In what could have been a first upset on Game Day 1 of the WC qualification group of Oranje, Holland could have lead with 3 points, while favorites France couldn’t manage to score in their first match.
But, sadly, a strong Oranje created many good opportunities to score but saw Sweden hit the net first, after a rare Strootman howler. Oranje got back into the game with skipper Sneijder finishing an excellent move by Daryl Janmaat. Late in the game, Bas Dost seemed to have scored a perfectly legal goal to give Oranje the deserved three points, but the Italian ref somehow saw something untowards…
Danny Blind: “We’re bitterly disappointed, to be honest. Kevin Strootman is in a foul mood and he’ll probably won’t come out for interviews. I’m also quite cross with that referee. It was a perfect goal. What happened in that duel is what happens 67 times in both boxes during a game. Either you give a foul and a penalty for all these instances, or a defensive free kick, or not. But to disallow Dost’s goal…. Pathetic. We could have taken three points and have two points on France. It’s disappointing we didn’t, coz I felt the team did everything right. Our tactics worked, the players executed it perfectly, we created chance after chance… Very unlucky. But, it does give us something to build on…”
Before the game, in the press conference, Blind was quite clear: “We are coming here to win. But, if winning is not possible, at least we need to make sure we don’t lose!”
I agree with Blind. We did everything right, but score. And if it wasn’t for that a-typical mistake by Strootman, the one Sneijder goal would have been enough.
Holland dominated from the start. Patient build up, allowing the ball to be zipped around. Sweden, playing at home, were set up to not lose. Two banks of four, with 2 strikers. Guidetti and Berg, shrewd and experienced. Sweden didn’t want the ball and was basically hoping for a mistake by the Dutch.
Blind’s set up was perfect. He opted for two strong defenders to deal with the Swedish forwards. Van Dijk in particular played a brilliant game. Strootman sitting in front of those two would be the safeguard. Ironically, it was the usually solid midfielder who gave Sweden a present. Blind used Janmaat on the right, knowing he would playing as a winger more than anything. This means that Wijnaldum, on the right hand of midfield, had to play more controlling, as Janmaat and Promes were in charge of the attacking side of things. The Liverpool man’s job was to guard the balance and he didn’t show a lot of penetrative running for us.
On the left, with Sneijder as the false left winger, Blind wanted a player who’d play more controlled on that left wing, as Sneijder obviously wouldn’t be able to track 60 meters back all the time if a player like Willems or Van Aanholt would lose possession.
The left flank was kept open for Blind to venture into (at times he did and created some good crosses from the left with Sneijder) and Vincent Janssen and Davey Klaassen used that space to enter into as well.
And it worked wonder. Holland created close to 8 real chances, with a number of opportunities to shoot as well. The number of crosses and corner kicks added to this and you can see that Oranje’s only problem in this game was: scoring.
It was the penetration runs of Klaassen that got him the most opportunities. Couple of headers, little dink by Strootman, putting him one on one with Swedish goalie… Vincent Janssen did get some joy too, but the stocky striker was mostly impressive with his hold up play, his runs and work rate and a couple of decent efforts from distance (one tipping the bar after a deflection).
Everything clicked. No single player was disappointing. Sure, Janmaat had some defensive slip ups, but those things happen. Nothing came of it (in one instance, Van Dijk had to stretch and use all his agility to head the ball over the goal) and Bruma was not the best in his passing, but all in all, no one stood out in a negative way.
I would like to see more from Promes, personally. It feels like he lacks confidence. In the first half in particular, he made some bad choices, where a quick through ball or one-two combination was on the cards, but he did well with Janmaat on the right flank.
The only really negative moment I can recall by Oranje, was Strootman’s fumble. What was he thinking? Trying to get the ball under control with Markus Berg lurching, he could have played the safe square ball to Janmaat but decided to want to control the ball properly. He half stood on the ball, lost his balance and Berg was in possession. His goal was a peach!
In our first qualification game for the Euros 2016, vs the Czechs, Daryl Janmaat was guilty of a howler. Coach Hiddink publically attacked Janmaat for it and decided not to call him up anymore. That did not go down well with the players and was most likely the start of the drama. Now, when asked how he rated Strootman’s mistake, Blind said: “What can I say. Strootman is devastated. He knows he let the team down. I don’t need to remind him. Players make 100s of decisions in a game and it goes all very fast. Players who are in the thick of things, make mistakes. They’re not always lethal. This one was. We need to get over it and go on.”
Virgil van Dijk had a guild edged opp from a Sneijder free kick but he couldn’t bring the ball down, giving the goalie a chance to stop it, and Bas Dost was through on goal at one stage, where a simple side footed pass into the goal would have sealed the deal.
So, a disappointing result where 3 points were the deserved outcome, but all in all a good performance.
Particular taking into account that the pressure was on! The failure to qualify was still hanging over this team, add to that the shenanigans at the KNVB and the lacklustre 60 minutes vs Greece… It was game on and the punters in Holland were adamant that a bad result vs Sweden would mean Blind would have to pack his bags.
The Dutch coach was interviewed about this at the press conference and said this. “Do I feel the pressure? I don’t really. It’s the media that discuss this at length, we don’t go there internally. We focus on what we can do, should do, and must do. That is all we can do. I understand there is pressure, and that is normal. But I don’t feel it, I am not in any way constrained or influenced by it.”
Cool and collected, but the question was: would Oranje choke vs Sweden if things would go awry during the game?
And it didn’t. That, to me, is the biggest win of this first round. Blind picked the right squad, the right tactics, the right line up. It worked. What didn’t work, was us killing the game off and sadly one of our leaders on the pitch had one momentary lapse of reason, gifting the Swedes the goal of the Game Day.
Wesley Sneijder: “This is not the best Oranje I ever played in, in terms of individual qualities. But, this is becoming a solid team. And that is probably as important, if not more important.”
Later in the night, Kevin Strootman did come in front of the cameras. “I’m vice captain. I can’t make a mistake and not show up to talk about it. I am pretty devastated though. I have been going on and on in the last months about how we make too many individual mistakes. And here I am, we finally play a real qualification game and now I am the one throwing it away. And I can’t tell you what happened, it was a black out of some sorts, I can’t turn it into any kind of excuse. And yes, I hear Dost’s goal might have been legit, but I am the last guy here to talk about another guy’s mistake…”
We’re away, and things could have been worse….