The number of times I had to write “boys v men” on this blog in the past decade is simply not funny anymore. Rafael van der Vaart compared our game v France with youth football.
This virus plagued Oranje got hammered by a lethal France and only have themselves to blame. Debutant Geertruida and youngster Xavi Simons are two of the players who scored a decent rating. Most of the others disappointed gravely in an avalanche of errors.
When Daley Blind is the cause for the only positive aspect of this game, you know we’re in trouble. Daley got his 100th cap for Oranje and joins the Oranje elite (behind Sneijder, Van der Sar, De Boer, Van der Vaart, Van Bronckhorst, Kuyt, Van Persie and Cocu and just in front of Robben).
In the 21st minute, when we’re trailing 3-0 against Les Blues, the stats tell the story: Holland has close to 70% possession of the ball. France has 3 shots on goal. Holland has 4 shots on goal. France has 3 goals. Oranje zero, nada, zilch.
We dominated the ball but France scored the goals. Deschamps gets the game he dreamed of, with The Netherlands gifting Coman, Kolo Muani and Mbappe all options to counter attack with their speed.
Koeman’s line up surprised a bit. Berghuis as winger/midfielder was a surprise to me, I expected Xavi Simons there. And I expected Malen, with his speed as well. I hoped for Wieffer but he wasn’t 100%, so Koeman decided against him and picked Taylor. Gravenberch was added to the squad late, after Veerman had to depart due to the gastro virus, but Taylor had more games at Ajax. De Roon was an obvious choice. But to play Geertruida and Timber “against type” was another surprise.
Oranje’s 70% possession didn’t do much for us. Why, because the French coach had a good idea which Dutch player to allow the ball. Griezmann covers Taylor (like he used to do on Frenkie) and De Roon is the man in midfield allowed to build up. Not his strength.
Another remarkable aspect: Koeman wants his full backs to remain wide and hugging the line. Ake on the left and Timber on the right usually play more inside as full backs (like Malacia at Man U and Geertruida at Feyenoord). Playing so wide means that the centre backs Geertruida and Van Dijk have difficulties reaching the wide man and regularly only see De Roon as their outlet. Again, not the man where you want the build up to start.
And this happened under Koeman I as well: the moment De Roon is played in, the French midfielders pounce hoping for a mistake. And this is exactly what happens in the first 90 seconds when Holland is patiently kicking the ball around.
The ball is on the right flank. Taylor omits to look over his shoulder, he only sees the ball. He is played in and is totally obliviousto Griezmann making a go for the ball. He passes square to De Roon who is hijacked by Rabiot and two passes later it’s 1-0. Also check the video to see how Taylor jogs back instead of busting a lung to mark Griezmann who ended up scoring their first goal.
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) March 24, 2023
The second goal is also the result of an error. It’s Cillesen this time who should be able to just collect the ball from a free kick from the right. But the NEC goalie misjudges the ball and the leather bounces from his arm onto the oncoming Upamecano: 2-0. An error yes, but at least one that you can sympathise with. A number of attackers and defenders were jumping in front of Cillesen, obstructing his views. A mistake like this is easily made. But … not nice to be 2-0 down after 9 minutes.
The free kick, from where this goal came, was the result of another positional error by the team. As you can see below.
Van Dijk is trying to play the offside- Liverpool style. But Timber and Geertruida have other ideas, probably due to the speed of MBappe and Coman. The pass is good, towards Coman and Geertruida makes the foul.
This miscommunication is typical for a team that doesn’t show any unity in thinking and doing. The players are too busy with their own individual role and don’t seem to see the bigger picture.
The third goal is after we see a variant used by Koeman in his first period, with a holding mid (normally Frenkie) dropping deep next to the central defenders to start the build up. This used to work, with powerhouse Dumfries high up the right channel. With Timber, it’s less logical. The Ajax central defender is best in the axis of the field. Why Koeman switched Geertruida and Timber is anyone’s guess.
This is just before the goal. Geertruida carries the ball. De Roon takes Timber’s spot. No one in midfield is open, so Geertruida is looking for Timber who is free. But the pass lacks pace, Hernandez read it well and sprints full swing to intercept the ball. In terms of numbers, this should not be a problem, as we have De Roon, Geertruida, Van Dijk and Ake in the defensive organisation while Taylor is also behind the ball. But still we get in trouble, as the players are not ideally positioned and Taylor does not coach his team mates like for instance De Roon or De Jong do in Oranje, or Kokcu at Feyenoord. So no one puts pressure on Tchouameni, the task of Wijnaldum. And when MBappe is at full speed, it’s De Roon who needs to track back, not something he does well. De Roon also lacks the speed needed. Muani lets the ball run and Mbappe gobbles it up: 3-0.
— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) March 24, 2023
Koeman then switches Timber and Geertruida back to their usual positions and brings Weghorst for the disappointing Taylor, to spice things up a bit. It’s a bit too little too late, as France knows the match is won and they do take their foot off the gas. Therefore, it’s hard to judge the eleven that play the remainder of the game for us.
The game ends with another amateuristic error: a risky pass forward by Van Dijk, miscontrol by Memphis and he seems to pay the perfect assist to his friend MBappe who scores a superb 4-0.
Memphis missing a late penalty for Oranje is typical for the teams performance, on a night when everything we do fails.
Holland doesn’t have the calibre players that France have. As the saying goes: the better team will win against the better individuals. Sadly, Holland also doesn’t have the better team…
0-4 – @OnsOranje lost a match by a four-goal margin just twice in the last 60 years: a 0-4 defeat against France at the Stade de France tonight and a 0-4 defeat against France at the Stade de France on 31 August 2017. Déjà-vu. pic.twitter.com/8SoReErhy6
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) March 24, 2023