on that consistency doesn’t get you points…”. Huh?? If you need to borrow wisecracks from Don Leo, you are really in trouble!!

Leo Beenhakker, the worst team manager in the history of Oranje. Look at his performance in the 1990 World Cup. Or hang on….not the worst… We didn’t even qualify for a World Cup in 2002…!! That team manager….oh…that is Louis van Gaal of course…

Hmmm ;-).

So, what we need is more speed. Quicker passing. And players who can add individual skills to that game. So, for speed, I suggest to bring Jordy Clasie. As much as I like De Guzman (Anita, Fer, De Jong, who ever) we need a player with very quick feet in that position, in particular with BMI and De Vrij being still a bit timid.

I love Van der Vaart, as you know, but Maher might simply be a better option in our 4-3-3. He puts in more work, simply said.

Furthermore, this was supposed to be Wes Sneijder’s come back. His first 30 minutes were promising. He is eager. But his shooting boots seemed old. He missed the target three times at least. And had to be subbed with a sad groin injury. Adam Maher is taking his spot in the squad.

And lets put Robben on the right of the Romania game and give Ola John another go. The youngster excels at Benfica. The Black Pearl Mark II. Expect a piece on him soon…

All in all, good perfomances by Vermeer, Janmaat, Van Persie, Van der Vaart and Robben.

Mediocre performances by the rest. A bit disappointing performance by Lens.


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