Tag: Nederlands Elftal

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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Frenkie remains humble

Hi all, sadly no more time to write a specific post on the Austria game.

I personally think it will be a tough match for us, even without Arnautavic involved. They’re an experienced team, physically and tactically disciplined. This could wel end in a 2-2 result or something like that, I wouldn’t be surprised if we would choke on this opponent.

But, being positive as I am, I will call 3-0 for Oranje. Goals by Wijnaldum, Memphis and Malen.

Leave me your prognosis below in the comments.

And leave me some beer money while you’re at it :-). Covid hurt this blog and blogger too… You can now also decide to donate crypto. it seems to be going down anyway…

Your gift is appreciated

The AD newspaper had a nice insightful interview with Frenkie de Jong.

For someone who is usually showered with superlatives and compliments, he hardly uses them himself. More to the contrary. When you start paying attention it becomes comical, even. In this particular interview, which took an hour, he used words like “not bad” and “pretty ok” around 12 times. The only time he uses the word “amazing” is when he mentions Messi.

We’re halfway the interview, talking about his role in this Dutch Netherlands team at these Euros. “If I can reach my usual level, I have a fair chance to get minutes,”. He says it with conviction. As if this is not the best and most popular Dutch player of the moment. And it’s not a false modesty. He is like this. Calm, balanced and analytical. He’s self conscious but also highly self critical. He finds it easy to put things into perspective, as a result, the hysteria surrounding him doesn’t really affect him.

He’s got a smile almost plastered on his face, but it’s not like he’s without tribulations. It appears as if he floats through life, but the people who know him well will tell you this is definitely not the case. Frenkie was convinced of his talent and ambitions when he was still quite young. “We watched the World Cup 2014 at home, with friends and family. And from a certain age, I felt…yes, I want that. And I always felt that one day, I would be at a big tournament. I was 12 years old and had the complete conviction.”

Frenkie is a modest kid, grew up in the small town of Arkel. A normal, fun of the mill family. Dad is parking guard in Delft and his little brother plays there with the local amateurs. Parking guard is probably the exact opposite of the position Frenkie has in life. “But my dad loves his job. He’s a lot in the outside open air, riding his bike and he knows a lot of people in Delft. He’s not the guy who will fine you, he’ll probably talk to you to get you to change your behaviour.”

Frenkie’s journey to his first big tournament was relatively long. The missing of the World Cup 2018 happened just before his break through in Oranje. And when Koeman’s Oranje qualified for the 2020 Euros, it got postponed with a full year due to Corona.

“I don’t feel young anymore. I am not a rookie anymore, you know. But playing your first tournament is super special. I’m enjoying and I talked about it with the lads that were at the 2014 World Cup. And it has started to really sink in, now the domestic leagues have finished. The commercials on telly, the orange jerseys, I love it. As long as I don’t have to be in one.”

While many of this colleagues opted for a week holiday in Dubai or Ibiza, De Jong went home to Arkel to recharge his batteries. “I didn’t feel tired. We didn’t perform well in the last part of the season with Barca, but it wasn’t fatigue. We simply had to beat Granada at home and take the lead in the Liga. We had a good spell before that game. And then the draw against Levante and the belief seeped out of the team. It was mainly mental. As if we kept on chasing our tail.”

You gave yourself a 6,5 for the season in the newspaper Trouw, after your first season. What is the grade for this one?

“No, hahaha, it was a 6 actually. I don’t know for this season. I my personal performances were better than last season, but we missed the title, we got kicked out of the CL pretty early and despite the national cup, we had a mediocre if not bad season. When you play at Barca, you want more. The season itself wasn’t dramatic, we had a fantastic comeback and played some good stuff, but at the end of the day: not good enough.”

So, that means one point more?

“I would say, half a point.”

But your personal stats went up, like Koeman wanted from you?

“When Koeman came in, I had a talk about my role in the team. And he was clear: he wanted me to be more offensive and add to the team’s goal tally. He kept on saying: you’re a big money signing, you need to start making the difference, you need to take responsibility. He put more pressure on me and I loved it.”

Under Koeman, he did play on several positions. He played in the holding role, he played a number of games as centre back and the final part of the season more and more in the attacking mid role. He made quite an impression in that position.

“I do like scoring goals, but it depends on your role for the team. At Ajax and initially at Barca I played in the holding role. You are the first station in the build up and you determine pace, and direction, you try to start the engine. When you’re a more offensive mid, you are station 2, in a way. You are higher up the pitch, and you aim to be decisive, with a dribble, or a through ball… I played well in that role, I had my best games in that position. And in the Cup Final (Copa del Rey) it was probably very visible, with a goal and two assists.”

“I prefer the midfielders role, either holding or forward. I prefer not to play too far back, as you are more a lock on the door than a real playmaker. And playing in the #10 role is also not my preference as you are more in a sort of waiting mode, waiting for the players behind you to find you. I prefer to be more involved, hence my preference for midfield. The ball is there most often. I basically want to have the ball, hahahaha.”

He assimilated into Barcelona life with ease it seems. The city, the magnitude of the club, the media, the players group… it all went smooth. As if it was normal that a kid from Arkel played in the Bluegrana jersey. Where Donny van de Beek, Steven Bergwijn, Hakim Ziyech and before them Memphis Depay had serious issues settling in another country and club.

“The ideal moment to go abroad is different for everyone. You can’t say “you need 150 Eredivisie games before you go”. I think it’s different per player. Some are ready when 18, others are ready when they’re 27. I did feel more settled the second season, I think that is actually quite normal. Barca paid something like 80 million for me, and that puts a lot of pressure and expectations on you, but I will remain who I am. They bought me for how I played at Ajax so that is how I’ll play here. I won’t become a different person.”

How is it now in your second season along side Messi? Does your relationship change, now you’re there a bit longer?

“I met him first when we had a friendly against Arsenal. He came later due to the Copa America. I shook his hand, I am not sure if he mentioned his name. Not that he had to, hahaha. I told him my name. But Messi… I am still humbled to play with him. He is so amazingly good. He has so much status. And you can understand, when I have the ball and I can play the ball to Messi or to another player, well… if they’re both in a good position, I’ll pick Messi. Isn’t that the best thing to do?”

How was it to see him blossom again this season?

“I think he’s very happy at Barca. I hope he stays, he’s so important for us. In the dressing room we act as per normal with one another, but I don’t ask him about his future, or app him to ask him to stay. That is up to him. When I was 12 years old, he already was the best of the world. He won the Ballon D’Or, right? And now I play with him :-). That is just amazing. And I realise it every day that I play with him now.”

The Spanish media are now also very focused on Frenkie. “It’s extreme, it’s 12 times worse or more intense in Spain. There are tv programs on football that literally broadcast 24/7. And they sometimes just make it up, you know?”

The Dutch football fans will have their eyes set on Frenkie de Jong, but the expectations aren’t that high. Frenkie gets that: “If you do go to a tournament, you need to go to win it. Otherwise, why go? But you need to be realistic too: France – to name one – is favorite I think. Look at that squad! And there are about 8 nations that can win it and I think we are part of that eight. We’ll need to focus on every game as they come and not talk about the title now. Let’s earn that privilege.”


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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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Experts on the 5-3-2

Us Oranje fans here on the blog knew it already: The Netherlands consist of 18 million national team managers. Everyone is an expert. Everyone has an opinion. And like you guys here, everyone wants to voice his/hers.

Below are some excerpts of comments by the Dutch experts :-).

Louis van Gaal was national coach twice. The abysmal campaign for the WC2002 we all remember but so do we still dream of the successes in WC2014. He was the one to push for the 5-3-2. His words: “I think this is the best system currently available. I had to get used to that, as I too was brought up with 4-3-3. But this gives you so much options: you can attack, defend, you can pressure the opponent or if you want, you can sit deep and counter. You yourself are better protected with three central defenders. The balance in the team is better with 5-3-2.”

Van Gaal does get criticism on his beliefs by people who like to point out that the Oranje of 2014 got their successes every time Van Gaal changed back from 5-3-2 to 4-3-3 but a thorough analysis demonstrates this is actually not correct. We beat Spain with 5-3-2, as we did Chili. Our only game where the 4-3-3 didn’t really work was against Australia but the winning goal that got us the point was not a result of a tactical switch, but basically a lucky distance shot by Memphis. Didn’t really have anything to do with tactics.

Van Gaal: “In the top, everyone plays like this. And it can work, but the players need to believe in it. If they don’t, like the Dutch media doesn’t like it, then it will fail. Take Memphis, for him it’s a perfect system. He is the creative one. Leave him be. And there is creativity at the back and in midfield as well, with Frenkie de Jong and Daley Blind. The media and the fans are always mesmerized by individuals. Mbappe, Neymar, Messi, C Ronaldo. They didn’t win the Champions League, recently. It’s the best team that wins it. Chelsea: a team! Last season Bayern and before that it was Liverpool. It’s always the best team that wins.”

“I did have one thing going for me, back then. I had the Dutch players two weeks early in my prep camp. And these guys – with Vlaar from Aston Villa- were my defenders. So I could work for two weeks purely on defence, before the big guns (Robben, Van Persie and Sneijder) joined in. And the key to success in a 5-3-2? The defenders need to defend forward, press forward. Never walk back. Keep pressure on and you will smother the opponent. The result vs Scotland is not so relevant for me. It was a practice match.”

Huub Stevens meister

Huub Stevens (former Europa Cup winner with PSV, former coach of PSV, Schalke 04, HSV Hamburg, PAOK): “The Scotland game was not great but I do understand why De Boer wants to try this. Sadly, he doesn’t have the time to perfect it. We missed Daley Blind vs Scotland, Marten de Roon is not a playmaker. And I want to see Frenkie play central. I also missed the flying wing backs. These are essential in this system. We made it easy for Scotland. I can see it work for Oranje, even with Memphis as lone striker, who can move about and make space for the penetrating runs from midfield. When you do have Klaassen, Van de Beek, Wijnaldum and even Frenkie, they can all join in and arrive in the area, versus already being there.”

Foppe de Haan (former Heerenveen coach and national team manager of Young Oranje winning two trophies): “I think we shouldn’t make the system so important. When my team plays 4-3-3 with one holding mid, you can stop the tape and different situations in a game and see all sorts of systems being used. It’s all about the execution, not about the name of the system. I would use a system that players know. I don’t think there is time now to perfect the 5-3-2, so just stick to 4-3-3 and tweak that where needed.”

Jonker as Academy Director with Arsene Wenger

Andries Jonker (former assistant to Van Gaal, Arsenal Academy director and football tactics “professor”): “We played this system vs Scotland without Blind and with Frenkie and Wijnaldum playing 30 minutes. These are your best players. So how can you judge this team performance and system, based on that one game? I think Frank can make progress with this. And don’t forget, the other big nations are not playing their opponents off the pitch either. Belgium? Draw against Greece. Our players are smart and all play for demanding coaches. And lets look at 4-3-3? We don’t have the typical wingers you need for this. We don’t have a Robben. Our wingers are not world class. But Memphis is. So use him in his power. And with either a dynamic Malen or the static #9, he can run rings around defenders. I think the 3rd midfielder will be key. Who will Frank pick next to Frenkie and Gini? I’m sure Frank will get it right.”

Cruyff instructing his coach, De Mos

Aad de Mos (former Ajax, PSV and KV Mechelen coach, winner of Europa cup): “Within 5 minutes you could see that it’s not easy to get a performance from this team in this set up. We are schooled in 4-3-3 and the players are clearly having problems with the changes. 5-3-2 can work against strong opponents, but then you need to play on the counter. But for the first Euro games it makes no sense! And the reactions from the players afterwards were clear: they don’t like it. Memphis, De Ligt, Wijnaldum… You don’t have 3 weeks anymore, you need to build your winning team now. Or better, you should have it already. Now you need to work on details, specifics. Dead ball situations, patterns, partnerships. I don’t think Wijndal and Dumfries are right for this 5-3-2. Wijndal is tactically still immature. He is constantly looking and probing and looks puzzled. And Dumfries… he has limited ball skils for a player who needs to cross a ball in. He has hard-nosed boots, it seems. It hurts my eyes at times….”

Super scout Piet de Visser

Piet de Visser (ex coach, educator, discoverer of Ronaldo, Neymar, De Bruyne and Ronaldinho and super scout for Chelsea): “Are you going to play 5-3-2 vs Scotland?? Really? It was an abomination to watch. I never spoke about systems. Systems are being made very important, but it’s about what you do in certain situations, no matter what the system. I used 4-3-3 with some variations. Keep it simple: use a De Roon type player when you face Spain or Italy. Use a football player when you play Scotland or Austria. At times you play 5-4-1, at times you play 4-2-4. Keep it simple: Krul in goal. Then Blind, De Ligt, De Vrij, Timber. Midfield: Frenkie, Wijnaldum and Klaassen and up front: Berghuis, Memphis and Weghorst. And against strong opponents, you play Memphis as 9 and use Malen as left winger and sacrifice Berghuis or Klaassen.”

Theo Janssen: “Frank de Boer is inhumane”

Theo Janssen (ex Ajax, ex Twente, currently coach of Young Vitesse): “I think we can play 5-3-2 but not without Blind. You need a smart build up player from the back. He has the vision and the passing range. Yes, De Ligt needed to get used to it, but he will. He’s a smart player. De Vrij doesn’t know better. And lets face it, we don’t have top wingers. Berghuis is top but on the left, Gakpo is still young and unexperienced. Promes didn’t have a great season and I don’t think Memphis should be playing from the left. Memphis needs to be your false 9. I think a player like him needs to play where he wants. Period. And if this Oranje can only play 4-3-3, well, maybe we simply don’t have players that are really good.”

I think we’ll see another 5-3-2 attempt vs Georgie, but this time:

But I also believe Frank will play 4-3-3 in the Euro group games and if that goes well (and I think it will) we will keep on playing that until we bump into a very strong opponent (France, Spain, Belgium)….

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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 follows this blog

We’ve seen it before here, with National Team coaches taking advice from us Oranje experts. The call for Weghorst, the confusion around Babel and Strootman, the omissions of Karsdorp, Frank has taken the hints and acted on it.

When De Boer took over from Koeman (actually, from Lodeweges) he didn’t have much time to play around with the squad. He only had half a day to prep for his first game and understandably, he stuck with Koeman’s choices.

It was always clear that he would pick his own squad ahead of the Euros, with time on his hand to analyse the larger list of players (Danjuma, Lang, Gakpo, Stengs, Karsdorp) and to develop a game plan.

The latter, we’l’l have to wait and see. We will slowly see his ideas emerge in the coming weeks. The prelim squad tells us a good story, though.

He dropped Babel and Strootman, while previously singing their praises as “important lads for the dressing room”. It doesn’t feel like a glorious compliment a player wants to hear. “We’re taking Toornstra to the Euros as well, because of the way he carries the practice balls. And we have picked Vilhena due to his amazing musical selections for before the game.”

No, when the sharp ends comes closer, you pick the players who can win you the trophy.

For me, the squad is logical. I don’t see any player that makes me cringe. But I would have liked to have seen Noa Lang and Danjuma in the squad. At the same time, you can “only” bring 26 players so a number of pre-lim players will be dropped.

Add the fact that Jong Oranje also has a serious tournament this summer and Van der Looij will require some of this stars to play for him.

If there is one surprise, it is the absence of Calvin Stengs. The one-time super talent of AZ is not in the prelim squad and the surprise is less to do with his amazing skills and performances of late (there weren’t any) but because he is Frank de Boer’s son-in-law and the coach has risked a family feud by not selecting the AZ winger. His coach, Pascal Jansen: “I can fully understand De Boer’s decision. I’m a Calvin fan, and he is special. But you do need to show that on the pitch, and he hasn’t this season. He needs to make a step up and show the coach he cannot ignore him. For now, Jong Oranje is more his level.”

Virgil van Dijk confirmed what most of us knew and actually hoped for: the Euros are too early for him. The risk for him to play anyway was such, that he could have completely destroyed his career at Liverpool and Oranje and the World Cup next year. We’ll have to do this without him.

Daley Blind, on the other hand, does seem to be on schedule to return. A good thing with Daley: he never had to need games to return to his full form after injury. He’s one of those players that will be able to pick up where he left off.

The introduction of Jurrien Timber was hoped for. The Ajax centre back impresses weekly. He’s strong on the ball, lightning fast, he plays with courage and he head up and defensively focused, not unlike that other young (former) Ajax talent, Mathijs de Ligt. Timber can also Cody Gakpo also makes his entrance. Frank simply couldn’t ignore him, after his return from injury. A big plus for Gakpo: he can play left winger but he can also fill in the 10 role in a different way then Klaassen or Van de Beek.

And then there is the return of Karsdorp – finally – and Anwar El Ghazi. The latter was a super talent in Ajax’ youth – compared to none other than CR7 – and has been playing regular football for Villa, scoring goals (8 this season) and being important. He used to be a tad lazy and complacent but life in the EPL and being coached by John Terry will have had this trait removed…

Rick Karsdorp is Roma’s wingback on the left and starts most games in the Serie A and in the Europa League. He has 6 assists and 1 goal in 32 matches and galops along the right flank like he used to do before his injuries. Yes, Dumfries, Hateboer, Veltman, Tete and St Juste are also part of the prelim squad but if De Boer wants a 4-3-3 line up and a 3-4-3 line up, it pays to include Karsdorp. Tete is not a regular in Fulham and wasn’t able to keep the Cottagers in the EPL, whereas Karsdorp reached the semi finals of the EL. I think Hateboer won’t be match fit after his injury woes and Veltman will probably go to the Euros as utility player (left back, centre back, right back).

Lastly, Weghorst. Of course he will come to the Euros. The additional 3 players De Boer is allowed to bring will mean he simply cannot ignore the Wolfsburg striker.

Arjen Robben is not part of the list. Whoever came up with that joke had a lot of fun. I think Robben mentioned it as a pun after his first game in many months (2 assists) and the media and pundits took it seriously. He would be an amazing assistant coach though, but as a player? Ridiculous!

What is next?

On May 24, De Boer starts his first practice camp, with the full squad. Wednesday May 26, De Boer will announce the final 26 man squad. On Saturday May 29, the squad will fly to Portugal for their prep. On June 2, the first friendly vs Scotland is planned and on June 6 Georgia will be the opponent in the Twente Stadium in Enschede. The Euros will start on Sunday June 13, with the home game vs Ukraine, with Austria on June 17 and North Macedonia on June 21. All games played in the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam.

I will now re-jig the selection I think Frank will go with (with the know-how of the prelim squad).


Cillesen, Krul, Stekelenburg


Dumfries, Karsdorp, Veltman, De Vrij, De Ligt, Blind, Wijndal, Ake


Frenkie de Jong, Gini Wijnaldum, Davy Klaassen, Donny van de Beek, Marten de Roon, Ryan Gravenberch, Teun Koopmeiners


Malen, Memphis, Luuk de Jong, Wout Weghorst, Berghuis, Bergwijn, Cody Gakpo, Promes

I doubt only the last name. Quincy Promes was part of Oranje for years now and I think that will be the difference between him and El Ghazi. De Boer might decide against Promes should he feel the ex Ajax man is too much of a distraction with his off pitch antics and pending court case.

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Stefan de Vrij: Master!

Il Miglior difensore della Serie A

Not Bonucci, Chiellini, De Ligt or even Koullibali… It’s Stefan de Vrij who wears that title proudly: best defender of the Serie A. A kid from Holland. Mr Masterclass. An interview.

What is that badge on your jersey?

“It’s the emblem stating I am the best defender in the Serie A. The best player Paulo Dybala, the top scorer Immobile, the best keeper Szczesny and best midfielder Alejandro Gomez also have one on their jerseys.”

So who determines who is the best?

“The Lega Serie A, basically. Based on your stats and performances. It’s a great honour and testament to the level I have reached.”

You are the best in Serie A. We have Virgil, the best in the Premier League. Mathijs de Ligt is becoming a solid force at Juve. What happened to a country which traditionally is known for top forwards?

“And don’t forget Nathan Ake, and his move to City. We did have top notch defenders in the past. People here still remember Ruud Krol and Michel van de Korput. And with players like Jaap Stam and Frank de Boer, the people in Italy don’t think we lack good defenders. But through the years, I do believe we value defenders more in Holland, now.”

You have been powering for six years now?

“Yes I have been Italianised, and not just as a player. I just adore this country, the culture, the history, the people, the food… And the way how calcio is lived. Striker are saints in this country, like anywhere, but a controlling midfielder like Marten de Roon or a central defender like me will also receive a lot of respect.”

You started at Lazio. What did the coaches back then tried to do with you when you arrived?

“I didn’t need to unlearn things, or something. But the coaches did think it was very odd that I didn’t know certain defensive principles. In Italy, we always talk about two situations: palla libre (the free ball) and palla coperta, which literally means “the covered ball”. Italian defenders know exactly what to do in what situation. “Don’t you know these principles?” they’d ask me, and I was….”Well, yes, but we never did any practices with that.””

What is the difference?

“Ok, the ball is the starting point. Is the ball free (palla libre) to play forward? If yes, how do you position? Are you fit and ready to block the deep ball. How do you position vis a vis the other defenders? And when the ball is with the opponent? Palla coperta. We want to push up to keep the lines compact. Where do we pressure, how do we pressure and when do we start it? Do we press in every zone? Which zone do we start the press? When do we drop, when do push up? It’s always a combi of: 1. the ball and 2. the position of my team mates and 3. the space we need to defend vs defending vs an individual opponent.

You saw Holland – Italy, the match under Lodeweges which we lost? I was injured at home and watching the game and there was this recognisable moment. I think it was Memphis on the ball in a 3 versus 2 situation. Memphis was waiting, hoping for one of the defenders to step in, so he could pass to a free man or take the player on. But both Bonucci and Chiellini didn’t bite. They didn’t step in, but dropped back, both of them. They protected the space, the centre of the field and their goal, basically. They forced Memphis to play wide. That is ok. You can’t score from there, is there thinking. And Memphis was also allowed to shoot at goal. A low percentage effort, as they rely on their goalie to stop that shot. Doing it like this, the midfielders had time to come back in position and help out. So what do they defend? Not Memphis. But the ball and the space. It’s like calculating the odds. Where is the risk to concede highest? Indeed, straight in front of the goal, alone in front of the goalie. Everything else is hard. The centre of the pitch is sacred in Italy and you hardly see Italian defenders push up. The central defenders will stay where they are. The full backs have to fend for themselves, just like the goalie. But they will go for: ball, position, space, opponent… In that order.”

How do you train this?

“It’s different here. In Italy we train on pressuring and defending with an orientation on ball and man. In Holland we used to train on positioning and basic techniques. The pass, the first touch, playing onto the right foot, the proper weight on the ball, etc. Not tactical, but more technical. And initially a lot of physical stuff, without the ball. That is tough, we would go into the mountains, but that is where your foundation is laid and you really reap the benefits later. That isn’t even that tough, it’s the tactical sessions that are tough. And every coach I worked with, from Pioli to Spalletti to Conte now at Inter: they put their whole soul into it. We spent hours on hours on tactics. We spent hours on the pitch in a 10 v 10 match. The opponent has the ball and we train where and when to pressure. Constantly in different zones, constantly repeating and focusing on the distances between players. What do the midfielders do when the forwards start the press. How do we as defenders position ourselves. And then suddenly, Conte throws a second ball into the mix, just when we move forward to attack. If we did the job well, we are ready for that situation and deal with it. If not, it’s a goal for the opponent.”

And in Italy, training isn’t just on the pitch, correct?

“Indeed. We spend hours in tactical sessions as well, with video. And not just match footage. We tape all the practice sessions as well. Conte is a coach who is completely immersed in this. Our way of playing is super attacking, with 3 defenders and 4 midfielders. And we press early. When we attack, a lot of responsibility is with us, defenders. The only thing that counts, is the rest defence. We train on this till the cows come home. We press high and we press a lot, so when we lose possession we usually are with limited players behind the ball. Out task is to make sure we are not countered to smithereens.”

I sometimes miss attacking actions, because I am constantly looking around me, behind me, checking distances, etc. Those video images are a great help for me. Practice is repeating situations that you could get into on the match day. It’s repeating, repeating etc so you become naturally ready for that situation. I remember Federer hitting a crazy shot in a tennis match and when asked about it, he said: I played this shot in training 1000s of times. And that is what it is about.”

Inter played vs Fiorentina recently without you due to injury, and won 4-3. A spectacular win. And three points!

“Yes but here we say: three goals conceded at home: that is not good enough! And we were leading all the way, we were 3-2 up and still gave away a chance. That can cost you the title, or a Champions League spot!”

Antonio Conte. When we mentioned his name to your old team mate Graziano Pelle he puffed his cheeks out….

“Yes, he played under him in the NT, didn’t he? Yes it is hard work under Conte. In Italy, football is a profession. we train twice on a day and in between we have talks and video analysis. Individual, as a team or as a line. And nothing escapes him! I am working from 9 in the morning sometimes till the evening with football and Inter, but it’s fine. I love it. I do like to think about the game and this coach forces you to. He demands a lot but he gives a lot too. All Conte’s team are successful. It’s not a coincidence. I spoke about it with Lukaku recently. During Euro 2016, Belgium had the best squad in terms of quality. But they were played off the pitch by Italy. The Belgians had no response to Conte’s tactics. Romelu said “”I knew he must be a good coach, after that game.” We both know this for sure now.”

Defending is always seen as tactical, but is it also technical?

“For sure. The technique of body positioning for instance. In Italy, defending means: a pro-active stance. Always on the front foot. A bit bent forward. Ready to sprint, or jump. A defender who stands straight up, is a dead defender because you’re always too late. That too is training training training. And working in the gym to gain strength and to practice your body posture.”

So it’s not about the pass, the sliding, the header, that kind of technique?

“Sure, those are key too but you are expected to have perfected that when you come to Inter. We also analyse the opponent and when they have a typical strong header of the ball, like Luuk de Jong, we know what are options are. We then focus on avoiding having to go head to head. By making sure the cross won’t come in. And it’s not always about the duel. Sometimes it’s about the organisation around a striker, so that when he does head the ball, we are ready to grab the second ball. Or I can use my body to make it hard for him to head it. I hardly use slidings these days. I try to stay on my feet. Do you remember the penalty we conceded vs Spain at the World Cup 2014. I started my sliding with one leg, giving Diego Costa the opportunity to hit my trailing leg and go down. In Italy, you make a sliding with two legs, so you won’t give the attacker a chance to surprise you, like Costa did. We constantly discuss what the best way is to stop a certain attacker. They are getting smarter and fasten and better and we need to do the same.”

How tough is it mentally?

“That is half the job. The physical aspect is tough, but the mental aspect too: focus, concentration and discipline. Every single day. And that takes up energy as well, you are constantly analysing, processing and thinking. In Italy, every practice has a meaning, it has a place in the process of a team. Everything we do fits together like a symphony, you know? There is an idea behind it. I love that approach. It’s not for nothing that I fit really well into the Italian style of playing and I became a complete and better defender here.”

It could have been Bart Schenkeveld here at Inter?

“Haha, who knows… Yes, we were three youth players and Mario Been needed a couple of extra players for a training session in Turkey. He needed a right back. Bandjar got injured and the coach picked me over Bart. That is a bit of luck. I then demonstrated to Been I was ready for it, and the rest is history. I always lived for the sports, even in the Feyenoord youth when people doubted my potential. I always worked my ass off.”

Back in the Feyenoord days, youth coach Cor Adriaanse once said: “Stefan needs to focus on right back, because he isn’t ruthless enough for central defender.”

“But I know what he meant and I have progressed since, of course, but yes, I’m not an assassin and never will be. I am not a dirty defender. And this is why that title of Best Defender of Italy is so amazing for me. I did it all my way, and this prize is really an amazing confirmation of what I have done throughout my career.”

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Ready to have some fries…. French fries :-)

It’s almost that time again. March 2014. Back in 2013 we were fantasising how Van Gaal would work towards a fixed squad for the World Cup from the France game onwards…. It looked so far away.

But it’s upon us. Only 3 more nights… And it does feel we are getting close….

Lots has happened over the last months. Except for a lot of blog posts by yours truly, hahaha. Well, that will hopefully change. Still flat out like a lizard, as we say in Oz, but will endeavour to post some more inbetween the different obligations.

Lets start with the State of the Orange Union.

Louis copped some criticism lately, as he was becoming overly flippant and negative about the team manager’s role. In one interview he even said he hated the job. This is probably a badly articulated job advertising slogan as he means to say that he adores working with a (club) squad on a daily basis and he is probably hoping to woo one or two club boards here and there ( as long as it is in England). But the choice of words didn’t go down well with the fans and media in Holland. As I said before (a couple of times): it feels like everything LVG does is for LVG. He is coaching the Dutch team not because he feels it’s an honour but because it “fills a gap in his resume”.  Pathetic. You know what you sign up for and if you don’t like the job, than piss off, right? Wouldn’t we all give an arm or a leg (of Louis of course) for this role?

louis lacht

Anyway, now the ball starts to roll again, LVG will focus on positive things I hope.

He recently created another little media flare up when Feyenoord made the fans believe they were courting Louis as replacement for Ronald Koeman. But Van Gaal crushed that story by saying he immediately told Feyenoord he wasn’t interested. “They know I won’t go to Rotterdam so why they keep on telling the media they want to talk to me is a riddle to me.”. Which prompted the Rotterdam club to announce they will now go for Co Adriaanse.

Koeman’s exit was to be expected. He has not been capable of turning this talented team – together for more than two seasons – into a winning machine. Agreed, they do play good football at times, they play typically Dutch total football with 3 forwards, and attacking full backs like Oranje but they have trouble killing games off. If it happens every now and again, fine. But Feyenoord has lost 8 games in the Eredivisie in which they scored first. and they appear to concede a lot of late goals… Concentration? Fitness? Tactical discipline? Who knows. But LVG won’t be too happy with his main defence provider being so sloppy.

Some people believe that this squad led by Van Gaal would have been the leader of the table and with Co Feyenoord will have a good second best option.

Van Gaal set his sights on the EPL. He has won titles in three leagues/countries ( Holland, Germany, Spain) and is hoping to add England to the list. Spurs seems to be the most likely to sign the man, but rumours claim that Davis Moyes may be out of a job soon and then LVG might be considered by Man United… Interesting indeed…. Latest rumours claim that Frank de Boer is named as Van Gaal’s righthand man, should Moyes be fired and Louis being courted.

A quick check up on our top guns.

It does seem we could do with some good fortune for ManU, as Van Persie clearly isn’t happy there. He complained about his team mates not having the tactical smarts which prompted Chicharito to sneer at him via Twitter. Van Persie has had some fitness issues as well which could be a blessing in disguise for Oranje, of course.

It seems Van der Vaart is also on an uphill battle. His club is not fairing well and he is struggling with his fitness (as per usual). Arjen Robben seems to be very happy under Pep and he is firing on all cylinders. Lets hope he stays fit. Sneijder is clearly making progress. His fitness is at top level, one would say, witnessing his performance against Chelsea. He looks fit, works hard for the team and has impact. If he keeps on going like this, he will make it to Brazil.

Van Gaal has announced that he likes Sneijder’s performance on the left flank in Istanbul but also added that the little general will never play in that role in Oranje. “Gala plays 4-4-2 or 4-5-1. We don’t. Sneijder will never play on the left flank in my team.”

Van Gaal suggested that Mancini plays Sneijder on the left for a reason. “The way creative midfield players have to play nowadays has changed. Look at Wilshere, Kroos, Iniesta, Silva and Oscar. Players who can make a difference with the ball and who can work for the team without. It’s key to me how Sneijder performs, not in the first 15 minutes of the game, but also after an hour of play. When fatigue hits, when tactical discipline gets less and the space on the pitch gets bigger….”


Strootman had a blast this season and will definitely make the plane, provided he remains fit of course.

Jeremain Lens is a question mark for me. Haven’t seen much of him and don’t hear much of him. With Boetius, Depay and other youngsters making an impact, who knows what LVG will decide. I’m also not sure on Vlaar. I like the guy, he is strong and solid. But not the greatest football player, slow and with Villa basically playing relegation football….

Having said that: our other center backs are not impressing either. Bruma, Rekik, Veltman, De Vrij, BMI…. Can’t say I’m overly confident. I do believe Virgil van Dijk deserves a call up but somehow Van Gaal doesn’t agree.

I like the development of Daley Blind. I have mentioned his name here years ago already (probably on the other blog….) as one of Holland’s biggest talents and it is really coming to the fore. He can play left back, center back (although he is too small, really) and defensive mid. I do like the way Vernon Anita is developing too mind you.

Van Gaal uses Blind as left back and feels that Holland needs some better options there. Jetro Willems and Patrick van Aanholt have not yet impressed Van Gaal. Van Gaal also believes Blind’s ideal role is in central midfield – like De Boer does – but due to his left back issue, he will not use Blind there. LVG has Nigel de Jong and Clasie for the central midfield role as well.

I see Nigel de Jong play for Milan regularly and to me he is still the best central midfielder we have. I like Clasie, I think he is the future but with our vulnerable defence I do believe we need Nigel the Destroyer on that spot.

Mr Van Gaal has named the final 23 and there are not a lot of surprises for me. Louis did call up some new players. JP Boetius (19 years old) is doing really well as a typical left winger and scores goals and makes assists for Feyenoord. Clearly a promising talent for Oranje and rightfully picked.  Karim Rekik is following up from his roles in youth rep teams in which he always was skipper. The Man City defender (19 years old) has the goods and gets a chance to show them to LVG. Davy Klaassen is a shoe in for a role in Oranje, but maybe not for the World Cup 2014. The Bergkamp like midfielder would be on LVG’s radar as he knows him well due to their shared Ajax background (and Danny Blind’s). Klaassen (20 years old) can score, can play the Strootman role, has work ethics and like Bergkamp has a velvet touch. The last newbie is Quincy Promes (21 years old) of Twente. Smart penetrating midfielder, with a nose for goals (like Klaassen) and important for Twente’s surge to the top.

Rekik has been selected earlier on in the pre-selection but had to bail due to injury.

Remarkably enough, Van Gaal didn’t pick Nigel De Jong. His comments were ambivalent: “I know what Nigel can and cannot do. I want to see Clasie and Schaars this time.” Stefan de Vrij is also left out. “I need to present a list of 30 players by end of May. I want to have players now that have made a name for themselves recently, to get a clear picture.” De Vrij’s partner in crime Martins Indi has been called up.

Jeremain Lens is not part of the squad because he is suspended.

LVG Blind

“I’ll say it again Danny! If you want the top job, you HAVE to start wearing your hair like me! That is what the young guns respect. Modern hair, spikey and upright!”

Bruma didn’t make the cut either (injured) and Fer, Siem de Jong, Propper, Stekelenburg and Vermeer were left out too. The absence of Tim Krul surprises me. Surely an experienced goalie from the EPL is more valuable than a talent from a struggling PSV?? LVG actually said that Ken Vermeer fits the job description best. “He is very athletic, fast, courageous and a good football player. He fits our style best.” But he won’t be selected because he doesn’t play at the moment. “But I haven’t forgotten him….”

Lastly, Paul Verhaegh had to pull out due to a nasty injury and it remains to be seen who will replace him. With Daryl Janmaat and Gregory van der Wiel, it seems we have enough right backs….

I will never agree with Van Gaal fully, I suppose. I don’t see it in Zoet (yet) but I am a big Krul fan. I doubt Vlaar but otherwise we seem to have the best players in defence that we can get.

In midfield, I can understand his doubts re: Sneijder (and Van der Vaart) but I don’t understand why Schaars is ahead of Nigel de Jong in the hierarchy. Nor can I understand the presence of Dirk Kuyt… I have always been a big fan of Kuyt, for his lion heart and his mentality. But he is the number 3 striker behind Robin van Klaas Jan. And thus shouldn’t be in squad. As a winger he simply is not good enough. Not when we (will) have Lens, Wijnaldum, Boetius, Depay, Robben, Promes, Narsingh… My 2 cents at least.

Beyond the World Cup, the Euro 2016 draw is out. I won’t go into it now. And I might not ever. Even the best number threes qualify so what is there to say…. Guus Hiddink and his shortly to be announced staff (incl Ruud van Nistelrooy) will not have a hard time to qualify.

Danny Blind will step into the “Joachim Low” role at Oranje. Meaning that he will assist Hiddink, who will be the shield for two years, until 2016 and after that Blind will assume the end responsibility towards the World Cup 2018. Most likely a good decision of the KNVB and there will be milestones in the contract to allow for adaptations should the results require this….Bookmark and Share

Oranje News 3rd Update – TEAM LINE UP

Last time the Big 4 started together was against Hungary pre-World Cup 2010


The Dutch team is preparing on the two upcoming games against Estonia and Andorra. Not really big name opponents but Oranje has shown in the past ( way before Bert van Marwijk to be honest) that small time opponents can be hard to break down.

The results machine that was Bert’s team has made way for a younger and more inconsistent team. Will they be able to break down teams parking the bus.

Whatever happens, old hand Van der Vaart won’t contribute. The prolifically scoring playmaker had to leave the camp with a hamstring injury. Adam Maher (PSV) is his replacement. Just like old hand Sneijder was called in to replace the injured Wijnaldum.

The 93 times capped midfielder appeared to be the first replacement on LVG’s list, before Maher and Van Ginkel.

Rafa van der Vaart was in camp when the news broke and the HSV midfielder immediately called his old Ajax buddy. “He was still in Istanbul but he’ll be in the camp soon enough. He was incredibly happy. He has worked very hard to get fit and didn’t expect this to happen this soon.”

Van Gaal surprised a bit with his action. Only a week ago, he claimed Sneijder was not yet ready. “You need 7 weeks to get fit. He is on the way. In possession, he already has the “oomph”. But without possession, he still needs to improve. But a fit Sneijder is not a question mark but a key player you can’t ignore.”

With Van der Vaart not part of the squad and Maher not impressing too much at PSV, there is a fair chance Sneijder will start in the team.

Sneijd LVG 2

“Sneijder, if you keep eating too much I will send you away again!”

Kevin Strootman is walking with his chest out in the Oranje camp. The Roma midfielder was important in the recent win over Verona and received an applause substitution in the last minute of the game. The former Sparta man was impressive with his positioning play, passing and lungs. The American owners of AS Roma have invested heavily in their new squad, with names like Maicon, Gervinho and Benatia. “It’s great to be with Oranje now. Last week, it seemed I was not able to play against Verona, as I had this ankle issue. We have a good group with Oranje, with some new faces. That is always good. If we beat Estonia and Andorra, we might be the first European nation to qualify. That is nice, but not that important. It’s important to impress and win once we are in Brasil.”

Another player chased by the media in the Oranje camp is Bruno Martins Indi. The Feyenoord defender was supposed to leave for Everton or AC Milan. The strong holder laughs. “I think the media were busy with my transfer. I wasn’t. I didn’t expect anything, as I said earlier: I wanted to stay with Feyenoord. This is where I will have the best development phase. I want to grow as a central defender. I’m not ready yet.”

Van Gaal said on the press conference that he found it very hard to pick a squad this time. “Some players are not in their best form. Still I believe I was able to find the best ones.” Nigel de Jong is not part of that list. “De Jong is on the radar and I can see he is quickly coming back to his usual standards. But Estonia and Andorra are not opponents for De Jong. We won’t need a defensive mid like him in those games.” Heitinga, Mathijsen and Van Ginkel were not selected, as they simply don’t play enough. “Not picking Mathijsen was a big decision. I respect him a lot. I worked with him at AZ and he is a super professional. And important off pitch as well. But I decided to try out the youngsters from PSV.”

Goalies Krul and Stekelenburg are also not ready yet, according to Van Gaal. “We are missing some big name players still, but despite that, we are able to qualify already, as first European nation. We will play France in March, 2014. That is when I will start to work towards a more fixed squad.”

robben cl boek

“I want his hair….”

On his way to the trainings camp for Oranje, Arjen Robben had a little distraction. The presentation of a kid book, based on his career. With as theme: boys dreams and as title “Arjen Robben and the finals of the Champions League.”. Robben didn’t write it, but he is proud as a peacock to be the poster boy for this book, which is a collection of stories by primary school boys and their dreams….


The Dutch newspaper AD (my main source) has executed a poll amongst readers, as most people in Holland are getting nervous about all the different goal keepers being used. And with all due respect: Jeroen Zoet??

5000 people responded and 40% of the voters (of this Rotterdam based newspaper) wanted ex Ajax goalie Stekelenburg as the number one between the sticks. Tim Krul ( a fave amongst Feyenoord fans) snatched the number two spot, with 21% of the votes.

This coming Friday against Estonia, it will most likely be Michel Vorm in goal.


Wesley Sneijder is at peace with his coach. When he came to the press conference zone, he found a lot of media people waiting to interview him. “Ah, so many press people. That is probably because I am a debutant, hahahaha.”

He basically only missed the Portugal game, but was settling in next to Yolanthe on the sofa to watch the upcoming games in Turkey. “Things can change quick in football. And I do realise I have Wijnaldum and Rafa in front of me. But, you know me. Once I’m fit, I do think I am the best player for the spot. I have a couple of months to go still.”

He admitted that Van Gaal was dead right. “I hadn’t played for 5 months at Inter and at Gala, I wanted to show myself. I gave 110% and my body wasn’t able to bring 80%. So it snapped. Van Gaal was right when he told me I wasn’t fit.”

He never ever considered throwing the towel. “Of course not! That is not me. I’m a fighter. I worked all the way through the summer break to regain fitness. And I like Van Gaal’s approach. He is hard and direct, but always honest. I’m like that too. But I don’t need him to motivate me. I am self motivated. I know what the coach wants from me and for that, I do need 100% fitness. I was never scared that the China game was my last. But it it was, I would have finished on a high with that goal, hahaha.”

Van Gaal: “In my system, the number 10 is not a shadow striker, but a midfielder. And my number 10s always worked for the team. Like Jari Litmanen at Ajax in the 90s. Sure, they score, they give assists, but they also work. And when Sneijder reclaims a ball on Friday, against Estonia, the first one he reclaims, I will be cheering alongside the byline. You can see me do it.”

Van Gaal was clear about his choices. “Sneijder for me was the best choice after Wijnaldum had to leave. He has demonstrated to have the quality to play in Oranje, if not the full fitness. I need players to be at a certain level, for Oranje. There are some question marks, some players who can but who don’t play and than there are the ones that can. Like Sneijder. He is highly motivated. Fitness is a criterion, but only when I have options. If I don’t have options, I prefer a player who can place a ball anywhere he wants, like Sneijder. He demonstrated he can do this.”


Jari Litmanen, master shadow striker of Ajax, Finland, Barca and Liverpool fame, lives in Tallinn, Estonia and couldn’t help himself. Van Gaal invited the Finnish icon to come and spend some time with the Dutch team. Which he did.

Van Gaal was a satisfied coach yesterday. He checked the venue for the Estonia game and said: “The pitch is perfect. Very nice. Twelve years ago, that was a different story. No excuses this time.”



Jari talks. Everyone listens. Even LVG. 

Van Gaal talked about his first away game with Oranje back in the 00s… “We were trailing 83 minutes into the game. We were 2-1 down but won 4-2, eventually. And every game lasts 90 minutes at least. We recently learned this against Portugal and Italy. We could have won those games, but gave it away late.”

Van Gaal gave away nine of the starters. Robben, Van Persie and Lens will lead the line up front. The defence will be Janmaat, BMI, De Vrij and Willems. Michel Vorm is most likely the number one between the sticks. Strootman and Sneijder will most likely start, either with De Guzman or with Schaars as holding mid.

Sneijder LVG Est


Oranje can get very close to the Brazil ticket, winning against Estonia. And if we beat Andorra too (BIG IF) we could join West Germany ’69-’85 in their record of 16 World Cup qualification wins in a row.

But, in typical LVG fashion, he doesn’t want to talk about Andorra.

“We don’t win easily against this Estonia. History shows this. We won at home, 3-0, sure. But they did have the first chance and we needed the second half for the goals. This is not a bad team. We were in good shape in the home game, I am not too confident yet for this one here. We need to be razorsharp and quick in our passing game.”

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Congrats and Thanks, Ajax!

Ajax won their 32nd title in the Dutch Eredivisie and with a record number of trophies and winning it for the third time in a row (Frank de Boer joins Michels and Van Gaal in an illustrious little group of success coaches, he only needs to win the Champions League now), Ajax establishes itself as Holland’s best club.

Quite a feat and a warm congrats from the blogsphere :-).

Ajax deserved it (as any club deserves to win it, after 30+ games in a competition). PSV should have won it, in my humble opinion, what with their investments in a strong squad but despite the presence of Mertens, Wijnaldum, Strootman, Lens, Van Bommel, Toivonen and Matavz, PSV never looked like they could really bother Ajax.

This will put even more pressure on the Eindhoven club towards next season, although it is quite likely that a number of big names will leave PSV (Mertens, Lens, Strootman, Toivonen). Feyenoord seemed to be a contender but in the last stage of the competition, they choked, spilling points vs Heerenveen, RKC and now ADO Den Haag. A young, bright and talented bunch, in Rotterdam, but simply not ready yet. And with the financial issues the club still has, they might sell a number of remarkable players this summer (Pelle, Clasie, Martins Indi, De Vrij), which will further erode their potential.

And with Vitesse and now even FC Utrecht making their way up, we might be looking forward to an increasingly interesting domestic competition.

Ajax is doing a lot of things well. I personally believe Feyenoord have eclipsed them in youth development, as Ajax is the Manchester City of youth players. They might keep the wallet closed for older players but at the youth level, Ajax is one of the big spenders.

But hey, they are not as good in development maybe as they used to be, they still know how to scout. With players like Eriksen, Fischer, Moisander and Boilesen, it’s clear that the Ajax scouts still now the way in Scandinavia. And now, Ajax is even scouting further afield, and China is full on the radar in Amsterdam!

With the JC revolution still going (more like an evolution) in the background, it is Frank de Boer and his staff who have been working diligently and without too much fuss on furthering the Ajax cause. Frank is a true manager. He says what he does and he does what he says. He is clear in his vision, he treats the players like adults and he is 100% himself. We all know that Dennis Bergkamp is not much different, so the leadership positions in Amsterdam are filled up very well.

De Boer lets Ajax play recognisable football and isn’t afraid to experiment a bit with his tactics (as Roberto Mancini must have noticed in the CL group games). He has also been able to lift question-mark players like Ken Vermeer, Daley Blind, Derk Boerrigter and Lasse Schone to a higher level. The first three even made their Oranje debut under De Boer.

Ajax did what it needed to do domestically and actually impressed in the European league.

The key thing for Ajax will be to hold on to Christian Eriksen and Siem de Jong. With those two players in the squad, and a fit Ryan Babel and a further matured Victor Fischer, Ajax could definitely try and survive the group stages in the CL. This year, they had to face the Spanish, English and Germany champs and they didn’t do too shabby. With a bit more luck in the draw, Ajax could start its renewed ascent under De Boer, allowing him to enter that somewhat bigger group of coaches who won a European Cup with the Sons of Gods.

So it’s congrats, and thanks… As Ajax will further stimulate the competition with the likes of PSV (ashamed) and Feyenoord ( wannabees) while Vitesse, Utrecht, Heerenveen, AZ and Twente will be looking up with jealousy. Offering us even more exciting games to come!Bookmark and Share