Tag: Kuyt

Holland cheers and Holland mourns…. Oranje out!

Dear friends, I am writing this a full 48 hours after the game. The reason, work had me traveling and I wasn’t able – in amongst my meetings – to sit and write a deserving post. I was happy I was able to watch the full game and read your comments here…

So, with that time in between I was able to give it all some good thought, and reflect on the game.

Which I will summarize as: 89 minutes of cagey play by two 5-3-2 playing teams giving nothing away until Robben in the 90st minute has a chance to score, takes one touch too much and gets thwarted. Extra time. Penalties. Bad luck (bad penalties). Loss.

Robben Arg

This post needs to start with a big thumbs up and a big thank you and shout out for the boys! What they have done this tournament, what they have achieved and brought us is sensational. It’s actually on par for me with 1978. It’s a better performance almost than 2010, if you compare it. Breathtaking, really. What a rollercoaster ride.

And therefor, we also need to congratulate the staff and Louis van Gaal in particular.

He has achieved what no one expected him to do. Apart from us, probably :-). I do know that I have been critical on LVG and his antics, but he did really really well. Who knows, we might start to actually like him, 3 years before he retires, hahahahaha.

He wasn’t perfect though, he made some mistakes. Just like Sneijder, Blind, Van Persie and Cillesen weren’t perfect. But man, did I love this team and what they achieved.

robben kuyt

We will celebrate the performance of the team in the days/weeks to come and I am sure the Dutch fans will give the lads a real heroes welcome once they return home. As number 3 or number 4, who cares…

In the words of Louis: “I wish they cancelled this consolation finals. What a bad idea. Who cares about that. You don’t want to lose twice in a row after having played such an amazing tournament. We should be going home now.”

And I agree: Third or Fourth. Who gives a samba? Poor Brazil was humiliated by Germany. What will they do? How will they cope? Will they be on the top of their game? Or foaming at the mouth of aggression and adrenaline? Or will they be stressed out to the max? Will be beat them too? Then what will happen over there? Will Louis allow the veterans their last WC game? Will he rest the top guns to allow them their much deserved break?

cillesen mourns

All these questions.

However, now…. with the game in less than 24 hours, Van Gaal has changed his tune: “I want to write football history for the Dutch. Never ever before did we finish a World Cup campaign without losing a match. In 1974, 78, 98 and 2010 we lost at least one game. This tournament, I want Oranje to be able to say: we went to the World Cup, played 7 big games and didn’t lose on single game in normal open play.”

I will watch the game and I will cheer for Holland but if Brazil beats us 5-0 I wouldn’t care. It’s a stupid thing. I do hope Louis will allow some of the benchwarmers to play. I think it’s time for Vorm, for Veltman, for Kongolo and Clasie for instance.

I will get back to the Argentina game for a bit here, still.

janmaat kopt

Brilliant defending header by Janmaat

I read Willem van Hanegem’s column before the game. And I was hoping to have time to put it here. Because I fully agreed with Willem. He basically said:

“Now we have reached the semis, we have formally reached our objective. We have also shown the world how good we can be. But we have not yet played our beloved Dutch style football, bar some periods in games where we had to. Lets take this game against Argentina and do it. Forget about 5-3-2. If you play that against Argentina who do the same, it’s almost as if you’re asking for penalties. Lets take the game to them. If we get past them, we’ll have a chance against Germany to put some pressure on them too. If we do not win against Argentina, we will at least leave the tournament with a good last hurrah! Dutch lose playing attacking football! Better than hearing “Dutch sneak into finals with negative play” again…. So play Clasie from the start. Make sure we have quick feet and quick passing. Put three forwards on and put pressure on their back five. Because there is nothing that can take the pride I feel for Oranje away anymore. You guys cannot lose anymore.”

Heartfelt message from De Kromme.

But Louis didn’t believe. For the first time in his life, Louis lost his bravado and wanted to squeeze out a win with another 5-3-2 “all balls on Robben” tactics. This is the drama for me, of this Tournament.

wijn arm

When I talked about Vlaar’s penalty yesterday ( a fluke as I have now seen footage from another angle, Vlaar touched the ball), I was in need of some drama. Losing games is ok, as long as there is drama attached to it.

1974 – The Swimming Pool Incident; Holland having 24 opportunities to score, German Dive got them penalty
1978 – Rensenbrink hits the post in dying seconds
1982 – Van Breukelen – Krol – Platini – nuff said
1984 – Spain – Malta 12-1
1986 – Grun scored in the last 5 minutes to launch Belgium to the Mexico WC
1990 – Beenhakker, Michels, Cruyff, Gullit
1992 – Van Basten misses penalty
1994 – Brazilian offside goals, winner scored from free-kick which was supposed to be an Oranje ball
1996 – Davids/Hiddink
1998 – Van Hooijdonk fouled in the box; no penalty but yellow for Pi-Air
2000 – Holland – Italy semi finals, Holland miss 12 penalties
2002 – Louis van Gaal
2004 – Robben substitution Advocaat
2006 – Battle of Nueremburg
2008 – Personal Tragedy Boulahrouz
2010 – Casillas’ toe
2012 – Zero points, Van Persie missing 34 chances to score
2014 – …….

I was hoping it was “Penalty goal Vlaar overseen by ref” but it most likely should be “Van Gaal sticks to defensive tactics too long”.

mesi blind

But of course, always easy to criticise in hindsight. In Dutch we say, “Hindsight is like looking a cow up her arse”… I do not know who made THAT up (not Cruyff!!) and why he / she made it up…. But if there is one thing I wish LVG hadn’t done, it was playing 5-3-2 against the masters of 5-3-2.

Also…. with what I saw of RVP and heard about him having stomach and bowel issues… I think LVG should have left Van Persie on the bench and only use him as a supersub (for instance, to score a penalty).

The signs were ignored. Van Persie’s body gave clear signs of exhaustion. The misses against Costa Rica. The stomach pain… Clearly an immune system response, saying “I am done”.

In hindsight, we should have gone Kuyt – Vlaar – De Vrij – Janmaat. Midfield: Sneijder – De Jong – Wijnaldum. And up front: Depay – Lens – Robben.

With Depay dropping back and Lens as deep striker.

During the game, we could bring Clasie for De Jong, as LVG did.

And bring Huntelaar AND Van Persie when / if the game needed it.

robben ballet

Btw, I just saw that a rumour has been going around saying that Sneijder, Kuyt and Robben asked Van Gaal to use Huntelaar instead of skipper Van Persie as Robin didn’t look too fresh. Van Gaal and Kuyt at the press conference said that was bullshite. Kuyt: “I have played on 5 major tournaments and never ever have seen so much team spirit and cohesion in the squad a snow. And Robin is our captain. There is no foundation to all of this.”

But….. Easy to say for the steering people standing on the shore. Another Dutch expression for you :-).

All of this is not to say, that I am proud, extremely proud of our team.

vlaar messi

If I already can give you a headsup of my upcoming rating for the Squad, I think Vlaar was sensational, I think De Vrij was great, Wijnaldum played a bland first half but ended the game on a high. Clasie had a good turn as a sub, and Janmaat was at his usual high level. Sneijder was not too shabby either, but Robben and Robin, the special ones, were not special enough for us against Argentina…

What actually is a fun statistic: Wesley Sneijder is the player who ran the most kilometers on this World Cup. Of all players. If you would have said this to Louis van Gaal last year, he would have done this:

Robben is short listed for the title Man of the Tournament and if he does well against Brazil and Muller / Messi do not well in the finals, who knows. Memphis Depay is mentioned as the Talent of the Tournament title. Maybe LVG will get coach of the World Cup, who knows…

Anyway, enough musings. We’ll have some Samba time tomorrow.

Lets finish with some fun. This is how the English viewed Holland-Argentia:

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Oranje-mania in Holland

Before the World Cup, many Dutch fans felt we shouldn’t even go… We didn’t have any defence to speak of, we missed Strootman, De Jong would be over the hill, Sneijder wouldn’t be fit, RVP and Robben wouldn’t be able to carry the team leading from the front and LVG would be too intense and too self obsessed to do the right thing.

Depay, Blind, Cillesen, Wijnaldum, De Vrij….nice players for the Eredivisie. Not good enough for world class level.

I was one of the ones who didn’t like Van Gaal in the job. I actually also didn’t see Koeman or Gullit or any other “normal” coach in the job either. For me, it was Co Adriaanse because of his courage and then as soon as possible Frank de Boer.

lio lion

I felt Van Gaal was too much about Van Gaal….

Whole tv programs (VI Oranje) were established with one goal only: to ridicule Van Gaal and criticize Oranje. But this particular program is now losing many viewers, as one can criticise anything and anyone in Holland, but you simply don’t touch the Dutch National Team. The ratings have dropped enormously and the icons in the program – Dutch football journo Derksen and ex PSV and Oranje winger Rene van der Gijp – are at each others throats.

pic oranje

But the unfathomable has happened. And the whole nation is going berserk as a result. The team that was expected to go home after three games and the coach who was expected to self destruct have performed beyond expectations and have made a huge leap from a talented group of outsiders to the favourite semi finalists of many international football fans.

Arjen Robben might become the Player of the Tournament. The Dutch youngsters have tripled their transfer value and could be on their way to bigger things (BMI, Janmaat, Fer, De Vrij, Blind, Depay) while Nigel de Jong, Dirk Kuyt and Wesley Sneijder have re-established themselves as football royalty.

depay lens

And what about Tim Krul: the man of the moment? Or Klaas Jan Huntelaar? Deadly in the box. 8 minutes on the pitch, 7 touches, 1 assist, 1 goal.

But the real Man of the Tournament is not Robben or Kuyt or Krul for us. It’s none other than Louis himself.

He was responsible for the systems change, for the intense focus on match fitness, the emphasis on commitment and team spirit and the many substitutions that really worked out well.

He truly shines on this platform and it feels as if he is not ready yet.

Nigel fit

The Dutch supporters at home can’t get enough. The clips on Youtube of groups of Oranje fans watching on big screens or in cinemas and pubs show masses of orange clad people partying like its 1999. Oranje is getting crazy popular again and there are more and more spontaneous celebrations in fountains and parks and streets….

And the love-fest continues with Van Gaal declaring that this is the best and most professional group he ever worked. “Not because they are the best players individually. They’re not. But because of their commitment, spirit and mentality.” Van Gaal has worked on this on purpose. Two years ago he already said “we might not have the best players, but we can make sure we have the best team”.

robben training

Bar Jordy Clasie and Michel Vorm, everyone already had a chance to contribute. And not for sentimental reasons. Van Gaal changes players with a clear solution in mind. And as a result, they pay off. Depay needed versus Australia. Fer needed versus Chile. Huntelaar needed vs Mexico. Kuyt back into the frame. Krul needed versus Costa Rica, and who knows, Joel Veltman vs Messi.

When Kuyt started the preparations weeks ago with Oranje he secretly hoped LVG would allow him to make some minutes in the team as to reach his 100st international game for Oranje. Nope. Louis doesn’t do sentiment. But at the World Cup 2014, a thoroughly motivated Kuyt plays as a 25 year old. Wesley Sneijder was told, 12 months ago, that he needed to shape up or ship out. And a super fit Wesley Sneijder is currently assuming the role of field captain again. Or Klaas Jan Huntelaar? A negative noise generation is 2012, has already tweeted numerous positive little messages to his followers. After the 120 mins vs Costa Rica, Van Gaal walked on to the pitch to speak to his troops. He saw that Kuyt and Robben took the word and started to instruct the players. Van Gaal stepped aside. “Robben was saying the right words and Kuyt made a lot of sense too. I wasn’t needed. It is super when you see the players take care of things.”

lvg stef

And before you know it, Stefan de Vrij or Georginio Wijnaldum could be word champions in a week. And six other Eredivisie players as well. Quite an achievement. Or better: reaching the semis can already be regarded as a tremendous achievement.

Its interesting to note that second to Bayern Munich, Feyenoord is the the club with the most players at the World Cup. I will post soon more on that topic!

So we’re about to take on Argentina and if we or when we do, we get to beat the Germans!

Perfect revenge for the Dutch: we took Spain and now we will go for Argentina and then the Zjermans!

Bring it on!

As for fitness updates… Sadly, Robin van Persie didn’t look to fresh. Bowel and stomach issues. He didn’t train yesterday but LVG is quite positive: “He is my captain. He normally always plays. But it is too early to tell now.” Leroy Fer has trained with the team but is still not in the clear. Ron Vlaar is most likely fit in time to fill in his spot (although I wouldn’t have minded Veltman) and the biggest miracle of all is that Nigel de Jong might actually be fit for the semis!!


There is a bit of a risk in that, of course. For Nigel and for the Oranje. Because it might happen again: Nigel only 8 minutes into the game, he gets another jolt, Messi runs away from him and scores while Nigel needs to be subbed….

Van Gaal didn’t say much about the options he has. But he did say he thinks he has a plan. “I think it will be a close game. A typical 50/50 game and we need to hope the dime falls our way. They are well organised, experienced, have a couple of extraordinary players and always a tough opponent.”

Argentina won all their games with only one goal difference while their opponents all seemed to approach Argentina with a open game. Belgium even used three forwards. The main question for us will be: will we see Depay or Lens upfront or will Van Gaal go back to the 5-3-2 we started the tournament with. Against Costa Rica, we used the 3-4-3 system, and were able to create a lot of opportunities but we simply didn’t score.


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Preview Oranje – Costa Rica: the fairytale continues….

That is for sure. Because the fairytale that is Costa Rica might continue ( as the media calls it) but for me, the Oranje Story is a fairytale as well!

I mean: we struggled during the Euros 2012. We lost our complete defensive backline. Our goalie mocked up his career, and months before the World Cup our strongholder in midfield Kevin Strootman got injured. Kevin who???

Indeed! It almost feels like we didn’t need him…

The media in Holland, most supporters, the football experts and former players….no one saw this coming. The draw was a bitch and most people had Holland going home after the group stages! With our 2010 squad, we were unable to get a single point vs Denmark, Germany and Portugal in 2012. Now, we beat the World Champions and South American big guns Chile and Mexico and we can safely say we have a pretty good look in into the semi finals. The semi finals!!!!

What a rollercoaster ride. And we all believed in it, and we were there. Just like we have heard the stories about 1974 or some have heard the stories of 1988, this World Cup might well be a tournament that will be relived forever.

LVG coaching juich

Obviously, we can lose against Costa Rica. Italy did. Uruguay did. England couldn’t score against them. Their defence is solid and strong. Their goalie is more than decent. And upfront they have some special players. We know Bryan Ruiz pretty well, in Holland. He was a connaisseur’s player, when at Twente. He could only score beautiful goals. He was the golden boy of Twente and did inject some class into PSV this season.

But. He didn’t manage too well in England. He picked the wrong club, maybe. Playing relegation football in England is not for everyone. And he did score some scorchers for Fulham. Ruiz is a good player in possession but also worked hard this World Cup for his team. He will able to do special things in big games. Another big name player is Joel Campbell. On the books of Arsenal but on loan in Greece. A great dribbler. Opportunistic player, with a good shot. His biggest problem: he is hot or cold. All or nothing. Another good player to watch out for is Christian Bolanes, who plays in Denmark. Playing from the left, coming inside and has good vision. He is the man where Costa Rica regularly starts its attacks. Celso Borges, playing in Sweden, is also a strong player.

Oscar Duarte, playing in Brugge, is also a key player but he is suspended and will be sorely missed.

All in all, a fun opportunistic team, riding the wave, not unlike Denmark in the 1992 Euros. But it does feel that it will be over and done with vs Holland. With all due respect: if there is one game Holland should win, it’s this one.

robben juggle

On the other hand, this will be the first time that Holland is not the underdog. The players are really supposed to win this game and it remains to be seen how they will handle that.

Because when the World Cup was discussed before the event, anyone would have applauded Holland reaching the quarter finals. But now they’re in it, and versus Costa Rica, suddenly everyone will expect them to win it. That is how football works and opportunistic it all is.

What happens after that (Argentina or Belgium)…who knows. It can go any which way.

But enough about Costa Rica!!

The pale faces of the youngsters De Vrij, Blind, Janmaat, Cillesen – worrier – and others have made place for the stern look of the confident warrior. Watching the lads in the tunnel before the Spain game or watching them now. A huge difference. “We made huge steps,” said Van Persie recently, and he is right. The weak defence was exposed in several friendlies against big nations, but at the World Cup, it’s Italy, England, Portugal and Spain that had to go home early, while BMI, Vlaar, Janmaat, Clasie and Depay are still in Brazil.

Van Gaal: “We might not have a fantastic team with experienced, world class players. But we are unified. We are confident. And we are very hard to beat.” He is right. The numbers don’t lie. In 3 out of 4 games, we fought back from being behind. Against Spain with many goals and good football. Against Mexico, in tough conditions, with character, shrewdness and determination. Is there a chance for underestimating Costa Rica. “No. No chance at all. What the players have as their goal is so big, so immense, there is no place for underestimating anyone. This is the quarter finals of a World Cup. The next step is the semi finals. Everyone is very aware of what is at stake.”

lvg press

Van Gaal practices behind closed doors and for the first time was able to actually keep his starting line up  a secret. Although it does seem he has decided to use Blind as De Jong’s replacement. Meaning Martins Indi will play at the back, most likely with Kuyt next to him on the flank. The biggest question mark now is the right full back. Runner Janmaat, or positional back Verhaegh?

But will LVG play 5-3-2? In earlier matches, Holland was most impressive with the usual 4-3-3. Putting pressure on and forcing the opponent (Australia, Mexico) back. Costa Rica too, will play with one striker when they lose possession, so 3 at the back + a central defensive midfielder is a bit too much. The Costa Rica backs don’t like a direct opponent so it does make sense to go for 4-3-3. In which case, we might see a midfield with Kuyt, Blind and Wijnaldum and the golden triangle up front with the option to mix it up. Or will Van Gaal opt for Kuyt as winger up front? Like he plays in Turkey and used to play in Oranje? Will LVG keep Depay on the bench for a turn in the second half when he is needed? Questions questions, and only LVG has the answers for now.

Internationally, Oranje is being compared to the Brazil of 2002. The Italian media praise Van Gaal and Oranje up into the sky. “In Holland, Oranje is criticised by the media? We don’t get that. They won four in a row. We would be on the streets celebrating if Italy did this. Van Gaal created a winning system that allows the youngsters to grow and gives the older lads a role to shine and lead. The big names still make the difference, but players like Blind, De Vrij and Depay have made enormous impressions on the Italian clubs. Holland might not win it this time, but they are definitely amongst the top of the world.”

The Japanese media: “Holland can reach the finals and win it too. Holland could make it for the fourth time. For a small nation, that is amazing. You can win it, but you could also lose it. Which might become a huge trauma. Anyway, LVG has created the perfect system for Oranje and created it around Robben, just like he did with AZ when he built the team around El Hamdaoui. I loved that AZ and I love this Oranje.”

gio wijn

German media: “Louis van Gaal vs the romantics. Johan Cruyff, of course. But Van Gaal is winning so he should be above criticism. He is able to switch between systems, and this rhythm shift as we call it works really well. We can see you get to the finals and win it.”

Brazilian Media: “Arjen Robben is a benevolent maniac. He is on a mission. It failed in 2010 and it seems like he deadset on winning it now. Oranje reminds me of Brazil 2002, when romantics and adventure were replaced by aggression and effectiveness. We had Ronaldo and Ronaldinho to make the difference. You have Van Persie and Robben. In my view, the birth of this team came when Van Persie made that diving header against Spain. The team was losing. It didn’t have much say. But Van Persie believed in that goal. He dove, without knowing what would happen. And the whole team joined him in that big dive. And that leap was the launch of this new Oranje.”

Belgian media: “I do feel that Oranje is not Oranje, with 5 defenders. But I also believe the Dutch media are too harsh. When Van Basten played wonderful games in 2008 with counter football against Italy and France, the media loved it. Van Marwijk didn’t play too impressive in 2010 and was somewhat criticised. But now Van Gaal, playing with a new team mostly, is at the helm, everyone seems to want him to fail.”

The Dutch players are slowly starting to realise and talk about their dreams to win this World Cup. Vlaar was one of the first and now Wijnaldum as well.  The PSV midfielder, who missed half this season due to injuries, is the new marathon man in midfield, in Strootman’s spot. Ask the squad which player is the fittest and they’ll yell “Wijnaldum”. He was 16 years old when he made his debut. The man with the backheel, the stepover, the dribble and the trick. Criticised for being too creative. Now, 7 years later into his career but still only 23 years old, he is battling as the Marathon Man. Asked about his experiences before this quarter finals… Is he nervous? “Not at all. I don’t notice my nerves. All goes so quickly. Before you know it you are in the match, all focus. I haven’t played for a while and I am all enthusiasm. The pitch, the ball, the fans…I’m loving it.” Mexican star Guardado experienced how it was against hardworking midfielder Wijnaldum. Winger no more. Well, my  job was to contain him. Make sure he couldn’t create anything. It went well although I almost played right back!”. Wijnaldum’s story is a fairytale like Oranje’s or Costa Rica’s… “I didn’t believe this was going to happen. I wasn’t part of the plans of Van Gaal, I don’t think. And when I got my back injury I thought I was completely out of sight. But the last months I played well and clearly Mr Van Gaal was looking for a certain type of player. I was one of the lucky last in the squad and now I am a starter!”. Gini Wijnaldum knows Costa Rica well. “I watched them a lot to follow team mate Bryan Ruiz. He is a good mate and I think they’ve done really well. At this stage, everything is possible. Anyone of the remaining nations can make it all the way. Us too!”


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Winning Oranje shows its Klaas!!


You know they say this about champions… If you can win ugly and grind out victories when you are playing bad, you can win the title.

This team may not dazzle with gallery play but they sure impress with grit, worksmanship and effectiveness.

We played four games at this World Cup. We won four and three of those we had to get back into the came after being behind!

This team might not have the pass and move total football of 1974 or the overall quality of 1998 but we sure have the tactical smarts, the laser focus and winners’ mentality to take the opportunity when it comes.

So we were trailing against Mexico 0-1 until late in the game. And it was a thoroughly disappointing Wesley Sneijder who put all his frustration in that spectacular volley to score the equaliser, a taunting Robben who simply collected the penalty he was denied in the first half and the coolest of heads (Huntelaar) to convert the spot kick.


I will leave you with this for a moment.

(Me after JanKlas scoring 🙂 )

In my preview of the match I spoke about the quality Huntelaar could bring to the team and like with Kieft in 1988 and Pierre van Hooijdonk in 1998, there are times when 10 minutes of game play is enough to make a player legendary. It is not a nice job to get. As I said earlier, when KJH is brought on, you know we are in trouble. But the coach made the right choices, again, and it paid off. Klaas Jan was key in getting Sneijder on the scoreboard and that penalty he took… We normally do not swoon over penalties. It’s always the flying headers or the long Robben dribbles that get attention, but this particular penalty was probably the perfect penalty, if ever there was one.

klaaas pingel

Can you imagine. You are only 10 mins on the pitch. You didn’t play all tournament. It’s the last minute of the game. It’s 1-1. If you score, we are in the quarter finals. And to score a penalty in this way, that is just art. Plain and simple, art. With a capital A. Art.

I am processing the game while writing this post. I think I shared with you my concern as the circumstances weren’t super for us and Mexico is really a strong opponent. The first half was quite dramatic. We lost Nigel de Jong very early on in the game and LVG decided not to bring Clasie but to move Blind up and bring BMI back in. At that stage, probably smart. De Jong has a groin injury and it doesn’t look good, I can say (quoting Van Gaal).

drink break

We were not really settled and in particular our midfield (Sneijder, Wijnaldum) was struggling, as was Van Persie. Could have been the weather, could have been their form, could have been tactics…or a mix of all. I think Van Gaal did tell the lads to start slowly and to be aware of the hard circumstances. We never really played full throttle except for some bursts from Robben.

Defensively, we were all over the place too, particularly in positioning. 5 Defenders against 2 forwards and upcoming midfielders… I don’t like it. Add to that a very tense Cillesen and there is your recipe for disaster. At times it felt like Mexico was cutting through our defence like a knife through hot guacamole.

penalty shout 1

We didn’t concede in the first 45 mins but at times it felt like luck. Mexico got lucky too, as we deserved a double penalty when Robben was hacked down late in the first half by two defenders.

Paul Verhaegh started in place of Janmaat and that didn’t really work out well. I never understood this move anyway. Kongolo for Kuyt is a big chance. As is Huntelaar for Van Persie. But Verhaegh for Janmaat is almost literally like for like. And Verhaegh didn’t look any better than Janmaat. Why take that decision? I don’t know…

In the second half, things changed and maybe for the better, in hindsight. Dos Santos scored a cracker. How was this possible, I would like to ask Daley Blind. And Cillesen for that matter. The strike was sweet but from that distance, I would expect the goalie to do better and I do think Krul would have saved that shot.


Anyway, it made the Azteca track back a tad more and it prompted Van Gaal to bring Memphis Depay and resort back to 4-3-3. The whole team played a gear up and bar a couple of breaks by Mexico it was mainly Oranje playing in the second half, with Robben threatening on the right and Sneijder becoming more dominant.

Stefan de Vrij was very close to scoring his second of the tournie on a Robben corner kick but the impressive goalie and the upright saved Mexico. It felt like the equaliser was coming but would the extra time help us win it? Or would we be destined to go into another penalty shootout lottery?


When Robben was fouled yet again by two players in a row when he dribbled into the box but given not even a second look by the ref, it felt like it wasn’t going to be his day.

He had another good run into the box later on, with a wild Marquez lunge, but this time decided to stay on his feet as he had a bit goal scoring opportunity (and the option to pass square to the open Van Persie). Robben took the shot and the goalie blocked it.

Robin van Persie – practically invisible this game – was taken off but his older brother – the referee – would play a part in us getting the victory.

But first it was time for Huntelaar’s entrance. He didn’t get much time from Van Gaal but the Hunter look focused when he came on and with his new RVP-style hairdo, it felt like he could become the day’s hero.

First he cushion-headed a Robben cross back to the spot where Wesley Sneijder had his only good touch of the day. With his majestic right, he took the ball on the volley and found the empty corner to finally put his name on the scoresheet.

Sneijder mex

It felt like Holland should be able to kill the game in the last minutes, as clearly no one was looking forward to extra time.

In those dying minutes, Robben – again he – started another rush, which ended on the byline and prompted Robben to dribble back into the box again. Veteran Marquez thought “enough is enough” and took a late nibble, motivating Robben to go down. Third time lucky, and the ref pointed at the spot.

wes scored

With only 2 minutes left on the clock, Robben declined to take the ball. “I guess I could have claimed it but it didn’t feel good. Getting the decision, it’s most often best to let another do it. I was buggered and Klaas Jan felt really good. He converted the penalty in sensational fashion, so all good. I can cry with happiness,” said the Bayern man after the game.

Practically all the players talked about their joy and the tremendous heat. Van Persie: “I am so happy. This team is amazing. The spirit is enormous. I am a big believer. We didn’t play great but the circumstances were outrageous. I have never played in temperatures like this. I wanted to play more attacking than we did, but we simply couldn’t. The space would be too big and Mexico would benefit from that.”

klaaas pingel

Kuyt (playing international match 100!): “This was so hard. I don’t think I ever had it this warm ever.”

Vlaar: ” We started drinking a lot of fluids 3 days go to allow the body to adjust. I must have drank 3 liters before the game. This was a win of tenacity and patience and grit, but also a result of great preparation by the technical staff.”

Some will say Robben was Man of the Match, other will name Huntelaar. The Schalke striker had an assist and a goal. “This is what I dreamt about since 2006. To be important for Oranje at a World Cup”. In the 78th minute, Holland was on its way home, in the 92nd minute, Holland was quarter finalist. In the 88th minute, he saw the cross coming. “I knew it was hopeless to go for a goal. It was too hard, so I decided to cushion it back towards the edge of the box. I know Wes is always lurking for a lose ball.” When Robben got himself his penalty, he asked KJ to take it. “I do tend to get nervous before taking a spot kick, but not this time. They tried to disrupt my focus but I closed myself off completely. I focused on the spot where I’d hit it and that’s it. I am so glad my patience paid out. Finally I can be of value.”

LVG Robben

Coach Louis van Gaal: “Our team spirit won it yet again. This was incredible. We have done our best to prepare the lads but at the end of the day, they had to do and they did. I did see our team was fitter. They were done for, it seemed, from the bench. I never panicked, it felt like we would get back into it and the fittest team won.”

Van Gaal does claim a bit of the success: “I am happy I was successful in asking for those drink breaks. It allowed me to put some details in when we needed to change the game. It’s funny, i wasn’t happy with our game in possession and we sort of fixed that somewhat but now I was unhappy with our pressure on the ball when they had possession. They had a number of distance strikes that we should have avoided. Their goal was also a matter of lack of good pressure on the ball.”


Exacrtly seven years ago, Dirk Kuyt’s biggest friend and fan died. His dad passed away after a long disease period. And here in Brazil, seven years later, Dirk plays his 100th international game. After the game, Kuyt received a beautiful trophy of the Federation and a present from the group. And a speech by captain Van Persie. “The words Robin spoke…they really touched me. I was very emotional. Also because of our win of course. Quite a game to have as your 1ooth game. Robin and I know each other well, for 10 years or so now, and we grew close. Gooesebumps.”


The international media have two main topics, as a result of this game. The Dutch media in particular hail King Klaas. The man with steel nerves. De Volkskrant focuses on Van Gaal first. “The coach prepped his team for this World Cup playing different systems. But when all systems are tried and failed, what rests the team is a system based on hard work, tenacity and passion. At the end of this battle, Dutch values of possession, flair and attacking won us the game.”

The international media focused on the dramatic win of Oranje as well but their focus was Arjen Robben and in particular his alleged diving. There are many fun images of Arjen floating around the internet and I will be happy to post a number tomorrow or so. But today, I don’t want to spoil our fun as we are processing this Mexican appetiser with relish.

LVG hunter

In closing, Louis used 20 players now. Only Clasie, Vorm and Krul have not yet had their chance to shine. With Cillesen not really impressing this particular match, who knows… LVG is weird enough to suddenly use Krul. As for Nigel de Jong, his injury doesn’t look good which might well mean we will see Clasie vs Costa Rica!

I need to google what the traditional Costa Rican dish is for one of my next posts!!

Happy times are here again! Holland is amongst the best eight now :-).


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Oranje enjoying the Chile victory…

After Spanish tapas, Australian prawns on the barbie and some hot chilli it’s now time to focus on nachos and guacamole.

Who knows what will be in store for us after that? Bratwurst? Belgium chips with beer? Argentinian steak? Bring it on! The Clockwork Orange is hungry and wants more!

We can have long debates about which opponent would be better for us, from Brazil to Croatia to Mexico but by now, you know my theory: you want to be the best in the world, then it doesn’t matter. Same with weather and humidity. Sure, Mexicans are more used to it and one has to adjust to the circumstances. But leave it to Louis. He won’t make the same mistakes as Advocaat did in 1994.

But it will be a physical challenge. Mexico plays in 6th gear all the time and it will be pretty hot. Gaston Taument was part of the 1994 squad in Florida and remembers it well. “It was extremely hot. I will never forget that. It was way too hot to play the football we wanted to play. It’s as if your lungs are empty and you lack physical strength. At some stage you stop sweating. You’re simply empty. I remember that we were more focused on the water bottles than the ball.” Former Oranje 1974 central defender Wim Rijsbergen had to deal with this a lot too. He played for New York Cosmos and visited places like Florida and Oklahoma and coached in Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Chile. “It can be extreme. It’s a matter of getting used to. This is a disadvantage for Holland, as Mexico will not need to adjust.”

WijnaldumGio Wijnaldum control

So Mexico.

A big opponent. I have always been an admirer. Football is HUGE in Mexico and they’ve always had positively focused teams. This Mexican team is well balanced. They can play football Chile-style but have the muscle and strength of Argentina. They also have European experience which always helps in big games, with players like Ochoa, Marquez, Rodriguez and Moreno. The defence of Mexico is their weakness though. Experienced defenders, but slow defenders. With  compact playing Holland, players like Robben, Van Persie and maybe Depay will have opportunities penetrating to the channel.

We played Mexico six times, in total. And Holland won three times, versus Mexico two. We played them only once at a World Cup, in 1998. Under Hiddink, Holland took a 2-0 lead but lost the lead late in the second half and ended the game 2-2. This Mexico has trouble scoring (only 4 in 3 games) and they conceded one. However, Mexico was denied two pure goals vs Cameroon and should have been awarded a penalty for hand ball vs Croatia. Mexico will play without midfielder Vazquez who received his second yellow against Croatia.

cocu mexicoPhillip Cocu scoring vs Mexico in 1998

As you know, Van Gaal won’t be able to play Fer as the goal scorer against Chile has a hamstring injury which will leave him sidelined for at least two games. Martins Indi is fit again and ready for Mexico, although chances are Van Gaal will use Kuyt again versus Mexico.

Wesley Sneijder will join Kuyt in midfield to work his ass off for the two forwards. The little spielmacher was the big man in 2010 but seems to have a supporting role this time around. “I don’t care. I am happy to be of service. I want to win that cup and if I do by running a marathon for Robin and Robben, great! I am in.” It’s a bit strange to watch, Wesley Sneijder playing like a dynamic midfielder, chasing down opponents and running more than anyone else. “I hear the media and the analysts think it is strange. I don’t mind. It is clear for me. This system requires me to play this way an I want to be part of it. I have not become this fit for no reason, hahaha.” Against Spain, Wes had two assists, against Australia and Chile, he was more a workhorse. Sneijder denies that this type of game goes at the expense of his specific qualities. “I wouldn’t say that. We simply have less possession but that is ok. There is less opportunity to shine, but it is not about me. I think we would have been flying home now if we would have tried to attack like crazy. If you judge me on my goals and assists, I’m not playing too good. But the coach is happy and the team does well. This tactics works. We played really well against Chile, which is one of the best teams in my eyes. If we play a tad better in possession, we will beat anyone. Four years ago, we didn’t play amazingly well, but we almost won the cup! I am very positive about this team. Much more than ever. A month ago, no one gave us any chance. And now people consider us to be one of the favourites. And now the knock out stages have begun, I think we will get more opportunities to play.”

robben sneijderThe 2010 man with the 2014 man

Robin van Persie is keen to make everyone aware that playing well in the group stage doesn’t mean that much. “I vividly remember 2008. We impressed with wins over Italy and France. And the so-called B-team beat Romania. And then we got beaten by Russia.” When Sneijder is asked about the reason this happened (Was it the switch to the B-team? Was it Boulahrouz’s private drama? Was it Hiddink’s tactics?). “I don’t know. But I do know that the win over Italy and France lost all its glory in those 120 minutes. So now we have 9 points and 10 goals but we don’t have a thing, really. If we lose against Mexico, we are a footnote.”

Louis van Gaal allowed his players a day off again. Some players enjoyed the beach, such as Leroy Fer, while Nigel de Jong and KlaasJan Huntelaar did a city tour. Sneijder, Van Persie, Van Gaal and Robben went to this open air swimming pool and played some tennis and water volley ball. Memphis Depay had a stroll on the boulevard.

ferLeroy Fer and fiancee

veltman vrijJoel Veltman spending some private time in Rio

Wijnaldum makes time for an interview. The PSV midfielder doesn’t understand the criticism from his home country. “Most nations and media are positive about our effective way of playing. We might not be playing wonderful, dazzling football but I don’t think it’s possible to play that type of football and win the World Cup. Italy 1982, Argentina 1986, Spain 2010…. It was all business like and effective. In 1982, Brazil had the most beautiful game and in 1998 it was Holland. But winning and playing beautiful doesn’t always match. We might not be very dominant but boy, we can play some great football, even with this system. That second goal against Chile was a beauty, wasn’t it? And the first wasn’t shabby either. First Memphis rocket, then a corner, a great cross and a superb header. What is not to like?” The Feyenoord developed player has learned to put the results first. “In the youth, it’s all about ball skills and playing attractive. But it’s about winning now. We have had so many compliments over the years about our quality play, but we never won the World Cup! We think it is time we do. And this team does not have the quality and experience yet to do so with very dominant football. So we do it this way. We are a fighting machine. A bit like Atletico Madrid. They were seen as a fighting team for a while until people realised they actually play really good football too. We want to win now. But we will always try to find good solutions. Players like Robben, Van Persie, Depay…they can’t play ugly even if they wanted to.”

The AD newspaper asked to former Oranje players how they view this Oranje. Stylist Ronald de Boer and midfield breaker Mark van Bommel. Because the whole nation is keen to know where this ends, as Van Gaal designed a perfect strategy for the material he has. But we are also Dutch. Adventurers and guardians of the beautiful game. We became big with attacking football and aim for perfection. And there is no nation that debates the quality of football as much as the Dutch. Ronald de Boer is a typical disciple of beautiful football. What does he think of this new 5-3-2 system. “It hurts my eyes. I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel right. Long balls into space hoping Robben will catch it. It’s all so unsettled and uncomposed at the moment. Kuyt, De Jong but also Sneijder…they are not at ease in possession. I don’t get it. Ron Vlaar, he is not a born build up player. But defensively he is doing great, don’t get me wrong. But he doesn’t need to blindly kick every ball forward?”

kuyt drinksKuyt demonstrating the need to drink

Mark van Bommel was in the engine room in 2010 and his father in law introduced a more business-like style of football. “Still, I see changes. I do believe we were pushing up a bit more and in possession we’d play with three strikers. We tried to press forward. This team is more a counter attacking team. But don’t get me wrong. I understand why Van Gaal does it. With these young players, you need to build in some safety. And it is of no use to go to a World Cup every four years and be kicked out at the group stages. These boys are there now, they want to get far. But it is counter football alright. When we lose possession, we go back into our defence stance. If Robben is out of the game, we lose 60% of our threats. And of course, we all want to play beautiful football but if you don’t have it, you need to do something to make you at least win. Football is not the same as 40 years ago or even 20 years ago.”

Ronald de Boer agrees. “Listen, I coached an amateur team once at the Copa Amsterdam tournament. We had to play Ajax A1. A strong team. And I switched to 5-3-2 and we won. Ajax didn’t know how to break it down. If you play it well, it is very hard to beat.” So the question remains: can you win the World Cup playing this type of football? Both Van Bommel and De Boer say “YES!”. And once that has happened, no one will complain.

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100% score for Louis van Gaal: Group winners!!

Some current news here.

The group of Death. And again Holland wins all three games. Against the accepted opinion that Spain would be too hard, Chile would be too hard, Australia would be easy. Most of the analysts have it wrong. Spain appeared relatively easy, Australia was tough and Chile was put aside in a clinical masterclass of tactics.

Oh and we finally understand this 5-3-2 system of Louis!! It’s 5 goals in the first game, 3 in the second and 2 in the third. We will now go onto 1-3-3-4. So 1-0 vs Mexico. 3 goals in quarter and semi and 4 goals in the finals :-).

He might be a bit of a tool, but Louis van Gaal knows exactly what he is doing.

Chile’s danger comes from the right, so he brings in ironman Kuyt to guard the flank. He uses a fresh and super fit Wijnaldum to work on the other flank and he somehow instills confidence in presumed mediocre and inexperienced defenders.

angel backAnd she is back!! Oranje Angel

In case you are wondering… I am VERY proud and enthusiastic. Van Gaal has brought something to the Oranje that other coaches have failed to do.

He has taught them how to play clinical, how to grind out a result and for young players to fit in and take charge.

Nigel de Jong played excellent yet again, as did Dirk Kuyt. I hereby forbid anyone ever to have anymore criticism on Kuyt’s contributions. He is not Van Basten. He is not Depay. And he doesn’t need to be. He is Dirk Kuyt. Superhero. But I also want to single out Stefan de Vrij and Daley Blind.

vlaar chileRock Vlaar

Despite what some punters here said, I felt Blind played a sensational game. His energy, his forward pressure, his positional smarts… He was class! Not just defending, but also in his passing. He got a couple of fouls against him that clearly in slomo (and hindsight) were very nifty touches of the ball. He is beyond debate for me. De Vrij and Vlaar were rocks at the back and finally De Vrij showed some guts playing the ball deep whenever he could.

Janmaat played his usual game but could do better with his forward runs. He will never be a super defender, but we like to see a bit more of him in the final third.

It was the defensive part of this game I liked. It might have been boring and we might not have fired on all cylinders…but why would we? To convince who? Why would we throw away energy and risk injuries? This game was supposed to be put away, with at the least a draw. And we did much better. Chile only got half chances and we scored two.

fer chile

And two goals by subs. Well spotted Van Gaal. Gladiator Sneijder worked his ass off and allowed a young and spritely Fer to take dividends from a tired Chile. What a goal. Precision in the pass (Janmaat), precision in the placement of the ball. Superb!

Robben was a bit selfish at times, but when you have his form, really…would you be different. He had two massive opportunities and both times hit the target amidst at least three players. I say, let Robben do his thing.

The only player I felt was out of his depth, was Lens. I am not sure what was wrong with him. He probably wanted to force himself too much, trying to get Van Gaal to pick him for the coming matches as well. As some of you observed: he either went to ground or he fouled his opponent. He can do so well, but he was not on song this match.

But boy, how good is little Depay? He had some sensational little attempts at passes that didn’t connect and he had that wonderstrike from outside of the box. If it would have been a tad more to the left or right, it would have been another Goal of the Tournament.

depay chile

This lad has it all. The complete package, for sure.

So kudos to the team, it was a composed and effective match. We dealt with their threats the way Italians can and we took the opportunity when it mattered. Subbing two tired gladiators for fresh young legs and there is your 3 points, thank you very much.

Man of the Match: Louis van Gaal. For sure. He did his homework, he made the right call and he prepared his team superbly. I tip my hat.

My biggest concern: lets not get ahead of ourselves. Forget about quarter finals, semi finals and finals. Not yet relevant.

The only thing that counts is the next game! Nothing else.

robben depay

By the way, I have to add. The referee was great. He was composed and didn’t let the Chileans get under his skin! He ignored calls for a yellow for Blind (at first, but ending up giving him yellow for actually playing the ball) and he never was interested in their lame penalty shouts. Hats off!

Slightly politically incorrect but still funny….

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Preview Chile – Oranje: hot hot hot!!

Who would have thought our only issue after two winning matches would be “which leg of the draw do we want?”. Right?

I did!

Anyway, it’s time for our third match! And it is Chile Con Carne time. Can’t wait to take on one of the best playing nations on this World Cup!

We are all impressed by this opponent of course and it will interesting to see the more German/Portuguese playing Oranje take on the Dutch style playing Chile, hahaha.

No kidding, we have been faced with three opponents in our group who have all been taught how to play by….us!!

We didn’t do badly against Spain, we were a tad lucky against Australia, lets simply assume we will top the group and go into the more “easy” leg of the draw (if something like that exists…).

robben nigel

In recent tournaments, coaches like Van Basten and to a lesser extend Van Marwijk decided to rest players in those last group games and both got quite some criticism for doing so. Van Gaal however, will not only do the same and rest some lads who have some pains (and RVP won’t play as he is suspended) but he might also try out another system. The 5-3-2 has been tested, the 4-3-3 was revisited in a half vs Australia when the Socceroos were getting tired and now he might go for 4-5-1 to upset the Chilean football machine.

Van Gaal does not want to give anything away. And I mean anything. Where his colleagues in the past enjoyed being interviewed and mused about football matters, Van Gaal is tightlipped. “Everyone is listening in. Anything I say will be used and read by other coaches. So if I say anything about which next opponent I prefer, or which side of the draw I prefer, this might fuel any future opponent. I won’t do it. The only way to deal with all this is complete secrecy.”

Van Gaal trained behind closed doors yesterday and was pretty annoyed when the Dutch media picked up on some of the changes he is considering. The big news is that Dirk Kuyt might be playing as left winger, in order to contain the attacking full right back of Chile. As per ususal, LVG did his analysis of the opponent and found that their right side is the biggest threat. And with Martins Indi not available (not that he is Mr Secure Left Back anyway), Louis wants to offer Daley/Kongolo some support by using Kuyt. Smart.

LVG press

The footballing machine that is Chile has nothing to lose. They want the same as we: win the group. We can do with a draw, they need the victory. But apart from that, they cannot (and will not) play any other way. So they will try and combine their way into our box and score, while we will use the space and pick our moments to hurt them. They’re strong in attack, yes. But vulnerable at the back. I am guessing Robben and Sneijder will find ways to score. Robben because he is on fire and this will be his World Cup and Sneijder because he has not scored for a while in Orange and his pride (ego) will push him to do so.

And who knows, Lens might even join in as well.

I call 3-1 for Oranje. Why not.

Van Gaal did say at the press conference that he will chance the team at a number of places. “Some players have had knocks, others are on a yellow”. This makes us guess. Maybe De Vrij will be benched in favour of the more fleet of foot Veltman? Makes sense. Maybe De Jong can sit out this one and allow Clasie on his spot. The Feyenoord man is a bit more light on his feet than De Jong, who might be rebelrousing like the Hulk amongst the sparkly Chileans. I wouldnt be surprised if De Guzman is benched (yellow, not too great performances, knock) and Wijnaldum takes his spot.

We’ll play Lens up front. With a 5 man midfield if Chile has possession (Kuyt, Sneijder, Clasie, Wijnaldum, Robben) with a four man defence behind us (the usual suspects, but with Joel instead of Stefan). In possession, Kuyt will work the left zone, while Sneijder will sit behind Lens and Robben, with Clasie and Wijnaldum guarding the space in midfield. Should work?

1996 oranje

Remarkable news: Oranje will not play with any “Van” in the team, against Chile! The last time that happened was against China (!) in 1996 (!). Since then, there was always Bommel, Bronckhorst, Vaart, Nistelrooy or Meyde. We do have a “Van” on the bench of course, with Louis also of the Van Tribe.

Last time this happened at a World Cup was in 1994, when we played Belgium. The only “Van” was a Belgium player, Frankie van der Elst.

Chile coach Sampaoli is a Van Gaal adept and he is taking his role really seriously, by also complaining about the pitch. The pitch in Sao Paolo does look tired and in particular the box areas need some TLC.

Van Gaal wants to be whining about something too and he criticises the FIFA for not planning Brazil’s Group A game before the Holland – Chile game. “This is not Fair Play! Now Brazil can determine which opponent they want. But they are in Group A and should play before Group B.”

bruno titanic

Bruno Martins Indi is back with the group. The iconic defender – a hit in social media land with his big scary eyes 🙂 – took a hit against Australia and had a slight concussion. “I first thought my World Cup was over. But luckily it wasn’t that dreadful. I am a positive man. I will take it step by step. I did some running yesterday and that went well. We’ll see how we go.” He will not be available against Chile.

Arturo Vidal, the big man of Chile and Juve playmaker, might also not be ready for the game. This could obviously be a mental game by the Chileans, but Vidal has been struggling with fitness. So who knows.

Lastly, it is easy to name RVP and Robben as the stars of this Dutch team but most people will agree that the man who is clearly the most remarkable in the Oranje camp is the coach himself. He wanted this platform to shine, for decades and now he is here. And is relishing every minute.]

The player interaction

Just before Veltman went onto the pitch to replace De Vrij against Spain, Van Gaal made a joke to Veltman. He had a big smile on his face. The nervous Veltman produced a shy smile. Van Gaal is no comedian but the message he gave the Ajax defender was clear: “Be yourself and enjoy this!” Typical Van Gaal. Lots of shoulder pads and smiles for the youngsters, and stern looks and deep voices for the older players. Whenever he explodes, it is in the face of Sneijder or Kuyt. Never to the young lads. But he can definitely had out compliments to the veterans. He already praised RVP and Sneijder into high heaven and after the Australia game, it was Nigel de Jong who received it. Recently, Huntelaar was the big man in training and Van Gaal made sure everyone knew about it. The team manager feeds them info, corrects, is sharp on every detail and is constantly aware of the balance between tension and relaxation. Without reason, he can stop the bus at the beach, for the boys to take a walk or he randomly allows the families into the hotel for some frolicking. The more smiles, the better. To quite RVP: “Van Gaal is in top form!”.

sneijd -VG

The Debate

Van Gaal has a Phd in football. Challenging him on the sports is ok, but be ready for an earfull. Recently someone said to him that “5-3-2 was not the Dutch School…”. He attacked like a viper. “So you think Dutch School is some numbers? I don’t. It is not a matter of playing wingers or not. It is much more. We can play Dutch football with any system.”

LVG Jesus arms

The Spotlights

Van Gaal knows how to play the audience. He is very aware where the cameras are and what to do to get some impact. I will never forget the infamous karate kick he made, along the byline when Desailly almost beheaded Kluivert in the CL finals. That kick must have hurt his back for ever, but the players saw it, the cameras picked up on it and it sent a clear message to everyone: Van Gaal is a fighter, not a lover. Before the Spain message, he went to the Spanish players and hugged Xavi, Iniesta and Pique. And the big Hi 5 with RVP after his Superman goal, with his whole kindergarten lined up behind him. The manager knows where the cameras are ( hence the comments about the camera in his vision in the Australia – Holland venue) and he knows how to play them. What was quite remarkable though, when RVP scored the fourth against Casillas, he didn’t move a muscle, as if to say “I don’t cheer for scruffy goals” hahaha.

LVG Xavi

The Media

During the press conferences, Louis enjoys mentioning his holistic principles. He had a couple of Brazilian translators scratching their heads already… His public anger explosions towards the media are under control for now, but it is clear that the South American and Asian media people enjoy his onorthodox methods in press conferences. He loves taunting the media but as prickly he can be with the Dutch, as charming he is with the non Dutch media. “So you think I am very nice,” he asked a nice Brazilian female reporter. “Well, your Dutch colleagues don’t think that way at all!”.

Funny detail, after the Spain game, a relaxed Van Gaal comes into the room where the players are being interviewed. The so-called press room. He is relaxed and talks a bit with some reporters. When he wants to copy a foul he spotted by one of the Spanish players, his imitation is too realistic as he hits NOS tv anchor Tom Egbers against his shins, hahahaha.



Van Gaal enjoys being in Brazil. He is tremendously positive about the way the Flamengo futbol club has welcomed Oranje. He is very happy with the support of the Flamengo fans and frolicks and plays around with the ball boys. At certain times he decides to step out of the hotel to sign some random autographs and allows people to take selfies with him on it. Van Gaal loves Brazil and Brazil loves Van Gaal!

Gimme your thoughts and predictions here:

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Match Preview Spain – Oranje: Tapas time!!!

This is to tell you a bit about our first opponent, Spain.

Spain is a country in the south-west of ….of screw it!! You know who they are! Where they are! What they are! What they can do!

Hell, we taught them all they know… The likes of Michels, Cruyff, Beenhakker, Metgod, Hiddink, Neeskens, Koeman, Muller, Witschge, Cocu, De Boer, Afellay!!

The whole tiki-taka is a Dutch abbreviation of tik tak football. We say in Dutch “tik tak” if we mean pass and play. Tiki Taka is probably Cruyff’s way of explaining things in Spanish.

So Real Madrid was this powerhouse in the 50s and 60s and in the 1970s Barca tried to take the reign and for a long time they did very well in Europe with their clubs. Real, Barca, Sociedad, Valencia, Deportivo…. But the Spanish national team never really set the world on fire, like Uruguay, Hungary, England, Holland, Brazil and Germany did… They won the first European Championship in 1964 and repeated that consecutively in 2008 and 2012, which is quite good. But in World Cup terms, they were chokers. In 1982, they hosted the Cup but failed to impress under coach Santamaria. They were knocked out in the second round. They did fair much better in 1986 or 1994. In the 2002 World Cup, one could have expected Spain to beat South Korea but in a controversial match, South Korea beat the Spaniards on penalties.


Some people believe Luis Aragones was the inventor of tiki taka and it originated purely because in the mid naughties, Spain had a suspect defence. And the ball in possession in midfield strategy meant the defence would not be put under much pressure… We know better. Johan Cruyff and later Louis van Gaal will have done more for Spanish football than Aragones and the use of two former JC proteges as Barca coaches ( Rijkaard and Guardiola) will have added to this.

Historically, Spain always produced good players. Every generation had at least a number of above average lads although Barca and Real tended to find their star performers across the border. From Puskas and Di Stefano to Cruyff, Neeskens and Laudrup, to C Ronaldo and Bale to Messi and Neymar, but the Spanish squad currently is overflowing with talent and quality. The youngsters keep on going (not unlike the Dutch development) and this is probably the biggest issue coach Del Bosque has. Will he go for the more experienced lads that got him the two recent titles (2010 and 2012) or will he break down the existing hierarchy – like Van Gaal was forced to do – and select some young turks to keep the team fresh.

There is a risk in both scenarios and we will see what the man comes up with.

oranje jesus

I think we will see Del Bosque play with Cesc as false striker. Iniesta and Villa from the flanks. I wouldn’t be surprised if Xavi starts on the bench, with Xabi Alonso centrally with Busquets and David Silva in midfield. A defence of Alba, Juanfran, Pique and Sergio Ramos. Although Javi Hernandez might get the nod over Pique. And I think Van Gaal will be playing 4-5-1 when Spain has possession and 4-1-4-1 in possession. I also believe we’ll see Clasie in our line up, as the little Xavi from Rotterdam has the feet to match the combination play in the tight spaces of Spain.

What can one say about this Spanish side. Oozing quality. Unbelievable quality. Mata, Corzola, Silva, Torres, Hernandez…just some names of players who might not even play. And then there is Michu and Isco who were left at home. To name a few players.

oranje salvador

Spanish media have tried to create unrest in the Dutch team with stories of Oranje players living it up in the Rio night life. And claiming that Dirk Kuyt was actually involved in that. This rumour didn’t stick. If it was Depay, Fer and Wijnaldum one could have believed it but Kuyt and Robben would be the last players you’d expect to samba the night away :-). Van Gaal laughed it off.

Still, Holland’s golden triangle of Robben, Robin and Wes is seriously feared in Spain. And with reason.

I believe Holland will beat them with a shock 3-0 scoreline. Why? Because Spain is tired. And a little bit lacking desire. Real desire. Most of the players had a big season, with most even playing the CL finals. As C Ronaldo, Reus, Wellbeck and Van der Vaart can testify: the international football calendar is long. Spain doesn’t want to be put to the test this first game. They like to start a little bit relaxed. The big guns want to keep their powder dry. But Holland might only have 3 games to shine and Holland will be super ambitious and driven in that first game. Spain might see Holland as a nasty mosquito on their way to bigger game. While Holland will view the first game vs Spain as the finals!

So we will go out there and chase them all over the park from the first second and Spain won’t know what hurt them. I predict a goal in the first 20 minutes, with Arjen Robben being involved. I foresee a second goal before half time with Van Persie involved. And when Spain fights back with Costa in the second half, it will be a cool counter attack led by Sneijder allowing Oranje to finish Spain off! Just my feeling. And as I am the blog king here, I can delete this forecast during the game if things turn sour.

The ref is Italian. If I’m not mistaken, none of the Spanish players have a history in the Serie A. In the Dutch team, both Sneijder and De Jong have played in Italy and have encountered Rizzoli and speak the language. Could be a plus.


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Memory Lane visit with Bert van Marwijk: World Cup 2010

Hi all, we made it to the World Cup!

Only 1 day to go…. WOOOHOOOOOO…. I remember how I felt in 1982, 1986, 2002…. I highly enjoyed ’82 and ’86. Hated the 2002 tournament.

But lads, this blog has made it (with you and the Oranje lads). Partly thanks to your donations and support.

A last request to anyone out there with some spare change left. I appreciate your support and I hope you appreciate my efforts in bringing you the cool insights.

I am planning to make this place even cooler (thanks to your suggestions) and will keep on asking you for more ideas in the weeks to come.

But. Now. Off. To. Brazil.

With our last World Cup Memory Lane Visit.


We will allow Bert van Marwijk the final say before we delve into the World Cup 2014 actualities…

“The World Cup was a success. The Euros2012 were a failure. But the irritation and internal strife was bigger in South Africa then in the Euros 2012.”

Bert van Marwijk was a talented but headstrong left winger. Feyenoord wanted him and he did play one game for Oranje but a serious injury impeded him. He started his coaching career in the amateur ranks, moved to Fortuna Sittard (where he met his future son in law Mark van Bommel) and made history with that club. When Feyenoord signed him, he was still a leftish, jumpsuit wearing roll-your-own smoking trainer. At Feyenoord, he transformed to a well-dressed non-smoking coach.

oranje angel

The last coach to win a European trophy with a Dutch club, he moved to Borussia Dortmund, where he started well and working under tough conditions, only to lose his job when things turned sour, partly as a result of poor financial means. It was clear that one day the somewhat conservative and loyal Van Marwijk would coach the National Team.

He inherited a fine squad from predecessor Van Basten, with a new 4-2-3-1 system engrained. He added Mark van Bommel (who refused to play under Van Basten post 2006) and worked diligently towards a fixed starting line up. The good news: if you were in, you had to really blow it to lose your spot. The bad news: if you weren’t ‘in’ you had to work really hard and be really good in order for Bert to pick you.


Van Marwijk has fine qualities as a coach, but one of the things I never liked was his tendency to play the best players as much as possible, even if it meant they had to play on spots they don’t really perform well… Rafael van der Vaart as left winger? Really?

Like Van Basten before him and Van Gaal after him, qualifying was not a problem. Bert broke record after record and mostly with attractive football. We won 8 out of 8 and had a broad list of goalscorers. Huntelaar played often and scored 3. The rest was scored by Van der Vaart (2), Van Bommel (2), Van Persie, Kuyt, De Jong, Robben, Ooijer, Elia, Mathijsen and Heitinga .

But for the World Cup 2010, there was quite some discussion in the nation: will Bert be ballsy enough to play the Big Four. Robben, Robin, Raf and Wes.

gio scored

Bert decided to give it a go. The farewell match vs Hungary prior to the World Cup demonstrated that the Big Four enjoyed playing together. For 85 minutes, the sun was shining down upon Oranje. Until that moment when Robben got injured. The man of the moment ( with Sneijder) was out, at least for the group stages and Bert had to replace Robben. Elia would have been the logical choice. Depth. Speed. Trickery. Unpredictability.

But Bert didn’t dare to pick him and used Van der Vaart as left winger, with De Jong and Van Bommel as holding mids against the group opponents Denmark, Japan and Cameroon.

This is where I believe Bert got it wrong. There was hardly any penetration and no surprise factor. The first game vs Denmark was played in a slow pace, the lack of depth gave Denmark the possibility to contain Holland and the flow of the qualification games was gone. Couldn’t we have played with Elia on the left flank from the start? And Rafael as one of the holding mids? This worked well later in the tournament… Sand in the machine. Holland won the group games but without ever sparkling. When Robben was brought back into the team, Sneijder focused all his passing on the Boy from Bedum, leaving Van Persie underused.

Robin van Persie, left, hugs his teammate Rafael van der Vaart after scoring.

The Dutch game became predictable. Van Bommel and De Jong and Co repossess the ball. Sneijder gets the ball played in and movement of Robben and Van Persie would then invite the killer pass.

It took until the second half in the quarter finals against Brazil. That is when the Dutch team woke up. And it was most likely one of the players (Sneijder?) who took the word in the break and said “we are either going to go home like sissies and be ashamed for the rest of our lives or we go back onto the pitch and take the game!”. Van Marwijk didn’t change a thing and allowed the same eleven of the first half fix the problem.

The Uruguay game was almost the reverse. We started really well with a tremendous goal by Gio but somehow lost grip on the game in the second half. But the finals were reached and Holland was quite confident. We were playing like true champions while Spain was a tad lucky against Paraguay and Portugal.

puyol Robben

The Spanish side didn’t play the superior total football game we expected, just like Holland wasn’t able to set the stadiums on fire.

The finals were a disappointment of course. We started agitated. Too much testosterone. Van Persie with a sneaky kick, Van Bommel with too aggressive play. The game plan was clear. Don’t let Spain settle on the ball. Immediate pressure. But Holland overdid it and Spain made a table full of tapas of it.

Ref Howard Webb was impressed with the dynamics and “forgot” to give De Jong a red card for a bad timed and ill-planned high kick for the ball. He missed the ball. But Xabi Alonso still has the studs in his skin, most likely. If Webb would have given red, the game might have developed fairly normally. But Webb didn’t and somehow tried to fix the mistake the whole game long.


He protect the Spanish players as if they were made of churros and forgot to red card Puyol for a tackle from behind on Robben. He also missed the fact that Sneijder deserved a corner kick after a free kick and instead allowed Spain to progress the game which in the end resulted in Iniesta’s goal. By then, Heitinga was redcarded for a run of the mill foul….

Despite the loss, the whole World Cup was a good news show. The vibe in the group was good, the wives and kids were present, the team was winning. Van Marwijk even allowed Michel Vorm to fly home during the World Cup campaign to witness his baby being born. Two days later, Vorm was back.

robin angry

In 2010, that was seen as “normal”. But when Van Persie made a phone call after a lost game at the Euros 2012, it became a whole “thing”. Van Marwijk grins… “People don’t realise that the vibe wasn’t much better in 2010. It was worse, actually. But it all stands with the results. If you win a first game in a tournament, the chest goes out. The smile comes on the faces and players can accept more. No matter what the issues are, or what is going on…the result determines most.”

“In 2010, we had to deal with that twitter thing with Elia. We had a substitution of Van Persie who was having a go at me and Sneijder… The media even had lipreaders to check what we said. But the criticism dies down when you are winning. And I don’t mean from the media only, also from the squad

. In 2010, we played Denmark and had a tough first half. We didn’t create half a chance, but through an own goal we get the advantage. In 2012, same opponent, we create 8 big chances and should have had two penalties. But we lose. That is the difference. In 2010, we knew we had the next round in our own hands, in 2012 we had to beat Germany and Portugal. That was a bit overwhelming.”

Netherlands vs Spain

“In 2010, we did play a bit more business like. We could create two or three great moments and that got us that first victory. I see the grit of the 2010 team back in Atletico Madrid. The will to win. Our opponents said it to us after the games: “We never had the feeling we could actually beat you”.  And don’t forget: Louis is getting pressure because his defence is vulnerable. In 2010, they said the exact same thing about my defence. Heitinga, Mathijsen, Ooijer… They weren’t good enough. But they managed to reach and almost win the finals.”

“What we did well in South Africa, and I hope Louis will follow suit, is create enough entertainment and distraction. These are 23 winners, big egos. Leaders most if not all of them. Used to getting their way. Used to being the big boys. You need to offer them something. But not in a forced way. Players are shrewd, they see through things. This is where I failed at the Euros 2012.”

How is the culture a factor? For instance, Spain can lose a first game at the World Cup 2010 and still win it. Italy in 1982 plays three boring draws but wins the World Cup in style. Van Marwijk: “I am sure there is a difference in that aspect. You can lock 23 South Koreans up for 9 weeks and they’ll come out looking as fresh and crisp as Humberto Tan (Dutch tv personality). Do this to Dutch people and within 3 days you have a revolt.”

webb sneijder

“Spain in 2010 is a different story though. They had Howard Webb as ref in that first game against Switzerland. And the Spanish media and team were livid after that game. When Webb was given the finals, the media put pressure on and so did Del Bosque and the players. Every decision he made was debated and criticised. Webb was under a lot of pressure from the first minute. Late in the game, 120,000 people see we deserve to get a corner kick. Webb misses it. In the ensuing phase, Elia gets the ball and is fouled and from that situation, they score. If we would have gone to penalties, we would have won it. I am certain. Stekelenburg was the best goalie of the tournament and we were ready for it.”

Bert angry

Van Marwijk is realistic. It’s not looking for excuses, but it is explaining circumstances. “I know how it works. When I was in Hamburg, people congratulated me with being Vice Weltmeister. It means something there. But at the same time, I am also that loser from the 2012 Euros. That is football, explained in a simple contrast. You win, you lose. When you win, you are not really God’s gift to football and when you lose it’s not like you suddenly are an idiot.”

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Oranje in Rio!! Bring it on

A new post! But I still wanna make you aware of  1) my donation request as it is that time again (hosting cost, upgrades, domain name etc) and 2) enter your results in the Fantasy Competition! BRILLIANT trophies to be won :-).

Well here we are! Louis van Gaal was probably ecstatic. Some 12 years after failing to reach the highest in world football, competing at a World Cup, he finally made it. All geared up to show the world Louis is also the greatest of the world with the national team!

The team had a pleasant flight to Brazil and enjoyed their first days in Rio getting accustomed to the time zone and the climate. The touch down was early in Rio and Louis kept his players awake to make sure they would settle in quickly. The spent some time in the hotel and then went for a long beach walk. “I noticed a change. Coming into Rio, the airport, the buzz, the language, the smells…the players were immediately affected by it. More focused. The talk became different, when we did the beach walk. Everyone realised they were actually in Brazil. To play for the World Cup,” as Louis van Gaal put it.



The players live in the Caesar Park Ipanema Hotel and it was a true spectacle when the players arrived there.

The arrival of Oranje in Brazil does mean something. The first steps of the Dutch in Brazil are broadcast live on tv. A diversity of tv programs had anchor women out at the hotel and the training grounds to pick up some footage of the Dutch. Earlier on Bosnia and Chile arrived but those events were almost ignored. There were police and media choppers and the many people needed to be fenced off from the hotel grounds. They went to the Flamengo training grounds at 3.15 pm and had a short but fun session, to allow the muscles and joints to get into gear.

clasie sneij bus

Playing some foot-volley and having fun with the Flamengo youth teams, present as ball boys. Sneijder, Wijnaldum and Van Persie stayed on the pitch to teach the lads some tricks and without a doubt vice versa. Van Gaal had to order the players in and Van Persie held up a big thumb to the lads when he made his way back. Arjen Robben didn’t train with the group. Van Gaal had one player too many for the game and offered one volunteer the option to bail out. Robben was quickest to raise his hand (I wouldn’t think Kongolo or Clasie would do this, hahahaha).

RVP training rio


Wesley Sneijder is turning back into the 2010 Wesley Sneijder we all loved (and some hated). Cocky, arrogant, condescending and oozing with brilliance. His presence in Brazil was not an automatic one, under this team manager. It took a clash with Van Gaal and hard work. But he made it. “I was to blame, but I also fixed it. I planted a big flag for myself, on this mountain far away. And said “that is where I am going!”. And my flag is now close. And you know what, you all (media)…you also thought I was over the hill. I thank you for that. It helped strengthen my resolve.”

Classic Wes. Like Asterix, whenever he gets angry, special powers sink in as if he drank the magic potion and he is ready to take on the Romans. IT took a while for Sneijder to realise what Van Gaal meant. At first, he was angry. And hurt. The coach called him unprofessional?? Him??? The man of the 2010 World Cup? CL winner? But Sneijder realised he indeed had to change his tune. “I knew I wasn’t 100% fit. I hadn’t played for Inter for a while and at Gala I forced myself too much to get back into it. It took hard work to make all the improvements in my fitness and form. I am very close to being 100%.”

sneijd voetvolley


The biggest hurdle now is to adapt to the 5-3-2 system, which works very well for Sneijder. Bar for one thing: his timing. “The coach thinks I put pressure on the defence too early and as a result I end up playing next to Robin and Arjen. That is not good. I need to stick to playing closer to midfield. He is right. I need to adjust that.”

Jon De Guzman is the only player not 100% fit at the moment. He is working hard on getting back and according to his thumb up to the media, he is doing well.

Jordy Clasie is with the group, while Van Persie is allowed to take some breaks. The groin situation is not an injury, in Van Gaal’s words, but it probably does hurt. “But, players all play with little knocks and aches. Robin will have to wear it.”

Clasie played with the team without the orange skins and presumable is now the man to fill in for De Guzman. The latter is doing his separate physiotherapy exercises.

robben rio


Thousands of people joined in when Oranje gathered for practice and the first time Van Gaal used his booming voice to reprimand Sneijder it almost felt staged. The Oranje no. 10 made a mistake in midfield and Louis stopped play, ran onto the pitch and gave Wesley an ear full who accepted it with his head down.

Back in Holland, the nation is prepping for another World Cup. Streets turn orange, companies put out their orange products and the media are creating their World Cup oriented programs, shows and items.

kuyt rio

Patrick van Aanholt won’t be seeing all that. The Chelsea full back – out on loan at Vitesse recently – is on a plane to South America. Mexico. Not Brazil. The left back thought he did really well (in the Ecuador match and at training) but was told by Van Gaal he was just not good enough. “Mr Van Gaal told me that he felt I was the best attacking option for the left back position, but also the least defensive option. I do have a tendency to not give priority to my man and he felt I wasn’t paying attention enough. Something for me to work on. It was quite a blow. To be honest, I felt I was part of the squad. But I will have to shrug and learn and go on. Next season, Feyenoord might be my team. There is interest and Feyenoord is an amazing club. But I still have one year of Chelsea on my contract so when I get back from Mexico I’ll report back to London.”

van Aanholt nee

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