Tag: Malen

Dutch devour Turkish Delight

What a night. We had early goals before (WC finals 1974 anyone?) and it hasn’t always resulted in greatness. This time, things seem different. An early goal. Another goal in the first 15 minutes and a very energetic and focused performance.

Things are taking a turn for the better in LVG’s third spell at the helm.

And what a quality goals they all were! Amazing to see how “question marks” like Berghuis, Klaassen, Dumfries and Bergwijn stepped up to the plate and played their key parts in this wonderful win.

The line up was logical. Van Gaal only put experienced Blind back in for Malacia and used Bergwijn in place of Gakpo on the left. He is clearly cementing his favourite eleven (or fifteen, rather) and slowly but surely his go-to guys are making their mark.

Justin Bijlow will be the new #1, hopefully for years to come. Stefan de Vrij was picked ahead of De Ligt and again he was one of the Men of the Match. De Vrij was solid on the ball, focused in his defending and overall Mr Cool at the back.

Frenkie showed his class as did Memphis again and the Oranje right flank, wanting versus Norway, impressed from the start with Dumfries and Berghuis demonstrating their connection.

But it helps, a goal in the first minute of course. And a quick second – also a beauty – helps even more. Oranje demonstrated their swagger without becoming arrogant.

The pace was good, the creativity was visible more and more and the workrate was just outstanding. If the Dutch can keep this mentality up, we are definitely back!

The criticasters on this blog will probably point out Dumfries “hard feet”, or Berghuis’ risky passing, or Blind’s one moment of lack of concentration (letting the ball slip), but overall, I think we can be happy with the step up Oranje made.

There was one moment in the 65th minute which will have made Van Gaal pissed off. Berghuis has the ball in midfield, there is no movement whatsoever. Dumfries is walking, no runs or options. The ball stays there in that zone. Koopmeiners comes to help, Van Dijk comes to help but between the three they suddenly lose the ball for no reason. We tidied it up, without a problem but that little moment must have angered the gaffer.

Being 4-0 up against 10 men, and then exchanging key players (Frenkie, Wijnaldum) never helps the flow of the game of course but these are little moments that need to be ruled out.

Two more goals (subs Til and Malen) and a horrific scare in the last seconds, when goalie Bijlow makes his only mistake in selling Van Dijk short, allowing Under to score a consolation goal, and an annoying knock for Captain Van Dijk. Van Gaal will not be happy (and neither will Klopp be).

The attacking play was excellent. False striker Memphis was everywhere again, Berghuis and Bergwijn played disciplined on the wings. Dumfries was marauding as per usual and Frenkie and Gini kept ticking things over.

A solid performance allround with some incredible moves and exciting play.

Captain Virgil was happy with the performance. It all seemed to fall into place: “This is what we wanted, and the early goal helps a lot of course. We played with intensity, with focus and it’s wonderful when it all clicks.”

Hattrick hero Memphis was less positive. “I think we did well but I think we have room to grow. And I am talking about myself more than anything. My first touches were poor and I feel there is more in us than we showed. And even though we score 6 and I score 3, we need to keep on focusing on improving because we want to do this against the top nations as well.”

Coach Louis van Gaal was beaming from ear to ear: “We have seen an outstanding performance. This group is so good and so great to work with. They have an opinion, they operate as a group, they welcome new players, it’s quite impressive. This is the best group I’ve ever worked with. And sure, I can see room for improvement. We lost the ball too often and we also didn’t play in a very high pace. Against 10 men you need to up the pace and find the free man, but overall we did play some good football and we scored some amazing goals!”

Van Gaal deserves the Man of the Match award, he clearly did everything right. But of the players on field, for me, Klaassen, De Vrij and Memphis (again) were the pick of the bunch.

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Rusty Oranje disappointing

We always approach these analyses from the Dutch perspective, of course, but it is also fair to say that Norway played really really well. But, we are not going to play the victim: Norway was good because we couldn’t find the solutions.

Louis van Gaal must have been free of stress and game jitters. When you only have 1,5 day to prep your first match, well… what to expect. He did have his zoom calls with the players individually, and I also think his video analysts will have sent clips to the players with specifics and instructions, but what do you do when you only have 1,5 days to prep?

You don’t pick players without rhythm. Ergo: Dumfries, Malen and De Roon didn’t start. You also don’t want to mix up the existing core team too much. So you offer a debut to Bijlow and a starting berth to Gakpo, but you don’t want to bring Malacia as well.

You don’t start with 5-3-2 because the ghost of Frank de Boer will be hovering over the team and result, which is something Van Gaal would want to avoid.

The line up was quite logical. I had Dumfries and Malen in my starting eleven ( I simply think Dumfries without rhythm brings a bit more than Timber, more on that later) and I’m a big fan of Malen, who offers depth. Gakpo, Memphis, Berghuis…they all want the ball to feet.

I was excited with the line up though. I like the 4-3-3 (although Oranje started with 4-1-4-1) and I was looking forward to seeing Bijlow play.

Van Gaal wanted Frenkie in the centre of midfield in a holding role, knowing he would have the ball a lot and would be able to dominate the game. Memphis got Klaassen and Wijnaldum as his assistants behind him, as Memphis gets the best results with dynamic players around him.

The first phase of the game, Oranje dominated possession. Norway was hesitant and was keen to play on the counter and Haaland proved to be a threat. We wanted to stop the pass into him but in the first state of the game, we weren’t so good at it. A first attack was a warning for Oranje. Haaland slipped past the offside (Timber played him on) but Bijlow earned his Heineken. The second time Haaland got a sniff, he scored. Gakpo was slow to get back up on the pitch but Timber also kept Haaland onside, the ball was brought back in and Haaland had a sensational tough to push the ball past a helpless goalie. Despite Van Dijk’s lunge.

Oranje lost it for a while and needed a shape/pattern that was practiced during training (and you can see this in the clip I posted in the previous post). A ball via midfield towards the winger (Berghuis), who found the running Wijnaldum in the half space (excellent pass), who pulled the ball back, low and fast. Davy Klaassen as per usual entered the box and had an easy goal to score: 1-1.

The second half saw Oranje start in a 4-2-3-1, with Wijnaldum next to Frenkie. This was needed, as Norway found space on the counter everytime Frenkie was pulled out of position. With Gini covering that space in the De Roon role, Norway had less options to counter (but still did).

The biggest chance in the second half was for Haaland again, after a nice break led by Odegaard. The Arsenal #10 was second-best most of the times vs Frenkie but this particular move was great: the little run by Haaland (towards De Vrij and then suddenly away from De Vrij) was pure class and his shot ended on the post.

We only had some lame attempts. Two headers in the first half (Gakpo), a soft header in the second half (Van Dijk) and a last-second option for Dumfries who couldn’t sort his feet you.

Louis van Gaal was not super disappointed after the match. He too praised Norway. “The opponent played it very well and despite we wanted to win this, we need to be happy with the draw. Considering we had only 1,5 days to prep and not all players at the same level in terms of fitness and rhythm… I think we need to take this. We still have it all in hand and we will need to win the next two matches.”

Asked where Oranje went wrong: “We were sloppy. We had some issues with the flow of the game on this slow and dry pitch, but we let ourselves down. We were not too precise with our passing and we made the wrong decisions at the wrong times. Norway is very good in compact defending, so the space was limited, which means two things: you need to be creative against these opponents and you need to be in good form. We weren’t able to do either. This needs to improve, but I’m confident we will. In order to play them to pieces is by showing courage, by stepping into midfield and creating a man-more situation but we lacked the confidence, I think. Another thing, our set pieces and corners were not good enough. This is all trainable and we will improve on this. See, we can think we are world class, but in all honesty, we are not. We can beat any team, but any team can beat us too.”

Captain Van Dijk was disappointed. Just like all the other players. “It was really depressing how that goal came to be. We all went up the pitch, but Cody was slack. It happens. But we were restless after that. We had enough chances or options to go for the winner but it didn’t happen.” Playing against Haaland was chore for Big Virg: “He’s amazing. He is strong and fast, so you need to be really ready for him. But we had to win here, I think we could have. But hey, we’ll need to do in the next matches now.”

The man who usually gets us the goals, Memphis Depay, was also a bit down after the match. “This is a bummer! We didn’t create enough. We lacked creativity, something we do have. But it didn’t work, we lacked confidence or courage it seemed. And that also applies t me, and the lads in midfield. Frenkie tried to play between the lines, but we need more players to do this. But we worked hard and kept on trying. I can create goals from nothing, I know this, so even when I’m not super good I can have my value for the team. We almost got it even, but we lacked the luck for that last second goal.”

Justin Bijlow is now the new #1 for Oranje. “The coach told me on Monday. I was super happy, and I had some butterflies in my stomach the day before the game, but on match day, it was all focus. I felt good on the pitch, just like other times. I’m sad we didn’t win, but I am proud and happy with by debut.”

My ratings:

Justin Bijlow: 7

He showed confidence, his distribution was good, he saved the first attempt by Haaland and had the much needed luck when he was beaten in the second half.

Daley Blind: 5

Daley played a decent first half and saw the danger of a particular counter, taking a yellow for the team. In the second half, he had a period where nothing worked. Balls slipped under his feet and passes went astray. Uncommon for him.

Stefan de Vrij: 7.5

Best Dutch player. Strong on the ball, always alert and tough in the duels. Once, Haaland beat him in a typical striker’s move which is very hard to defend.

Virgil van Dijk: 5.5

Virgil is still struggling a bit with his rhythm and was too complacent and times. His powerful cross balls also lacked precision. Understandable after his heavy injury.

Justin Timber: 6

He worked like a monster and was focused. He could have done more in possession but that is not why he is in the team. More a central defender though. I prefer Karsdorp.

Gini Wijnaldum: 6

Was in the wars with a tough hit on his ankle. He had the assist for the Oranje goal and had snippets of brilliance but lacked his usual sharpness

Frenkie de Jong: 7

Frenkie ruled the midfield and demoted Odegaard to a supporting role for Norway. Everything started with him but he wasn’t able to find that one opening.

Davy Klaassen: 6,5

The dynamic and hard working Klaassen played strong in the first half and got his goal. Faded a bit in the second half.

Cody Gakpo: 6

Cody had 6 attempts on goal and showed his class. He also made some bad decisions (the attempt after Memphis’ backheel for instance) and couldn’t use his speed and guile. Still, offering some aerial threat as well.

Memphis Depay: 5

Memphis was constantly busy, trying to link up, worked for the team but his set pieces were wanting and he simply didn’t reach his potential.

Steven Berghuis: 5,5

He did what Van Gaal instructed him to do but the dynamics on the right were not as good as on the left. Berghuis did have the pre-assist and tried to put a stamp on the match but couldn’t.

Donyell Malen: 5,5

Always available, always threatening but lacking service and only an attempt missing the goal for all his troubles.

Denzel Dumfries: –

Didn’t play long enough for a rating, but he could have won it for us in the dying seconds.

Louis van Gaal: 6,5

Lots of possession using the 4-3-3, logical line-up, logical tactics but not a lot of chances and no win. It can only get better.

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Oranje World Cup qualifiers: Bring it on!

After what can only be seen as the most electrifying transfer window ( Messi, Lukaku, C Ronaldo, Dumfries, Koopmeiners, Berghuis, Memphis, Luuk de Jong), the Dutch NT will commence their qualification journey for the World Cup 2022.

Louis van Gaal has only 1,5 days to prep the crucial match versus Norway, away, and had a pleasant training session with the squad (see video below). The only player missing from the group training was Memphis, who did an individual training inside. Van Gaal is convinced he will be ready for Norway.

Van Gaal was keeping the cards to his chest, not yet ready to share who will be the first goalie and what approach he will be taking for the Norway game. He did disclose the skipper (Virgil) and the two vice-captains (Wijnaldum and Daley Blind).

Van Gaal explained on the presser that he is grateful for the openness of the players in what they want, how they prefer to play and what their ambitions are. As he doesn’t have a lot of time, he needs to use what the players think, feel and want and he was pleased to see that the Dutch players have an opinion and a vision.

Van Gaal also emphasized that for him, the individual quality is always secondary to the team quality. Which is why he believes Norway is a dangerous opponent.

Asked about how to stop Haaland: “We need to stop and block the pass to Haaland. We also have pretty decent defenders, by the way, but making sure Haaland doesn’t get good service is key.”

Captain Virgil van Dijk was happy to be back and explained that he wasn’t feeling weaker or insecure due to his heavy injury. “I just need matches to get more rhythm.”

Gini Wijnaldum was asked about the Euro defeat: “We were devastated and we analysed what happened. I think looking back that we missed the team element against the Czechs. We wanted to solve the problem individually, but that wasn’t working. We forgot to play as a team. But we also need to be reasonable, we only had 10 days to get a masterclass in 5-3-2 and we did ok, but it’s only normal that we haven’t executed the system perfectly.”

Louis knows exactly how he wants to play versus Norway, but won’t divulge anything: “I am not going to make my colleague of Norway smarter than he is, already.” The players who play know it already. “I believe in clarity, I want the starters to be able to visualise the game, this will help them. And I want the non-players to be in a position to support the eleven starters.”

Asked about how this squad is different from the 2014 squad: “Not much different. These players are joyful, they enjoy what they do, they are very serious and ambitious and they are not shy to share their ideas. That is what every coach wants.”

I believe Oranje will win the game but only just: 1-2. Goals by Berghuis and Wijnaldum.

I expect a cagey and nervous match with lots of battling in midfield.

This is the line up I expect:

 

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We’re back in action (almost)!

After a bit of a break (and a lot of Olympics ! ) it’s time to focus on football again. This weekend, the Eredivisie starts and so do some of the competitions around us (EPL, Ligue 1, etc).

National Team Manager Louis van Gaal also presented his prelim squad for the upcoming September WC qualification games.

The news that dominated the sports papers though, was Messi’s exit from Barca. Much has been said about it. I have to admit: I was saddened by the news. The guy wants to play at Camp Nou but other people’s mistakes (and maybe some foul play by Real Madrid??) have pushed the Best Player Ever ™ out. We all saw the presser, we all have our own ideas about it. I’m sure Memphis will have mixed feelings. Would it be grand to play with Leo? Yes it would. But without Messi, there is a vacuum in leadership and star-ship (?) and Memphis will be the first to put his hand up to take the free-kicks and penalties from now on.

Wijnaldum must be giggling himself to sleep. One of the reasons why he desperately hoped on a deal with Barca was the chance to play alongside Messi. The finances weren’t good enough for Team Wijnaldum and when PSG offered him twice the deal Barcelona had on the table, he decided to go for his future generations, more than his ego.

And guess what, Gini will be super busy in that midfield now, knowing that Mbappe, Neymar and Messi are not known for their zealous pressing. Wijnaldum might well turn out to be PSG’s key player, amongst all those Hollywood stars.

In the Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord impress. PSV because of their rollercoaster games in the CL qualifications, with power in midfield, speed up front and goals. Schmidt and Co were able to secure the services of Brazilian Ramalho who made an impression. Boscagli bounced back from his horrific start under Van Bommel and in midfield Marco van Ginkel is playing like a true Roman emperor: back straight, always looking over the ball and playing like a real captain. With the likes of Propper, Sangare and Gotze in midfield, PSV is a formidable challenger for the title. English junior international Madueke claimed all the headlines with his goals, while we all know that Cody Gakpo is destined for great things too! Mo Ihattaren who?

Feyenoord impressed too, not so much due to the wins over Drita and Luzern (which you could expect) or the “friendly” victory over Atletico Madrid, but more due to the fact that coach Arne Slot’s ideas are being processed and implemented so easily, it seems. The addition of CB Trauner from Austria is a big plus, as Feyenoord can now play higher up the pitch. Danish RB Pedersen also adds speed to Feyenoord’s defence. Marco Senesi is impressing with his passing ability and in midfield it seems Guus Til has been able to convince Van Gaal to give him a look in, with his prolific goal scoring and work rate. Up front, Iranian Jahanbakhsh will dazzle the Legion and we also expect Sinistera to get back to his full form and fitness after his tough injury. Oh, and if goalies are key to winning games and titles: Ajax has 37 year old Pasveer, PSV has the somewhat insecure Drommel but Feyenoord has the future Oranje goalie between the sticks. That could well be the differentiator.

We don’t need to mention Ajax, I don’t think. They are in good shape. When you have Blind, Tadic, Antony, Berghuis, Kudus, Timber, Schuurs, Martinez and Klaassen in your squad, you will be the title favorite. Although for me, Ajax will most likely focus more on the CL this season.

In other news, Dumfries finally gets his transfer to Inter. Van Aanholt moves to Turkey. Donyell Malen impresses at Dortmund, Donny van de Beek buffed up in the gym and Virgil is back in action and just signed a new deal with Liverpool.

Which brings us to Louis, who explained how he works as the National Team Manager.

As per usual, Van Gaal is not afraid to give youngsters their debut. In this case, maybe also an oldster. Remko Pasveer, Justin Bijlow and Joel Drommel could all make their debut in Oranje, as could Tyrell Malacia as left back and Devyne Rensch as right back. The Feyenoord LB is the only real left back in the squad, as Van Gaal doesn’t believe Wijndal and Van Aanholt have the fitness levels currently.

Stekelenburg has ended his international career and Cillesen is still not fit.

Louis van Gaal creates a squad every week (!), usually. Even in weeks/months when the NT doesn’t play. This makes his life easier and this is how it works. LVG and his staff use three stages in their work: preparation, execution and evaluation. Execution is the match itself, obviously. The preparation consists of: 1) analysis of opponent, 2) selecting the NT squad, 3) downloading information to the players via tactical talks, video analysis and training.

The evaluation is in group processes and individual, also with video analysis.

In his first tenure as NT coach, in 2000 for the 2002 World Cup, he made a crucial mistake. He decided to trust the core of players he worked with before: Davids, Seedorf, Kluivert, De Boer bros, etc. He gave them his trust also when they didn’t perform. He stopped doing this. For the 2014 World Cup, he went with his system and playing principles and picking the players who were in form, in full fitness and mentally ready (to be coached).

He produced a profile per position in the team and that is the benchmark for picking players. Then it’s all about: form, talent, fitness. He has a group of around 60 potentials, which he follows with his staff every week. Every Monday, he and his staff gather in Zeist to discuss the games they’ve seen and in particular the performance of the players. And every Tuesday, he’d make a 23 player squad. And thus, making his final squad for a certain NT match is an easy process. The skeleton frame is there, it’s just a matter of checking which of the lads is potentially injured, or lost his spot or has issues otherwise…

In 2,5 weeks, our beloved NT is ready to rumble again. Away against Norway on September 1, at home vs Montenegro on September 4 and at home v Turkey on September 7. By then, we know where we stand…

This is my eleven for Norway away. The other line ups will have to wait (depends on result, on fitness, etc).

What is your fave line up for Norway away? In the comments please :-).

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Frankly, Oranje was Boering….

It’s tough to be a coach. Imagine, if Robben had lifted the ball an inch higher, Bert van Marwijk would have been an amazing coach! If Malen would have scored vs the Czechs, who knows… Frank might have won us the Euros. That is how tight it can be.

But… Malen didn’t score. De Ligt did handle the ball. And Frank has been lost in his own convictions.

Back in 2019, Oranje was in the finals of the Nations League. Now, we can’t get past the first knock-out round, vs a mid-tier European football nation. The only consolation: we did as well as France, Portugal and Germany. Yay!

De Boer has evaluated his own performance and has concluded: it’s not working. And if he wouldn’t have had this insight, the KNVB would have confronted him with that.

Where is the drive, the quest for attacking football, for creative solutions, the positioning play and the swagger? The ambition to have the ball, to create, to dominate? Everything what makes Oranje Oranje was melting before our eyes.

The Czechs brought their team of mid-tier players: they are with Hoffenheim, Brescia, Hellas Verona, Leverkusen and West Ham. Our team? Two Barca players. A Juve player, an Inter champ, a player of PSG, several Ajax players… So, if your players are better, in terms of level, how come your team doesn’t reflect this?

The Frank de Boer Evaluation.

The System: a Fat Minus. Sure, systems and bags of money won’t score goals, or handle the ball. But why did Frank want the 5-3-2 system so rigidly? Koeman tried it and quickly went back to the 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. “This is more like us, how we play and this is how our players know how to play,” was what the current Barca coach said. De Boer decided to call some colleagues. Ex national team managers. He talked to Van Marwijk, to Van Gaal, Koeman and potentially also to Gullit, Rijkaard and Van Basten. His questions: What will I be confronted with? Which issues do I need to tackle? All these people felt in that conversation that De Boer had his mind set on a 5-3-2. Why? His response: it’s easier to press forward, with this system. The only benefit it had: a 5-3-2 would allow the coach to play all his top defenders. When Van Dijk is back, we can play a back line with Blind – Van Dijk – De Vrij – De Ligt – Dumfries. Not bad.

And, Memphis can have his free role. He doesn’t need to be stuck to the left flank ( 4-3-3) or be the lone striker (4-2-3-1).

However, only two players play this system week in week out: De Vrij and De Roon. And De Vrij said in an interview recently, that it took Conte 2 years (!) to work and practice with the team day in day out, to perfect the system. De Boer had 3 weeks.

At the same time, Memphis, De Ligt and Wijnaldum all three expressed their doubts after the first friendlies playing this system, but De Boer was steadfast!

The Execution: A Fat Minus. Which match did we play above average? The North Macedonia one? A match that didn’t really matter anymore. And still, the opponent scored twice (off side) and hit the post.

But while Frank De Boer told everyone that he saw improvements, game after game, the first knock-out game was an implosion felt all the way in Atlanta, London and Milan. Sure, we had some bad luck: Malen could have had a better touch. De Ligt should have cleared the ball after the first bounce. Stekelenburg dropping a ball and turn it into a corner kick. But is it just bad luck?

The Choices: a Fat Minus. Mathijs de Ligt might now be the personification of the bad decision making of Oranje. He lost control over the situation, over the ball… Allowed it to bounce twice, then he slipped and then he decided to handle the ball. Wow. It’s remarkable how vulnerable he was on his two feet. Just like it seemed other were also digging very deep. Memphis could be seen out of breath, after an hour of play, while Frenkie and Wijnaldum complained they had “heavy legs”.

De Ligt was one of the players quizzing the coach about his choice to play 5-3-2. There were more questions: why did he not use De Vrij and De Ligt in their usual roles: De Ligt right CB and De Vrij centrally, like he does at Inter? De Boer never answered that. He decided to invite Donny van de Beek into the squad, while the ex Ajax player barely had any game time. He sent Cillesen away after a positive corona test, while Spain was happy for Busquets to take some time off and wait for a negative result.

There’s more. Van de Beek got injured but De Boer decided he didn’t need a 26th player. Why? First, Ryan Babel was considered essential and right before the Euros he dropped him. He could have invited him back in, but he didn’t, just like he didn’t want to replace Luuk de Jong.

And Donyell Malen, the most dangerous attacker v the Czechs was subbed off, because “the data said he couldn’t go on.” Malen himself had other ideas about that! And by taken Malen off, he took the only penetrative threat away, giving the Czechs even more comfort in playing out the final 20 minutes of the game.

Result: a Fat Minus. It was under his management that we missed the finals for the Nations League. Ok, it wasn’t all under his spell, but still. The first qualification games for the World Cup ended up with damage, after the 4-2 beating vs the Turks. And what was the end result of the system change for the Euros?

We have not made any progress under this coach. There is no foundation for the future. Take the matches in June: Scotland, Georgia, Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia. Even the Czechs, we haven’t played against any top nation and still we got in trouble. Oranje hardly ever shone, maybe apart from Dumfries!

Frank de Boer abandoned Koeman’s success formula, because it would give us more defensive certainty. Well… It didn’t pan out. And we will be watching Denmark – Chech Republic while the Oranje players are at Ibiza.

The worst thing: he would do it all over again! “Yes, I think the 3-5-2 is a great system for us. We were more dominant against the Czechs, we didn’t give a lot away. Until Malen’s miss and Mathijs’ hand ball, we were fine. This is not due to the system. Our wing backs did well, our midfield knows how to play this, but you need to be sharp and focused at all times.”

De Boer thinks it’s bad luck and some players lacking form. But if you can’t dominate with this system and end up with zero shots on goal against the Czechs, something is wrong.

Still, it’s too easy to blame it all on De Boer. The people who put him there also need to be evaluated. Eric Gudde, general manager of the KNVB, is on his way out, towards retirement. Nico Jan Hoogma, the technical director, will be in his role for a bit longer, one would expect.

And one of the baffling quotes he came up with today, was “We are going to look for another coach, type Koeman!”. What the F!! if you want a type like Koeman, then do all you can to get Koeman! If he’s not available, you should stop naming his name. Any coach (Zidane, Wenger, Low, Ten Hag) will think: Ah… ok. They want Koeman. That is not me.

It’s time to act, to talk to the different coaches available. Dutch, Italian or German, who cares. I’d follow Van Hanegem’s advice and I would call Zidane. Why not? National Team coach is a very nice job. You travel, you watch football and you work at a leisurely pace. And when the Euros or World Cup are there, you’re thrown into a pressure cooker. Perfect job! I’m sure many big name coaches would pick up the phone, with a chance to lead Oranje and its amazing potential of top players (Frenkie, Memphis, Malen, Gakpo, Rensch, Timber, Gravenberch, Dumfries, Wijndal, Koopmeiners, Stengs, Boadu, Simons, Ihattaren, Bijlow, Malacia, De Ligt, Van de Beek, Teze, Schuurs) to a World Cup title.

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Weak Oranje Czeching out of Euros

I never did believe in angstgegners. It’s all psychological. But I too start to believe that we seem to be Czech Mate a lot against these guys! And sure, a lot of “bad luck” came our way, but seriously… If you really believe you are top of Europe – let alone the World – you can’t have such a collective off-day.

From coach to goalie, from central defender to new Barca signing Memphis. Not.Good.Enough.

And it all looked sooo good! We topped our – weak – group. We seemed to have the system down pat (ish). We found ourselves on the right side of the draw. Many experts in Holland already spoke about the semi finals, as if the Czechs and Danes don’t even compete. And whenever our “experts” get positive, it’s time to be very careful indeed!

As some commenters mentioned, it was all about the semi finals, it was about the terrible political situation in Hungary, who was supposed to team up with Memphis, should De Roon play, etc  etc.

But history should have taught us a lesson! The Czechs were resilient in the opening match of the Euro 2000 tournament. Ronald de Boer needed to dive to get a penalty, for his brother Frank to convert.

In 2004, we were on our way to victory, but then Arjen Robben got aggressively and ruthlessly tackled from behind with studs showing by Dick Advocaat.

I’m sure we played them a number of times more, the 2016 Euros qualifications are also still in my head. Janmaat’s backpass to Cillesen in the away game. Was it Van Persie’s own goal in the home game? What the hell do we have on our Bad Karma list re: these people!?!?

But let’s analyse this match isolated from the previous dramas. Because those past games are not an excuse. Even worse, they should have been an extra motivation! I actually was convinced we’d win this, partly also because of those past embarrassments! But no! We step into this big, wet turd yet once again! (not comparing Czechs with turds… Just a figure of speech. Trap. Turd. You get the drill)

What went wrong?

Well, I don’t think the line up De Boer selected is at fault. I don’t think it mattered whether we played Weghorst or Gravenberch. Even more so, I think this is the best line up, I suppose.

The system and tactics are also not at fault. The system didn’t handle the ball. The system didn’t miss that Malen chance.

We started erratic. We fell straight into the trap of the Czechs would would have said “Don’t let them combine. Suck the oxygen out of them!”. And we couldn’t keep the ball. So much wayward passing, bad touches and miscommunication.

And when you want to achieve something at this level, you need your best players to shine. You need a Van Basten ’88, a Bergkamp ’98 or a Robben ’14. If Dumfries and De Vrij are your best players, it’s hard to win games.

Memphis and Wijnaldum were invisible. Even dead balls – no pressure, no challenges – were too hard for Memphis to take. Frenkie de Jong got completely muscled out of the game. Our left wing back Pat van Aanholt did literally everything he did wrong. His touch, his passing, he ran in behind in off side positions, he was simply atrocious.

So without Memphis, De Jong and Wijnaldum firing on all cylinders, we are really mediocre.

And obviously, the Czechs left Van Aanholt as the free man. He was considered the least dangerous. Just like Dumfries was in acres of space, often. But we kept on trying to find the forward pass to Memphis through the middle. I think Frank de Boer should have taken the Palace player off. Bring Ake for Blind and move Blind to the LB position, where we would have a ball player instead of a blind runner. Malen would then take the left wing, as Blind is not a running wingback.

This would have forced the Czechs to make a decision. Now, leaving Van Aanholt open, led to so many ball possession turn around, it’s simply not funny anymore.

It has no use to criticize De Roon. Or Van Aanholt. They are not the lads to give that killer pass or make that run.

The only positives for me were Dumfries and De Vrij. Daley Blind was ok, but you expect more from him. His crosses and passes lacked precision too and he simply is not the leader we need.

But again, it’s players like Memphis – new signing for Barca – and Wijnaldum – new signing at PSG – who should have stepped up and didn’t.

Malen did what he could. As did Dumfries. They worked hard, they were positive, but it was not enough.

In the first half, our final pass was lacking. We could have been 2-0 up at half time, with some better play, but we simply weren’t good enough.

In the second half, Memphis finally had his magic touch: the flick to send Malen into space. The PSV talent should have buried it. He had so many options, and that might have stifled him. He could shoot early. Or go past the goalie, left or right, or chip the goalie. Or wait for Memphis. All these options….

One minute later, and Oranje sees red. A stupid mistake by De Ligt. Just fall on the ball. Odds are, the ref gives us a free kick. But he slapped at the ball and a red card is the logical outcome.

And we lost it completely afterwards. No belief, no leadership and also not the substitutions you’d expect.

I think  4-4-1 would have been best. Dumfries, De Vrij, Blind, Van Aanholt. The latter does have the physical strength to battle Coufal, more than Wijndal.

Use Wijnaldum, De Jong, Memphis and De Roon as midfielder, play compact and use the speed of Malen.

But for some really weird reason, our only fast runner was taken off! An Advocaat decision? And Promes (!!) was brought on??? What was De Boer thinking?

Memphis was not at his mediocre best even. I’d subbed him probably after the 0-1 for Gakpo. Who could have been the Memphis of 2014.

De Boer said he couldn’t play Malen more than 60 minutes. I don’t see why not? He’s a mature lad, strong, plays week in week out for PSV. Why wouldn’t he be able to play a whole match??

And Promes in? Why? What is his added value?

The Dutch analysts (Sneijder, Nigel de Jong, Ruud Gullit, Rafa van der Vaart, Pierre van Hooijdonk) were flabbergasted and claim this sub will also go down in history, like Advocaat’s Robben sub in 2004.

Overall, Memphis, Wijnaldum, Frenkie, Van Aanholt, Stekelenburg and eventually De Ligt all deserve a minus! Frenkie wasn’t bad, but he can play so much better. Today was the day for him to shine and he drowned.

Stekelenburg didn’t look good for that first goal, of course. But couldn’t really help that second one…

De Roon did what De Roon does. No more, no less. Malen, Dumfries, Blind and De Vrij reached a normal level.

Overall, Frank de Boer failed to find a solution for the Czech’s game and failed to make an impression with his substitutions. He might rue the fact he did pick Malen, as he might well have had a mind to play Weghorst as the target man. With Memphis as his running partner, and Malen potentially as a sub for later in the game.

He should have subbed Memphis who was completely ineffective

Either way. We are out. And deservedly so!

I will refrain from claiming De Boer’s head, but we will need to sort this very quickly, as the next World Cup qualifiers will be waiting soon!

Time to retire Stekelenburg and Van Aanholt, as far as I’m concerned and time to mould our ideal World Cup team together…

More analysis with screenshots of situations soon!

 

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What Oranje can expect from Czechs…

When West Ham manager David Moyes was asked about their secret, last season, he responded with: “Soucek and Coufal. They know what is needed to win, to perform top”. The former Everton coach explained how the two would even show up on rest days, to work on their skills. “They simply show the rest of the team what is needed to win.”

And attacking talent Patrick Schick said: “We are not the best team in the world but we can stop the best team in the world. We are very tough to play against. We have a lot of players who leave everything on the pitch.”

At PSV’s trainings ground, there is a saying plastered on the walls: “Working hard beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.” And this is exactly the potential pitfall for the Dutch.

The Czech Republic plays a bit like West Ham United. Typical English kick and rush. Goalie Vaclik doesn’t need a lot of invitations to kick the ball long. Goal kicks are usually always kicked long.

Still, the do have well trained patterns for the build up too. This above is what happens a lot. When their opponent drops back, both controlling mids (Soucek and Holes) will drop back to assist the back three with their build up. The reason? Like Liverpool, the Czechs have their most creative player on right back: Coufal. He had the most passes, so far, he has the highest “expected assists” value and the most balls into the box. With those midfielders dropping back, Coufal gets the opportunity to push up and when the opponent doesn’t pressure enough, Coufal can bomb forward and create something for his team. Right back Coufal had seven (7!!) assists last season. They fall into two categories: crosses from the flank and passes into the space between defenders and goalie. Stopping Coufal will be a key mission for Oranje.

Otherwise, the Czechs are well drilled in their set pieces. The only goal at this Euros that didn’t come from a corner or penalty, was Schicks amazing long-range effort, definitely one of the goals of the tournament. Throw ins are important for them too. Left back Jan Boril has a pretty powerful throw in, whereas Coufal can throw a ball like an arrow. Like a pass.

Corner kicks come in different versions too. This is the version that surprised Scotland. Coufal is being found on the edge of the box and he curls the ball in. Jankto and Darida are the usual corner takers and they will look for Soucek, the tall holding mid who scored so many goals in the EPL. Schick is also a very good header of the ball.

The Czechs are happy to use their aerial strength and cross the ball in early. Coach Silhavy might get the max out of his team, but in an attacking sense, they’re definitely not that great. Only Finland, Slovakia and Russia created less opportunities. Per match, the Czechs have an average of 3 attempts on target. Oranje has double that number.

Their work rate is pretty amazing. They can press high and swift and they tend to push their opponent to one side, if possible. They are ranked high in the list of “possession turnaround on the opponent’s half”. Seven of their 28 attempts on goal are the result of this high press. Once a second ball is won by the Czechs on our half, we need to be careful.

Defensively, on their own half, it doesn’t look too good for the Czechs. The space is large, because their full backs are usually gone up field. It will pay off for Holland to not press too high but to play compact and use players like Malen and Memphis and Dumfries to use the space that will open up.

The Czech defenders clearly don’t like to play with space behind them and look uncomfortable when confronted with speed. It really points towards the use of Malen over Weghorst.

The Czechs will wait for the opponent around the centre circle, in a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1. Their #10 Darida will sit next to Schick to block the central defenders from their opponent. With their two holding mids, they try to block the pass lines in the spine of the pitch.

The wingers in the team are work horses. Their role is to put pressure high onto the ball when the opponent opts to build up via the wings or wingbacks.

Look at this situation. The Czechs leave the pass to the Croation right back open and once that ball is played, Jankto will push up and press the ball. Jankto does it in such a way that the right back is forced to play back to the centre back. And Jankto can now immediately put pressure on him.

And as the right winger Masopust blocks the pass line to the left, Croatia is forced to go back and start over. The main aim for the Czechs is to slow the game down. And Croatia is forced to play the ball from left to right. The Croatian manager: “We started bad. We played slow and we were running to much with the ball and couldn’t create.” The match against Scotland, who also play 5-3-2, suggest that Stefan de Vrij might be the free man in build up on our side.

Dumfries and Van Aanholt shouldn’t be surprised if Jankto and Masopust will travel all the way back with them, resulting in a 6-3-1 system. They tend to start with zonal marking but as the game progresses and they get a good feel of their opponent’s system, they will go to man marking. The Czechs will adapt and can play the aforementioned systems and a 4-1-4-1 if need be.

There are basically three types of passes that will help us break down their compact style of football. The key is to play forward passes, instead of the defensive passes we saw earlier from Croatia.

The ideal pass is the pass behind their central defenders. Their defenders are simply slow. Striker Mick van Buren, who plays his football in the Czech Republic: “They’re vulnerable at the back. Oranje will need speed. I’m a fan of Weghorst, but I would play Memphis and Malen against these guys.”

A similar scenario, left back Shaw of England is playing the ball towards Sterling who will end up one v one with the goalie.

The second option is to play the ball between the lines. The central defenders tend to go back, due to their lack of speed, and there are always gaps in their midfield. See this example of the Italy game. Italy won 4-0. Players like Daley Blind or Frenkie de Jong should be able to find Malen or Memphis in that space.

The third option is to use the width. Locatelli finds Spinazzola on the left, which stretches the defence, and in this case Insigne becomes the free man.

As a bonus, goalie Vaclik is a very good line keeper with good reflexes but he’s weak with high crosses from the flanks. This can be a weapon for us when we take corners.

The Czechs are not a real counter team, which can cross the length of the pitch with some deadly passes. Like we can, or France. But they do haul the ball long at times, trying to create havoc. Usually, this should worry the Dutch.

My conclusion: we need to watch three things: Schick, set pieces and Coufal. Stopping the right back might be a bit of a problem for us, considering how open we were in earlier matches. Other than that, it shouldn’t be too hard not to concede against them.

Offensively, the key is the forward pass. The Czechs will lure us to spaces where we can’t be dangerous and we need to make sure not to step into that trap. When we manage this and stay out of physical duels, we should be able to break them down.

If we can score early in the match, say in the first 20 minutes and a second goal before half time, we can probably beat them convincingly.

With Malen in the team, I predict a 5-1 win for us. Malen twice, Memphis, Wijnaldum and De Ligt on the score sheet.

Watch the Dutch go for some fun at bowling…

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Stars aligning for Oranje?

For many days, the overall view was that poor Oranje was having to slug it out with Portugal or even Germany in the first knock-out game. But it seems the football gods are with us… Even better, our march to the finals will actually be not that dreadful, considering Belgium, France and Italy – generally seen as the three favorites – are in the other leg of the draw.

It remains to be seen whether this is a good thing though. Traditionally, Oranje does well vs stronger teams. Remember the group of death(s) in 2006 and 2008? We obliterated the competition (well…) and got in trouble the next knock-out stage. Oranje now also play well versus teams that consider themselves stronger. Once an opponent parks the bus, we will find it tougher to break them down.

But, the stars in the sky might have aligned, it also seems the stars on the pitch have. The vibe in the squad is very good, players who tend to be a bit narcy when they are not the dominant player appear to remain calm ( Berghuis, Koopmeiners) and Frank de Boer is demonstrating day in day out in his interviews and press conferences that he grew as a coach. He’s likeable, he jokes, he laughs and analyses with clarity.

Malen and Memphis have produced some nice interaction. Add the quality, movement and silky touch of Wijnaldum and there is our holy trinity. Frenkie and Gini have a good understanding, as do Stefan de Vrij and Mathijs de Ligt. These two actually became firm friends in Italy and spend a lot of time, with the families together.

The PSV contingent (Malen, Dumfries, Gakpo, Memphis) work well together, as do the AZ and Ajax team mates. Berghuis might well feel at home with the Ajax lads…

I am loath to be too positive and chirpy, but I can see that with the right focus and the right line up / system, Oranje can indeed power forward.

it was quite eventful for Oranje, this past week. The group win was great, Memphis’ signature under a Barca contract clearly gave the mercurial forward a boost, but the loss of Luuk de Jong, who had to exit the camp with a nasty knee injury, means Plan B doesn’t exist anymore. And it also automatically means that Wout Weghorst will be relegated to the pinch hitter role.

Another player we will need firing on all cylinders is Frenkie of course. The player with the most successful dribbles in the Euros until now.

Playmaker, play accelerator, conductor, dreh-und-angelpunkt, we have had so many names already for the midfielder. His passing is usually mentioned as his key strength and this is indeed a highly important aspect of the game. But another aspect might need a bit more spotlight: the dribble. No one dribbles more and better than the Arkel born lad.

Goal.com asked Antoine Griezmann in 2019 which player was the toughest opponent for him and he immediately said: “Ajax’ De Jong! I tried to put him under pressure in the Nations League games with France and it was impossible, I never succeeded. He’s so slick, he just slips past you as if you’re not there.” Not much later, they became team mates.

Four players had 17 dribbles in this Euros, so far. Our Frenkie, Denmark’s Maehle, Switzerland’s Embolo and France’ Mbappe. Frenkie had 13 successful ones, compared to 8 by the others.

This is here is key moment. Holland is under pressure from Austria. Weghorst passes to Wijnaldum, who gets two opponents on his toes. Gini dribbles quickly to the side line, knowing that loss of possession is less dangerous there. De Jong gives him an option, on the side line and he has four Austrians putting pressure on. Sabitzer in front of him, Laimer and Hinteregger are lurking close while Schlager joins in as well. Most player would pass the ball backwards to Dumfries or De Vrij. But that would not solve the problem. We would still be locked in and under pressure. This is a typical ideal pressure moment for Austria.

Frenkie oozes confidence on the ball. He doesn’t panic and the four Austrians are hesitating. De Jong sees the hesitation and decides to use it. He sprints through the pressure with the ball in close control and it fits like a glove. Not only does he alleviate  the pressure, he turns defence into attack as he turns the situation in a 6 v 4 situation, what with Daley Blind and Pat van Aanholt immediately breaking out too, joining Frenkie, Weghorst, Memphis and Wijnaldum in attack. This move ends with a failed pass from Van Aanholt to Weghorst.

Another typical moment, also demonstrating the partnership in midfield. Holding mid Marten de Roon has the ball and almost stands still. Wijnaldum drops back and offers an option, leaving a gap in front of the Austrian defence. De Roon points to it, even, and Frenkie runs into that space and receives the ball.

He looks over his shoulder and sees that Laimer is too slow to react, so now Frenkie knows he can turn the player and get into a 1 v 1 situation on the edge of the box. He passes to Memphis whose shot is blocked. Another example where the obvious option would have been to pass the ball back.

The third example is in the North Macedonia match. Obviously, the pressure was off and Oranje was further helped by the offensive tactics of North Macedonia. Their pressure play resulted in space for us. Here is an example.

De Ligt has the ball and is pressured by Elmas. The ball goes to Daley Blind and Pandev is putting pressure on him. De Jong offers Blind an option, and while the ball is traveling, he looks over his shoulder, twice. Once right, once left. Before he has the ball, he knows the Macedonian defence is not pushing forward. He turns, he accelerates and he releases Van Aanholt. Wijnaldum could have done better from that Van Aanholt cross.

This type of play by De Jong makes it hard for opponents to press. A hesitation or a slow reaction and he is off and away. De Jong’s dribbles are as lethal as his passing. He can create something out of nothing. He doesn’t have a lot of assists or goals to his name. His forte is the pre-assist. His accelerations offer space and time to his team mates.

De Jong’s qualities are hard to express in statistics, although Opta Sports was able to somewhat approach it with their carries-stat. This demonstrates the ability to see a gap and the skills to carry the ball forward into that gap. The number of meters you carry the ball with your feet, basically. It’s not a surprise that the wingbacks score hight in this category as they usually have the flank at their disposal, where it is less busy. Carrying the ball forward through the spine is tough. There simply isn’t much space. De Jong is a maestro. He showed it at Ajax, now at Barca and at Oranje. Only Mateo Kovacic and the Spanish Barca colleague Pedri are able to show similar stats. But they tend to carry the ball backwards a lot too.

When Opta filters the stats in terms of carries forward, than Frenkie is the only midfielder amongst defenders.

The most important thing is, that Frenkie is completely convinced of his own playing style.

His response to a comment after the Real Madrid away game in 2019 says it all. Ajax won 1-4 but Frenkie had a difficult moment vs Benzema, when he tried to take on the French striker just outside his own box and lost the ball to the predator. This resulted in a big chance for Madrid.

Sports commentator Van Gelder: “I have a strong heart, but can you please never do that again?”

Frenkie: “No, I disagree. I think I need to do this again, but do it better. I made a good turn, but when I wanted to accelerate I got cramp in my legs and had to try and keep the ball…”

I think I need to do this again but better…. That is his mindset and that is why he can be of great value in the knock-out games. This mix of uninhibitedness and precision is exactly what we need. This puts the fear into our opponents, the knowledge that one little mistake can mean Oranje is thundering forward. De Jong’s dribbles give Oranje time and space, it also gives us a signature style of play.

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Where does Oranje stand?

Friends, we did what we had to do. We won all home matches in the group stage. And we didn’t expect anything less. Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia should be wins with any Dutch generation, really… Scoring 8 is good. Conceding 2 less so. All players fit, that is a good thing and yes, the 5-3-2 seems to be generally accepted now.

The Dutch experts/analysts are still not convinced. Where do we stand now? How good are we really?

The international media, however, seem to push Oranje to a favorite role. And I don’t think that is justified. Sure, Germany, Portugal, Spain, they’re not firing on all cylinders but you wouldn’t want them to, right? Just like with Oranje.

But can we reach a higher level, once we face them? Or even worse: France or Italy? Who knows?

I even doubt if Frank de Boer knows.

And then there are the fans on this blog, who mostly seem to be highly critical of Frank de Boer, Daley Blind and Memphis Depay ;-).

This North Macedonian game further showed why the international football world (players, fans, coaches and analysts) rate Daley Blind. If you saw the game and you still think he is only in the team because of his daddy (huh??), you should probably start supporting another sport.

Overall, the key thing every Dutch fan looked at in this last group game was: how good will Malen and Memphis (and Wijnaldum) gel, in comparison to playing with Weghorst?

The jury is out, as far as I’m concerned. Malen is a better player than Weghorst, he adds something fresh, and explosive to the team. He has depth and runs in behind and he has a daft tough too, as we saw with Oranje’s third goal. But, most importantly, he makes Memphis play better!

And if we want to achieve something here, we need Memphis to be in top form.

It was nice to see Gravenberch, but the young talent demonstrated that he’s not yet mature enough for a role in the starting eleven. In the first half, he was wandering a bit, not sure where to be, what to do. It did improve and he’ll be a top player for us.

Other than that, the other subs didn’t bring us much news. We saw Berghuis, keen to prove his worth, with sloppy moves and a couple of great passes and a top corner kick. The prolific right winger has a limited fee of 4 million euros and both Ajax and PSV are courting him. Gakpo got his debut and demonstrated his skill too in the last 10 minutes.

But what did North Macedonia teach us?

Well, the 5-3-2 might be a fine system but you do need to implement and execute it well. North Macedonia surprised Frank de Boer with a 4-2-3-1 system and their particular tactical move puzzled the Dutch eleven.

When building up, the Macedonians pushed Alioski way up, to keep Dumfries quiet, but Trajkovski would push up left next to Pandev. As De Boer is focused on man marking, not zonal, this resulted in a mess within Oranje. Normally, the player in the zone would pick up the wandering Elmas. Wijnaldum in this case and Frenkie would be available to pick up Trajkovski.

The situation above is how we did it, with man marking. Frenkie is completely out of position because Elmas is his man. There is a gap behind him, which forces De Vrij to move forward, far away from his comfort zone.

Another situation, in which Frenkie and De Vrij are lost in space. The number 62 of the world is capable of playing from under Oranje’s press. And by then, it is not even a surprise that Trajkovski is the man rattling the post next to Stekelenburg with a fine attempt.

Before the break. Oranje ends up in situations in which the distances between the lines are too great. The midfield was all open and bare as our players follow their man and are lured out of position. You can see, there are no holding mids to protect the back four. This will be noted with glee, by the scouts of the remaining nations.

On the other hand, Oranje is constantly threatening on the break. It seems to always find ways to hurt the opponent. And even when the pass and move positioning game breaks down, with Malen, Wijnaldum and Memphis, there is always the chance on a break. And this is how we come to our first goal. A ruthless Blind tackle, a pass through by Gravenberch and Malen on his moped to launch Memphis after two 1-2 combinations: 1-0.

Dumfries gets another chance, to become golden boot candidate, in the 29th minute. Alioski is playing left winger so Dumfries has acres of space. Malen’s ball is fine but the goalie ruins the party of the PSV boys.

After the break, De Boer opts for the 4-2-3-1 as well and brings Timber and Berghuis for De Vrij and Dumfries. This is what De Boer calls the “Italian way”.

In this set up, De Boer does what Koeman did: one penetrating full back and one conservative one.
Under Koeman, Dumfries was the penetrating one and Blind was sitting. In Frank de Boer’s version, it’s Van Aanholt with the penetration and Timber the one staying back.

Now it’s truly a man-to-man battle and North Macedonia can’t find any openings anymore, simply due to the difference in individual qualities. Not because we suddenly defend so well. Because our back line is still vulnerable. The only gain in this system: there is no confusion who marks who.

Before the tournament, Dutch fans and analysts feared that the 5-3-2 wouldn’t be attacking enough. It seems that this is not the real issue. The real problem with the 5-3-2 is the defensive structure. North Macedonia has pointed out that the bigger nations could really hurt us.

 

 

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Oranje’s dilemma: plan B or more of the same…

Memphis Depay signed a deal with Barcelona. In the past, this would have been a major headline in The Netherlands and maybe across Europe. Not today. The Euros are on and Denzel Dumfries appears to be way more in demand than our #10.

Oranje scored 5 goals and Dumfries was involved with all (scoring two of them). His rushes, his strength, his aerial strength, his speed, it’s been noted across the globe. Where originally Everton seemed in pole position to sign the former Sparta talent, today the likes of Juventus, Inter and Bayern Munich have joined, while apparently the whole English football community has him on the radar.

Dumfries was playing with the Barendrecht amateurs in 2014, when 17 years old, telling his mates he would start working on improving himself so “he could claim the RB spot in Oranje”. Sparta signed him and when coach Alex Pastoor allowed him his debut, he was at fault for 3 goals in his first 45 minutes. He asked his coach if he could be subbed, during the half time break. Pastoor refused. “This is what will make you better!”.

He went to PSV via SC Heerenveen and his journey hasn’t ended yet. Is there anything Dumfries can’t do? “Hahaha, there is lots I need to do better. My positioning play is weak and needs to get better. So I can have more time on the ball and make better decisions. I also think my cross needs to improve. My overall yield needs to improve, although this Euros is going well for me.” Asked whether he has enough energy to sustain his game in this tournament: “Of course, we only just started! I have heaps of energy. And I don’t need motivating either.”

Ryan Gravenberch is another publicity magnet. His performances at Ajax in the Champions League has caught the eye of many and like Dumfries, he’s a sought after talent. Where Dumfries played at the amateur level at 17, Gravenberch made his debut for Ajax. Dumfries: “I am totally in awe of that kid. I see him now, he’s so mature, and level headed. When I was his age, I went to high school with my mates and trained three evenings in the week. Over the years, I matured as a player and as a man. Ryan is there already.”

Gravenberch: “It is going fast yes. I really have trouble keeping tally. It’s hard to process it as the next game is already around the corner. The Ajax season was tough, I had times in the winter where I struggled with my energy. Now I’m fine again. I usually need a couple of days to recharge. Otherwise, I am very happy. It’s great to be with Oranje, this is a truly amazing group of players. And yes, I do want to play more, of course, but it’s not for me to say. Should the coach need me, I’ll be ready.”

There is a fair chance that Frank de Boer will make the decision to rest players vs North Macedonia.

It’s a tough schedule, after a tough season. Frank de Boer will take the input from the medical staff and scrutinise the data to see which player should rest. In the past Oranje had a situation like this before: in 2006, we won the first two group games and could rest the A-team against Argentina. The result was a break of rhythm for the A-list, and our first knock-out match (v Portugal) became a debacle. Or even worse: a national embarrassment (the Battle of Neurenberg). In 2008, we were in another Group of Death, but after beating Italy and France, we were up against Romania and Van Basten again rested some key players. The break of rhythm might have contributed to the loss vs Hiddink’s Russia in the knock out stages.

What is better: keep the first team together and in rhythm? With the risk of injuries or fatigue later down the track? Or is it better to let some fresh legs play? To keep the others save but also to give the B-team a chance to present themselves. That might contribute to the group dynamics.

It’s a tough call. Only De Boer in combination with his players will be able to decide this.

I have the feeling Frank will use the players from the A team who are still super fit. He also suggested he might go for Plan B, which is the “Italian version”, with a right winger in the team, whereas the left winger has a free role.

I hope Frank will use the 4-3-3 as a template. As both Gini and Frenkie are key to our success, I hope Frank will play like this:

Your views?

 

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