Tag: Kongolo

First Oranje practice sessions – Van Ginkel called up

While I am laughing my arse off watching Louis van Gaal being interviewed by the English media, I am writing this. The first session of training for the PrePreLim squad and the reporters from Blighty gathered around the Oracle. The question: “So obviously you know about Man United, you played against them…” and Louis says “Now that is a stupid question”. Hahahaha, may the games begin! In all honesty, that clip alone would be enough for me – if I were the Man United decision maker – to pick another coach, hahahahaha.

Anyway, as Louis said “I am now Oranje manager and I will focus on my job here now” I will leave all that alone.

Now it’s 33 Days to Go to the World Cup and we are none the wiser!

LVG practice

“Don’t talk back to me or I will have you spend the afternoon in that corner facing the wall!!”

This week Louis started his first sessions with the players who 1) could make the cut, 2) are no longer involved in official games in their competion and 3) some filler players from Young Oranje to make the right numbers.

Remarkable names like Castaignos and Locadia are not that remarkable as they can be seen as the Young Oranje contingent. The same can be said for Terrence Kongolo but the in form Feyenoord defender played too well, has too much talent and too versatile to overlook. I wouldn’t be surprised if LVG used the tall defender as Strootman replacement in midfield….

Another potential replacement for midfield was on the list as well. Chelsea player Marco van Ginkel The first and only player coming in from another competition amongst the Eredivisie players. Without a doubt Louis has checked with the Annoying One what the status of our popular midfielder is and based on the response requested for Mourinho to release the former Vitesse man for Oranje.

Interesting… I am not surprised if Afellay gets a go as well.

luc zoet

“Castaignos, Zoet (l) and Martins Indi (r) didn’t want to play spin the bottle.”

So there are three practice sessions and on May 13, the future Man U coach will announce the preliminary 30 player squad. On June 2, he has to announce the definitive list and that list of 23 needs to come from the 30 in the prelim. Oranje has a training camp in Lagos Portugal for a week in May and will play two friendlies after that, versus Ghana and Wales. Oranje plays Equador on May 17 in Amsterdam by the way.

Terence Kongolo was nervous to meet Van Gaal and went to the first Oranje camp with team mate Jean Paul Boetius. His career goes really fast. “I noticed this in particular when I drove up to the hotel with all those media people waiting. It was intense. Feyenoord is big but this is humungous.” After the session the talented defender said “Mr Van Gaal is very direct but I don’t mind that. I really enjoyed myself and will do what I can to to stay with the group. I hope Mr Van Gaal is going to need me in Brazil and if he does, I will be ready.”

Before any World Cup, Johan Cruyff will be asked about Oranje. The Oracle this time wanted to spend some time on his relationship with Louis van Gaal. “People think we have this whole thing going on, as if I don’t like him or he doesn’t like me. That is not it. I do not have any issue with Van Gaal. He is a good coach. But, our football vision is totally different. That is all. Literally, totally different. People say “but you both play 4-3-3 and want to attack”. Yes, that is the only similarity. We need too much time for me to explain but I’m talking about specific roles and tasks, about positioning, about pace. In Van Gaal’s way of playing, the midfielder will open up to the build up from the defence with his back to the
opponent’s goal. That is 90% of what happens and then 90% of those times, the ball goes back to the goalie or to the full back. In my tactics, the central defender is a player who moves into midfield to become a midfielder with his face towards the opponent’s goal. I would use individual class to play fast paced pass and move football. Van Gaal is more a handbal type coach. With players wide, strictly on the byline and a more rigid approach.”


“Kongolo demonstrating how Louis van Gaal dances in the clubs”

Joel Veltman (Ajax) and Stefan de Vrij (Feyenoord) seem to be tight buddies already. In tv interview Veltman gave a hint re: the tactics Van Gaal will try out. “He will play with more defenders. The 5-3-2, but with the emphasis on attack. We want to see the ball the most and this is a way of creating dominance. The principles will remain the same.” Stefan de Vrij: “Mr Van Gaal wants us to think, to use our brain as a tool and make rational choices in the games. He is working on that on specific situations and makes us pick the right decisions and offer up solutions. He is very clear in his instructions and that is always wonderful to work with.”

Luc Castaignos is used to working with great players and coaches. He was part of the Feyenoord squad, worked with Sneijder and Milito at Inter Milan and is now the main man at Twente. But working with Van Gaal is a level higher even… “Everything needs to be perfect. That is something… Everything you do needs to be good. Van Gaal demands a lot. I never expected this and was quite surprised. This experience is wonderful. I noticed it immediately, we had this practice where I had to use my left foot and I was instinctively going to my right all the time… But there is no time for those sort of moves at this level.” Castaignos had a tough season. “I had some ups and downs. I played ok but missed a lot of sitters. But still I did well if you look at the stats. But I do realise I got lucky to be invited. Mr Van Gaal was cool. He said “Enjoy yourself and show me what you got” hahaha. I do know I have many names in front of me, potentially, such as Van Persie and Huntelaar… But I am allowed to dream, right?”


Van Ginkel’s nightmare might be finally over now

Louis van Gaal is working behind closed doors for a spell but will open up the practice to the public on the last days of the trainings camp in Holland.

On June 3, Oranje trains in Alkmaar in the AZ stadium and on May 30 in De Kuip in Rotterdam.


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WHAT a great season it was….Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV, Oranje…..

Dear friends, Johan Cruyff again agrees with me. It is becoming a bit predictable and boring, I know… But this 2013-2014 season is a very positive season for us. I will tell you why right now: because it can only get better!!

We have had many “Champions of the Poor” before (the name given to the team that plays the least bad football and wins the title) but this season I think is the worst.

Vitesse, Twente, PSV and in particular Feyenoord decided not to want the title this year. And poor Frank de Boer and his Eriksen-less team of bland players found themselves the best of the lowly….

I do congratulate Ajax of course and Frank de Boer. He is a top class bloke and an excellent coach. I cannot see him not coach Oranje one day.

Ajax was not the best this season, but they surely were the most consistent.

PSV played very sexy football this season, but only at the start of the season and way too brief….

Feyenoord should won it this season but too many late goals conceded resulted in a losing too many points…. Feyenoord lost one-third of the points it could win…. And with that stat, they became second AND may dream of CL football next season. Ouch. Feyenoord will probably end with 4 points difference with Ajax. And Feyenoord lost the two games against Ajax. If those were drawn, Ajax and Feyenoord would have finished even… Goes to show what a close call it was and how Feyenoord should have won it this season. If there ever was a season with a solid chance, it was now.

ajax kampioen

Vitesse played the most Dutch in particular in the first half of the season. Very good football, lots of possession and many good results. The second season half, however, something happened in Arnhem and they spilled way too many points.

Twente was the other candidate and with a real killer upfront they might have done better. Gutierrez in particular was a highly consistent factor and this player might win the Best Player of the Season Award just before Jordy Clasie and ex-Feyenoord playmaker Mokotjo (PEC Zwolle).

The good thing about our competition that whenever clubs sell players, young Dutch developed lads make their way into the team. Ajax and Feyenoord have been vanguards of this in Dutch football but Heerenveen, AZ and other clubs are following suit. This is why we can now see exciting lads like Vilhena. Boetius, Klaassen, Veltman, Rekik, Depay and Sinkgrave play regularly. And they do make mistakes. But they have to. As long as they learn from it…

Cruyff says the football IQ needs to be raised. And he has a point. Skill itself is not enough. Knowing when to use what skills is key. Decision making. When to play the deep pass, when to pace it down, when to apply pressure, when to back off. When to play the direct ball, when to dribble…

Ajax was not the best, but the most consistent team. Phillip Cocu is still in development, as is his team. Peter Bosz at Vitesse would like some peace and quiet and less weird comments ( “Vitesse is not allowed to win the title in Holland” ) and Twente might get a slap on the financial wrist by the Dutch Federation.

As for next season, we see some changes happening… Frank de Boer claims he wants to stay and I do believe him, but if Barcelona comes calling he will probably go. Ronald Koeman, however, is being named as a strong candidate by a Spanish paper. He is leaving Feyenoord and making way for Fred Rutten. Koeman was applauded and cheered during Feyenoord’s last home game this weekend. He was told he would leave the club on the shoulders of many and via the front door. He will always be welcome. Koeman admitted to regret to have to leave Feyenoord. “I have played for all three top clubs in Holland and I coached them all. I have sympathy for all of them but Feyenoord is special. My whole family feels very at home here. And in particular the home games have given me goosebumps. Feyenoord will always be special to me.”

A nice touch after the debacle exits of Mario Been and Gertjan Verbeek (who got fired this week in the Bundesliga).

Marco van Basten remains in Holland, moving to AZ Alkmaar while AZ CEO Toon Gerbrands is moving to PSV to assume the General Manager role there. Jan Wouters will leave FC Utrecht as the head coach but has already suggested he would consider an assistant role under another head coach. Jan has always felt more at ease in that role (Rangers, FC Utrecht).


The best we keep for last.

Louis van Gaal. He has said no to Spurs (probably wasn’t going to gel with Levy) and Wenger himself stated he would stay at Arsenal so a move to London was also irrelevant from that angle. Man United however, is in need of a strong coach who would be able to build up the club again. Give new input to the scouting, the analysis, youth development… in other words…renovate Manchester United.

LVG’s signing also means RVP will most likely stay in Manchester. One of the conditions the ManU owners have, is that the 1992 generation (Scholes, Giggs) are being utilised. Van Gaal has suggested he might take Pat Kluivert with him as assistant, as will Frank Hoeks and the video analysis team.

He will be paid a handsome 10 mio euros per year and can count on a 100 mio pound war chest!

I will be tuned in for all the Man U games. I wanna see how and if he can make it work (he is a good coach) but I also want to see him in the English media :-). The tabloids are quite….hectic… Actually, Sjoerd Mossou wrote a great little piece in the AD. I will use that for this post:

Dear Louis here are some tips for you, to work in the UK.

1. Don’t read the tabloids

It is bad for your heart. You will miss us, the Dutch press, as we will appear to be very friendly compared to our UK colleagues… Don’t expect an article on your tactical views or on the running patterns but expect a picture of your left full back naked in a strip club.

2. Watch our for Sir Alex

Sir Alex is angry. David Moyes was his mate and his choice. And Sir Alex was against firing Moyes. So watch it, because he will look over your shoulder. Make little noises. Will blow his nose suddenly. Or whine and mumble. And you don’t like that. Remember battling the ghost of Cruyff at Barca or your clashes with Hoeness in Munich? It’s no fun fighting club legends. You can’t win. So have a glass of red with Sir Alex quickly.

3. Yell a bit less

The English don’t appreciate yelling. You can tell them anything, they have a great sense of humour but mind your tone of voice. Be polite. Your buddy the Special One has the urge to say whatever he wants, but he hardly ever yells in interviews. He is smart like that.

4. Sell Rooney

It sounds weird because he is one of the few really good players you have, but he is not a typical Van Gaal player. He will turn 30 next year. His lifestyle will inform you that he won’t be playing like this for much longer. I don’t think there will be a personal connection between the two of you. Because Wayne is from Croxteth in Liverpool. Google the suburb. Your total Human Being Principle….words like “interpretation divergence”….. Don’t use them with Wayne. The Rooneys won’t be able to follow you.

5. Get a gauge on the Glazers…

But don’t trust them. They’re Americans. They gave Man U debt that will make you hallucinate. And they don’t know jack shit of football. Now they need you but don’t give them your loyalty. They might be selling everything in two years. And the ManU fans despise them.

6. Explain it all very quietly and patiently 4 times

RVP will be able to follow you. You already gained his trust. Robin is a football philosopher like you. But don’t make the mistake that the English players understand tactics because they don’t. It’s almost non existent. Take. It. Slow. The English don’t see football as a thinking game. They prefer to kick the ball up the park and then chase it like Braveheart, with foam  on the lips and blood on the legs. That is deeply ingrained in their genes.

Which brings us to Oranje.

I have not a lot of additional things to share…. Dirk Kuyt won the title. Jeremain Lens is not doing too well and neither is his club. The Debate re: Sneijder is still being entertained in the media. With Arjen Robben claiming his buddy and mate should definitely go to Brazil.

It’s not a big debate for me. Our suggested alternatives to Wes and Raf were Siem de Jong and Adam Maher? Wijnaldum could have played there too. Or Van Ginkel. Or Affelay. But the latter two have not played a serious game and should not be considered. Maher and Wijnaldum have not played enough to give them any position (although Wijnaldum might be able to convince LVG in the coming weeks and Siem de Jong is still injured.


So with all these lads not in the picture, of course you take Wesley Sneijder, playmaker of Galatasaray.

It might not be Real Madrid but he is still playing at a big club which played at the highest level in Europe this year.

And even if he is 80% of his 2010 version, he is still better than the 100% Maher, Van Ginkel or Fer on that position.

Rafael van der Vaart is another story. Is he fit enough? To me, form is never an issue for Raf. He can be out form at Hamburg and score a brace for Oranje. He is an artist. More so than Sneijder. So Van der Vaart could be of use, but I see him only as a second striker (in a 4-4-2 for instance). Not as a midfielder.

I do believe LVG will change his 4-3-3. Maybe not “publicly” but in the execution we will see a departure from 4-3-3. Feyenoord was successful this season with the 5-3-2 and I can see Van Gaal play this formation too.

Depending on his fitness, Krul might not make Brazil, which will probably mean Ken Vermeer will come as third goalie. But he might end up as the first one. This will allow LVG to play with a goalie as sweeper. Than he might use Kongolo as left back and Janmaat as right back to work the flanks. And with three relatively fast centre backs (De Vrij, Bruma, BMI for instance). Three man midfield with Nigel de Jong, Leroy Fer and Wesley Sneijder and up front RVP and Arjen Robben…

Or something like that :-).



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Johan Cruyff and Oranje

A question that always intrigues in pubs or on the beach or when watching a game of football. “Who was/is the greatest?”. It depends on your criteria I suppose, but most people would agree that if one takes into a account the impact a player had on the tactical side of the game, both during and after his active career, none other than JC will top the list.

Messi might have more tricks and speed, Pele might have won more trophies and Maradona had the bravado, maestro Cruyff had it all: speed, trickery, goals, trophies, leadership, and above all: brains.

He understands the game like no one else. “Football is a simple game, but it is very difficult to play it simple”. His total football style, developed with Rinus Michels and perfect by JC as a coach was adopted as Ajax’ housestyle and further developed by the likes of Co Adriaanse and Louis van Gaal.

Cruyff and Van Gaal have further incluenced many great clubs, such as Barcelona, Feyenoord. Bayern Munich and many great coaches such as Rijkaard, Guardiola, Brendan Rogers, Mourinho and Michael Laudrup.

Asked about the impact of football, Cruyff is adamant: “Football is an international language. You can put a guy from Senegal, the US, Russia, Finland, New Zealand, Holland and Brazil together in a room and bring up music, or science or politics and they will have difficulty getting somewhere. They need communications to determine their roles or their aims. Give them two goals, a field and a ball and they can play football together without speaking.” He believes football is the great equaliser. “In athletics, if you can spring very fast, you can be the hero. If you can’t, you basically are out. In basketball, being tall really helps. Being small will make it very hard. In football, you can always get better. You can always have a role. And if you are not that good at it, you can become a goalie….” Or a referee, if you really suck.

jc franz

In terms of tactics, Cruyff has always been radically simple. “In order to score goals you need the ball. So, it’s key to have players who can repossess the ball. To score a goal, it helps if you are close to the box of the opponent. So if you put pressure on their defence as soon as possible, you can repossess the ball and immediately be dangerous. This also means the forwards will do the first defending. They always complain at first. Until they realise everyone needs to work less hard due to this pressure game. Otherwise you keep on going from box to box. Absorbing pressure, sitting deep until you have the ball and you need to bridge 50 meters or more.”

When Oranje played Spain in the WC finals 2010, JC gave his support to Spain. Because they played more JC-style football. “I never intended to say I supported Spain over Holland. It was not a nationalistic thing for me. People criticised me, but I don’t view football as a nationalistic issue. It’s a game. Two teams. The one who plays the style I like is the the team I support. Normally, it is Holland. But we did not play Total Football in South Africa and I understand totally why. Bert van Marwijk didn’t have the quality in his squad to do so. As a coach, you work with what you have. In particular with national teams.”

He goes on: “In baseball, players are mentioned by their role. He is a pitcher or catcher or third baseman. Here it is a bit more vague: a defender. A midfielder. But Beckham is totally different from Nigel de Jong. Both midfielders. People compare Messi with C Ronaldo. Stupid. They are very different. Both top class, but different.”

He sees the current Oranje as a good step back to the Total Football of the 1970s. “A lot of people complain about Oranje. But it is not easy for a small country to have top notch players for every tournament. You need to phase a generation out and phase a new one in. Our youngsters are quite talented. And we have some top notch older players. I like what Louis van Gaal does with the newbies in the team. But tactically, he is not capable of executing the game like he would want it. The problem with Oranje today is the build up. Look at Barca. The ball goes really quick from defence to midfield. Same with Bayern. This is where you want the ball to be. Not in your defence. Our midfielders come to the ball with their back to the opponent’s goal. That is hard for them. Opening up is a risk. So  there are some crucial things that need to be changed. A quicker build up pass, with good quality and better positioning by the midfield. This will allow the midfield to utlise the runs by the forwards and put pressure on the opponent. The problem against France was clear. After Strootman left the pitch, our midfield was outmuscled.”

And here is the big issue Oranje faces. We have big names in the front line, with Robben and Robin. We have one big name left in midfield (Nigel de Jong) although Wes and Raf still have the reputation. But we lack the big names in the back.

Cruyff remembers the 1974 prep for the World Cup. “We were shabby in the run up to the World Cup. Most people in Holland thought we best stay home. We missed top defenders, all central defenders, like Aad Mansveld, Epi Drost, Barry Hulshoff, Rinus Israel, Theo Laseroms… Michels was going mad and only two weeks before the start, he picked the team. Jongbloed came in as sweeper/goalie. Rijsbergen was a young rookie at Feyenoord, but tough as nails. And Arie Haan was put in the libero spot. The rest is history.”


In 1988, Rinus Michels had similar issues. Rijkaard played defensive midfielder for AC Milan – and good too – but was instructed to support the defence (and did this good too). The former Ajax man was / is the ultimate modern defender. Tough, tall, good header, great passer, cool-calm-collected and tactically astute. The Rijkaard “type” was born.

Today, we don’t seem to be able to find that type of player. Who can play central defender when needed and midfielder when in possession. And we tried to find him. Marco van Basten and Bert van Marwijk tried out different lads, from Evander Sno to Hedwiges Maduro to Orlando Engelaar. For different reasons, it didn’t work out. Strootman could have been a contender for the role but we won’t know for another 9 months.

Martins Indi has the potential, but is still to inconsistent. Terence Kolongo is a top talent but very inexperienced, while Kyle Ebecilio has promise too, but the ex Feyenoord / ex Arsenal man also has not a lot of big games under his belt.

As Cruyff said: the material you have will determine what you can do. There are many question marks still in the squad. How is Lens coping in Ukraine? Which talent on the wings will show longevity? How will Wes and Raf stay strong? And which central defenders are able to impress Van Gaal for a series of games?

Earlier on, I said that Vlaar is a solid defender for a team playing relegation football. A classic, English defender. Tall, strong, slow and robust. Looking at the current Oranje squad, maybe it is ok to have players used to relegation football.

Ajax Images Heritage collection.

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