Tag: Nigel de Jong

Total Football? Total Failure…. We are out!

In 1984, we missed the Euro’84 in France. Only 8 nations could make it and we had to allow Spain, who won 12-1 against Malta. It’s 2015 and again, Holland will miss a Euro tournament in France, but this time 24 nations were able to qualify. Albania did. So did Northern Ireland. Wales…Iceland… But not the Dutch.

It only emphasises the the issues we have. On all levels. Whether it is youth teams, or club teams, or individual players… The signature Dutch School is a joke. Germany and Spain stole our mojo and we struggle to beat the Czechs, Iceland and Turkey at home.

Ony 15 months ago, we beat Spain and Brazil at the World Cup. Today, we can’t win against the Czechs who were one man down….

RVP zit

The Czech game summed up the Dutch situation. Starting well, focused, heads up and with pace. Trying to use the space smartly. Good passing by Depay and Wijnaldum and after 48 seconds Anwar El Ghazi has the 1-0 on his right foot. He had 3 options: taking a touch, checking what Cech would do or passing it square to Hunter or Wijnaldum or…taking it in one hit and go for gold. He picked the third and worst option. And went straight to Petr Czech. Not much later, El Ghazi with a cross, it goes beyond all defenders and forwards but Sneijder gets a free shot on goal. He can take a touch and place it in the corner, or he can put his laces through it like he did against Mexico. But he decides to side foot it in the top corner. And shoots high over the goal.

sneijder czech

The first 15 minutes, Oranje impressed. We saw this before, in particular in the Euro 2012 games vs Denmark, Germany and Portugal. Strong starts. But no killers in the box and making sloppy mistakes, inviting the opponent into the game. Crap forward pressing and Riedewald, Depay and Van Dijk are outplayed. The Czech goal scorer does exactly what El Ghazi forgot: take a touch, head up, placing it past the goalie: 0-1.

The second goal came to soon. A throw in by the Czechs. Static situation. Tete is too soft, everyone is ball watching and Van Dijk defends like a girl in the box. Another goal, in the near corner. Jeroen Zoet not looking good, again!

Blind brings Van Persie, the saviour everyone hopes. Riedewald makes way and not long after the Czechs are shown a red card. The fans believe in it again, and a quick goal would get Oranje back into the game. With RVP chances do come and Memphis and Sneijder in particular seem to get more grip. Not strange, as Sneijder drops back with Daley Blind on left back duties and Depay not being crowded out by Sneijder.

Oostveen czech

In the second half, the game starts to get sloppy and the Czechs are gifted a freak goal. Robin van Persie, brought on to score goals, does exactly that. But in his own goal. What was he thinking….

Blind brings Dost for Van Dijk, who started well but played worse and worse as the game went on. The long hauls against the Czechs didn’t work too well. It was too hasty, too opportunistic. The Czech dedenders saw the balls coming and Huntelaar in particular could not get anything to go his way.

When you are one man up, it is better to use the space and time to find the free man. If you have players like Memphis, Sneijder, Van Persie and El Ghazi you should be able to pass the ball swiftly from foot to foot to find the free man and create the man more situation… Oranje did get opportunities though and Huntelaar got his goal, as did RVP but it was too little too late. When it was also the Turks scoring the only goal in their game instead of the Icelanders, it was crystal clear. No Euros for Holland.

RVP huilt

And looking back at this game, it was fair to say that Holland might have had the better players (on paper) but the Czechs had the better team. When in possession, Holland looks alright. Whitout the ball, it was horrendous. Panicky defending, lousy marking, no forward pressing and holes so big, you could park Van Gaal’s ego in there. I remember a situation where right midfielder Wijnaldum was the last man in defence in the left side of the box! Van Dijk and Bruma were totally played out of position (again) and it needed a superhuman effort by a midfielder to clear. There was no leadership at the back and every time the Czechs (10 men by then) moved forward they looked dangerous.

A win was definitely on the cards. If El Ghazi and Sneijder took their chances we could have led by 2-0 in 15 minutes. I think the Czechs would have given us the game. No way they would have battled themselves into the game by then. But sadly, even that would not have been enough as Turkey didn’t surrender vs Iceland and did themselves a huge favour by qualifying directly for the Euros.

RVP slipt

Guys, I’m a bit deflated and will leave it at this for now.

In a few days, I will do a proper “And now what?” post with some thorough analysis and a look towards the future.

For now, I will have a Heineken and a soft cry in the corner….

And watching the rugby. With a little video message for Memphis, Virgil, Bruno, Kenny, Robin, Anwar and the rest….

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Do the Dutch still have Clockwork Orange material?

All sorts of things race through my mind and many new posts are being formed in my head while we still process those dreadful two games.

A question I got on the blog is “What do I think of the players we have coming through the system…”…. Well let me go into that a bit.

Lets start with some key comments:

In my view, having to have great world class players is not everything. Greece 2004 did not have world class players. Yet they won the Euros. In 1990, Holland had amazing individual players and the end result was horrific. The key is, to have a strong team. Probably with a number of world class players, but we don’t need eleven or sixteen world beaters.

Another comment I need to make is: what do we want? Do we want to play Total Football. Dutch School? If yes, what is that exactly? And if that is our objective, is qualifying or winning trophies important as well? If so, what is more important? Or…do we want to be say “forget Dutch School” and let’s just play to win. Like Van Gaal did in 2014. Realistic football, based on the quality at hand.

Van Oostveen is not looking too confident here…

Zeist - "Guus Hiddink unveiled as new Netherlands manager"

I believe Bert van Oostveen made a mistake in giving Hiddink/Blind the charter to “return to Total Football”. Return to 4-3-3. We don’t have the players for this and most teams these days do not play 4-3-3. They play 5-3-2 (which makes 3-5-2 or 3-4-3) or 4-2-3-1…  Somehow, Hiddink and co. wanted to move away from Van Gaal’s “anti-football”. It was the purists complaining (Cruyff, Van Hanegem) but maybe it is important to be realists. I didn’t complain when LVG went 5-3-2. I didn’t complain when we almost made it to the World Cup finals.

If we want to play at top level, competing for trophies, we need to create a system that fits our players. Louis did this…

keep calm

As for talent, I also want to point out the typical categories we have seen in the past (and present) and what we can expect in the future…. And let’s not forget: we don’t need eleven super world class players to win trophies. We need a healthy mix….

1. Super talents and became real consistent quality players

2. Super talents who never really converted their talent at the top level

3. Overlooked players who became world beaters

So lets look at some players we know today and see what can happen…

1. Super talents who became real consistent quality players

In my book, players like Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Frank & Ronald de Boer, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben spring to mind. Players who were spotted as young talents, both by their coaches, the media, the public and the KNVB.  Usually, these kids have the spotlights on them at a young age and manage to work and develop their way to greatness. At this stage, we are looking at lads like Vilhena, Bazoer, Stef van Beek, Jairo Riedewald, Jetro Willems, Memphis Depay, Nathan Ake and Davy Klaassen… I think Daley Blind, Willems, Memphis and Bazoer will make it. From what I have seen…

The jury is still out of course. Memphis played approx 6 serious games for Man United and only impressed against Brugge, which is sort of the level Memphis was used to at PSV… I haven’t seen him dazzle against the EPL opposition as yet. Willems had his little setback season already but from what I have seen since, I think he is the real deal. Bazoer impresses me every week but with all these talents it is a matter of 1) will their bodies be able to withstand the pressure, 2) will their mentality be strong enough, 3) will their management do what is best for them and 4) will they make the right choices in stepping up from their current level… Royston Drenthe comes to mind… A huge prospect, who left too early, to the wrong club and Royston probably also did not have the mental strength to deal with all that stuff.

When all worked….

Spain v Netherlands: Group B - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

In the past, Rijkaard was almost led astray (PSV, Sporting Lisbon) and Dennis Bergkamp had trouble at Inter…. Robben suffered physically and Wes also got lost in the desert for a spell.

Ricardo Kishna and El Ghazi are also seen as “sensational talents” but Kishna didn’t really prove to be one at Ajax while El Ghazi is just starting to deliver on the promise.

2. Super talents who never really converted their talent at the top level

Here we get to the level of Cedric van der Gun, Frans van Rooij, Mario Been, Jantje Peters, Marcel Peeper, John van ‘t Schip, Gerald Vanenburg, Edwin Gorter, Ryan Babel, Hedwiges Maduro, Royston Drenthe, Kyle Ebicilio, Quincy, Peter Hoekstra, Bryan Roy, Ibi Afellay, Richard Witschge. All these guys had super reputations when they were playing for the youth teams. Most of them played rep football for the Dutch from a young age and most were compared with the great Johan Cruyff, the great Willem van Hanegem or the great Ruud Krol (depending on their role in the team). They were all brought carefully into the first teams at their clubs and most of them made their way into the Dutch team… But somehow, they never delivered on their promise. Some had the bad luck of physical problems (Van der Gun, Pepper, Peter Hoekstra, Afellay), others made the decision to leave their club too soon or go to the wrong club (Royston Drenthe, Richard Witschge) while others simply lacked the mentality to make it big…

Johnny Rep, Ruud Krol and Jantje Peters


They seemed uncoachable ( Quincy) or lacked discipline or simply couldn’t be bothered to be team players. Some players excelled at youth level but couldn’t make it work for them at senior level (Vanenburg, Babel, Gorter, Been). At this stage, Holland has a number of these lads. I think Adam Maher currently is in this category. I think Boetius might be the same and players like Fer, Wijnaldum, Davy Klaassen, Siem de Jong, Luuk de Jong and Martins Indi might end up in this basket. Exciting players when they’re young. Highly impressive in the Dutch league when they first make their appearance. But when the surprise factor wears off, they appear to be mediocre… Not that there is anything wrong here… Players like Vanenburg, Van ‘t Schip, Roy and Afellay have had good runs at their clubs and country but they simply never made it to the level that was expected of them when they were young… At this stage, Bruma, Klaassen, Wijnaldum, Narsingh, Promes, Lens could all end up in this category.

3. Overlooked players who became world beaters

This is an exciting category. Philip Cocu, Arthur Numan, Jaap Stam, Jan Wouters, Dirk Kuyt, Roy Makaay come to mind. This is the category of players that suddenly catch your eye. I saw Jaap Stam coming. I remember him at Cambuur and Willem II. And after a couple of weeks, you hear this name more often in highlight reels and you realise that this unknown lad is a powerhouse. Cocu, similar story. Brought as flegmatic talent at AZ. Went to Vitesse as a left winger and mixed good games with invisible games. PSV took a gamble, he ended up playing in midfield and became one of Holland’s best midfielders ever. And the somewhat complacent left winger became a mentally strong leader, who captained Barcelona! Jan Wouters is another example. Overlooked by many clubs and brought to Ajax by Cruyff when he was already a tad older… Marco van Basten highly criticized this signing until he realised that with Wouters behind him, his job was easier… And in West Germany, in 1988, it was Wouter’s pass in the semi finals that led to Bassie’s winner… Arthur Numan was a big fish in a little club (Haarlem) until he became a smaller fish in a big team (Oranje!). Dirk Kuyt made steps from Katwijk, to Utrecht, to Feyenoord, to Oranje, to Liverpool. And with every step, people said “he’s not going to survive that level” and everytime he did! Kevin Strootman is in this category as well, as is Jordy Clasie. The latter was told time and time again by his youth coaches at Feyenoord: “laddie, give it up. It won’t work for you. You’re too small for top football.” In the past, the Dutch team saw players like Winston Bogarde, Michael Reiziger, Peter van Vossen, Adrie van Tiggelen, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Nigel de Jong become important, on the basis of their mentality, grit and personality. In today’s team, I rate Strootman and Clasie of this level but also Dost and Ron Vlaar.

Jan Wouters, FC Utrecht, vs Lerby Ajax. Both would become midfield captains at Bayern Munich

wouters lerby

My point with all of this, is that in every successful team in the past, we had players that were known to be bright stars and we had players that came from nowhere. We had players that were essential to the team but they weren’t considered great talents.

The 1974 team won silver in West Germany and had usual suspects such as Cruyff, Van Hanegem and Rensenbrink, but Wim Rijsbergen was a nobody. Slow and definitely an ugly player. But tough as nails. Young upstart Arie Haan played as center back. And Johan Neeskens was quite an unknown playing for HFC before someone tipped Ajax to sign him.

Top dogs Piet Keizer and Sjaak Swart didn’t get a look in. And Michels only found the winning line up days before the Tournament started. Oh, and did I mention that Oranje actually had a terrible qualification series? And actually shouldn’t have qualified as they scored an offside goal against Belgium, which when disallowed would have meant the exit for The Netherlands? Freaky, no?

Fußball-WM, BRD - Niederlande 2:1

The 1978 team got silver in Argentina. Big name players like Cruyff and Van Hanegem were not present. Young upstarts Brands, Poortvliet and Wildschut impressed, with Haan and Krol as the leading players. The three PSV youngsters were not rated as hot talents but they fitted perfectly in the team.

In 1988, in West Germany, Holland won it’s first and only trophy. Playing 4-4-2. With under rated Erwin Koeman in the team to cover for Arnold Muhren. Limited players like Berry van Aerle and Adri van Tiggelen completed the team, while wonderboy Gerald Vanenburg was working his ass off for Gullit and Van Basten.

The 1998 Oranje was very close to playing the finals. Looking back on that performance, players like Bergkamp and Cocu admitted that they never really considered themselves good enough for the finals. They didn’t play like they had a chance to win it. In hindsight, they can kick themselves.

My point being…the whole debate about 4-3-3 being the “Dutch School” is silly. The whole point about talent and skill and experience is silly. It is about Team. With capital T.

Team. Tactics. Tenacity. Skill and talent and experience are very handy. But without team, without desire and without a clear idea as to how to play, we will never win anything. This is what made the Greeks win 2004. And what fuels the Germans always!

So sure, our lads can all play. Outside foot passing, pannas, dribbles, cool step overs… all nice and dandy. But the Mark van Bommel / Edgar Davids / Johan Neeskens will to win, is essential. Because at a Euros or at a World Cup, every player can play football.


Piet Wildschut in 1978

With the players we have, I think we should be able to 1) qualify and 2) win trophies.

As the past has demonstrated: a team full of super players doesn’t necessarily mean you win trophies. And vice versa, many mediocre teams have won trophies over the years. From Greece to Germany (1996) to Atletico Madrid and FC Porto.

If we, for the sake of discussion, simply accept that all the Dutch players are capable in handling the ball. And we accept that they all are fit enough to play top football, then the aspects we need to focus on are: 1. tactical strength, 2. mental strength and 3. desire.

If I have to judge our current players on this, then for me the jury is not too positive on the following players:  Klaassen, Promes, Narsingh, Martins Indi, Lens, Van der Wiel, Afellay, Boetius, Maher.

Players that get the benefit of the doubt are: Wijnaldum, Van Ginkel, Fer, Bruma, Riedewald, Tete, Berghuis, De Guzman, Bacuna, Van Dijk, Van Beek, Vilhena.

Players that I believe have what it takes in this particular department are Daley Blind, Luuk de Jong, Clasie, Bas Dost, Pieters, Janmaat, Willems, De Vrij,

The good thing is, that the question marks are all playing in the EPL or at top level in Holland (so we can spot them well). Playing in Holland is not necessarily a good thing. I am certain Bruma developed well with Terry and Lampard and Drogba as training buddies while at PSV it is all bit more laissez-fair. The ones that make it in the EPL will most likely have what it takes in the work rate department…

barca witschge

The ones that demonstrate the right development path – such as Blind, De Jong and Willems – will definitely be the backbone of future Oranje squads. I just wish some of them would lose that “lets play some nice football” attitude and develop a “over my dead body” mentality…

All in all, I am not negative about our potential futute. We certainly have the quality. We now need to pair the quality with the grit and pick a coach who will use what he have in a tactical system that works…

Danny Blind can still be that guy, if he leans more to Van Gaal and less to Cruyff. If not him, the likes of Ronald Koeman, Frank de Boer, John van den Brom or Ron Jans come to mind as future national team coaches.

Danny Blind with son Daley Blind

danny daely


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Dutch football, where do we stand….?

Well, time for reflection. The football-less summer is here. The one in which we can marvel at the South Americans or smirk at the women…

I had a serious bout of bloggers curse! I wrote a long piece on Hiddink and the future of Oranje and then two things happened: a computer crash wiped out half of the text and at the same time it appeared Hiddink was out and San Marco in so my whole rant was outdated and needed reworking. This put me off for a spell. Apologies. I will rehash the old post and add all the new items in it.

The odd summers are always a bore :-). I love the big tournaments and the excitement of it all. I’m sorry I couldn’t feel it for the Lionesses. Not that I don’t like Women’s football. I think its cool that the girls get a lot of attention and all that. But I can’t watch it like I watch men’s. I see so many silly mistakes. Bad touches, bad vision, defensive errors… I don’t enjoy it. I would support our women all the way to the gold obviously but watching it is frustrating. I saw highlights of most and the full match vs Japan and we are still a bit behind them, the Ozzies, the Germans and the US. Our speed in handling the ball and movement in particular. And decision making. We also allowed several dangerous headers by the little Japanese girls while we do have some tall mofos at the back. Anyway… there is always the Olympics :-).


Lots of movement on the transfer front but not a lot of real action. Maarten Stekelenburg to Southampton is good news. For him. Not sure if we need Maarten for Oranje. But Koeman will have more patience with him I suppose. He still has 5 good years in him, I think. Karim Rekik will leave PSV. The youngster is keen to move to France or Italy. I was surprised by his move as City was not unhappy with him at PSV and the new champs are playing CL next season but Rekik wants more apparently. Otherwise, no real interest as yet in Clasie, Wijnaldum or Willems.

danny guus

It appeared that the Zeist management has had question marks around Hiddink for a while now. His lack of passion, his alleged laziness, his lack of clarity and direction and the relationship between him and the technical staff and the key players apparently is fragile.

Hiddink was a great servant to Dutch football but the time came for him to leave. Danny will take over asap in the role of team manager and none other than Marco van Basten will take the role of assistant manager in the staff. San Marco and Danny have worked together in different roles (players, coach and manager) and appreciate each other’s contributions. “Marco is one of the best analists I have come across and dares to speak his mind. He is an independent thinker and very creative tactically. He is also a great and loyal guy,” said Danny Blind.


Marco could have stayed with AZ to work under Van den Brom and was doubting whether he should take the step, but working towards a Euro and World Cup tournament with the best players of the country really appealed to him. Ruud van Nistelrooy will stay on as assistant as well.

In the meantime, some exciting transfers happened…. For starters, Skipper Van Persie leaves Man United to play in Fenerbahce’s colours. The former Feyenoord man will follow in Kuyt’s footsteps, who made his way back to Feyenoord. Van Persie signed on for three years. Louis van Gaal: “I wish him well. I sent him a text message already. Robin knew what he could expect with Man United. I was clear to him about his future here. I would have loved for him to stay, but I was not giving him a starter spot, without question. He wanted to play and keep himself on the radar for Oranje. That is his choice. I wish him well.” The crowd in Turkey greeted RVP already and Dirk tweeted a nice message to his mate. “It is not hard to fall in love with this club. I am sure Robin will love playing there and I am sure the fans will love him back.”

RVP Fener

Jordy Clasie is reunited with Ronald Koeman, with whom he built up a deep relationship. Clasie cried on the pitch when Koeman said his farewell one season ago and will join Southampton on a 5 year deal. Clasie knew he wanted to work with Koeman again, but in the last week before his decision suddenly Lazio Roma other clubs started to zoom in. Feyenoord signed Swede Gustavson as another midfielder replacement for the little playmaker. “A dream come true. In my 15 years in the Feyenoord jersey I was always told I might not reach the top. Under Koeman I made my big step up and even made it to Oranje. To go and play in the Premier League is a dream come true. But I will always remain a Feyenoord man at heart.”


Another reunion in the EPL is the move of Jeremain Lens to Advocaat’s Sunderland.

And if you need another reason to cast your eye on the EPL: Georghinio Wijnaldum signed for Newcastle United where he will join Janmaat, Siem de Jong, Anita and Krul under Steve McLaren.


Leaves us with the question “What to do to improve our Dutch football?”. The analysis needed to answer this needs to focus on the question “What is wrong with it?”. And obviously, as with anything, money is a key factor. I believe Sunderland in the EPL has more money to spend per season than all the Eredivisie clubs put together. Or something like that. There is one major issue.  Which will not be resolved just like that.

But money doesn’t buy trophies. So we need to find the solution in our coach prowess, among other things. We might not have the funds to buy the same players as Sunderland or Monaco or Basel or Benfica. But we should be able to use the players we have to create a better team. This has been done many times by the Germans (1990, 1996, 1974), in 2004 by the Greek, Louis van Gaal did it in 2014 with Oranje and at club level Atletico Madrid comes to mind.


Oranje will always be able to shine, in my opinion. We do create enough talents to fill at least 22 seats with good players. If we can have a good coach who can instil a playing style that fits the players we should be able to remain amongst the best 8 teams in Europe. I think that the new bunch of players (Depay, Willems, Clasie, Klaassen, Bazoer, Chery, Zyiech, Van Beek, Vilhena, Rekik, Berghuis) have more than enough talent to rise to the occassion. Add to this a Strootman, a Janmaat, a De Vrij and a Robben and you have a decent team.

At club level I think it will be very hard to compete. But not totally undoable. Although it will take a very strong coach with an entrepreneurial club management to come up with the goods. And every 5 years I think it should be possible for an Ajax, Feyenoord or PSV to do well in the CL.


PSV had its chance this coming season. If they’d be able to cling on to Depay and Wijnaldum for one more year. The option is always there. You promise the top players you need a free exit from the club, or something like that. In return for another year to perform in the CL. The price money you can collect might be worth it… Although… Depay 35 Mio. Wijnaldum 19 Mio. It’s a lot of money…. Is it thinkable that PSV and the players would have said no to their chance to take a next step up?

Or will it be a small team like AZ with a talented young coach like Van den Brom and players like Berghuis and Muhren maybe? To perform with excellence in the Europa League?

Who knows… Your opinion please?

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Oranje secures crucial points but will change coach….

The Dutch overly cricital analysts said it before the game: “If we really need to lose sleep over an away game against Latvia, than we have sunk really deep…”. And obviously they are correct… Holland needs to play all finals now, to secure enough points to reach the Euros. For the current #3 in the World, that is actually quite disappointing.

But, at least we are still in it. Guus could breath relaxed after the game, as I am 100% convinced he would have been fired with any other result.

The team did what it had to do. Put pressure on. Create opportunities. Win. The Latvians played pretty solid actually. Their positioning was excellent and their will and desire was present too. Paired with a Dutch team as opponent which wasn’t able to fire on all cylinders. Depay on the left was very active and involved in the first half, as was Wesley Sneijder. But Luciano Narsingh and Klaas Jan Huntelaar, in contrast, were sub par. Huntelaar did not get an inch in the box and didn’t get good service while Narsingh simply seems to lack form (or quality). He is particularly strong when he can explore space and against Latvia away, obviously there is not a lot of space to be found. This is where Promes or even Berghuis would have been a better option.


The pairing of Sneijder and Blind in a 4-2-4 set up worked fairly well although Clasie with his fast passing and vision would have added a dimension to the game, I’m sure. Depay could have scored a couple in the first half (should have even?) and that would have opened the door to a strong victory for sure. But lack of sharpness, and a good goalie prevented a bigger loss for Latvia.

It was one moment of briliance from sub Wijnaldum that sealed the fate of the Latvians. A good turn, a Kluivert style toe poke and Oranje was 0-1 up. Another good moment of Blind finding space (!) for Narsingh and the winger did the only thing right in his game. Hopefully the goal will help him shrug off his burden. Interestingly enough, Narsingh jumped into the arms of his rival Promes while Wijnaldum sought assistant coach Van Nistelrooy who had instructed Wijnaldum where to look for space and how to time his run. Van Nistelrooy had told the PSV midfielder that he would be the one scoring the crucial goal. Four minutes later, he did.

devrij bmi

And so Oranje did what it had to do.

Having said that, the 67 year ol sly fox will probably make way for Danny Blind, this summer already.

Lucky Gus seems to have lost his touch. There are grave concerns within the KNVB while the players also shared their confusions in small circles about some of his decisions and communications.

Now, I think Guus deserves a respectful farewell as I don’t think there is more work for him after this. And he has had a sensational career. Quite good as a playmaker but not good enough for the big guns. He played for PSV for 1 season but preferred to be a big fish in a little pond. He coaches PSV to the European top and since that feat he has done really well for himself, coaching all over the world, with a mixed bag of success.

The team manager’s stint for Oranje from 1994 to 1998 was a highlight for sure. Rising like a Phoenix to the semi finals in France after the 1996 ashes with Davids as co-star.

Letland - Nederland


But this time around, Guus thought he could do it half-arsed. He figured that with 1) the top 3 progressing to the Euros and 2) a mix of talent and experience he would be able to bring the Dutch School back into existence while winging it a bit. Well, he made a mistake. For starters: the World Cup as per usual left a negative inheritance for Oranje’s Euro qualifications’ start. This seems to happen always. Players are either tired (the young ones), overly extended (the older ones) or maybe a bit complacent (the rest).

So a series of mistakes, lack of desire and absence of big star names resulted in a horrific start of the series and all through this first year, Hiddink was vague and somewhat mentally absent during press conferences. Deer in the headlights comes to mind. He wasn’t consistent and his communication was questionable. After the second loss against Iceland, the KNVB general manager immediately pulled the power card which probably didn’t help in the relationship department with Guus who normally would refuse to deal with minions like Oostveen.

And if you are in a rut, things don’t go your way. The many missed opportunities against the Czechs and Iceland, the Janmaat mistake, the defensive uncertainties, the Robben injury, it all seemed to be a logical result of the Law of Attraction.



He is not longer the fearless leader. Her accepted too much and was too weak in his communications and directions. He has been changing and shifting players. De Jong in center midfield… Two months ago, he called him “my captain in midfield” and now De Jong wasn’t even needed. Clasie gets the nod. But suddenly Clasie is sacrificed for Blind. Van Persie and Huntelaar cannot play together against strong opponents. Fine. But which of the two will need to go? I think Huntelaar will know that it will most likely be him. So the Schalke striker is playing less for the team but more for himself. Janmaat in, Van der Wiel out. Van der Wiel in, Janmaat out. When the US came to play a friendly, Hiddink said quite resolutely he wouldn’t play Sneijder (who just arrived from Turkey) but the little playmaker wants to break van der Sar’s record and convinced Hiddink to allow him to come on as a sub. Or the game against Mexico. Hiddink had said Robben would be used only for half the game. But Robben enjoyed himself and decided to stay on the pitch.  These are all not too smart things to do for a coach.

blind latvia

Obviously, there is no guarantee that Danny Blind will fix this all. But at least the players highly respect him for his craftmanship. And it seemed in the run up to the Latvia game that this decision was already made. The 53 year old ex Ajax coach was coaching dominantly at the practice sessions while Hiddink kept his distance. During the game, Blind also made a passionate and driven impression, coaching actively, while during the first matches, he sat next to Hiddink, somewhat apathically. But it is his big ambition to coach this team, and he decided to not join Van Gaal at Man United after the World Cup for this reason.

Despite the lack of satisfaction concerning Hiddink’s performance, the KNVB will most likely not sack the seasoned coach. The former Real Madrid coach will probably step into a mentoring role or advising role which will lead to Blind taking the reigns and most likely a new assistant coach being added to the mix at Oranje.

rvp latvia

And while Hiddink immediately went on holidays, Blind and the KNVB will get together to find a modus to give the former success coach the ending he deserves. It will be a busy summer in Zeist, but also for a lot of the Oranje internationals. Some of whom are not yet certain where their next home will be. Depay is home and hosed at Man United. Huntelaar will remain at Schalke 04. Usually, Janmaat, De Vrij, Martins Indi and Blind will not move away (although De Vrij might be snatched up as he had a tremendous year with Lazio). But Jetro Willems has signalled he is ready for a next step. “If a good club in a big competition comes, I might be tempted.” There is rumour that Paris St Germain might be that club.

wiel hidd

Van der Wiel is most likely on his way to AC Milan. The Italian behemoth is looking at re-establishing themselves and hope to get Zlatan back to the fashion capital. Jordy Clasie is ready to move away from Feyenoord and both AS Roma and Southampton seem to be the most likely candidates for him. Sneijder has a solid contract in Istanbul, where he makes 6 Mio euros per season and lives like a movie star in a penthouse overlooking the Bosporus. He will play CL next season and any board member at Galatasaray suggesting to sell the midfielder might want to hire some bodyguards. But… it’s football. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is tempted to play in the EPL for once. Liverpool could be a candidate. Wijnaldum is another player whose name is on many scouting lists. He had a good World Cup and this last goal will definitely help his status. I think Narsingh will be happy to stay at PSV, but Promes and Lens are both in demand. Lens would love to join Advocaat at Sunderland while Promes might have different clubs to choose from. Robin van Persie is a question mark. The 31 year old is probably too old to make a big transfer although AC Milan and Juventus are mentioned through the grapevine as well. In an interview recently he said that his family’s needs will be very important in his next step. And from more recent quips it seems that the Man United striker might stay at Old Trafford and battle for his position.

hunter jetro

Steven Berghuis is almost certainly on his way from AZ to PSV which might bring more pressure on Narsingh, as Jozefzoon is also an option for Phillip Cocu on the right flank. Leroy Fer got relegated with QPR but is too expensive for the Championship and might be on his way, finally, to Everton. Karim Rekik might either be loaned by Man City to a club in France or Italy or he will be sold to PSV. Ron Vlaar is at the point in his career that any offer from a big club will be appreciated… The veteran defender is injury prone and will not yield a return from an onsell, so it is questionable whether a big name club will actually come for him. This is different for Virgil van Dijk at Celtic who actually has the clubs to pick from. Sunderland, Arsenal, Southampton… which ever it will be, it seems Van Dijk will play EPL football next season and will aim for a spot in the orange jersey.

Lastly, it seems the keepers carrousel will commence soon too, with De Gea moving to Real Madrid and Cillesen being touted as a potential successor. Interestingly enough, people close to Van Gaal say it is a nonsense story.

Sorry guys I could not find a decent video of highlights….

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Preview Latvia – Oranje

Tonight is the big night for Oranje. Another finals to play. Oranje will face Latvia in Riga with a new defence and mostly a new midfield, with Jordy Clasie a shock absentee for the game, as the Feyenoord player returned to Holland with a bowel syndrome situation. He won’t be playing against the Latvians and Daley Blind will now definitely play in the central midfielder role.

Hiddink does not seem to have many secrets. “We need to attack and score goals, so we’ll play Robin and Klaasjan together. It works well enough and with those two we will definitely keep their defence busy.”

Depay will play on the left and Narsingh on the right. The back line will consist of Depay’s team mate Jetro Willems, former partners BMI and De Vrij and Greg van der Wiel on the right. Van der Wiel is a surprise for me. I felt Janmaat was a better option, as he has played well with De Vrij for quite a while. But Janmaat and Hiddink seem to have lost it in their relationship ever since the former Feyenoord man was blamed for the loss against the Czechs and was even ignored by Hiddink for a number of games.

oranje riga

It’s quite interesting that last time around, when Oranje played two matches and Clasie was surprisingly ignored in favour of De Jong, the little Feyenoord midfielder also bailed with an injury. Now, after he played in the starting line up in the US friendly, he has to make way for Blind again and suddenly he is injured again. And returning home. Coincidence? Or is Clasie fed up with the antics of his coach?

We’ll find out some time I suppose.

Hiddink did not mention a rift at the press conference and further confirmed that in his eyes, the defence (and defensive midfielder) were not the only ones to blame for the defeat against Team USA. “Defence starts up front. If the forwards and midfielders don’t join in, any defence is helpless.” But…despite these words, all defenders and the defensive mid are being replaced.

guus letland

The only reason BMI is back in the team is because Vlaar is injured and BMI and De Vrij work well together. Hiddink wanted to focus on the offensive side of the game, as it is a must win match. “If we don’t win we will lose control and don’t have our future in our own hands. We can get 15 points in total, and if we do, we will finish second and qualify for the Euros.”

The Riga stadium wouldn’t be fit for a Jupiler match, with stands lacking behind one of the goals. That is now a parking spot. It won’t be the first time a missed goal attempt hit a car and took a side view mirror.

daryl latvia

Daryl Janmaat lost his spot in the squad after the Czech game but doesn’t want to discuss that situation. “I made a mistake. I can see now that I had to have handled that situation differently. You need to make those decisions quickly and I was doing something on impulse that belongs to the Eredivisie but not at this level. I paid my dues. But I was happy that the coach invited me back for the Spain game. I think we need to stop looking at that game now. We lost. We are in a position where we need to get our act together and make this happen. I don’t want to look back but forward.”

Daley Blind will move from left back to centrally in midfield. The former Ajax prodigy: “I get that question a lot. What spot do I prefer. I don’t mind where I play. I want to play. I’ll play wherever the coach needs me. And tonight it’s midfield.” Blind will play with RVP and Sneijder on one midfield and will need to guard the balance in the team. Against Team USA this didn’t work out too well and the Americans had a free road towards Cillesen, at times. “The US Game was tough. The space was too big, the space between the lines. We simply couldn’t play compact and we failed to keep possession. Once we can play compact, we are a tough team to play against.” Asked whether Latvia could be a banana peel for Oranje. “Well, we already slipped enough times… We played well at home against them, but this is a different game. We need to be 100% focused because these days you can lose against any team, it seems.”


One player who impressed Hiddink and his staff but who won’t start is Steven Berghuis. The lanky AZ midfielder/winger was a revelation, said Hiddink. “That is a good lad. Normally young players need some time to adjust to the pace with Oranje. But he did very well when the foreign players weren’t yet here. Usually, when the likes of Van Persie and Huntelaar join in, the pace is pushed up even more. But Berghuis didn’t seem to care. He was one of the best players at times.” The seasoned coach will not start Berghuis, but the youngster has a similar threat as Robben, playing as a lefty from the right and scoring many goals after drifting inside. We might see the former Twente and VVV player make his debut.

RVP 50

Robin van Persie could score a record 50 goals for Oranje tonight. This has never happened before. “It might help even, scoring a record goal. We are under pressure and can use a lift. But to be honest: I love it! I love the pressure. We all feel this is a key game. Bring it on.”

I think we will tear the Lats apart and prove to the world and ourselves this was all an incident. I think we’ll be 3-0 up at half time. Sneijder, Huntelaar and Van Persie scoring. We will add two more in the second half, with Depay scoring one and Huntelaar adding his second to the tally.

Iceland and Czech Republic will draw 0-0.

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End of Season Update

After some weeks of frantically following all that happened in the Eredivisie, the EPL, the Champions League and the Oranje shenanigans it is finally time for me to write my post.

It was quite a disappointing end of the season for a Feyenoord fan, as you can imagine. In the three seasons Ronald Koeman (incl Janmaat, Clasie, De Vrij, Pelle) one would expect at least one shot at the title. But every season it was the same old song. Lack of clarity who would come to the club. CL qualifications failing due to this issue. Hardly any width in the squad and when the going got tough, the Feyenoord players let themselves down.

This season saw Rutten come to the club, because he “is so good with young players”. The poor coach had to start without a number of internationals (Martins Indi, De Vrij, Janmaat, Pelle, while Ruud Vormer – the ideal no. 12 left as well). The players who took the spots of these internationals are either very young (Nelom, Karsdorp, Kongolo, Van Beek) or transfer free gambles ( Kazim Richards, Boulahrouz, Wilshere).

gio fey

New Feyenoord coach Gio van Bronckhorst

The best deal Feyenoord did was signing Ken Vermeer. With Clasie and El Ahmadi (returning from Aston Villa), one of few top players. Richards was never able to do what Pelle did: score a lot of important goals, while his cooperation with Immers wasn’t great either. Immers scored 12 goals last season and got stuck on 4 this season. Not enough for a number 10. Add to that the fact that “talent coach” Rutten couldn’t get Vilhena and Boetius to perform and a crisis was in the making.

Rutten saw the signs when technical director Martin van Geel refused to sign midfielder Cherry from Groningen in the winter break. “Why sign Cherry when you have Vilhena??”

And Rutten didn’t see enough future in Rotterdam and decided to leave the club. This message further deflated the young group and the youngsters clearly were out of steam at the end of the season. Where the #2 spot seemed possible in March, the once famous and rich club fell back to the #4 spot and lost out against Heerenveen in the play-offs.

My 2cents: it’s probably best that this happened. Young gun Gio van Bronckhorst can now focus on the season in the league and the national cup. Make no mistake: winning the cup is the shortest route to European football and is also definitely a top trophy.

With Kuyt returning to the Kuip Stadium and hopefully some good replacements for the departing Clasie (I fear) and Immers (I hope) and Gio giving the young Vilhena and Boetius some TLC we might see Feyenoord on the way back. Next season: the national cup, then the next season: #2 and the season after that: the Title :-).


De Boer disgusted when Ajax loses against relegated Dordrecht….

The issues in Amsterdam are quite different. Frank de Boer also does not have a very strong squad. Probably, the worst and most boring Ajax ever. There is definitely talent in Amsterdam but the team lacks leadership. De Boer aims to resolve this by signing Nemanji Gudelj. An impressive player. Already on the radar when at NAC but Ajax decided to let AZ develop him more and is now paying a lot more for him. But he does seem the finished product: good leadership in midfield, tremendous shot and free kick in his feet, great mentality, wonderful lungs and legs and a body equiped for midfield duels! With Fisher returning to the team and potentially Rafa van der Vaart returning as striker and Ajax might have quite an impressive line up. The ax of the team might sound thus: Cillesen, Veltman/Viergever, Gudelj, Van der Vaart. Not bad. With Klaassen and Bazour and Fisher and Kishna/El Gazi on the flanks, surely the Ajax fans should be entertained.

The problems in Amsterdam however, are more off-pitch. The lack of clarity between the youth camp (Wim Jonk) and the Ajax 1 management (De Boer, Bergkamp) and the lack of clarity in the hierarchy of the club. Marc Overmars vs the “technical triangle” as JC likes to call it. When I hear that “El Salvador” needs to fly from Barcelona to Amsterdam to help the club find its way, I can’t help but cringe. Johan Cruyff knows how to do it. But this is the problem. He is not doing it. He is merely telling the peeps in Amsterdam how he thinks it should be done, but then leaves and with that, he leaves a lot of questions. Seagull management, they call it. He comes down from high up, makes a lot of noise, and when he leaves again, he leaves a lot of shit, hahahaha.


Orlando Trustfull as Ajax’ youth coach

Orlando Trustfull left Ajax last season, when some guru there decided that youth coaches do not longer train one team. The new mantra was: a coach switches teams every 6 weeks. Trustfull immediately resigned: “I cannot instill my vision into a team for 6 weeks and then move on to the next team.” And he left to work for the Oranje youth teams. Frank de Boer got Orlando back. The former Feyenoord playmaker is seen as one of Holland’s best coaches, tactically mainly, and is brought in to support Frank de Boer in instilling a forward pressuring playing style into the first team. Timing, pace, coordination, reading the game, etc. And with Bergkamp and Spijkerman not keen to follow in Frank de Boer’s shoes, it is highly likely that Trustfull with be the successor to De Boer at Ajax once Frank leaves for greener pastures.

Congrats to PSV of course. It was about time though. Marcel Brands was capable of developing a number of strong teams over the last years and was not successful when he had the likes of Mertens, Strootman and Van Bommel in his team, under Advocaat. Depay, being the best player in the Eredivisie, supported by Luuk de Jong, Wijnaldum, Guardado and Willems made it happen. From Day 1, PSV was the team in form. Motivated, focused and professional. Not always with exciting football, but definitely with effective football.


Jurgen Streppel, best coach of the Eredivisie?

As per usual, coaches like Rutten and Cocu were nominated for Coach of the Year (the Rinus Michels Trophy). Cocu I can relate to, he won the title. But there were other coaches in Holland doing much better than both. How ’bout John van den Brom? Winning 3rd place coming into AZ when there was trouble. The season had started. Van Basten had health issues and decided to take a step back into assistant coach role. Alex Pastoor was supposed to become the head coach but somehow was not deemed fit and was pushed out. Van den Brom played very good football with the likes of Gudelj and Berghuis and got European football. Van der Looij and Ron Jans got to the cup final. Van der Looij’s Groningen won it, but Jans got their for the second time in a row with Zwolle. Not bad! Or Marinus Dijkhuizen with Excelsior? Or Jurgen Streppel with Willem II. I think it is harder to do what Streppel did with Willem II then Mourinho with Chelsea or Pep with Bayern.

Even Ruud Brood wasn’t nominated. The NEC coach was able to promote back to the Eredivisie immediately, winning practically all his games, totalling more than 100 points… A record in The Netherlands. Brood got his promotion in the form of the assistant coach job under Philip Cocu and will assist the former Barca skipper when PSV enters the CL next season. Dijkhuizen makes a move to the English Championship, to Brentford. Fred Rutten will most likely move to his beloved but technically bankrupt FC Twente.

Speaking of Barca: there are quite some ex Barca professionals successful in the different leagues: Blanc in France with PSG, Pep in Germany of course, Philip Cocu #1 in Holland, with Frank de Boer #2, Mourinho (assistant to LVG) winning the EPL with Chelsea, Luis Enrique winning it in Spain while LVG secured CL football with ManU and Koeman secured Europa League with Southampton. Nice record.

And with the different competitions coming to an end, fittingly for all things FIFA/UEFA, Oranje has to play a qualification game some 3 weeks after the end of the season. The US is waiting for a friendly and then it’s Lithuania. Guus Hiddink took the opportunity in those weeks ahead of the games to test some young talents that made an impression earlier. Twente midfielder Ziyech, Groningen midfielder Cherry, AZ maverick Berghuis and Vitesse icon Davey Propper were part of the prelim selection. Hakim Ziyech had to leave with an ankle injury. By now, Jeroen Zoet (PSV) and Leroy Fer (lacking fitness) were sent home again. AC Milan destroyer Nigel de Jong is also not needed. Hiddink: “Nigel was a key player in Brazil but against the US and Lithuania we are looking for a different style player and we decided to let Nigel go.”

ziyech nistel

Former Heerenveen midfielder Ziyech with former Heerenveen striker and assistant team manager Van Nistelrooy

With De Jong, you never know. If Oranje gets a group at the Euros with Germany, Spain and Italy, Hiddink might want to use the beast in midfield but I am personally happy to see Clasie or Blind play in that position. Coach Guus has used the time to play and practice behind closed doors with his limited squad. Obviously, the play off players were not yet part of the squad, just like Sneijder and Lens will come to the squad after their obligations for their clubs. Ibi Afellay, his on Hiddink’s list of fave players, will not make the squad this time. Hiddink: “What can I do? He has not played for three months. He wasn’t even part of the squad. He is 29 years old and it will be important for him to find a club and coach that understand him. Returning to PSV? It’s an option but those come-backs don’t always work well. With Cocu, it did. Van Bommel did well too. But we have seen too many examples where it doesn’t work and you don’t wish that upon any player.”

The injured Ziyech can be seen as the most valuable player of the Dutch competition. The former Heerenveen midfielder was one of the few players at FC Twente, in deep doodoo, that impressed. He scored 13 goals, as a midfielder, and had 16 assists!! Not bad. I don’t think Ziyech will stay at Twente this summer. Feyenoord had a chance to sign him last summer but passed. It is not unlikely that he’ll go to PSV, in particular if Wijnaldum follows Depay to the exit.


At the same time, Jetro Willems told the media he is ready for a next step. This is code for “I am going”. And he is correct. He started playing for PSV at 17 years old in the Eredivisie in the 2012 season and took the left back spot in Oranje at the Euros 2012 after Pieters got injured. He has 3 seasons behind him at the highest level in Holland and had a cracker season, with a good number of assists. Willems probably has the best left foot in the land… He doesn’t mind spending another season in Eindhoven, playing Champions League football but I predict a big future for him and if Man City, PSG, Barca or Liverpool come for him, he is gone. That is the level he will end up, for sure.


Rafa helped save Hamburg but killed the coach in the process…

Last but not least: Rafael van der Vaart retained his hero status in Hamburg, captaining HSV in their last game to keep their spot in the Bundesliga. It took penalty kicks for the Hamburgers to stay up and Rafa played his last game and did so for the full 90 minutes. The midfielder will leave Hamburg and will announce his new club soon. I am not sure Ajax will have a chance, as the Heemskerk born wizard wants to continue his adventure abroad.

This is the Season Summary for me. Soon back with Oranje news!!


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The Big Guus Hiddink Interview

Guys, it was good to be back! Enjoyed our actions re: Turkey and Spain. Will keep the blog going I think. I have had some highly generous donations from some of you, and wouldn’t mind just reminding the others to push the donate button on the home page and drop in what you can spare, ok? Every $ counts as it does take some budget for me to run the blog.

We’ll be on slow pace for the next 2 months but then in June we’ll see some key action again, all the way to October 2015! Exciting!

Here’s the interview with Hiddink:

Every team manager we had has been interviewed at length for this blog. Well…not really for this blog. I made that up. But we had MVB, we had BVM and we had LVG. Now we’ll put Guus on the spot.

The ol’ sly fox, terribly highly rated abroad, has seen his leadership challenged and his choices at times ridiculed.

The man with the Midas touch might have lost it… 2 wins out of 7. And that with a team that finished 3rd at the World Cup, only 8 months before…. In the autumn of his career the happy go lucky coach, formerly of PSV, Real Madrid, South Korea and Russia, finds himself in a big storm.


Bert van Oostveen (left) not happy with Guus dropping points….

Lets ask the man some questions.

After the loss against Iceland, the man who only reaped kudos and compliments for his way of working got vicious attacks to fend off… A first for you?

Guus Hiddink: “Well, I haven’t been reading the media for months now. Nice, peace and quiet. But obviously friends and family do feed you the headlines and the gist of it all. I’m a bit over the media guys who call me up and say “sorry mate, I’m not in charge of the headlines…”. That is cowardly to me. Hiding behind the editor. I think that is lame. It’s like when I let Ruud van Nistelrooy practice on the set pieces and corners, and whenever we concede from one of those situations I say “hey, I’m not responsible”. Bullshit. I am responsible for the team and a journalist should be responsible for his article. So don’t come to me for end-of-year stories of christmas interviews or whatever. There are journalists I share a whole history with, so I tend to be generous to these guys, but those days are over….”

After the Cech defeat you seemed even over the top angry in Jack van Gelder’s tv program….

GH: “I saw that a day later and I have to agree with you. I had trouble putting things in perspective. But we were not on the same page. The whole interview was a mess. I was waiting in some room for them, they were waiting for me. The organisation didn’t work out and we were both agitated.”

The principal idea that came across was “Guus is not in control”….

GH: “Correct, and I wasn’t. I was still trying to get everything to work out for us. After Iceland is when I noticed things started to go like I wanted it to. Not just on the pitch. But on the pitch, I want to see a team with balls. With teeth. Like at PSV when we won the Europa Cup. We had players like Gerets, like Kieft, who would say “This is where it stops!”. You gotta show an opponent you won’t give anything away. That is your attitude. The Lithuania game was a turnaround. The swagger was back. I saw their willingness and commitment. I missed that spark in the first games.”


Guus as player and as coach…..

Did you threaten to quit for that reason?

GH: “No? Threaten? No, someone asked me : if you lose this one, what then? And I basically said: It doesn’t make sense to keep on being the man in charge if I only lose games…. That was all.”

But now, you get that question before every game?

GH: “That is not needed. I have made the decision now. I am going on with the job. I couldn’t say that before, as I was not settled in. I had a number of meetings to book, a number of talks to do. Internally. Like I said, it’s not just what goes on on the pitch. Also in the organisation around the games, with my staff and with the KNVB… I needed to make it all work like I want it to work. We have been through all that now and I am happy.”

Oh, with whom did you talk?

GH: “With everyone who has a role to play.”

That is cryptic?

GH: “I don’t need to name names do I? Everyone that plays a role in the inner world of Oranje. Everyone that I have to deal with. Team manager, management, staff, medical staff, press people, players…. As a team manager you are like the CEO of a company. All departments need to function in service of the key activities: winning football matches. And I needed to make sure everyone understands what I want. Simple. But everything I say will be magnified and interpreted…”

Still, you can give an example?

GH: “There were meetings that I would do differently. And the responsibilities weren’t too clear. My predecessor was more a top-down dominant leader. I am more bottom up. So I need my staff to take matters in their own hand. So just do what you think you must and if I don’t like what you do, I’ll tell you and we can discuss it. Louis probably was more dominant in instructing. This also applies to on pitch antics. I need players to start thinking for themselves.”

young gus

Guus, captain of De Graafschap

Danny Blind has been working in the LVG style for years. Whenever you see the two of you, it doesn’t exude warmth….

GH: “I have no complaint about my relationship with Danny whatsoever. Danny is doing a marvelous job. I told him from day 1, I am happy to be the senior mentor guy, you can do the work you want to do. The KNVB wants to move forward with him, great. I have a good or better, excellent relationship with him. It is working like clockwork and I said it really fast into the process, I am happy to let Danny do the team talks and press conferences.”

Bert van Oostveen, general manager of the KNVB, said after Iceland he wanted to evaluate sharply?

GH: “And we did. This is what I said earlier. I spoke with everyone that has a role to play. And after these talks the major impulse is: let’s go for it! The key thing was to find common ground in the way we play. With all due respect: we can keep on going like “we have two top players up front, lets park the bus and let them sort it out” but if the defence is not good enough, it’s like a cake foundation that is faulty, with Robin and Robben being the cherries on top of the cake. But the cake implodes… what good does that do? So the key is: pushing forward, high line of defence, high pace and supporting our attack as much as possible. We can only utilise the quality upfront by offering a foundation for them. That foundation is a strong and solid defence and a smart, fleet of foot midfield. We need to build smarts, a killer mentality and physical strength. We cannot let ourselves be played out that easily.  The lads need to learn, really fast now, when to put pressure on, when to drop back, when to give support, etc.”

Were you shocked with what you saw?

GH: “A bit. I thought they’d progressed more. It’s what I call their ability to get themselves out of a situation. Even when you don’t play well, you need to make sure you don’t play bad… This is a Cruyff quote. Player bad is ok, but you still gotta grind out the result. Against the Cech’s we didn’t even play that badly, but we gave the 3 points away. Unnecessary.”


Janmaat realises his mistake against the Czechs….

Was it your time spend abroad? You didn’t assess Dutch football properly?

GH: “Oh no I saw all the games. I did a lot of research. I saw that at the World Cup even with 5 in the back our defence was vulnerable. It was more a question of too many players so the players think “he’ll take care of it”. And so you do have two players there in a situation but they’re both too late…If you have more space to defend you tend to be on your toes. Four men at the back breeds more responsibility and alertness. This is what we are working on. The biggest issue is the post game talk. I love prepping the team in training, but to drive the point home, you need to be able to get the guys after the game and do a de-briefing. In our case it sometimes takes weeks before that can happen.”

Is it a disadvantage for you to get this team after they reached the 3rd place at the World Cup?

GH: “That World Cup was quite amazing. There is nothing to discount the result. I have complimented Louis and his staff and the lads on this. Well done! But, once you analyse the individual games afterwards you need to realistic. The coach was looking for ways to find a foundation for a result. The qualifications were fine but the friendlies against France and Belgium were a disaster. Even briefly before the World Cup Oranje didn’t play flash in their prep games. And without cynicism I say this: shortly before the World Cup Louis changes the tactics for the first big game. Versus Spain. The team concedes one goal, almost concedes a second. Louis said he was ready to go 4-3-3 in the half time break as it wasn’t working. And then Robin van Persie scores that wonder goal…. And suddenly the team has the confidence and understands how it can hurt strong opponents. There are examples where you can see that Oranje conceded with that new system.”

hiddink oz

Lucky Gus working for the Socceroos

The Australia game. Holland is 1-2 down and Australia creates chances…. Depay comes in and is responsible for two goals….

GH: “If I say this, people will say I’m jealous on Van Gaal. Bullshit. If you analyse it, you will see this. It looks like the World Cup was one sensational high point, but the Australia game could have gone the other way. The Chile game was irrelevant. The Mexico game, we need a penalty late in the game to win it. And with Costa Rica and Argentina, it came down to penalties as well. We did have little hurdles in our gameplay and we did see players of the opponents slip through at times… Moments where you thought “Oooh…there is a little angel on our side….”. But, Oranje had Arjen Robben, who is or at least was in the form of his life. The power, the speed… what he did was phenomenal. Any game, he had energy left at the end of the game for his sprints over 60 yards. He wasn’t the small difference in a very good team but he was the big difference in a mediocre team.”

So what was the plan, in September 2014?

GH: “Well the man who made the difference, Robben, wasn’t available due to injury. We had that friendly against Italy. It was our intention to play more offensive. To use some other players and go back to our more dominant playing style. But an early red card made that impossible. In hindsight, that game against Italy should not have been programmed. We came back from the World Cup, with a new coach- me- and new intentions. You ideally want a week to work together on this new playing style. If you can focus on it with 5 tactical talks and 5 focused training sessions you can make good progress. We didn’t have that time and then the Czech game was looming….”

And you went back to 5-3-2?

GH: “But with reason. Our intention is to play 4-3-3 but Czechs play with 2 forwards and 5 at the back. It made sense to play 3-5-2. We weren’t oozing with confidence after Italy and the team surely knows how to play 5-3-2. We also missed two players that normally give us backbone: Vlaar and Robben. The first away game in a qualification series against a relatively strong opponent. If you don’t play well but still get a point, that would be considered a good result. Like the first game at a big tournament. You don’t want to lose that. And there was no need for us to lose that. But we did. It was 1-1 until the final minutes and we gifted them the win.”

oranje-ijsland (2)_0

Iceland better than Holland

The idea was to make Sneijder the free man in midfield but that didn’t work?

GH: “True. It has to do with the execution. The whole debate about systems is overrated. People in Holland love those discussions but you can play counter football with 4-4-2 or you can play dominant, attractive with 4-4-2 (like AC Milan in the early 90s). You can play counter football with 5-3-2 or dominant like Italy does. We didn’t execute it properly. It all starts with defence for me. The Italian defenders push up and defend at a high line. This supports midfield enormously and would give us opportunities to get the ball to Sneijder. You get opportunities on the flanks and you can provide service to the strikers… But in our case, we almost always conceded within the first 15 minutes! Incredible. And not because our system failed. And never because we were outplayed. No, simply making silly mistakes. Bad execution of the gameplan. Our players make the wrong decisions at the wrong times. It’s all about decision making.Take Iceland. We concede twice: once from a throw in and once from a corner kick! You cannot make these mistakes in the final third. You can not! Like Janmaat’s mistake against the Czechs. That needs to be ironed out. And I was quite disappointed to see that we still play naive and dreamy, despite the World Cup results. Innocent and too sweet. We need to know when we show and use our teeth!”

Apparently, Robben has had a number of group pep talks between Mexico and Lithuania?

GH: “True. He did that really well. It was quite heavy too. But it needed to happen. We took the time. We had a number of sessions together and were very open. Using video images too. Showing it is a good thing. This team has no reason to be cocky or arrogant. The World Cup is history. We need to learn how to draw a line in the sand and say “No. More!” And don’t get me wrong, the players also made us, the staff, accountable. There were things we promised we’d do and didn’t do, and they have every right to call on us. If Oranje fails, we all fail. Including the technical staff.”

What was the key learning point?

GH: “A confirmation of what we knew: that we need to play better organised. We need to be aware of the role we play in the team and we need to execute our tasks with 100% commitment and focus. Only then are we capable of achieving a result. We are vulnerable any other way. We believe that to be dominant you need to be able to base your dominant play on a well organised and alert defence. Playing high up the park and reading the game well. We need that balance. And we need the lines in the team to operate as one organism. You can’t have three defenders moving up and one going back. The decisions a team makes are important. As a whole. Do we accelerate the pace? Or slow it down? Do we go for a long ball? Or pass back and wait for the full back to move up? Do we go for the pass through the center or the ball over the top? The playmakers need to read the game and need to be on the same page as the defenders and the forwards… Barcelona is the example of a team of players who know each other so well… A national team is harder to get to play like this. We have players now from at least 6 different clubs. A goalie of Ajax. Defenders of PSV, Lazio, Porto, Newcastle…midfielders of Galatasaray, AC Milan, Feyenoord, PSV or Man United. And forwards from Bayern, Schalke, Man United, PSV…. We need to work hard to make this work well together.”

hiddink psv

When Guus won the Europa Cup 1 with counter football and parking the bus 🙂

And playing counter football against smaller nations won’t work….

GH: “No not really. This is not our intention as it won’t work. Counter football is not something weak teams only can do by the way. It is sometimes said in a way as if counter football is inferior. It’s not.  It takes certain skills. Particularly upfront, you need 3 players with speed. With the ability to run 60 meters at full speed maybe 8 times in a match. Our forwards are amongst the older players… We don’t want to play this game. We think we are able to push up high, take possession of the ball and then maybe use 2 or 3 passes to get a player in a good position. I don’t like the game where we possess the ball and then pass back to the center back and he passes to a defender, gets it back, pace goes down and he plays it predictably to the central midfielder etc etc. It is needed at times, but rather not….”

Still, it looked like this against Turkey

GH: “Of course it did. We were not able to execute our game plan too well. Some cogs in the machine had trouble delivering, without me naming names. And I am proud of Nigel de Jong and the patience he had to have. He is smart enough not to force anything. Turkey didn’t come to play. They parked the bus. I told the lads to try and get Turkey to react to what we did. We invited them in, they didn’t come out. Nigel had to be patient and he is now being punished for it. Turkey was organised well. And we were totally in control. Our problem, again, is that we conceded first. Again, we were chasing down the facts, as we say. We were chasing the game. Had at least 5 clear cut opportunities. In any other version of this match, we would be 2-0 up after one hour of play. The Turks needed 2 chances to score 1, we needed 7 chances to score 1. In the end we are happy with the point, as it looked grim. But normally we put this game away.”


Respect for each other, Del Bosque and Hiddink, both former Real Madrid coaches…

You said you’d use the same players in hindsight…

GH: “That is theoretical though. There is no hindsight. You will never get me to say “in hindsight I should not have played Player XYZ”. I will not let the lads down publically. But it was clear that some players didn’t perform as I wanted them to. That does happen. Sometimes when a game doesn’t go your way, it might look like it is all bad, but in our case we simply lacked that final ball. In the first 15 minutes or so Depay had a couple of good actions and it could have worked out differently. The goal we conceded was a comedy of errors. Everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. Sneijder playing left back. De Vrij positioned to far forward. Van der Wiel hypnotised. De Jong marking on the wrong side…. A coaching nightmare. But the lads deserve our respect for their fighting spirit.”

The Spain win was nice at least.

GH: “It helps with our confidence. You can see that it doesn’t take much to get the team going. A couple of changes and it can suddenly work. But Spain helped a lot. They want to play football too. It does take two teams that are willing to create a good game. I do hope people realise this.”


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Oranje licking wounds preparing for Spain

As per usual, I found myself in decent company. Both Dutch football gurus Van Hanegem and Cruyff lamented Hiddink’s line up choices after the game vs Turkey. Both legends of the game and former success coaches felt the midfield set up was wanting, with the slower build up in the hands feet of Nigel de Jong and Martins Indi while Afellay was out of place as right winger and Wijnaldum got choked up in the masses around the Turkey box.

You need quick feet, decisive passing and good running patterns to break down a team like Turkey. Clasie has that in spades. Klaassen offers you the penetration options and with Promes and Narsingh you have real right wingers…so why not use them? Van Hanegem went a step further and implied that in his line up Blind would have started on the bench, with Willems on the left back spot. “Willems has the best left foot in Dutch football, so if you want to service Huntelaar, you’d want to use him.” Both Cruyff and De Kromme felt that too many passes went from defence (Martins Indi) to De Jong (midfield) and back. “If you play like this, the player in midfield is always with his back to the opponent’s box. What can he do? He needs to get the ball in his feet while facing the goal. The way to do this is to play the ball to the forwards, who pass it back into the feet of the penetrating midfielders. Martins Indi and De Jong won’t play those passes.”


Klaassen and Janmaat

Cruyff also mentioned Klaassen in particular, who – in JC’s vision – has the right skills and positionings smarts the team needs.

Cruyff felt it was a chore to watch the team play.

Now, I have to be frank with you. I wrote my earlier post without having had a chance to see the game. I have now watched the game in its entirety and what I am about to tell you will shock you:

It was NOT that bad.

Yes, Martins Indi and De Jong are not the right guys for the build up. I agree. Like I said, I would have been comfortable to use Veltman instead of Martins Indi or even Daley Blind as center back. I like Willems a lot and would have loved to have played him. And Clasie in place of De Jong. All that is a given.

But despite this, the team was focused, worked well and tried hard to get something happening against a sturdy and tough defending Turkey. We might not have had many open chances but I did count a number of good distance strikes from Sneijder (one free kick that would have been out of reach of the goalie), a pretty decent early chance for Depay, a shooting opportunity for Depay later on in the first 30 minutes…. Then we had that flick by De Vrij, scooped away by the goalie. There was a distance strike from Afellay that deserved better. That weird Narsingh flunked chance and Willems with an inside foot riser. And after the 1-1, Depay even had the opportunity to kill the game for us but missed.


Narsingh should have scored

The team kept the field wide. Dost did what he could to lay off balls. Blind and De Vrij played very decent. And Sneijder took his responsibility. Wijnaldum and Afellay were poor but I blame Hiddink partly for this, as Afellay should not have to play right wing.

In my view, there are two major causes for this performance:

1. The inheritance of the World Cup 2014

Oranje had a dominant leader in the last two years. Van Gaal moulded and fabricated a system and pushed the squad into that mould in weeks on end, before we started the World Cup. In dominant LVG style. After the World Cup, a number of things happened that had a tremendous effect. 1) Van Gaal left and with him the dominant in your face mentality, and 2) Hiddink came… a relaxed grandfather type laissez-fair coach. 3) opponents were/are extra motivated to play us as we were the #3 in the world. 4) Hiddink wants to or was told to go back to a more Dutch style 4-3-3 system and 5) key players were injured at key moments or players were distracted in the early stages of the season due to their moves to bigger clubs ( Porto, Lazio Roma, Man United, Newcastle United).

2. The tactical mistakes of Guus Hiddink

The KNVB decided to hang on to Danny Blind for the future, the LVG adept, but with Guus Hiddink as his mentor. Hiddink, being a totally different coach than Van Gaal (and Blind). Literally, the opposite on the spectrum. And Hiddink was given the task to let Oranje play more “Dutch school”.  So Guus goes 4-3-3 but everyone knows Guus is conservative, so he decided to use a midfielder as winger and destroyer Nigel de Jong as dreh-und-angel punkt as the Germans call it. The pivot. Wrong wrong wrong. You want Huntelaar to get service and you use two wingers who will drift inside and go for glory….


Memphis on the radar of Man United and Man City

This Oranje has been wounded from the first game. There is no real system, no automatisms in the team. The flow is gone as there is no real game plan and the players don’t fit the team tasks. And if you see the look on Blind’s face on the bench next to Hiddink you know enough…. Where is the pleasure, where is the football smarts?

Afellay is not really doing well in Greece. Martins Indi lost his spot in Portugal. Nigel de Jong has a dramatic season with AC Milan…. They are all big names, but the names don’t correspond with form. Why not Veltman? Or even Van Beek? Bazoer? Klaassen? Clasie?

The game against Spain will be an interesting one. If there is one team in the world with a game plan and clarity in how they play it is Spain. And they’re opposing a team that is drifting and swirling. In that game, Del Bosque says his team is not out looking for revenge. He might be truthful: “We just want to play a good game of football.” I do hope Hiddink’s lads are out for revenge though. On themselves. Hiddink has already mentioned he will rest a number of players. And according to the newspapers, we’ll see the likes of Janmaat, Promes, De Guzman and Klaassen come in. Huh?

opstelling spain

Not a midfield I have a lot of faith in, to be honest

What good will that do? I think it is wrong. Against Spain, in a friendly, you need to test your preferred starting line up, or at least your defence. These lads will be tested. Against Turkey, who park the bus, you want quick young feet (Klaassen, Clasie) and against Spain you want a destroyer like Nigel de Jong! Not the other way around? Promes would have been good against Turkey. Against Spain, that might be a bit much for a youngster like him. De Guzman on the holding mid spot is also not what I’d like to see. Use De Guzman on no. 10, but please play Blind as holding mid, Guus, and use Willems as left back.

I would also like to see Vermeer in the goal, or Krul. Time for the goalies to do some rotating.

The Spain game only makes sense if we use it to get better. Just throwing the B-team in front of the train will not do us any good!

I’d like to know what the game plan is against Spain. Win? Win in any way possible? Or play 4-3-3 Dutch style and win? Or practice certain patterns and who cares about the result? Or let young players experience a big game? What is the objective of this game?

Maybe we need to play this guy below as the striker?

guus balt

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Sneijder helps Oranje escape!

Bert van Marwijk was criticised to be a little bit too….blend. Too grey. Too vanilla. Not daring enough. So the KNVB wanted to go back to the swagger of total football. Back to the Dutch School. And decided to go with maverick coach Louis van Gaal. Results and attractive football are his two building blocks.

The headstrong egotistical coach did half the job right. He got results. He coached us to the #3 spot in the world. Not with great and attractive football though. But it was also never boring. Also thanks to the likes of Robben and Van Persie of course.

So when Louis left, it would have been logical to allow a similar type of coach pursue the objectives. A younger coach, who is closer to the younger generation of players. And who would be able to use the qualities of the likes of Blind, Depay, Clasie, Willems and Janmaat to create another footballing machine.

Someone like Danny Blind? Ronald Koeman?
hidd ruud

The KNVB claimed to be happy with Blind. And planning on giving him the job after 2016. Why not let him have a go? With Hiddink, in terms of football vision, we’d take a step back after Van Gaal. What was the reasoning? Is 53 year old Blind not senior enough? If not, would that be different in 2 years time?

The KNVB demonstrated their lack of balls (exactly what they want a coach to bring in to the team) by going for good ol’ Gus.

Against Turkey, which have a lot of phsyical strength and are good at parking the bus, you need agility in your team. Speed. Young legs. Good eyes. Everything Clasie has.

nigel turk

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not against Nigel de Jong. At all. He was the key player in Brazil for me, with Vlaar and Robben. But he is key against the likes of Spain, Argentina, Chile. Not Kazachstan or Turkey. And using Afellay as a winger? I have not seen the game as I write this and for all I know Afellay was great but he’s not a winger. Depay tends to come inside, and if you have Huntelaar in the team but no service from wide positions, you will make it hard on yourself. Playing one driftin’ winger (Depay) is ok, but the other one needs to be hugging the line a bit more. Narsingh? If you have him in the squad, why not use him?

turk team

These tactics (a midfielder as winger and a central midfielder with limited build up qualities) are typical for a coach like Hiddink. We needed to win. But we weren’t set up as such. With Clasie, the game is played faster. De Jong need two touches and two looks. Clasie needs one look and one touch. And with Narsingh there is your station going deep, instead of wanting it played into his feet.

I am not blaming Hiddink… He saw what Oranje did in Brazil. Then he got the job: “we need you to coach the team to the Euros and to mentor Blind”. Old Gus thought: easy. With Robben, RVP, Sneijder, Huntelaar…what can go wrong. We will easily get the third spot at least.

Well…. sadly. No. Holland started well. Got some deserved opportunities but failed to score. And just like in all other Euro qualification games, we conceded first.

So what happens next: confusion. As skipper Sneijder said after the game: we lost it a bit. Conceding is something we don’t handle well, although we had a lot of practice this qualifications…

Even Hiddink post-match said: “I will get this Oranje to perform… I just don’t know how yet…”

sneijder scoort turk

Not good soundbites. But Bas Dost said it right: “We could and should have won this!”. Sneijder and Afellay had some bad luck with distance strikes. Depay had his opportunities, hell even Narsingh could have proven Hiddink wrong.

Hiddink, again post-match: “We wanted to win this but we didn’t play well. It feels like we lost 2 points but maybe, at the end of the line, this draw might have given us the most valuable point…”

hunter dost

Btw, not sure who’ll get the goal. Sneijder seemed to have gotten it during the game but after the match, Huntelaar claimed it. “I saw the ball coming and thought if I flick it on the goalie won’t have a chance. I did it on purpose. It’s my goal.”

Anyway, we are still in it. No one will remember this game if we win the Euros in France, next year. We’re still no. 3 and we can lick our wounds and see if we can get some swing in our game vs Spain.

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Hiddink shows glimpses of his Oranje

Oops!! I forgot to give you my prediction!!

Well, I think we will win this 3-1. The Turks will score a late consolation goal. I think we’ll grab them by the throat and score an early goal (15 minutes or so) via Huntelaar. This will allow us to settle and before half time it’s Depay or Sneijder scoring a second. In the second half, almost an hour in,we score a third. Probably again Huntelaar. Hiddink will make some changes (Huntelaar, Sneijder, Wijnaldum) and the Turks will be able to score a cheap goal.

With RVP and Robben sidelined, most people are keen to find out what Guus is doing for the Turkey match. This match, remember, is a must-win match. The Spain friendly is irrelevant. It’s probably relevant for the Spanish, as they will want revenge. But we don’t really care. If we lose against Turkey, we can’t be bothered. And if we win against Turkey, we probably can’t be bothered either :-).

I mean, winning against Spain is all well and good, but it won’t bring us closer to the Euro.

So all eyes are on Guus and his lads. Guus, who used to coach Turkey. One would almost forget. The campaigns he had with South Korea and Australia will never be forgotten. His previous Oranje stint was shabby either. But the Russian job was ok but the Turks decided to let the man go. But Turkey didn’t improve after Hiddink. Far from it actually.

hiddink coaxhing

But today, he’s ours again. The journeyman used his influence to get rivals Huntelaar and Van Persie to become mates. Who’d thunk? They were rivals for a long while. Both central strikers and not very cleverly handled by Van Gaal. Who first pointed at Klaas Jan as his main striker, only to quickly use RVP when he noticed the Man United man was in glorious shape. Klaas Jan is used to being sidelined in Oranje, but already has 70 games under his belt and an average of 1 goal every 99 minutes!! ( Klaas Jan: “That is an annoying statistic, because we’d need 9 minutes of extra time against Turkey for me to score!”)

Kluivert’s tally is Hunter’s next goal and if he really has his swagger back he might even challenge Van Persie. The two had a fall out, publically, on the pitch against Kazachstan. Van Persie didn’t pass the ball to the open Hunter and the Schalke man politely informed RVP about his thoughts.

Hiddink did what apparently no coach before him ever tried: he told the two to grab a coffee together. Huntelaar: “We never did that before. I never drank a coffee with Robin. Mostly, because Robin doesn’t drink coffee, hahaha. But seriously, we were never friends. We never played together, which is different for me than my relationship with Robben or Sneijder. We never played together in the past. We simply never really connected. But Hiddink played us together and told us we could look forward to more of this. And now we have had our one on one, we actually enjoy talking to each other. We sometimes call each other up now. Just to have a bit of a chat. It’s good.”


Van Persie and Huntelaar together, with Robben in a free role. It resulted in 6 goals. The Hunter will have to do it without the two veterans but will have two younger forwards with him. “We have enough talent to make it work. Sure, we’ll miss Arjen and Robin but that’s football. Turkey is a tough opponent, but we’ll win this. I’m 1000% convinced.” The former Ajax man was not keen to name names: “The coach will decide who he plays. I’m cool with any solution. We have players that can play like real wingers, we have players who want to come centrally, either way…. I can deal with any situation.”

Hiddink did practice with both Dost and Huntelaar, but the sharp observer saw that this was a tactic being practiced in case Oranje would be behind. Huntelaar: “This team can play many different systems. And with a player like Dost, we can play long balls. We have players like Sneijder, Clasie, De Vrij and Blind. They are all capable of position a ball on your necktie.”

unter head

Stefan de Vrij, the Lazio defender, obtained a bit of a swagger in Rome. Where Strootman was hailed as a rock star when he was signed, De Vrij walked around Rome unnoticed in his first weeks in Italy. Not any more. With Lazio on a firm third spot in the Serie A, the ex Feyenoord man has built up some sensational statistics. “They keep track of everything in Italy. The number of interceptions a defender makes is similar to the number of assists for a winger or the goals of a striker. In that competition, I am actually number 1.” De Vrij is being humble. His statistics are even great on an international level. The pessimistic Lazio supporters believe the quiet defender might be sold to a European top team even, this summer. “I noticed I made some big steps. I played Luca Toni some time back with Feyenoord and he owned me. Last week I played him again and he didn’t touch the ball. I know people in Holland always say Dutch defenders need to become more gritty and tough, but I don’t get a lot of complaints in Italy.” The land of strong defenders… Both Blind and De Vrij will collect their silver platter tomorrow, for their first anniversary in Oranje.

blind de vrij

It seems Hiddink will pick De Vrij as one of the first players when making his list on the team sheet. Cillesen will be on there too, along with Sneijder and Huntelaar. There will be some question marks too. Depay is not necessarily Hiddink’s first choice. The PSV man has had some run ins with Guus before and will need to step up a bit, according to insiders. It seems Clasie and Wijnaldum might start alongside Sneijder in midfield. Which could mean that Blind starts on the bench. Because should Depay start as left winger, it makes sense to use Jetro Willems as left back. As Steve mentioned in a comment, Blind would be an interesting option as center back, given that he played there a lot in the youth and had a number of good games for Ajax 1 in that role too.

I wouldn’t be surprised myself if Hiddink uses Afellay as a false winger. This will allow him to use a 4-3-3 style system with possession and a 4-4-2 without possession (Afellay dropping back when we lost the ball).

Hiddink is holding his cards close to his chest so we’ll need to wait and see what happens.

The good thing is, that Luuk de Jong lashed an elbow in Bruma’s face and drew blood.

Or let me rephrase: the good thing is that the lads train at a high intensity level. The training is tough, intense and with aggression. Something we will need to “replace” Arjen Robben.


It is all seriousness and gravitas currently in the Oranje camp but Wes Sneijder couldn’t help but lift the spirits with some comments. The former Real Madrid man is happy with his skipper role. “I don’t look back with negative feelings about me losing the band. We have been through that. It has been discussed and the topic lies at the cemetery for me. No, in general it is good to be the skipper for your country. And against Turkey, in a big match! Last time I scored against them, I didn’t celebrate. But this time I will. Not only that, I will cheer very loud!!” This last comment is a sarcastic nod to Van Gaal’s shout out when a journalist asked what he would do if Sneijder would score…

Hiddink is a fan of relaxed. Take it easy. Do normal, then you do crazy enough. Hiddink, like Huntelaar, is from the Achterhoek (the Back-corner) as the area east of everything is called. The fun factor at the last public training was Joost. A Down Syndrome kid who was present and commentated the training really loud. He knew all the names of all the players, but he kept calling Hiddink “Louis van Gaal”. Hiddink: “Isn’t that just fun? This lad, his spontaneity and his openness? Great.” But all fun aside, Sneijder said: “Tomorrow, the fun needs to stop. Particularly for Turkey. We are 6 points behind the Cechs and 3 behind Iceland. France will be far away in the distance if we let this game slide.” Hiddink looked back at the press conference on his time as Turkish team manager. “We missed the Euros in 2012 narrowly. It took the decider vs Croatia and that is a strong nation. Turkish players are very skilled but sometimes undisciplined. Once the emotions run riot, you sometimes lose them.”


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