We’re starting to get in the thick of things… The competitions have started properly, coaches leave or are fired, players reach their full potential or get injured. Oranje is almost qualified for the Euros and is prepping for the last two qualification games. Due to injuries (Vermeer, Malen, Bergwijn, Memphis), Ronald Koeman did what many here wanted to see earlier: the introduction of some “new” names.
With Kenneth Vermeer injured (and Jeroen Zoet suddenly on a dead end street with PSV), Marco Bizot is added to the squad. AZ talents Calvin Stengs and Myron Boadu are part of the squad too, while Wout Weghorst is also called up, together with rival striker Luuk de Jong.
Interestingly enough though, Memphis did make the trip to the Oranje camp. Initially to “work on his fitness” and “be with the lads” but secretly he is working like a horse to get himself fit and into the team on Saturday. “I want to play. I may be important for the team, but the team is also important for me. After missing two big tournaments, I really want to be part of the team that secures our ticket.”
Koeman will obviously be careful with the Lyon captain but also emphasized Depay’s importance for the team.
The big question for many is: who will Koeman play now Berghuis, Malen and most likely Memphis are absent.
Most punters, analysts and fans feel that Stengs and Boadu deserve the chance to start. I personally think Koeman, conservative as he is, will be tempted to use his trusted players vs Northern Ireland. The Irish are a shrewd and physically tough team to beat. So the experience of Promes and Babel might be needed along with the power and work rate of Weghorst.
A more adventurous coach (Ten Hag!) would probably start with Promes – Boadu – Stengs… But Koeman is not that coach and might wait with using the youngsters once we get that point vs Northern Ireland.
Most of the team will be unchanged, although the right back question is also still unanswered. I think there is a case to make for Veltman and for Dumfries…
Luuk de Jong will probably remain as pinch hitter. Should Memphis be fit to play, it probably means Weghorst will find himself on the stands.
No one debates the quality of the two AZ players. Stengs will probably go and become a top class player for the next 10 years. I can see him end up at a big name team in the future. Boadu is a bit younger and lacks a bit of maturity. In the Eredivisie, it doesn’t hurt so much but he’s too light for the big leagues, at this stage.
Having said that, he’s a very complete striker. Light on his feet, quick, explosive, two-footed…scoring all sorts of goals… And what a great understanding (couples!) with Calvin Stengs.
Boadu and Stengs running riot vs PSV
But Wout Weghorst’s development can’t be ignored. The 27 year old is back with Oranje, for the first time since June 2018. Koeman used the 1 meter 97 centimeter tall striker only as a battering ram in the final stages of the game and has lost the pinch hitter role to Luuk. But things have improved for Weghorst at Wolfsbutg with the entrance of coach Glasner, who has a strong football vision. The team now attacks more from the flanks, using wide wing backs which is perfect for the tall striker. He also grew enormously in his hold up play and his combination play. He also made the near post his domain, Wim Kieft style. The timing is impeccable, he first makes a move to the far post, to only switch quickly and dart to the near post. It seems he patented this move as he also was successful with this at AZ.
Compare Weghorst with similar strikers (Bas Dost and Luuk de Jong) and you’ll find that Wout creates three times more changes for team mates!
Versus Hoffenheim, 0-1 down, it’s Weghorst who creates the equaliser with an Ozil like backheel! The Weghorst phenomenon. Every two years he steps up to a higher leve. His motto: “I’m not a super talent, so I need to work hard to become part of the squad and then I work hard to become better and better on that level.”
Excellent assist by Weghorst
And this is how he went from FC Emmen to Heracles, to AZ and now Wolfsburg. Next stop? Somewhere in England maybe? Watford? Burnley? Or a bigger club in Germany?
Weghorst could leave Wolfsburg already last summer but he doesn’t want to switch after one season. But after two? Yes… By the way, he knows he won’t force Memphis out of the starting line up with Oranje but , he can be the ideal target man taking attention away from the mercurial Oranje forwards, while battling the central defenders.
With Boadu and Stengs, Oranje has another bossom buddy duo, after Krol-Suurbier, Jansen-Cruyff, Sneijder-VanderVaart, Frank de Boer – Cocu, Seedorf-Kluivert and many other combinations. Colleagues and best friends.
It’s 2016 in Wijdewormer, North of Holland when on a Saturday afternoon AZ is watching the AZ talents play Excelsior Maassluis. Something is brewing. Louis van Gaal is present, as he knows two big talents will play their first match at this level. Myron Boadu is 15 years old and he scores his first goal after 22 minutes. After 70 minutes he’s subbed for the 17 year old Calvin Stengs. And would you believe it? He also needs just 22 minutes to score his first goal. Their names are mentioned for years already in Alkmaar. They’re both born in Amsterdam and both scouted early by AZ. The biggest difference between them, the pace with which they presented themselves. Stengs was a slow burner. He was small in his youth and that made him a question mark. He grew taller when he turned 16 and he was moved into AZ under 19.
A young Boadu vs Ajax, for AZ
Boadu’s development was noticed by Arsenal, Ajax and PSV but the youngster decided he wanted to finish his high school in Alkmaar and thus he stayed loyal to AZ. Stengs and Boadu bonded on the pitch and at their school and their chemistry would develop more and more.
2019 was supposed to be there year and by all means, I think they’re making it happen. They both came back from a horrific injury and they seem to have shrugged it all off successfully. In May 2017, Boadu got seriously injured to the knee in the Euros Under 17. Three months later, a heavy injury for Stengs on the knee, in the first match of the season vs PSV Eindhoven. They needed to dig deep into their character and mentality to fight back. Both players were aided by two world class legends. Boadu worked on his fitness in the US, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic while Stengs was visited often by Ruud van Nistelrooy who suffered a similar injury before he signed for Man United.
When Stengs was ready to make his come back for AZ, faith again struck. In his sixth game for AZ, versus Feyenoord, the striker broke his ankle. This time, he needed 7 months to recover. Both players now have a yearning desire, a hunger, for a consistent season, with more highs than lows and without any more injuries.
This season, AZ as a whole impresses. Arne Slot is doing something really really well. His forward trio, are dynamic in their moves, can score goals, give assists and dazzle opponents. Idrissi might have chosen to play for Morocco, the two other want to be come colleagues in orange. With left full back Owen Wijndal (still at Young Oranje), they are called the three musketeers. In the competition, Feyenoord and PSV have been taken to the AZ sword. There is now only Ajax to deal with. “That is December 15”, says Boadu, confidently. “It’s three days after Man United away. That will be a top week.”
On October 11, 2019, both Boadu and Stengs play for Young Oranje vs Young Portugal. Two assists by Stengs on Boadu and a goal for Stengs. That was Boadu’s first match in Young Oranje (Steng’s fourth). A month later, the world looks different for both. Boadu: “Coach Slot called to tell us. My mum started to cry, my dad was speechless. I also didn’t know exactly what to make of it. I didn’t count on this, at all. It’s going so quick now.” Stengs responded in the down-to-Earth manner we know of him. “You won’t just get an invite for Oranje! This is the highest of the highest. I have no expectations. I’m just going to work my socks off and then we’ll see what happens.”
AZ Coach Arne Slot
So two of the three musketeers drove to Zeist to join in with the big Orange. The third musketeer will one day follow, without a doubt. How did they go to Zeist? “You can paint that picture yourself, no?”, laughs Boadu. “Calvin and I drove up together. Him behind the wheel, me picking the music.”
How can Oranje qualify?
After 6 matches, Holland has 15 points, as much as Germany and 3 more than Northern Ireland. Should Oranje draw vs Northern Ireland, we will be sure of an Euros ticket. When we lose vs Northern Ireland, it depends on the number of goals we concede. There is a scenario out there, in which Holland could end up exactly at the same level as Germany and Northern Ireland. The goal difference will be vital in that case, provided that the results against the rivals is also the same (Oranje beat Northern Ireland 3-1 at home). Oranje has a goal balance of 9-6, whereas Germany has 7-6 and Northern Ireland has 1-5. So even a slight defeat plus a win against Estonia will get us to the Euros. And even if Holland drops out of the top two, we still have the Nations League play-off ticket in hand. In March 2020, these play offs will be played.