Tag: Nederland

Oranje: ugly wins are also wins

We were up against an agitated opponent. We humiliated them in Belgium, they wanted revenge. They also wanted to grab their last chance to get into the Final Four. And we lost two of our key players. It didn’t look too good. I tried to find the positive in that event and posted that earlier.

I expected a loss, as you will remember, and with De Roon for Frenkie and Janssen for Memphis, we were definitely weakened.

Before the game Van Gaal wanted a different “version” of his midfield, what with Frenkie absent. De Roon and Berghuis started as the two pivots and Klaassen in the 10 role to pick up the first holding mid of the opponent. Nothing new here.

The positioning of Bergwijn and Janssen was completely new. They were told not to pressure the ball but to move wide. Against Poland, our forwards were instructed to put pressure on the ball. In this match, Van Gaal allowed the central defender to have freedom on the ball. It’s not a bad idea, as in this way the vertical pass to the two playmakers (De Bruyne and Hazard) was blocked off, but the central defender of Belgium was not Boyata, as expected, but Alderweireld. One of the best passers of the game.

When De Bruyne and Hazard started to drift and float, we were getting into trouble with Timber at times pressing all the way to the Belgian box! Ake and Timber ended up in no mans land at times and add to that the slower and limited build up smarts of De Roon and there is your recipe for a weak first half.

Belgium started on the front foot, as was to be expected. Alderweireld was their free man and his passing is quite good so Belgium did take the initiative and created more than we did. Oranje was played a sort of counter football in the turn around but once we had the ball, we seemed a bit hesitant.

The ball circulation pace was low and it seemed only Ake and Berghuis were motivated to speed the game up and create something. Dumfries was minding Castagne, who was found often, while De Roon took care of De Bruyne, who kept on drifting into different areas

Belgium could have scored 3 or more in the first half, with chances for Hazard and Witsel. The Oranje organisation was solid, but the pressure on the ball was not easy, due to Belgium’s roaming midfielders.

in a game like this, Vincent Janssen’s weakness – his lack of speed – comes to light as there was a lot of space in behind but only Bergwijn tended to try and get in there. Klaassen did make some good runs but on the ball he showed a complete lack of match rhythm. De Roon was solid, he played well and interestingly enough, he speeds the game up more than Frenkie, at times. Frenkie loves to turn and chop and turn again, and dribble. De Roon, knowing his own limitations, is more of a short passer.

Van Gaal had to replace the active Berghuis, who still suffered lower back issues. He was keen to make an impression with his work rate and vertical play, and with De Roon, Koopmeiners and Klaassen not overly convincing, the Ajax #10 will probably make the squad for the World Cup. His left foot remains a unique weapon.

Van Gaal wanted more aggression in the second half and brought Malacia for Ake. Malacia had to deal with De Bruyne who pops up on that zone a lot. Van Gaal wanted a pit bull defender there instead of Blind, who is more a tactical defender. The forward press by Malacia went really well.

Gakpo was on the pitch already for Berghuis and he demonstrated again what potential he has. The corner kick which brought us the goal was a peach, and we saw him do this with succcess versus Feyenoord as well. Consider Gakpo a shoe in for Qatar as well. Frans Hoek deserves credit too. De Vrij is then already on the pitch for Timber and he pulls away to defenders by sprinting early across the area. Klaassen positions himself in front of Courtois, who usually plucks corners for fun.

Ken Taylor was brought on to give the team some more solidity in midfield. The kid can do everything a midfielder needs to do. He’s strong on the ball, good passer, positively looking forward, making runs and creating opportunities.

Bergwijn could have scored three goals, he smashed a ball in to the side netting, after a splendid Gakpo turn and the Ajax winger should have shown a bit more composure. Blind also launched Bergwijn in the last phase of the game but he found Courtois in his way.

Pasveer and Timber impressed again. Both demonstrated a cool head in tight situations. Pasveer is calm, in control and constantly on the front foot. Had some good instinctive saves. Timber also is very relaxed under pressure. What a talent he is.

Pasveer had the save of the night on a great pass by De Bruyne and a finish by Onana. A great instinctive save. I think Pasveer can start packing his suitcase.

So much for the individual performances. As for the team game play, it was not good. it was sloppy in possession again, not being able to string too many passes together. As said, the pace was low and the decision making was wanting. Still a lot to work on.

But, if you are second best all night but win the game, that is worth a lot. In every big tournament, you will have at least one game where you’re under pressure. If you can win ugly, well…it’s still a win!

We love the win, we love the clean sheet and we love to be in the Final Four. That is all well and good. The defensive organisation Van Gaal instilled in the squad is superb. Belgium was the better side, but they didn’t create too many chances.

This means we will be a tough team to beat, even if we are not playing amazing.

To be ready for the World Cup, we need to shore things up more. I believe the midfield Berghuis – Klaassen – De Roon is not good enough. I hope Taylor or Koopmeiners or Gravenberch will step up to offer that better option next to (or instead of ) De Jong.

I also hope to see Danjuma fit and ready, as we will need more quality up front. I also hope Brobbey will be on fire for Ajax in the coming months as he will be a better, more explosive and skilful option for Janssen.

Give me your thoughts!

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Frugal Oranje does the bizznizz: WC ticket secured!

A combination of factors contributed to the abysmal performance and result away versus Montenegro.

And as a result, we saw the worst and the best of this Oranje, in the course of 4 days ( inspired by Louis van Gaal).

The nation was holding its breath, the pressure was on. And as a result of the drunk man’s policies of the Dutch politicians, in an empty Kuip.

So there were lots of questions. Will Louis change the team wholesale? Which goalie would he pick? What tactics will we see? Daley Blind, Wijnaldum, Klaassen underperformed versus Montenegro… Would Louis use Malacia? Or Ake?

With Bijlow injured, was it now Flekken’s turn? Or fall back on Cillesen, the more experienced one? And will Holland go for the win, and try to overwhelm Norway? Or did Louis expect Norway to come blazing on all cylinders?

Well, the answers were actually quite logical (from the Book of Van Gaal): Always rely on experience in big games. He would never throw Malacia before the wolves. Neither would he Flekken. Cillesen has been in pressure cookers before and knows the drill. He also is a tremendous kicker of the ball, so Cillesen in goal was not a surprise.

Van Gaal leaning on the experienced players was also not a biggie for me. He played the same formation as versus Montenegro, but with Bergwijn instead of Malen.

“Malen didn’t perform well. I told my wingers: stay wide and high as much as possible. Danjuma did well. Malen kept on moving out of position which resulted in a very underwhelming right side of the team. Bergwijn did better. So I played him,” was Van Gaal’s explanation.

And no, Louis didn’t force his players to hunt for goals. Keeping a clean sheet was key.

So in other words: dominant, with a provocative press. A Van Gaalism. Which means: invite the other party to attack. Sit a bit deeper and wait for the moment to press. This is 1) when a sloppy ball is played by the opponent, or 2) when a midfielder has his back to our goal when played in or 3) when the ball is played wide to a full back.

In the first half, we hardly got into trouble. And yes, we didn’t create a lot but we still had 3 or 4 chances. Bergwijn impressed on the right. Danjuma was threatening from the left. Blind played his usual decent game, as did Wijnaldum. The midfield was instructed not to run blindly into the opponent’s box and that reluctance made the chances we did create less effective, but hey… we didn’t concede!

And all that mattered was securing that ticket!

Norway didn’t take the game to us. They waited until the second half. Oranje got a bit more space in the second half, when Norway started to push a bit more, but they only managed two shots, of which none on target.

By then, we had seen some headers by Memphis, a Montenegro type flick by Depay as well, a volley from 25 meters from the Barca forward and some good crosses by Danjuma and Bergwijn. Lots of “almost” chances.

In the second half we got more opportunities when Norway went to play with three at the back. Bergwijn and Danjuma were always going to be the danger men, playing from the wide angles.

Oranje was clearly focused on not conceding, more so than scoring. The lack of confidence as a result of the latest draw was palpable. The lack of Oranje support from the stands could well have been a blessing in disguise, as in previous games the home crowd at times yells the team forward in scenarios where that is actually not preferred by the coaches…

Frenkie worked his arse off and probably ran more than 11 kms in this match. Wijnaldum was way more involved in midfield and Memphis was his usual self. Probing, drifting, threatening, while Blind and Dumfries offered good support for the wide men.

Man of the Match Steven Bergwijn made a strong statement with his creative explosive runs and it was befitting for him to be the guy breaking the deadlock. A wonderful little dribble from left back Blind, with a 1-2 combination with his former Man U mate Memphis and Danjuma was able to provide the assist to Bergwijn who found the top corner emphatically.

Norway had some minutes left to get back into it and added more attackers to the mix, prompting Van Gaal to sub Danjuma who was becoming a wing back for us. Nathan Ake was asked to shore up matters. From a Norway corner, a smart little header by Memphis released Bergwijn who ran half the pitch towards the Norwegian goal, with Oranje’s record breaker and future all time topscorer Memphis Depay in his wake. A simple wide pass to the Barca man and he added another goal to his tally, surpassing the likes of Bergkamp and Huntelaar.

And with that, Louis van Gaal – watching the game as an evil conniving Stavros Blofeld from his vip box -saw it was good.

His team qualified as group leaders and demonstrated some grit and effectiveness after a series of interesting matches. We’ve seen them struggle, we have seen them play Turkey off the pitch, we have seen them put to sleep by Montenegro and now we’ve seen them all business-like and efficient.

Congrats to all! We’re back at World Cup Level. Lets discuss what we learned moving forward in future posts.

In terms of player ratings…

Cillesen – 7

He didn’t have to do a lot of shot stopping but his distribution is excellent and it was good to see him confident and relaxed in the Oranje goal again.

Dumfries – 6

Lots of energy and hard work. At times a bit clumsy but always positive and always “on”.

De Ligt – 6.5

Didn’t do much wrong, but also didn’t do much to make us all sit up. Decent.

Van Dijk – 7

Played like a captain. Was the boss in aerial battles and commanded the troops with his booming bariton.

Blind – 7

Some good touches and passing. Not everything worked, but that is ok. His little forward dribble and 1-2 with Memphis broke open the Norway defence.

Klaassen – 5

A bit invisible. Probably working hard, but a tad off the pace at times. Got subbed due to a nasty stamp on his thigh.

Wijnaldum – 6.5

Played in service of the team. Had some good moments and battled like in his best Liverpool days.

Frenkie – 7.5

Frenkie led by example. Covering a lot of space. Always available and snapping like a pitbull at ankles and balls.

Danjuma – 7

Kept the pitch wide. Was threatening always and direct in his actions. A tad unlucky with his crosses and his goal attempts. Had the assist on the 1-0.

Memphis – 7

Scoring, hassling, leading, threatening. Not his best game but in a mediocre performance he will still find the net, he will work his butt off and that volley deserved better.

Bergwijn – 8

Man of the Match. Constantly threatening on the wing, tracking back when needed. Good crosses, and that superb goal. His last minute run to gift Memphis a tap in was excellent too.

De Roon and Ake didn’t have too much time to excel.

Van Gaal – 8

The winning coach. Bringing us back to World Cup finals level. Usually, I’d give him a 7 but his Blofeld impersonation gets him an extra point. If he would have brought a white cat for on his lap, I’d give him a 9.

For now: come back with your comments and insights below.

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Do or Die for Oranje!

It seems Oranje is never able to do things the easy way! We either cruise through a tournament beating big nations only to crash land unexpectedly (1974, 1998, 2021 Euros) against lesser opponents or we find ourselves blocked in a thrilling “play off finals” we end up losing…. Ireland. Belgium. Russia. Sweden…

You will know me to be a positive minded Oranje fan and I like to protect our coaches and players, in particularly if they have had a good record for us all and made us cheer. I find that I can take that really far, at times. Kuyt, Nigel de Jong, Jordy Cruyff, Bogarde, Andre Ooijer, I really like and respect these guys. Now, I clap for Blind, I cheer for Berghuis and I support Koopmeiners.

But…. now the time has come to step up and earn all these credits, all that applause, the fancy cars and paychecks!

Norway is not France, Italy or Spain. Norway with Haaland is a bit like Portugal (with CR7) or Poland (with Lewandowski). Norway without Haaland is a bit like Austria, Ukraine, Ireland and we need to be able to beat them. With or without fans. With or without De Vrij.

There are no more excuses. Not even Van Gaal’s accident, when he crashed with his bike and hurt his hip severely. When he suggested to leave the camp, the players and staff pleaded with him to finish the job, bringing tears to the eyes of the veteran coach. Ah well… we can add that to the mix. Why not.

Van Loen forgets to mark George Grun

I think it’s sad that Bijlow isn’t fit, but Cillesen, Flekken or even Sergio Padt or Marco Bizot should do the job. Even if we concede goals, we simply need to score one more (or the same number actually).

De Vrij won’t be missed: we have De Ligt.

We simply need to show up. Focused. Fit. With courage, forward thrust and using our brain and common sense in the decision making. Playing simple and effective.

Van Gaal will not play around with systems and he will not change too many names on the team sheet.

Spanje with Malta goalie on their side: 12-1

You can expect two holding mids, this time. I wouldn’t be surprised if De Roon is on the bench or even in the team. Him or Wijnaldum next to Frenkie, allowing the Barca man to wander.

I don’t think Blind will be sacrificed. Van Gaal will trust his experience and his pride. The Ajax man wants to redeem himself. Using Malacia in a game like this might be just a tad too much pressure for the energetic youngster.

Bergwijn might start, although Van Gaal could also pick a player like Lang, provided he impresses Van Gaal on the training pitch.

Kluivert sick of it in 2001 v Ireland

Danjuma will start as left winger and Memphis as #9.

Koopmeiners will not get playing time, I don’t think and neither will Gravenberch.

I can even see Blind next to Frenkie and Nathan Ake as left back. It will depend on how Norway is set up and sadly, that is tough to know.

What will they do? They need to win this, so will they start overwhelmingly attacking? Or will they plan for 1 counter while parking two buses?

I know this blog is being read amongst the Oranje players (and staff) and I hope our message to them is clear enough:

It’s ok to F Up every now and then as long as you fix it!

Should Oranje fail to qualify for the World Cup Qatar, I will accept offers for this blog. I don’t think I can go through another World Cup, blogging without Oranje being part of it.

But, Norway is no Brazil or France. I think we’ll win this match 3-0. Memphis, Danjuma and Klaassen…

This is in Dutch, but you can use the subtitle option to let the bots translate…

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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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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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Is Oranje good enough…?

In the past weeks, we saw some negativity posted here about the team which prompted me to respond. There were so many things said, that I felt a counter-post was warranted. I mean, Wilson and Tiju tend to vent their frustration with certain players and coaches here, but Jean Venette took it to a whole other level.

In general terms: you don’t need a team of world class players to win trophies!

For every France 2018 or Spain 2012, there is a Greece 2004 or a Leicester City 2016.

You need the best team to win trophies! And a bit of luck. I could end this post right here. Point made.

But, below I will quote Venette (and others) and respond:

“Jan is gonna write his opinion tomorrow and trying to convince folks that this team is good. HAHAHA”

I don’t do this. I am usually trying to explain why a coach does what does and why I think it might work. You can say a lot about our coaches from the past, but they all have a good pedigree and considered to be experts in their fields. We did have inexperienced coaches, but I am not 100% sure you can blame Van Basten for our exit in 2008 or Rijkaard for the dreadful misses v Italy in 2000…

What I do do, and what I do believe in: as a fan you need to support your team. You can be critical of your coach (I am), but the players deserve support. Yelling from the stands “Wijndal, you suck, you don’t deserve to be in this team!” is not my type of supporting.

And lets face it: how often did this group of followers here criticised players… Van Bommel, Nigel de Jong, Dirk Kuyt, Daley Blind… Every player less than Cruyff, Van Basten, Bergkamp or Sneijder gets insults, at times (on this blog).

“This Dutch team isn’t going anywhere. The team is suck….. Berghuis is suck and again he is a starter. LOL Most of these players as sucks.”

I don’t know why I would respond to this. Sounds like a spoiled kid criticising his dinner ( “this meatball sucks, this spinach sucks, I don’t want to eat this!”). The team doesn’t suck. This team (with Virgil) beat France, Germany, England and drew Italy away. So…

I think people in Lyon don’t think Memphis sucks. People like Pocchetino and Klopp don’t think Wijnaldum sucks. Apparently, Frenkie de Jong is the highest valued player in Spain now. So no, we don’t suck.

“You have a bunch of players in this squad that are bench players in their clubs or went abroad and could not perform.”

Someone remembers a certain Marco van Basten, in 1988? He didn’t play. He was not considered first team material by Michels.

The reason that Donny van de Beek doesn’t play at Man United is not hard to fathom (if you follow football, you’d know).

“You have to admit that this generation is suck except for a very few.”

We all know that Spain and England and France are stronger in terms of individual quality and options on every position. That is sadly the fate of The Netherlands. Small country. Less options. England has 5 top right backs, we only have 1 (in my opinion: Karsdorp). This is true. But having said that: how often did England win a big trophy in recent decades?

If you understand football, you know it’s not about the individual players. How many big trophies did C Ronaldo win with his country? Only the last Euros. When he was 33 years old. How many World Cups did Leo Messi win again?

Belgium has been playing several tournaments now with a top notch team with “world class players”. How many trophies exactly?

We have two of the top defenders of the Serie A. We have a true class act in Daley Blind. Frenkie de Jong is top notch. Wijnaldum is a world class player, anyone who begs to differ is not paying attention. He won heaps of trophies at Liverpool, played practically everything, scored key goals in the Champions League and at 30 could sign at PSG, Barca, Bayern or stay at Liverpool.

For me, Liverpool is World Class. So any Liverpool Legend must also be world class.

We have Memphis as top attacker and players like Gravenberch, Timber, Malen, Gakpo will surely follow suit. We don’t need a team of super stars. Those teams never win trophies. We need players like Klaassen and Weghorst who will put in a shift and help support the stars.

“Any tactical decision wouldn’t make any difference.”

Tell this to the German coach who won the Euros in 2004. Tactics are there to allow the players to play at their best level. Did you see the tactical change Koeman made at Barca? And the impact his shift to three-at-the-back made?

“If Berghuis was good enough he wouldn’t be in the Eredivisie by now.”

Why wouldn’t a player be able to decide to stay in Holland? Danny Blind never left Holland. He is considered one of the greatest liberos. How well have some players done when moving abroad (your own observation). So some move abroad and get criticism if they don’t break into a big team right away (Bergwijn, Van de Beek, Kluivert). Others stay in Holland and shine every week and then they get criticised for that?? That is not fair. Berghuis made a transfer to Watford. He decided to return to Holland and play weekly. He was offered a massive pay-check at Feyenoord and decided he wanted to be a big fish in a little pond. But don’t worry, there were more than enough suiters for Berghuis and he’ll make a move, for sure.

I compare him with Ziyech. Elegant technicians, with a tremendous left foot and great vision. But Ziyech is wasted in the high octane style of Tuchel (sadly) and Berghuis was wasted at Watford. I think we should be grateful that Berghuis stayed in Holland.

“For me I think we have to accept the fact that we have failed to produced talented players that we use to and figure out where and how we fell short and look into the future.”

You are behind the times. This process started in 2016 already (actually, after 2012’s debacle) and since, we have started to produce a lot of great talents… De Ligt, Gravenberch, Stengs, Malacia, Lang, Timber, Rensch, Ihattaren, Gakpo, Bijlow, all these names are coming through now and some hav established themselves (De Ligt, Gravenberch, Bijlow), others are on their way after suffering some setbacks (Gakpo, Lang, Malacia) and others struggle a bit with that last step up (Stengs, Ihattaren, Boadu)… The future is quite bright. Wijndal has indeed not progressed enough, I agree with that, but that is normal with young players. That last step is huge.

I pointed out that in The Netherlands (and I was there before the 74 World Cup and the Euros 1988) and before most tournaments, the overall attitude is shifting between “what the F are we going to do there” to “we’ll win this”. And everytime we believe we’ll win it, we go home disappointed (1990, 1996, 2002, 2012) and everytime we believe we have nothing to win, we do exceptionally well (1974, 1978, 2014).

Before the World Cup 1974, the expectations were truly low. We had qualified as a result of a referee blunder (Belgium had an onsite goal ruled out!) and we were missing all our central defenders.

In 1978, we didn’t have Cruyff and Van Hanegem.

And back then, players like Haan, Rijsbergen, Jansen, Jongbloed were not considered World Class.

And like with the criticism poured over Bergwijn, Van de Beek and co: Rep, Jansen, Suurbier, Rijsbergen and others did not have a glorious career abroad. Wim Jansen played in Japan and the US and returned to the Eredivisie, for instance. Rijsbergen made a name for himself at New York Cosmos but that was never taken as a serious team.

Wim Suurbier, party animal

In 1978, we had Poortvliet, Wildschut, Van Kraay, Nanninga, Brands…definitely not world class players.

In 2014, we played with a back 5 of all Eredivisie players. Except for Vlaar, who was playing relegation football with Villa.

In 1988, we had elegant and skilled players galore ( Van ‘t Schip, Vanenburg, Mario Been, Frans van Rooy) but Michels opted for a balanced squad with hard working players (Erwin Koeman, Suvrijn, Bosman, Wim Koevermans, Sjaak Troost) as he understood that these players would not upset the apple cart if they wouldn’t play.

But Van Basten was considered not match fit and Vanenburg was forced to play in service of the team, while 37 year old Muhren was brought in to add some experience and intelligence to the team.

And were we really brilliant? We lost our first game. We won vs England, but with luck.

So why would we now suddenly need 11 world class players??

In 1998, we had a very strong squad. Didn’t win. In 2002, we had one of the best coaches of Dutch history and amazing players. Didn’t even qualify.

“The world will not be talking about these players in 30 years time. Wijnaldum isn’t no Iniesta, nor a Donadoni, Enzo Scifo, Franchescholi, not even an Edgar Davids.”

I think you are wrong. Wijnaldum is on his way to play 100+ caps for Oranje. If you manage that, you will be considered a legend, whether you like it or not :-). He’s been exceptional at Liverpool, much loved there and respected and with a full trophy cabinet.

Memphis is a very colourful player. His foundation work, his clothing line, his funny hats and outfits, and mark my words, he still has his best years in front of him.

Daley Blind will go into history as one of the most gifted left footers we ever had. Frenkie de Jong will become one of our best ever midfielders. I think that in itself is already something to be happy about.

The thing is too: players are considered TOP after winning a big trophy. So, should Holland manage what Greece did in 2004, players like Weghorst and Klaassen and Dumfries will be considered “European top” suddenly.

I think we all have subjective opinions about coaches and players, and we need to accept that there is no such thing as “the truth”. Vincent Janssen is now somewhere in Mexico. Off the radar for most. If he would have picked another club than Spurs, who knows, right? He played 62 games for Monterrey, and scored/assisted 23 times. Which is one goal/assist every third game. Those are way better stats than Luuk de Jong. Janssen could have been on the radar if he would have chosen to play for Gladbach or Mainz or Club Brugge.

Frank de Boer is considered “a loser” but I think that is truly extremely harsh. Sure, his communications is not every enticing. It’s monotonous, he drawls a bit and has a lot of uhs and ohs and ahs… It’s like Emery when he was with Arsenal. He came across as a joker. But despite that, Emery is definitely a top coach, with trophies to prove this. De Boer won the Dutch title 4 times in a row. That is not bad, considering he coached Ajax in a period where they struggled.

He went to Inter, because they wanted to change from a negative, catenaccio style to a more dominant attacking style. The player revolted and the Inter board lost their spine. It took 3 coaches since De Boer and the appointment of Conte to change this. And guess what: Conte is out already, because according to him, the Inter board is constraining him too much.

Same story at Palace: the owners wanted a continental style football. De Boer could have had results in his first four matches but bad luck resulted in a ridiculous loss late in the (fourth) game, which meant the Palace owners shat the bed and chucked him out. They got Yoy Hodgson in and he went back to typical counter football. De Boer was sacrificed to appease the fans and some senior players.

His Atlanta gig can not be seen as a failure. He was there for a good spell and won trophies. What more did they expect?

I remember constant criticism on our teams and players. In 2010, Bert van Marwijk was considered a cautious coach. Our defenders were considered mediocre (Mathijsen, Ooijer, Heitinga). Before the tournament, our two friendlies were considered shambolic. In 2014, no one had any confidence in what Van Gaal was doing. And the story goes on and on.

As for the development of players, look at the 2016 squad and lets look at some names of exciting players who played for Oranje then:

Karsdorp – got seriously injured and missed two whole seasons

Fosu-Mensah – never was able to deliver on that wonderful promise

Hoedt – had a great spell at Lazio but had to re-invent himself after his Southampton move

Jetro Willems – got seriously injured and is now on the prowl for a new club

Bazoer – lost the plot and is now rebuilding his career

Davy Propper – got injured this season and struggled to get back into Brighton, after a solid spell there

Bart Ramselaar – never cut it at PSV, is now back at Utrecht

Van Ginkel – dramatic series of injuries, might return next season (PSV)

Vilhena – great move to Krasnodar where he is one of the key guys, but off the radar a bit

Obviously, Hakim Ziyech should have been on this list too, but his heart decided differently.

As a European football nation expressed in terms of population, we are 8th on the list. Poland and Romania have more people than us. But in terms of football ranking, they are way below us. The top 6 are: England, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland.

It is logical that these countries have more talent to pick from than we do.

Only Portugal is way below us in terms of population, while being able to beat us regularly. All other nations below us (Belgium excepted at the moment) should be considered nations we can beat.

In conclusion:

We don’t need 11 world class players to win a trophy. We don’t need to play well in the pre-season friendlies. Even worse, we don’t even have to play great games in a tournament to win it.

Lets get some comments in on this topic (with respect please).

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Predictions and Ukraine analysis

My friends, it’s been 7 years but we’re back at the top level. Sadly, my web developer and myself have not been able to reach the knock-out stages of the Website update League :-(. We wanted to present you with a cool Football Pool for the Euros, with real prizes to boot, this last week but the code simply doesn’t want to do what we want…

We tried until just now, but it is too hard. Our apologies! No Football Pool this time around…

So, we will lead this post with my predictions.

And I predict an Oranje win, of course. I have to!

But yes, I do see France, Belgium, Spain are ahead of us. And England! Probably Italy too. And one can’t rule out Germany, ever. Nor can you rule out Portugal.

So we are probably 8th in the top 8, but I can see us win. Traditionally, the World Cup title holders perform badly after a win (Spain being the exception to the rule). So France is out. We’ll play Germany in the Round of 16. I don’t care who else is left standing but we’ll beat them all. We do well against stronger teams, and we’ll pounce on the counter.

We’ll beat England in the finals, while Belgium and Spain play for the 3rd spot.

I will focus my attention on the Ukraine game now and will come back to address the criticism by some Oranje fans here ;-).

Ukraine has had an eventful past few years, with a complete overhaul as their main story. The Shakhtar Donetsk core of the team replaced by the Dinamo Kiev core. Coach Shevchenko was forced to refresh his team. Before the 2020 summer, they weren’t beten for 18 months. After the Corona restart, they imploded and lost six out of eight games.

Spain beat them 4-0. France was more ruthless: 7-1. They conceded 22 goals in 8 games. Shevchenko went the same route as De Boer, implementing a 5-3-2 and it wasn’t a full blown success. This time they kept France at 1-1  but that was also the result vs Finland. When they started their practice games for this tournament, they shelved the 5-3-2. And got the exact same result playing Bahrein: 1-1.

It seems the abandoned the 5-3-2 and will be playing a form of 4-3-3.

In this system, Atalanta midfielder Malinovskiy and Man City left back Zinchenko are key, in midfield. In the 5-3-2 system, the coach can’t play these next to each other. Dribble king Yarmolenko is also lost in the 5-3-2 so it seems unlikely they’ll be starting like that against us.

Defensively, Ukraine plays a 4-1-4-1, which is clearly the hand of assistant coach Mauro Tassoti, the former team mate of Gullit, Van Basten and Rijkaard at AC Milan. The former world class defender has learned his lessons from magician Arrigo Sacchi: always protect the centre.

They don’t play the high press game, like Kiev used to do. They don’t mind sitting and press with the full backs.

For us, the options are behind their defence line. Their lines play compact so there will be space to run into. This would beg for the use of Donyell Malen. The Ukraine defenders are not too comfortable in spaces and having to deal with speed.

We need to be very careful when we seem to be dominant, for instance with dead balls or corner kicks. Turkey scored twice from a Dutch corner, basically, on the counter and Ukraine seems to want to do this too, as they recently demonstrated against Cyprus. Other than that, they’re not a counter team anymore. The most likely forwards are Marlos and Yarmolenko, two players who want to get the ball to feet.

This is Ukraine breaking vs Cyprus

And Turkey on a break vs us…

With the Zinchenko and Malinovskiy on the pitch, Ukraine tends to want to play a pass and move game, not unlike the Dutch.

Based on this, using the 5-3-2 against this 4-3-3 seems ridiculous and unnecessary. Anyway, the cliche opinion that Ukraine is a counter team is obsolete. They do defend compact, zonal, and they like to build up from the back. Our chances is with a quick ball over the top. If there is no pressure on the ball in midfield, we should be able to penetrate and create chances.

I say: 3-0 for Oranje.

I hope Frank will play 4-3-3 in this line up

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Young Oranje’s puzzle

Coming Monday, Young Oranje plays their quarter finals vs France in the Euros under 21. Coach van de Looi will have to make due without his top performers Cody Gakpo, Noa Lang and Teun Koopmeiners.

If Van de Looi could pick any player that fit the prerequisite, he would be able to field a team wih Gakpo, Lang, Gravenberch, Koopmeiners, Timber, Wijndal, Geertruida, Mo Ihattaren, Zeefuik, Ludo Reis, Donyell Malen and Mathijs de Ligt. Van de Looi would be licking his lips. But this is the fate of a coach at the Young Oranje level. You’re not the priority.

Team manager De Boer and injuries are spanner in the works and the former Groningen coach will have to make do with what he has got. He will stick to his 4-2-2-2 system, with which he played against teams that appear as strong as us, or even stronger. This week he will be finalising his jigsaw for the France game, coming up.

In the group phase, Ajax goalie Scherpen was the number 1 between the sticks, although Paes and Bijlow were the choice goalies during the qualifications. Bijlow suffered some injuries but he will most likely take the #1 spot as he has been without mistakes at Feyenoord, while Paes is still the second goalie at Utrecht. Scherpen was one of the men of the match in the group stages but his outing in Ajax 1, in the EL, didn’t go as planned. Scherpen needs more playing time and with a move to Brighton, this might well be on the cards. Or not.

In defence, I don’t think Van de Looi will change much. Never change a winning team, although the coach has some good options. Jordan Teze at PSV had a top season and Doekhi was one of the key performers at Vitesse. Van de Looi likes to play with the two towering centre backs Schuurs and Botman. No one will complain about Botman, as he just won the title in France with Lille. But Schuurs seems to have dropped in the Ajax hierarchy recently. Still, they used to play together at Young Ajax and both have been goal scorers for Young Oranje as well, so I can understand Van de Looi’s choices.

Left wing was usually Mitchel Bakker’s spot but he’s been quite vulnerable lately and hasn’t impressed with PSG either. Tyrell Malacia is in great form all season and deserves a look in. On the right side, Zeefuik is usually the first choice, but he’s injured. Teze might be the man for the job, as he will most likely replace Dumfries at PSV, should the skipper get his transfer this summer. I wouldn’t be surprised if the coach picks Devyne Rensch for the role. The 18 year old Ajax defender has been raising eyebrows in the past months, with his runs, his defending and his goals!

Van de Looi has been sticking to his firm squad, which also resulted in Jay Gorter (Go Ahead) and Pascal Struijk (Leeds United) not getting a spot, but he might now change his ways and allow for players in form to come into the team.

“We’re at the end of a tough season, and some lads have been playing a lot of games for the first time in their career. We need to see how everyone is, in terms of fitness and energy. Intensity will be key against an opponent like France.”

In the 4-2-2-2 the crucial roles are in that holding position. The engine room. In an ideal world, Erwin would play Gravenberch and Koopmeiners there. Now, the coach needs to pick his B options, although it’s not a fair label to push onto Abdou Harroui. The Sparta midfielder had his break out season and is on his way to a big transfer. He’s a light footed tackler, with lots of feeling in both feet. With Harroui, you get football and you get security.

Other options are Ekkelenkamp (Ajax), Matusiwa (ex Ajax, now Groningen) or Kadioglu. Dani de Wit can play there too but the coach expects to need him up front. Kadioglu is highly praised by Van de Looi and Ekkelenkamp is also a player who is able to squeeze good performances from the 4 forwards, thanks to his passing range.

Up front, there is two blocks of two. Two so-called half-10s and two strikers. Calvin Stengs is a cert for one of the half 10 roles. Noa Lang would probably be a shoe in for the other part. Up front, Justin Kluivert seems to be the firm choice with either Boadu or Dani de Wit next to him.

The former Groningen defender copped criticism for using De Wit as number 9. “He might not be a typical striker, but Dani has these penetrating runs, and you don’t see these enough. We missed that in our games vs Romania and Germany. Due to Noa Lang’s injury, the solution offers itself: Stengs and De Wit as half 10s and Boadu and Kluivert leading the line. Kadioglu and Dilrosun could also play in the half 10 role and if need be, Van de Looi also has Kaj Sierhuis at his disposal. This is a physically strong typical #9, which can work against a physical side that is France. The draw back is that the former Ajax striker hasn’t played much for Reims and when he did, he hardly scored.

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De Boer on his Euro plans

The competition is done, in The Netherlands. The biggest shock probably Emmen’s relegation. After a dramatic return to form the popular club fought themselves back into a relegation play-off and after 90 minutes of attacking and creating dozens of chances vs NAC Breda, they failed to score and got relegated after losing the penalty-series. The big leagues will all be done with competition football this weekend so it’s time for a look at the Euros, with Frank de Boer.

“It’s key to create a good vibe. We’ll be together for weeks and having a good atmosphere or not-so-good atmosphere will be key. I have been around when the vibe was not good, in 1990 and 1996 and look at the results. Whereas in 1998 we had a real connection in the squad and we overachieved.”

Johan Cruyff liked to use the conflict model to drive players to higher levels. Frank thinks it’s an outdated concept. “You can use the conflict model with individual players. Not everyone responds well to it. But overall, I am a fan of the Deschamps method. Any coach would want Benzema in his squad but Deschamp left him out for many years, as he would be toxic in the group. No Benzema in 2018, in other words.”

Louis van Gaal tweaked the traditional Dutch 4-3-3 for the 2014 World Cup after realising that Oranje couldn’t beat the strong teams in that way. Arjen Robben back then was the only real winger in the top of Europe and different playing styles were needed. Bert van Marwijk was also a pragmatic coach and Frank de Boer soaked it up when he assisted Bert in 2010. “I will definitely sit down with Bert before the Euros to revisit that World Cup. He got the maximum result out of the team and we weren’t the favorites back then.”

How long would you want the squad together prior to a tournament?

“I’d say, ideally 3 weeks. Now it’s less than two weeks. We have four days between our friendlies vs Scotland and Georgia. But…”ideal” is out of the window. Ideally, we have full stadiums too. You also see big droves of Orange coloured fans marching towards the stadium, that is all not going to happen. Or maybe at least a bit.”

How do you look back at that Euros in 2000, also in The Netherlands?

“Very positively, actually. I don’t see those two missed penalties vs Italy as my trauma, no. I think we are all proud of what we did, despite that match. And playing in our own country. And now again, three games in Amsterdam. We are favorite in the group, I get that. We won’t skirt away from that. But, Ukraine kept France at 1-1 and also beat Spain 1-0 in the Nations League. The same Spain that embarrassed Germany 6-0, you know? And Austria, they do have quality players from the Bundesliga in their squad. You may have heard of one David Alaba?”

What is the objective for Oranje at the Euros?

“I want to say semi-finals, at least. That is where I think we should aim for. Final four. But, everything needs to work with us, no injuries, no silly red cards and key players in form. Anything beyond semi finals would be a tremendous results. Our first 13 players are all top class. And I see we’re homogeneous, as a team. I can see parallels with the 1998 team. And we have some exciting youngster on top of the 13 and some great utility players. The mix is excellent. We can reach far but I think we are not the real faves. I think we’re an outsider. Belgium, France and Spain are top favorites for me. And don’t underestimate Portugal, England, Germany and Italy. I think we belong in that second series of 4 nations.”

How will we play?

“We’ll vary, I want to be able to shift systems instantly, during games. I want to move from 4-3-3 to 5-3-2 or 3-4-3. We will work on this in the prep period. I have discussed this with the players already and some of them, those 13, are used to this already with their clubs. As a coach, I used to play 4-3-3 predominantly. We want to be dominant. Holland isn’t a team that parks the bus. Also, counter football is not our thing as we lack pure speed up front. Whether it’s Memphis, Luuk de Jong, Berghuis or Weghorst, speed is not their weapon. Only Malen has that in his arsenal. But we need to make decisions. What happens if we lose possession here. Or there, you know. Do we have the lock on the door? Is the rest-defence properly organised? Turkey away, for instance… What went wrong? Two goals conceded from a turnaround moment in the game. That is completely unnecessary. In Poland, same thing. One moment of concentration loss and boom, you concede because you’re wide open. That needs to improve. When we played Italy in Bergamo, we did way better. The Italy version of Oranje, and whether you call it 5-3-2 or 3-5-2, I want to use these systems and want to switch during a match, if need be. But not in the first round. Only when we play tough opponents who want the ball even more than us (Spain?) We also need to assess which players are top, which are truly fit, after this long and tough season. And then find a way to have your best players excel. The good thing is, all players, even the youngster, have played with a back three, so no one will say “Wtf is De Boer cooking up for us now??”….

What will be Ruud van Nistelrooy’s role?

“Well, among other things he will work with our forwards. If there is one player who knows what it takes to score, it’s him. He is also a very good analyst, so he’ll do scouting and analysing for us as well. I also want him to talk about 2008, under Van Basten. We played a sensational set of group games, only to lose focus afterwards. And in the first knock-out match, we get beaten. Ruud has seen it all.”

How was your own debut in 1992 and what did you learn from that?

“I was never coached or guided by the older players. What can you expect, how to behave, what to be aware of, etc… I want to do things differently. Back then Michels said: “You’re in the squad. Do your thing.” He never said how he wanted me to play, for instance, what the plans were. But also 1998 was a big lesson. I remember thinking “Wow, we’re playing a nice tournament!”. But the team focus was never “We can win this!!”. We were quite happy with ourselves and when we lost the semis vs Brazil, we even felt like “Wow, being beaten by Brazil…yes, that can happen…”. Now, I look back and think: we should have approached that game differently. And many 1998 players look back at that match and feel the same way. We were satisfied with playing the semis. That is not good enough, hahahaha.”

What does it mean for the hierarchy in the dressing room, now Captain Virgil isn’t present?

“We will miss him dearly. His leadership, his charisma and of course his football qualities. But the hierarchy… there won’t be a vacuum, don’t worry. Wijnaldum is very vocal in the dressing room, Memphis as wel. They’re leaders. Then we have players who lead by example, like Blind and De Ligt and Frenkie. We have enough leaders. Our training sessions will be intense and no one will pull out of a challenge.”

Did you not select Weghorst in the past because he might disturb the vibe in the squad?

“Huh? No… I never thought about that, with him. Never looked at it like that. No, Weghorst position was already doubly booked, so to speak. Babel and Malen on the left, Stengs and Berghuis on the right and Memphis and Luuk de Jong centrally. End of story. And Wout is doing so well, he is a top striker and whether he is an asshole in the match or not, I don’t care. But as long as he’s an asshole to the opponent, hahahaha.”

You know already which 26 players will be selected?

“I have a couple of players where I am not 100% sure yet. I still need to lay that egg. I also considered bringing Virgil as one of the three additional players, even if he couldn’t play, just for his presence in the squad. But I won’t.”

How will you deal with the social media stuff?

“It’s part of life now. Players do a lot with this and it’s all good. We do have someone in the back room staff who will take care of films and photos, so the players 1) don’t have to worry about that and 2) can be assured they’ll look good on the pic, hahaha.”

Do you support a mandatory vaccination policy for the players?

“No! That is an individual decision, people should be free to decide for themselves.”

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De Boer shows promise!

I know, I said it before: friendlies are not that interesting. For us, the viewers. I always hope it is good for the coach. This friendly vs Spain for instance. We don’t play the best eleven, as we have two big games around the corner. Same applies to Spain. The players who played never played together before. We had to endure injuries in the run up to these games. And De Boer uses 6 subs, which never helps the flow of a match.

So, we drew 1-1 vs Spain. Big deal.

Still, I think there is a lot to cheer here, and I am going to be first one here to say it: I think appointing Frank de Boer was a good thing!

Before I go into it, a quick summary of the game, from my end, and some comments on players.

We were second best in the first half, and Spain was second best in the second. We lost the first half, but won the second half.

The reason: we didn’t push up from defence to pick up players in between the lines. There was a disrupt between defence and midfield, resulting in a dangerous situation every time Spain repossessed the ball.

The cause: 1) lack of fluidity and understanding between players, 2) lack of real top quality on the pitch (Hateboer, Veltman), 3) lack of courage.

We fixed it in the second half and voila.

As for individual performances: for me, Owen Wijndal was one of the best out there. He definitely gave his calling card to the coach. Wijnaldum was good. Steven Berghuis was good (off the ball, but sadly, his team mates didn’t have the courage to play him in). Dumfries showed why he should be RB #1 (for now). Davy Klaassen showed his strengths. Stefan de Vrij was strong when he came on.

Also, the aforementioned Hateboer and Veltman came up short again, while Luuk de Jong also demonstrated all his weaknesses.

But that is all a snapshot of course. Hateboer is revered in Bergamo. Veltman is a starter in the EPL and Luuk de Jong got Seville a European Cup, so….

But why am I excited about Frank de Boer, all of a sudden?

Here goes…

For starters, he ticks all the boxes. Age, history as world class player, financially independent, Dutch, Ajax / Oranje / Van Gaal pedigree.

He has some scars now too (Palace, Inter) which will make any coach a better coach and in Frank’s case, will add to his motivation to really make this work. This is not Guus Hiddink, who refused to come to KNVB meetings and preferred to play golf, or Ruud Gullit who leaves practices to his assistants to go shopping in Amsterdam.

His main strength is: his honesty. Brutally honest.

Where Ronald Koeman had to act the benevolent uncle to the squad, picking them up after a dreadful couple of years and instilling them with confidence and self-esteem, it is now time for a more mature approach. Where Koeman protected his players in the media, De Boer has already been more critical of his players in 1 month than Koeman was during his whole tenure.

When Oranje struggled in the first half vs Spain, De Boer saw the problem immediately, and tackled it at half time. Koeman would not have mentioned in the press conference. Koeman would have used generic statements. De Boer simply said: “We lacked the courage in defence to step out and follow their forwards in between the lines. We had huge holes in between defence and midfield and we solved it during the break.”

Eat that, Joel Veltman.

And he went on: “I’m not saying you get the death penalty for letting a man go in between the lines, but that is where Spain will hurt you and we weren’t alert enough or courageous enough.”

He also complimented Frenkie and Wijnaldum for alleviating pressure at times but was critical about the decision making of his team: “You need to be able to read the game and know when to play long on De Jong, or when to pass your way out of trouble.”

Another aspect of De Boer vs Koeman: the current Barca gaffer had the tendency to keep his squad intact. There were heaps of questions about Strootman, about Babel but Koeman would praise Strootman’s mentality and kept him close. He was one of Koeman’s captains, when he started out in 2018. Frank de Boer only needed 1 month in charge to drop Strootman. And when he needed fresh blood in midfield, he didn’t go for the comfortable solution (call up Kevin), but brought in 18 year old talent Gravenberch. De Boer won’t be afraid to use fresh players, if he thinks they’re ready. He didn’t call up experienced goalies like Sergio Padt (Groningen) or Pasveer (Vitesse) when Bijlow got injured, but 23 year old Drommel.

Last time around, vs Italy, Frank defied the pundits and kept Berghuis benched, because the system he decided on lacked a right winger. And the Italy result (and performance) said the coach was right.

Just like we could and should have won versus Spain, (missed chances Memphis and Luuk de Jong), we could have beaten Italy with that system.

Now, Frank is clearly not the most fluid communicators. People like Koeman, Ten Cate, Gullit and Peter Bosz do have more flair. Yes, but the football smarts De Boer has will compensate for this. He also has a sharp sense of humour, cynical, which works well amongst footballers.

So the way we look at Frank, is via his interviews, and he will never dazzle with those. But the players will judge him on his actual craftsmanship and I think he has enough. And probably exactly what this team needs.

It’s time to go from Koeman’s Kids to De Boer’s Boars…

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