Tag: Lodeweges

Lessons learned for the Italy game

Well, we learned Italy coach Roberto Mancini needs his glasses, before he puts Donnarumma in the striker role or something. Italy underestimated Bosnia & Herzegovina and dropped two points. Or won 1 point even.

Oranje, on the other hand, snatched the leader position, even after a long spell of no play, an empty stadium, three starting defenders injured or otherwise disposed and a new coach.

Some conclusions.

Playing in an empty stadium sucks. The Dutch starters asked their substitutes and training staff to cheer the lads on. They were so used to the passionate and loyal Oranje fans that they hoped to get some form of substitution via there peers. Lodeweges: “The players really valued it and they thought it was great. It really helped. At a certain point, Hateboer was running past and he must have felt like he was Leo Messi, that was how much we cheered him on, hahaha.”

I will never get used to it. Only a limited number of press and some officials were allowed in. Not even the family of the players. There was a questionnaire, a temperature gauge, masks. There were checks of bags and personal items and the majority of seats were blocked by an alarming red banner.

In this atmosphere, the players need to find the motivation somewhere. This is not a big issue for this generation of players. We had a very gloomy couple of years with Oranje and the players are very focused on making history. Steven Bergwijn: “It is not easy without the fans. But you do have to remember that millions are watching infront of the telly, and it’s them who we want to give joy and make proud.”

Virgil van Dijk sounds like the boss. The advantage of playing in an empty stadium, is that one can hear everything that is said (or yelled more). It was interesting to see/hear how Virgil grew into that leadership role. His charisma is known. But in the Poland match, he was very audible with his coaching. Him and Jasper Cillisen are constantly coaching. But Van Dijk stands out with his bassoon voice and he guides the team through the match. He is the one deciding when to apply pressure, and when pacing is more important. He will give the start sign for the press (Yeah Yeah!!), he points the way in possession (Forward!!) and coaches players who are played in (Turn! or Time!) and he gives compliments when something worked out (That is it!!).

Players taking charge is wonderful for a coach. Lodeweges: “I lost my voice already, and I am not even Antonio Conte! I tried to analyse, observe, think. And I usually sit quiet on the bench. Having a player or players doing this is vital.” Steven Bergwijn: “This is Virgil! I don’t know better. He is the man, our leader. And he has that voice, hahahaha.”

Lodeweges follows the Koeman doctrine. Not a lot changed, with Koeman leaving. The former Oranje captain organised the whole new Oranje protocol and Lodeweges has zero reasons to change this. Lodeweges impact as a coach was already huge. “Ronald was not a dominant leader. He delegated a lot. He would let me analyse opponents or prep training sessions and two weeks before the game, he’d ask me: so, what is your plan? And we would tell him what we believed we should do. He would listen and would decide which parts he agreed with, and which parts he didn’t. And he was always right, you know. 95% of the time, he knew exactly what would happen.”

The players’ council is very content with this way of working, and they (Babel, Van Dijk, Strootman, Blind, De Ligt) have informed the KNVB that they want to keep on traveling on this road.

If there is one thing that Lodeweges wants to streamline, is the press. “I think there is room for better choices to be made, by the players. I noticed that pressure sometimes gets translated to “running, hassling, sweating and panting. Putting forward pressure on was such hard work. So much energy used up. I think we need more control, we need to position ourselves better and be more selective in the moments to put pressure on. There are better chances to repossess the ball and it will cost less energy. We are working on that. Against Poland, that went well. Considering the circumstances, I do believe we actually played really well.”

Lodeweges is known to be a serious and passionate coach, but also very down to Earth. He likes to use language to put things in perspective. Asked about his new role, he calls it “a fun job”, when asked about the group, he says “it’s a hungry bunch of players”. He described debutant Owen Wijndal as “a good little lad, with a nice left foot”. And after the 1-0 win over Poland, he ended his presser with “we had a pretty decent evening, all in all….”

Some automatisms between players never fade. Memphis was scanning his options, ball at his feet. His peripheral vision was looking for runners and he was on the prowl for Frenkie. Vice versa, Frenkie knew an opportunity was coming if he timed his run right. Memphis eyes see, Memphis minds races, and Memphis feet execute. Their dance was unrehearsed but perfect. The run was made, Memphis chipped the ball his way, Frenkie controlled on the chest, turned and half-volleyed. That one deserved a goal. The dynamics between Memphis and Frenkie hasn’t suffered from 9 months no game. Their connection was clear from the first minutes they played together. Frenkie is always looking deep, for his passing, Memphis is always looking to get the ball. They have this telepathic understanding, like Jonk and Bergkamp, or Sneijder and Robben. Frenkie, Memphis and leader Virgil ended up being the best players on the night.

Lodeweges used 4 practices to show the players what he wanted, in terms of variance. “You don’t always have to play intricate and short passing. You can play long, you have to vary your approach. I like to see quick, deep balls over the defence.” The players enjoyed the intense training sessions, as both Bergwijn and Wijnaldum commented how hard it is to not play together for 9 months, and then suddenly needed to be a team again.

Lodeweges declared every one in the squad fit and ready to play Italy. Daddy Dumfries also returned to the squad.

It is not easy to look into the head of the coach, but I think he won’t change much for the Italy game. I think he’ll keep Hateboer in the side, as he knows his opponents well and has that tandem with De Roon happening. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Babel start on the left and maybe Van de Beek instead of Wijnaldum.

I was asked for player ratings, for the Poland game. Here they are :-).

Cillesen – 7 – he was there when he needed him and he had some good long balls too.

Hateboer – 8 – he wasn’t too successful in the first half, but his second half was fine, and the assist gave him an extra point

Veltman – 7 – played an invisible game, which is good for a centre back. Solid on the ball.

Van Dijk – 8 – Virgil is always focused, always leading. Good interceptions and overall leadership.

Ake – 7 – Played well, understands his role, great on the ball and an aerial threat too.

Frenkie – 7 – Played a tough first half, came into the role in second half. Created the goal but has way more in him.

De Roon – 7 – played faultless, was there to take Hateboer’s position, was dogged and good on the ball too.

Wijnaldum -6 – A bit invisible. Doing his work, making runs, and being a threat by his shere presence, but not effective.

Promes – 6 – Missing rhythm, his crosses didn’t connect, his dribbles were a bit off, but he played his role and had this one chance on a goal in the first half

Bergwijn 8- Played well, drifting into space, coming centrally to wreak havoc and worked hard. Scored his first goal, giving him an extra point.

Memphis – 8 – Still not in 100% shape/form but working his ass off, trying to dazzle, to entertain, to find openings. Everything he does is focused on creating something. Any opponent will use 2 players to stop him.

Van de Beek – 7 – showed glimpses of his qualities.

Luuk de Jong – not enough time on the pitch for a rating

Lodeweges – 8 – I can’t fault him for anything

I think Italy will be another scalp for us.

They are also not in 100% shape of course, but they will have to try and take something from the game.

Italy plays a bit like Holland does, and the game will be more open. Confidence is high in Oranje, which might be our biggest threat, actually. I think 3-1 for Holland. Own goal by Van Dijk. Memphis, Promes and Van de Beek on the score sheet for us.

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Rusty Oranje gets solid win

The circumstances were a tad less than perfect.

No fans to cheer us on. A successful coach who bailed two weeks before the games. Four defenders (three starters) missing. A mixed bag of fitness and rhythm. Veltman hadn’t played for weeks. Memphis returning from injury. Cillisen lacking rhythm. Untested pairings.

But, the boys came through. The team tactics worked. Particularly in the second half. And clearly the players were highly motivated. Working hard. Eager to find openings. Good pressure on the ball and disciplined execution (Ake, De Roon, Veltman, De Jong).

Poland came to not lose. They were compact. Defended deep. And hoped for a counter attack. Oranje dominated but couldn’t create a lot. In the first half, we had trouble breaking them down, partly because the forward pass (behind their defense) was played too late. We saw runs by Bergwijn, Memphis, Ake and Hateboer but the back four didn’t want to play the ball. First they wanted to find their rhythm.

The first shot (not on target) was by a Polish player and the first shot on target (saved by Cillesen) was by Poland as well.

Dwight started with Ake on the LB spot, playing like his disciplined and absent colleague Blind. The more experienced Veltman took the De Ligt role and Hateboer played on the right, in an interesting combi with De Roon. Particularly in the second half, Hateboer was the false right winger while De Roon played the right back holding role. Like they do at Bergamo.

Memphis seemed to have a good chance – stopped by the goalie – but in an offside position. The second chance was for Promes, who missed the target and it was late in the first half when Oranje finally had it’s first real creative opportunity, with Frenkie’s run into the box, who got served by Memphis in perfect manner. Memphis vision, his ability to chip the ball, Frenkie’s chest control and half-volley…all perfect. But the upright thought differently.

It was clear what Dwight would want to see in the second half. That forward pass must be played quicker. Find the space behind their defence. Don’t make it too easy for Poland to defend.

Van Dijk used his deep ball to good use and even Marten de Roon started to spray some long balls. Ake was able to push up higher too, while Frenkie was taking more risks as well and took on players more and more.

For me, the outstanding player was Memphis. Everything we did in an offensive way, was through him. He hunted, he pressed, he hassled and prodded… He tricked players, went for the 1-2 combination, and was continously threatening, even if his set pieces didn’t really connect and he missed a big shooting opportunity with a complete un-Memphis like mishit. But, he might not be 100% yet, he is well on his way to get there.

He did get a massive chance to score on a great Bergwijn cross but it felt like Memphis didn’t expect the ball to pass through the first defender and as a result he mis controlled the ball.

Holland was the dominating party and after an hour we broke through their defences. Promes moved back inside from the left wing and found Frenkie. He spotted Hateboer’s run and put the ball on a plate. The former Groningen man flicked the ball back across goal, where Bergwijn was ready to tap in his first Oranje goal!

Poland brought Milik and wanted to hunt for a goal but it was Oranje that came closest to a second, it feels. Wijnaldum and Van de Beek were close to a second but it wasn’t to be. Still, the new adventure started well, after 290 days of not being together and this performance definitely gave us a good foundation for the future.

Memphis was limping in front of the camera, after the game. The startled interviewer asked him about it and he laughed: “Sore muscles man, my first full match in a long time. How great  to be back and play 90 minutes!”

Memphis was already quite successful for Lyon in the league 1, but he failed to score this time, even though he was involved in everything. He had six shots, created three opportunities and was involved in nine out of the 14 attempts on goal. He had 4 successful dribbles and was fouled 8 times. No one had better stats on the night.

The eight free kicks he won were actually a record. Since 2013, no other Oranje player was fouled as often in one match. “They were petulant, they stepped on my heel, they tried to provoke and the ref seemingly didn’t see it.”

He was not 100% satisfied. “We can play much better. But i have to say, joy is the overbearing emotion for me after such a long time. Some things went automatic, with some players you have that invisible click, but we can do better and must do better. Me as well of course, but I don’t want to be overly critical now. I was away for months and I am just grateful to be back.”

Interim coach Lodeweges was confronted with the fact that he is the first Oranje coach since Rijkaard to win his first match. “Oh, I didn’t even know that. That was a while back then? It was a tough match. Poland was here at full strength, except for Lewandowski of course. They play this way, and it was on us to break them down and we did. When you score earlier in the game, you might get a couple more, but I think we can happy with this, as the team did look rusty at times.”

Captain Virgil van Dijk spoke of a mature win. “It was not easy to predict how our form would be. One players had hardly had any minutes, other players have been full on in pre-season mode. But we managed a professional win. We let the ball go, also under pressure. And we kept a clean sheet. I think we can be pleased, even if we had to reward ourselves with a goal or two more.”

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And the Germans are going: 3-0 for Oranje!

I am quite sure no one will read the title of this post and be surprised. I’m sure every Oranje fan will have seen the game or at least know the end result. The first time Holland beats Germany in 16 years and the biggest victory over the East Neighbours ever.

Well done lads!

A deserved win, but also a much needed one. Because, yes…it is clear we are developing great talent still and yes, it seems with Koeman now as coach and the older generation having made way, Oranje is on the up and up, but in order to really make the step up, results are key.

Good play (like vs France) but losing gets tiresome soon.

So, we bucked the trend. We played a strong team and actually won. And I’m sure we’ll beat Belgium too in a couple of days. That is what confidence and “flow” bring.

I was positively surprised by Koeman’s choices for the line up. I expected Hateboer or De Ligt on that flank, not Dumfries. But the 22 year old did ever so well. I was happy to see Bergwijn on the pitch – he was a tad unlucky – and didn’t expect De Roon either.

Koeman will have seen things at training which he liked. I think De Roon played a good game and he did surprise me with a couple of “Frenkie de Jong” like forward passes even.

Fair is fair, Germany isn’t that good anymore. They struggled clearly to get in a flow and top players like Muller and Kroos are clearly struggling with their form. Nevertheless, they did dominate the first stage of the game, when Oranje looked a bit complacent and seemed to take it a bit too easy. Too much confidence, maybe?

In particular De Ligt fell victim of sloppy play but he did improve quickly and played a good game overall.

I felt Bergwijn, with all his quality, was a bit unlucky with his decision making and passing, he had a couple of opportunities to play a deadly final pass but missed the chance.

Frenkie de Jong took some time to put his mark on the game but once he did, he was quite mercurial and his substitution was purely because if fitness issues (Frenkie’s first game since the PSV defeat).

The Dutch axis is becoming very strong indeed! Cillesen is the best goalie, De Ligt/Van Dijk a strong couple, Frenkie de Jong the ideal deep lying playmaker and Memphis leads the line with panache, strength and speed. I like Wijnaldum in the more attacking role, but I think Promes, Propper, Bergwijn and Van de Beek can play there too. Wide, we have options too, now with Danjuma, Berghuis, Kluivert, Dilrosun, Bergwijn and others coming through (Malen!).

Our future is bright.

Still, Germany was able to play through a couple of times, when Low brought Sane finally, for instance. But overall the team did well defensively. I think Daley Blind played well as left back and really well in the Frenkie role, when the latter was subbed.

If I can be a bit of a nitpicker: I do think we could and should have put this game to bed much sooner. 1-0 is a vulnerable score line. And with the break opportunities we had, we should do much better. We were also a bit unlucky on that Dumfries cross to Babel, where the German defender miraculously slid into his own goal but manage to work the ball into a corner.

Denzel Dumfries was glad to have made his debut in such a wonderful and historic match. The PSV right back was like a kid in the toy shop and with reason. Only 4 years ago, he played for the Barendrecht amateurs before he made his foray into second tier of pro football with Sparta. He then went from Sparta to Heerenveen and as the assist king made his way to PSV Eindhoven, this season.

Ronald Koeman had trouble hiding his victorious smile in the post match interview, and did concede that “there are still things we need to improve in” but he also said that this was a victory we really needed. “The players, the fans…the whole nation needed this.” And after a lot of bad luck (Dost disallowed goal vs Sweden, France-Sweden game, goal difference between Sweden – Holland), we did get some luck going our way, when Leroy Sane missed the target when he was through on goal.

But we managed to keep a clean sheet and score when it mattered. The first Van Dijk goal turned the game around, as Holland won in confidence and Germany seemed to be at odds and sods. The second and third goals came a bit late (Memphis had a go at the cross bar before that) but the goals did justice to the way Oranje played.

Another festive moment before the match, Oranje legends Dirk Kuyt and Rafa van der Vaart had their place in the sun, their farewell greeted with a standing ovation. The two centennials (Rafa 107 caps, Kuyt 104) were offered their epic jerseys framed with the new title of Federation Knight for both former Oranje players.


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Oranje’s new direction….

Well, Ronald Koeman doesn’t need a lot of introduction here. FG Groningen, rocket shots (mostly over the goal), Ajax, PSV, Barcelona, Feyenoord… Thon’s jersey. Wembley. Assistant to Van Gaal and colleague of Mourinho. Vitesse. Ajax. PSV. AZ. Feyenoord. England. Highs. Lows.

He selected two assistants, along with Patrick Lodewijks, the former goalie and current keepers trainer he met at Feyenoord and took along to England.

Kees van Wonderen was part of Bert van Marwijk’s EUFA Cup winning side in 2002. An elegant, football playing centre back (originally a midfielder) developed according to the philosophy of Wiel Coerver.

Dwight Lodeweges, most recently assistant to John van ‘t Schip at the surprise of the Eredivisie season PEC Zwolle, is maybe not so well known.

PEC Zwolle assistant Dwight Lodeweges with Van ‘t Schip

Lodeweges was the former head coach at NEC, Heerenveen and SC Cambuur. His current management really endorse this big step up for the assistant, but also emphasise he is key in Zwolle’s current success. He’s not just an assistant. He started as high performance coach at Zwolle in 2015. The Canadian born was also responsible for the development of the Zwolle talents. When Ron Jans decided to move on from PEC Zwolle last year, the Zwolle board immediately asked Dwight to step up as head coach, but the 61 year old declined. He didn’t feel like a role as the figure head and scape goat. So Zwolle went on to look for the new coach, with Dwight Lodeweges as a committee member. He was in the interview with John van ‘t Schip and every candidate coach was told: you will have Dwight as your right hand man. Van ‘t Schip as the manager, Dwight as the field coach, like they do it in England.

Dwight on the right, playing in the US (or is it Canada?)

Lodeweges loves working in the shade, in the background. Working with talents, moulding new systems and game plans. The kudos for PEC all go to Schippie, and Dwight is totally ok with that.

In 2016, Lodeweges took a second job, as the Under20 coach of Oranje, at the KNVB. He worked actually, with young talents like Van de Beek, Guus Til (AZ) and Fosu-Mensah (Man United), which is more than Koeman can say. At the KNVB, they were impressed with his skills and know-how and were disappointed when he decided to leave after one year. He couldn’t combine the role he had with the KNVB with the job assisting Van ‘t Schip. The former Go Ahead player is known to be a workaholic, working 70 hours a week easily and his big ambition was always to work with the top team of the Netherlands: Oranje. With PEC Zwolle on course to play the play-offs in the Eredivisie, it is fair to expect him to perform the two jobs simultaneously until the end of the season.

For the job of Director Top Sports (Technical Director), the KNVB originally wanted Louis van Gaal, but he declined. Fred Rutten was the next on the list. In every way, Rutten was the ideal guy. In terms of age, experience (as a player and top coach) and with a background in football development. Rutten is known to be a walking encyclopedia on football and a work-aholic. But he demanded a coaching role with a rep team, as Rutten is keen to remain in touch with grass. The KNVB didn’t see this, so Rutten declined and accepted a good paying job with Maccabi Haifa, as head coach. So Nico-Jan Hoogma was next up in line.

Koeman and Hoogma some years back

Adding Nico-Jan Hoogma to the list of new faces and it is clear we will have a no-nonsense management team in Zeist (with Koeman the master pragmatist). So, what does it say when Justin Hoogma, a talent at Heracles Almelo, gets an offer for 4 years from Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, and dad Hoogma tells his son to take the offer. “You’ll learn more in Germany than you will here”, were his words. And Hoogma knows. He was there, playing for HSV Hamburg and exactly in the period when the German federation decided to overturn the whole German youth development system. Hoogma will take the Dutch development and training books and re-write them. As Wijnaldum and Hateboer recently explained, players from the Netherlands starting abroad are all confronted with much tougher training-regimes. Hoogma can confirm. When he left Holland for Germany, he experienced the exact same.

Famously, Hoogma already introduced longer days and more training intensity when still at Heracles some years back. The defensive rock also found that heading a ball was not a normal skill anymore, so he organised the so-called heading gallows (used in the 1960s for heading training) to the club. Hoogma also widened the field of interest for the players, by keeping them longer at the club and work on their nutrition, video analysis, mental coaching and individual training. It’s no wonder that Heracles selected coaches like Verbeek, Peter Bosz and John Stegeman, people who are highly interested in the “total human being”, as Van Gaal calls it.

More relevant aspects: Hoogma and current KNVB chairman Jan Smit were responsible for the promotion of Heracles to the Eredivisie and the fact that the club is one of the most healthy, financially. Every week, 11,000 fans in the new stadium… the only negative is that Heracles, under Smit and Hoogma opted to go for an artificial turf. Interesting aspect: PEC Zwolle recently announced they will stop playing on artificial and will move back to playing on grass (albeit hybrid) within a couple of years.

Nico-Jan Hoogma at HSV

Hoogma is also an outspoken opponent of the current KNVB football pyramid as they call it, the overall competition, from amateurs to semi pros all the way to the Eredivisie. The licensing model, in other words. Hoogma wants to make the Eredivisie and the Jupiler league smaller, less clubs, and wants to introduce a specific competition for the youth teams of the Eredivisie clubs.

Hoogma will also appoint the new Football Development manager, someone Hoogma will work closely together with, to further innovate the coaching training. Hoogma, born in Friesland, is known to be a hard worker, a pragmatist, someone happy with a role in the background, but also known to call a spade a spade…

Ronald Koeman, another pragmatist, is known to dabble with different systems. At Ajax, where 4-3-3 is sacred, he butted heads with the 5th column about this and at Feyenoord the winning streak started with a 5-3-2 away against PSV Eindhoven (and winning).

Koeman is happy to let go of sacred cows as long as it brings results. King Karim El Ahmadi remembers it well. The first Ajax-Feyenoord under Ronald Koeman. The Feyenoord players didn’t like going away to Ajax. Only months before they conceded 10 goals against PSV, a huge humiliation. When the Johan Cruyff Arena came into view, the Feyenoord players got more silent. The bus stopped on the big parking deck with camera teams and reporters ready to cover the arrival of the Rotterdam team. The players looked at one another: who will go first? Ronald Koeman got up, flung his jacked over his shoulder, puts his chest out and with a confident smile stepped out of the bus. El Ahmadi: “We saw him do it, and it took the fear away. We got confidence from that. We ended up playing 1-1 while we were the better team. That sums up Koeman.”

With Koeman, the KNVB has the perfect ambassador. He’s been around, winning trophies in Spain, at Wembley, in Germany with Oranje and of course in Holland. A cosmopolitan, a man who opens doors and has the respect from the players. At Feyenoord, Graziano Pelle and John Guidetti were club cult heroes, but they only had one question after their games – despite the number of goals they scored: “What did Koeman say?”. Guidetti: “He’s a tough task master, he only needed a couple of words to get you sharp… My first four goals were all penalties. I was proud of my stats. But he said: how’ bout you score a field goal or two as well at some stage? That sort of stimuli, you know?”

El Ahmadi: “I think there is a pre and post Koeman era at Feyenoord. Winning the title started with Koeman. The vibe just changed when he came in. Under Mario Been, the vibe was loose. Mario was happy for us to call him Mario. When Koeman came he was quite adamant: you call me coach. We all looked up to him. He said: my door is always open. If you don’t like something or wanna talk about things, come on in. Well, I don’t think anyone ever went in to do that… He taught us to win.”

A week before his exit at Everton, he was already pondering how he would go about things with Oranje. “I hear people talking about things we lack. The Robben factor. Sneijder’s class. Etc… but hey… look at what we do have. We have amazing attacking full backs, we have good central defenders, and I did see Promes score a couple of goals in the Champions League, right? And Depay is above average and when you have players like Wijnaldum and Daley Blind at top clubs in England, you can’t complain. And then we see those young talents coming through at Ajax and AZ? There is more than enough to hold on to.”

De Roon and Hateboer

Everton played Atalanta Bergamo for the EL and Koeman witnessed how Dutchies De Roon and Hateboer were excellent. Koeman: “If you can hold your own in the Serie A, you can hold your own in Oranje.” Hateboer and Koeman even chatted before the EL match. Hateboer: “Well, we’re both from Groningen, so yeah… My friends and family are most occupied with the Oranje topic than me. I mean, there’ a couple of others who are not too bad right? Tete, Karsdorp, Janmaat, Fosu-Mensah, Veltman. That’s five players, so I guess I might be a candidate when Koeman wants to play five at the back? We’ll see.”

Koeman changed the system at Feyenoord in his last season and managed to secure the 2nd spot behind champions Ajax, with only a 4 point gap. The PSV away game was the game that got Van Gaal intrigued. The then NT manager was in the Eindhoven stadium with skipper Robin van Persie. And seeing Feyenoord in the 5-3-2 got Van Gaal to implement that system for the WC2014. Basically, Koeman was co-responsible for the success of Oranje in Brazil. Not that Van Gaal would give Ronald that credit of course…


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