Tag: Portugal

Oranje experiments vs Angstgegner Portugal

For the non  Germanic speakers amongst us. An Angstgegner is an opponent that seems to always get the better of you. An opponent that instills fears in the hearts of the Orange Lions. An opponent we share a history with, and usually with not-so-good outcomes. In English it would be “anxiety opponent”.

Obviously, it’s Portugal I’m talking about.

Ronald Koeman will not be worried about the end result. He wants to keep on trying out new players and see other faces. Apparently he might change the team on 7 spots. Jesper Cillesen will definitely start, as will Tete in place of Hateboer. Ake might step in as centre back. According to the spies, Memphis and Wijnaldum will start for sure, as may Ryan Babel.

Koeman will keep on working on the system he started with at England, but will demand more “compactness” from the team without possession and much better quality in possession.

As he said after the England game: “You can’t expect us to just play England off the pitch in our first match.” I think a similar comment will be applicable for this match: “You can’t expect us to play European champions Portugal off the pitch in our second match.” And rightfully so.

The game will be played in Geneva, by the way, for some reason. So not as festive as a game in Holland, but also not as annoying as a game in Portugal…

I personally believe this 3-4-3 is not that ideal if you don’t have the players to execute it.

To sum it up, we need at least one central defender to be able to join in in midfield, with good passing abilities. For me, De Vrij/Van Dijk/De Ligt are too similar. I’d like to see Daley Blind in there.

I also believe that we need more leadership in midfield, from a tactical standpoint.

Against England, Henderson would drop deep which took Sterling back to midfield. They stretched Strootman and Wijnaldum who again had difficulties with the amount of space. We had a player over in the back and were lacking one in midfield. This Tottenham Hotspur system works well for the Spurs, but they have players like Son, Alli and Kane… We don’t…

Stefan de Vrij might not play, as his head might be a tad on his move to Internazionale, if we have to believe the Italian media. Apparently, Barcelona and Man City have shown interest as well and the Milan behemoth wants to do business quickly. I would normally suggest any Dutch player to sign with Barca and stay away from Inter, but as De Vrij is a defender, Inter might actually be great for him…

Ronald Koeman about his “system”: “I don’t use this system as a response to the opponent or something. I want to use this as our autonomous system, meaning we need to create things as well. Not just stop them. We didn’t create a lot against England, but then again: neither did they. I hear the English media were negative about us, but if we’re that bad, why didn’t England score four goals or more? I see this compact way of playing as the key to qualifying. I have gone from man to man marking to zonal marking and that is a big shift. We do need some more games to perfect it. We have four games to do so, before the real deal starts.”

Asked whether the debut game vs England was a failure, he is resolute. “Absolutely not. One has to start at some stage. If we would have picked Andorra or Luxembourg, we could have won and be proud and speak of a successful debut. But I don’t care about that. I care about perfecting the style we want to play in and against a strong opponent you know two things for sure: you can really test your strength, and you may lose… I don’t care, I want to see the progress and I want to see our players perform under pressure.”

So Monday evening, it’s Portugal. We don’t have very good stats vs the Portuguese…

In 2004, at the Euros in Portugal, we lost 2-1 in the semi finals. Ronaldo and Maniche score in the first hour and the Andrade own goal didn’t do much for us. Portugal got into the finals and got embarrassed by Greece.

In 2006, the Battle of Neuremburg happened. The Russian ref Ivanov produced 20 cards in total and I think he red carded one player twice. Or he yellow carded a player thrice. Or he sent a birthday card to Van Basten, I can’t remember. Again, Maniche scores for Portugal. No one knows where it went wrong. Oranje was tight as a string, following some internal issues (Van Nistelrooy, Van Bommel) and Cocu famously hit the bar, as Tiju famously keeps on ranting about how Kuyt cost us the tournament. Or something. Or Memphis. Can’t remember that either. Trying to block this game from memory as I do with Tiju.

In 2012, Holland has a chance to progress but it needs to win vs Portugal, after having lost against the Danes and the Germans. Rafael van der Vaart scores the first one and hits a similar shot on the post. Two C Ronaldo goals from a counter later and Holland goes home.

In 2000, I think we lost against Van Gaal as well. Two qualification games vs Portugal. We lost 0-2 at home. Famously, the right full back Reiziger played on the left and his misplaced pass ended up in the feet of an opponent. The other goal came when the Oranje defense stopped playing as some moron (Tiju??) blew a whistle on the stands. The Dutch players thought the game was stopped, the Portuguese players didn’t. In the away game, we took revenge and were 0-2 up with 10 minutes to go. Van Gaal was keen to kill Portugal off and brought two extra strikers in the last stage of the game. When the last whistle sounded, it was 2-2.

Didn’t we ever win against these guys?? Yes we did. In qualifying for the EC1992 in Sweden. Portugal had won at their home, 1-0. And it was Richard Witschge who scored the winner for us in De Kuip, 1-0. Enough for us to qualify.

Lets add another win tonight.

I say: 0-2 for Holland. Memphis scoring and a debut goal by Justin Kluivert…

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Wesley Sneijder: Mr Oranje Record Breaker

Phillip Cocu passed the ball into him. A quick turn and a shot on target: goal! He jumps laughing into the arms of Pierre van Hooijdonk, at the side of the pitch. On the bench, coach Dick Advocaat. Oranje team manager, but without hair from front to back and Willem van Hanegem next to him as his assistant.

Ajax’ total management team was on the pitch. Marc Overmars on the left wing, Edwin van der Sar on goal. Sneijder was just a kid, gel in his hair and a somewhat oversized Orange jersey.

He walked and laughed like a teenager, that day. A school boy, but he played the match of his live. November 2003, Holland-Scotland: 6-0.

wes debut

This was not his debut, but it certainly was his breakthrough. Just watch in the first 30 seconds of the game. Sneijder demands the ball, creates space from his own box, sprints across the length of the pitch, gives an opponent a knock at the half way line and walks away, chin up and chest out.

The Agassi-style walk, a bit pedantic, with the high raised elbows. The look saying “no one can touch me” and his fabolous kicking technique.

When Sneijder walked onto the pitch of De Kuip – one of his favorite venues – for his 131st international game, he doesn’t have that mercurial dynamic anymore. It was 14 years ago. His muscles are less agile, he’s got more tattoos, he bridges the distances with a bit more effort, but he is still Wesley Sneijder. Pure player. Bravado. The Man. Proud like no other.

He gave Oranje venom, will, class and bravado. But also a smile and a cheer. The many interviews, in the dark underbelly of a stadium, sweat dripping of his face. Or at the sideline of a windy practice pitch on Katwijk. Sometimes long and philosophical conversation, other times short soundbites. In hotels across the globe, at the training camps of Inter or Real Madrid, or at airports or amongst 1000s of insane Turkish fans.

wes raf scot

Sneijder Superstar but always himself. Good mooded, positive, opportunistic even. For some an annoying alpha male but usually a happy-go-lucky larekin. Always good for a story, an anecdote or a fierce debate.

The World Cup 2010 in South Africa was the pinnacle of what would be his most successful year on the field. But also off the pitch. In South Africa, in Johannesburg, he would share stories about his faith, about love, about the talismans he brings on his travels, about his son, God, about him mother and life as a public persona.

Sneijder is streetwise. He may not have been educated too well, but he’s incredibly intelligent, and his emotional intelligence is a gift. He never lost his Utrecht dialect, but turned an ego-centric punk into a mature man, with an eye for the less fortunate. He is always happy to help old friends, will always give the young Oranje fans the time of day and is always available to the press.

lvg wes

In March, the last international game under Danny Blind, Sneijder had a speaking engagement before a conference hall with parents of young cancer patients. Sneijder knows how to: warm, upbeat, spontanious and will a good feel for timing and atmosphere. Whether he’s speaking with Princes Maxima, or the sick kid in the wheelchair, he is always at ease.

But it didn’t all go smoothly. Sometimes, Sneijder behind his mask of manliness could be unhappy and vulnerable. During his time at Real Madrid, he divorced his first wife and drowned himself in the Spanish nightlife, with a mediocre spell at the club. Self critical as he can be, later on he said “I was completely shit” about that period.

His love for life was a stumbling block a couple of more time. He didn’t always live like a pro. It seemed he almost missed the World Cup 2014 when Louis van Gaal attacked him agressively and forced the proud Sneijder to shape up or ship out. Sneijder took the bait. He was insulted. Humiliated. Angry as hell at Van Gaal. And he trained himself insane with kickboxer and personal coach Gokhan Saki. He was ignored for a while by Van Gaal but he kept at it. At the WC in Brazil, Sneijder was to play in service of the artists Van Persie and Robben and accepted the role. He had his value for Oranje with a killer game versus Spain and the equaliser against Mexico.

wes yo

Glory embraced him in 2010, the year he won the Champions League with Inter and headed Oranje past Brazil at the WC. Or that pass through the eye of the needle on Arjen Robben, on his way to meet the toe of Casillas. One inch away from world gold.

It would not get any better than that. And this is another point of criticism: he seemed to settle to easily for Galatasaray. It might have been a couple of years too early. He became a demi god in Instanbul but as a club player, he said goodbye to the European top.

“He still is the best player of Galatasaray, hell, maybe of Turkey!” said Dick Advocaat this week. Sneijder took that quote and taunted the media: “You guys don’t follow the Turkish competition, but maybe you also want to make a judgement about me?”

wes dick lux

He now has the record which he has been chasing fanatically. On his birthday even. 131 caps. And Sneijder even hinted at staying on after the WC2018. “Why not? I really value it, playing for Oranje. Every time again. Wesley Sneijder, figure head of Oranje in good and bad times. An Oranje legend in his active playing days. Worth a standing ovation.

April 30, 2003: Oranje – Portugal 1-1

There is a first for everything and this was the first for our record international. The young Ajax upstart came on in the second half to replace Phillip Cocu in a friendly vs Portugal. Dick Advocaat was his coach here as well and Arjen Robben made his debut as well.

October 11, 2003: Holland – Moldavia 5-0

The second international for Sneijder was a good one. Advocaat allowed him a starting birth and he got his first goal in the 51st minute, on a Kluivert assist. Signs of things to come.

wes scotl

November 19, 2003: Holland – Scotland 6-0

After being absent at the 2002WC, Oranje couldn’t afford to miss another big tournament. The qualification was not a smooth ride and we needed a play offs game vs Scotland to get to the Euros. We lost the away game 1-0. Oranje needed to set things right in the Amsterdam Arena.  The 19 year old Sneijder took the reigns and led Oranje to a big win. Wesley scored the 1-0 after 14 minutes and allowed Ooijer and Van Nistelrooy goals via his free kick delivery. Van Nistelrooy also scored the 4-0 after which Sneijder delivered a corner-kick onto the head of Frank de Boer: 5-0.

June 9 2008: Holland – Italy 3-0

After another difficult qualification campaign, Oranje found itself in another Group of Death, with Italy, France and a strong Romania. The openingsgame vs Italy was on Sneijder’s 24th birthday. The world champions were played off the pitch 3-0, with a goal and assist by Sneijder.

wes 2008 ita

June 13, 2008: Holland – France 4-1

A couple of days later, the World Cup runner up was the opponenent: France. Sneijder again dipped in with an assist and a sensational goal in injury time. A wonderful no-look distance striker pregnant with spin. His goal was choses as The Goal of the Tournament.

July 2, 2010: Holland – Brazil 2-1

A weak Oranje had to play cat and mouse with Brazil. With Oranje as the mouse. Robinho scored already after 10 minutes and Brazil was actually playing with Oranje. If Stekelenburg wouldn’t have stopped a marvelous Kaka effort, the game would have slipped away. But Bert van Marwijk was able to bring a totally different Oranje onto the pitch, with Rafael van de Vaart as holding midfielder. In the 53rd minute, a free kick by Sneijder remained untouched and found his way past Julio Cesar. Fifteen minutes later, the little playmaker scored a surprising header in amongst the Brazilian defense. 1 meter and 70 centimeters and the header was the winner. Oranje in the semis!

wes head bra

July 9, 2010: Holland – Spain 0-1

Uruguay was the next scalp in the semis, with another Sneijder goal (and Gio’s Goal of the Tournament). The finals vs Spain was supposed to be to ultimate. Just before the break, Sneijder released Robben with a pinpoint pass but Casillas toe came in between Sneijder and the World Cup. There were a number of goal opportunities but no goals. Nigel de Jong scored the biggest upset by kicking Alonso in two (almost). Oranje was headed towards penalties after Heijtinga was sent off and Van der Vaart took his place as man market. In the 116th minute, Iniesta decapitated Holland. For the third time, a runners up silver medal for Oranje.

September 2, 2011: Holland – San Marino 11-0

One could say any international game vs San Marino should be a footnote and nothing more. The question is not: who wins, but with how many goals will we win. But it was a benchmark game. The first time Oranje got double digits. Sneijder scoring two goals and an assist.

wes xavi

July 13, 2014: Holland – Spain 5-1

The openings game for Oranje at the WC2014 was Sneijder’s 100st cap for Oranje. The Spanish Seleccion had won three major tournaments in a row and was favorite versus a – alleged -weak Oranje. Xabi Alonso scored the first goal from the spot kick. Just before half time, Van Persie scored the equaliser on a deep pass by Daley Blind. After the break, Holland scored 4 more, with two assists for Sneijder. Oranje’s revenge. Spain would go home after the group stage.

wes score

29 juni 2014: Nederland-Mexico 2-1

Oranje qualified with ease for this tournament and actually sailed through the group stage after finishing of the reigning world champs. In the first knock out game vs Mexico, it almost went wrong. Dos Santos scored the first goal in the first half and it took till the 88th minute before Oranje could salvage the game. A loose ball fell on the gifted foot of Sneijder who finished the ball emphatically. Not much later, Robben was awarded a penalty and Huntelaar hammered the ball home. Mexico went home, Oranje moved into the quarter finals.

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WC2002: Oranje’s biggest fail….

When things aren’t going your way, visualising success and a turn-around helps. What also helps, is to look at situations that are or were even worse! To give you a pick-me-up.

On special request, an analysis (14 years after the fact) of the biggest Oranje Fail in history (arguably).

So, we failed miserably at the WC1990 (with Gullit, Van Basten, Koeman, Rijkaard, Wouters) but at least we were there! We failed at the Euros2012 but it could have been different if we took our chances vs Denmark. And again: at least we were there! And yes, the Euro2016 qualifications were a shamble, but at least we had the excuse of a generation gap and absentees (Robben!).

In 2000, however, we came out of a Euro2000 tournament we could have won and in which we played some (not all) good football. In 1998, at the WC in France, we actually could have won the whole bloody thing (made it to the semis of course).

oranje port line up

So when “inexperienced” Rijkaard resigned after the devastating freak loss vs Italy in 2000, the Dutch Federation decided to give Louis van Gaal his due. The former Ajax and Barca coach was considered the top man for the job in Holland. He was seen as the new football messiah after Cruyff. And more to the point: Louis van Gaal made it clear that HE wanted the job. Now, the problem with Louis is this: yes, he is a very good coach. And yes, he demonstrated he works well with young players (he gets into their head like a real Svengali). But…he also is a narcissistic and dominant bully. And typically for ego-driven people, he wanted the job for him. Not to further Oranje. To be of service to Dutch football. But purely for his resume. The cool thing with people like him (Donald Trump is another example): they are very open about their motivations. “I want this on my resume!”. This is also what he proclaimed when going for the Man United job. “I want to have a title in England on my resume!”. It is all about Louis.

If I was a club or federation director, for me that would be the key reason not to hire him. Coz wherever Louis goes: you might get trophies, but you’ll definitely invite trouble.


Louis stepped into the job thinking he was going for gold. For starters: he really thinks he is the best coach. Secondly, he would be reunited with his Class of 1995 of Ajax success. Thirdly, he figured as an NT coach you have so much time on your hand, someone like him must be able to forge a winning team.

But as usual, he didn’t assess the situation properly. Narcissistic personalities think they can manipulate reality in to something they envision. “Make it so!”.

So, in hindsight, it is clear that: 1) he might be the best club coach but he didn’t “get” what it takes to be an NT manager. It’s a different role altogether! 2) he might have liked the reunion with his former posse but the players were done with him. Most of them had progressed in their football career, with experiences under other coaches. And most of them if not all, did not like to be treated as if they were still 21 years old. Cocu, the De Boers, Van Hooijdonk, Van der Sar, Stam, Witschge… all pushing 30 by now. Mature players. They had all seen Louis’ act by now and they knew all the lines of the script. And 3)…Louis used the time as NT manager to accept a second job at the KNVB: he also acted as the Technical Director. As a result, he developed a masterplan for the KNVB (not unlike Hans van Breukelen is doing now) with a manifest of how amateur coaches needed to work and be trained to do so. A plan that was marvelous as a PhD thesis but unpractical to execute. He spent weeks in lobbying, presenting, debating, clashing with others to push his straightjacket vision onto the pro clubs and amateurs alike. The KNVB would invest in hiring dozens of “Van Gaal clones” to push his vision.

stam 2000

Nothing ever came of that. Icons like Cruyff, Van Hanegem and Wim Jansen torpedoed the plan and most of the clubs felt Van Gaal should focus nicely on qualifying with the NT.

As a club coach, Louis would work as much as he could with the players. Not doing tactics only, but perfecting their skills, working on their mentality, their world vision, the way to behave, think, eat, drink, probably also how to have sex.

As an NT coach, you need to make an environment in which players enjoy themselves. A break from the club. And make sure they stay fit, but don’t work them. Don’t make them work on skills. Don’t try and push their fitness levels. You simply do not have the time to do it. Work on mentality, confidence, tactics. That’s all.

Interestingly enough, in 2001 Van Gaal did state in a press conference that he was ready to abandon the Oranje 4-3-3 and use a two striker system: “I used to select on availability and form of players and the confidence I have in certain players. But with the lack of world class wingers and an overflow of central strikers (Kluivert, Van Nistelrooy, Makaay, Van Hooijdonk, Hasselbaink) I might be tempted to abandon the Dutch style of play.”

nl port 2001

Van Gaal overdid it. And after this abysmal qualifications, the Van Gaal proteges of yore, the De Boer’s, Reiziger, Davids et al said they got sick and tired of his antics. Annoyed and agitated with his dominant nature and his treatment.

Anther example of amateurism at the KNVB, as any sane football expert could have told you: Louis is not NT material (yet). He needed this fuck up to perform well in 2014 (again, with younger players he could mould and some older players he simply left alone).

And yes, I have heard the excuses: “it was a tough group”… well…it wasn’t. Republic of Ireland? Yes, always difficult, but we should have beaten them twice in the group stages. The home game, we trailed 0-2 until late in the game and got back to 2-2 thanks to a wonder strike by Gio van Bronckhorst, not unlike his WC2010 semi finals goal. I’ll try and find footage of it (never was able to actually…).

And Portugal, well…they were good. They had an amazing squad, with Figo, Rui Costa, Pauleta, Jao Pinto, Nuno Gomes… But hey…., did you see who we had? Kluivert. Van Nistelrooy. Makaay. De Boer. De Boer. Seedorf. Davids. Stam. Van Bommel. Sar. Overmars.

bommel keane

Another excuse: “we had so many injuries and absentees”… True. De Boer and Davids were unjustly accused of using doping. Stam and Numan had injuries. It always happens. But with this squad, Van Gaal should have found solutions.

In the home game vs Portugal, we did have some bad luck though, although still…something that could have been avoided.

The first goal Portugal scored was a fluke. Some idiot in the stands blew on his whistle. Oranje was pressing but thought the ref stopped the game. Half the Dutch team came to a still stand. Portugal didn’t. They took the ball and went on to score.

Portugal scored their second as Reiziger made a mistake. He was put on as left back. When in possession he decided to go back to his right foot and play the ball back, but it never got to De Boer, who wasn’t able to stop the turn around and Portugal pounced and scored.

I will leave the conclusion of all this to you.

So we drew at home vs Rep of Ireland and Portugal.


We needed a big result away against both. We outplayed Portugal away. 0-2 up with 15 minutes to go. No problem whatsoever. But Van Gaal wanted more than a win. He wanted sweet revenge. So he put two more strikers on. Hoping to humiliate Portugal, but all went south. A red card for Davids. A last minute soft penalty for Figo. End result 2-2.

Still in it, Holland needed a win away vs Rep of Ireland. In the run up, we played a friendly versus England and Kluivert scored two goals on Anfield to boost morale. But the Ireland game was a drama. We had good chances in the first 10 minutes, Kluivert even hit the post and the team felt we could cruise to a win. But the Irish fighting spirit got the better of us. Playing on a bad pitch and with a rugby mentality in the team, it was McAteer who famously scored the only goal of the match and blocked Holland from making it to the World Cup.

In summary (my personal conclusion): some top players were at an age where they lost their desire. Going to the Oranje camp to play and train under Van Gaal felt like a chore for them. The fun was gone. And Van Gaal’s attitude didn’t help. He was unable to refresh the squad and bring young fresh players when required. Van Gaal overdid it in practice and seemed to think qualifying was not a big drama. A necessary evil for him to shine at the World Cup.

1 September 2001; Kevin Kilbane, Republic of Ireland, in action against Holland's Mario Melchiot. Republic of Ireland v Holland, World Cup Qualifier, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Soccer. Picture credit; Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
1 September 2001; Kevin Kilbane, Republic of Ireland, in action against Holland’s Mario Melchiot. Republic of Ireland v Holland, World Cup Qualifier, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Soccer. Picture credit; Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

In typical Van Gaal style, his press conferences and media presentations were as bad as ever. Not unlike his antics as Man United coach. The media were the enemy. Everyone wanted to attack him.

His press conferences went from: “I have changed. I won’t be insulting journalists anymore. I understand exactly what the KNVB needs and I can do it.”…


And he was the only one to “get” it. Sometimes, he used this to have his team rise up in defence and bond over all the drama. This time around, the players had a gut full of him and basically never stepped up to the occasion…

louis boos

Interestingly enough, Van Gaal claimed in his final presser that the Federation were happy for him to stay on. But after he spoke with a number of key players, he decided against it. “I didn’t ask them outright if they wanted me out. But I did talk about the way they liked to be managed and guided. Their wishes went against my beliefs. I rule out coincidences. I don’t like a “loose” style of management. So, it was not possible for me to go on.”

Van Gaal did want to stay on as Technical Director to implement his master plan. Luckily, the KNVB decided against it. General Manager Kesler: “Even though I know Louis would not govern in his grave, as the expression goes, I don’t think it would be healthy to have a team manager coming in, while Louis van Gaal – his predecessor – becomes his boss. That is not healthy. The Master Plan is excellent but we’ll need to execute this without Louis van Gaal.”

Holland – Rep of Ireland 2-2

The home game versus Portugal:

And the away game versus Portugal:

And for masochists, the away game vs Rep of Ireland…

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Euros schmeuros… it was balls! Let’s move on….

Disappointing. The finals of the Euros reflected the quality of this tournament perfectly…. A boring game with one nation not really interested in playing attacking football and the other nation somehow not capable. One of the few stars of the tournament injured in the first 10 minutes and then 100+ minutes without a goal. And at the end… Portugal wins!

CR7 tears of despair in the first stage and tears of joy at the end.

You know how bad a tournament is when all you can rave about is 1) the quality of the broadcast, 2) the consistency and leniency of the refs and 3) the fact that Wales, Iceland, Ireland and Hungary impressed….

de roon

Marten de Roon to Middlesbrough

With all due respect of course. We weren’t even there! And Iceland beat us twice, so we can’t say their rubbish. But football took a turn and we need a response to that turn.

Atletico Madrid in Spain, Leicester in England and now Wales and Iceland at the Euros…

Make no mistake, the two club teams definitely have quality… And Wales and Iceland have top players as well. But what set them apart from the others, is not their individual quality or their tactical smarts. What sets them apart is work rate, desire, discipline and commitment.

This is quite interesting of course, because if the likes of Real Madrid, Ajax, Man United, Arsenal and Oranje had similar grit in their past season, things would have looked different, for sure. This is the only thing we will need to add to our arsenal and we might lift ourselves up.




Nouri on the radar…

Sure, we do need some quality to turn a gritty team into a winning team. But quality we have. And we do need coaching smarts to drill the patterns in, which is something that won’t happen so easily in a qualification series, but need to happen before the tournament.

I think Blind has that capability. Particularly with Advocaat beside him.

I think we have the players to play with more grit, with more passion and commitment. Strootman offers tons of that, Janssen up front too. I hope De Vrij will get to his normal level and have high hopes for Propper, Bazoer but also the likes of Fer and Vilhena.


Tonny Trindade Vilhena

The best news this summer was the fact that Tonny Vilhena will stay in the Eredivisie! He’ll play weekly and learn more and more. When he’s 23 / 24 years old, he could be a top midfielder for us. Dynamic, duelling power, rocket in his feet and good mentality.

The start of the Under 19s vs Croatia is also hopeful. Some good passages of play and that Nouri flick is going viral. Very Bergkamp-esque.

We’re now prepping for the new season. Still a lot of question marks. Depay and Blind being obvious ones, of course. But Janssen at Spurs.. what to expect? Will Van Ginkel stay at PSV? Will Clasie find himself in a team that shares the conviction and courage of Koeman’s teams?

De Roon in the EPL is going to be good fun and Ake and Berghuis will make some steps too next season.

ake oranje


Nathan Ake

If Blind is able to start the WC campaign with the strongest players fit, I don’t think Sweden should be a problem and I even believe France is doable. They will take their disappointment into their WC campaign for sure and their hangover can be our advantage.

I am positive about our future, but then again: I always am!

Anyway, here is a team of the big disappointments:


This, by the way, is the team of players that didn’t qualify.

not qualified

And this a team of players that weren’t selected by their coaches…… Not too shabby…

not selected

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Memphis, from love to loathing

Euros Schmeuros…. I’m watching a lot of games, keen to see a moment of brilliance of Modric, Bale, Ozil or Dembele. So far, it was not great. Some good stuff here and there. Shaqiri’s goal, Ozil little flicks, Bale’s runs, Iniesta’s allround game. But also dreadful football at times. Wales – Northern Ireland… what a drama. Never seen such a bad game of football ever at this level… And then to think we are not there…. Aaaarggh…

But, we’ll need to drink the poisonous chalice all the way, I guess.

And with all that, we also have to face the fact that the hope of the Nation – Memphis Depay – has reached a big low and we are all keen to see that he will come out of it…

Benched for Oranje, on the stands in Manchester, ridiculed by the fans… Once touted as the biggest talent of the country since a long time, he has now lived through a year of self doubt, criticism and disappointments… Where did it go wrong? Will it ever come good?


The loud music is blaring from the big speakers. On the big screen, we see amazing footage of the biggest athletes on the planet. Awesome coverage of sports heroes, all winning and sweating in sports apparel by Under Armour. Lindsey Vonn, Michael Phelps, Andy Murray, Jordan Spieth…

memphis hat

Adrienne Lofton is the CEO of this massive American brand and she flew to London to personally introduce the special guest to the audience. The guest of honour is The New Face of international football, she says, proudly… She is talking about someone who “perfectly represents the brand”. A young super star and the face of the new marketing campaign. “Ladies and gentlemen, here he is… MEMPHIS!”…

The player walks onto the state in The Bike Shed, a glorious venue in East London, capital of hipsters, slick ad execs and filthy rich creatives… It is late February 2016 and Man United won that night in a match 0-3 versus Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup.

Memphis actually played the full 90 minutes again. The million dollar signing became a bench warmer at Old Trafford. The words “disappointment” and “failure” have been used a couple of times already in the English media. The Dutchman struggles. With himself, and with the ball, for months already and his credit with Van Gaal seems to have dissipated.

At the end of the evening, Memphis muses about his situation. “This is a tough phase to be in. Making mistakes is terrible. But… I just have to remain confident and believe it will make me a better player. This is the only thing I can do: work hard, keep focus and believe in myself.”

memphis doubt

Memphis is sipping on a bottle of water, leaning against a table. You don’t need a PhD in psychology to know he is not comfortable. He signed the Under Armour contract in his last season with PSV, when it was clear he was going to go far. Under Armour saw him as the perfect face for years to come. The new C Ronaldo, Beckham, Ljungberg… Memphis was honoured and saw this line of fashion befitting to him. It matched his personality. Kees Ploegsma, former PSV manager and his agent, expected that this partnership would work and advised the youngster to commit. Memphis, a lad of extremes. A player who wants to become the best on the planet. A super star in the making.

Ploegsma: “We manage the affairs of Cillesen and Strootman too… But we make different decisions for them, scout different options for them. They’re different than Memphis. Or maybe, Memphis is different to them… Memphis is an all or nothing kinda guy. He loves that.”

But, these sort of things will work against you if it becomes nothing. There is no way Memphis can duck out. He signed a contract with a billion dollar company. The brand is key. Contract is contract.

memphis chest


Nothing works. Every action he starts ends in clumsy loss of possession. A stray pass? It can happen. A dribble being stopped. Sure. But at some stage, Memphis is wrestling with the ball, trying to keep it under control. A typical sign the player is lacking all confidence. He looks lacklustre. Without inspiration. His season seems to end in style, in a way, in a dramatic friendly between Oranje and Ireland. The cocky youngster seems to come to grips with this phase in his career and is vulnerable and open in an interview just some days before. “Oh yes, I had periods I doubted myself. But, those are now behind me.”

Memphis’ problem is that no one seems to have an eye for his vulnerability. He is the big summer signing of Man United. He accepted the legendary jersey #7. He is the lad buying the Rolls Royce. The arrogant star who refused to speak to the media. And…he also wears a hat at times! A hat!! How dare he? And he taunts and debates with the 101 times capped international Robin van Persie. He created his own reputation of course, but no one seems to care for the young player who struggles with self doubt and expectations. A player, desperately looking for some confidence.


Memphis is looking for words. And when he does, he tends to look into the distance. He is looking for words. And uses hip hop terms and streetjive, such as “ya know?” and “crib” and “positive vibes”. He speaks the language of the big cities in Holland. Robin van Persie, ironically, was one of the first to show of his street lingo, when he was a young player. The masses watching tv don’t like it. The papa mamas in Hierden, the kids in Loenen or the labourers in Enschede… it makes him distant and otherwordly. But Van Persie survived this stage. Hopefully Memphis will too. Memphis is in Rotterdam, he’s been given a couple of days off and he decides to go for a big interview with Algemeen Dagblad. The interview is like pulling teeth for him. A good friend says: “Memphis is very open, very outspoken and generous… But you need to win his trust first. He will always assess the situation before he allows people a look in. From when he was young, he had to deal with this. He is hurt a lot, as a kid. Damaged. That makes him a bit detached… ” But, after a while, he starts to open up. And speaks with detail and in a calm fashiong about his motivations and the contradictions in his personality. And he tries to find the reason for his insatiable appetite for fame and success. He talks about his love-hate relationship with the spotlights…. sometimes loathing the attention and sometimes actively looking for it.

memphis dick

It becomes a long interview, a fascinating talk, and mainly due to the somewhat scruffy portrait Memphis paints of himself. “I demand of myself that I am 100% there from the get go. I think that is the street in me… Don’t fail! Failure is NOT an option!” Another soundbite: “I don’t know what it is but I loathe being mediocre. I cannot be mainstream. The middle of the road is not my thing. You get hit by a car in the middle of the road…”

About his extraverted hobbies. “Some people collect stamps. Some people are fanatical about WW2. Others have pigeons. I like fashion. I like new things, art, beauty. This is what makes me feel good. If I would have to wear what others want me to wear, I’d be unhappy. I wouldn’t be me.”


Memphis is walking on the pitch of Wembley. No football boots. Normal shoes. He congratulates and cuddles with his team mates who just won the FA Cup. After he saw all the players, he crosses paths with Louis van Gaal. The coach who didn’t pick him for the match squad. Van Gaal puts his arm around Memphis’ shoulder. A clumsy hug follows. It is the last episode of a relationship gone wrong. Van Gaal was the coach who allowed Depay to make his debut in Oranje, he paid millions for him to get him into a ManU jersey and he put him in the starting line up for months. An insider: “Louis van Gaal has a narcissistic trait. People with this disorder will support people who do what they say, support what they say and play along with the tricks. Once a player talks back or shows his lack of commitment to the behaviour of the narcist, things can unravel really quickly.” This seems to have happened with Memphis and Louis. Something happened. And as a result, Memphis was out of grace. He does have some decent turns as a sub but almost the same number of sub-turns amount to nothing. With crucial loss of possession even. He does play a sensational game against Midtjylland and the hope returns to Old Trafford… Would it start now?

memphis berguis

But, Van Gaal doesn’t use Memphis in big games anymore. Once Louis’ love is gone, it won’t ever return, it seems. Some people say Van Gaal doesn’t like all the off-pitch shenanigans of Memphis. The cars, the sponsor deals, the hats… But insiders say it’s not like that. Van Gaal couldn’t care less if Memphis would perform, he can wear the suit of Big Bird on his days off. Insiders claim that Memphis wants to play his own game. And isn’t coachable as Van Gaal wants to see it. Interestingly, most ManU players seem to have difficulties with Van Gaal’s tight straightjacket approach. Fellaini, Rooney, Carrick, Januzaj, Herreira… most players want to have some more freedom on the pitch. Memphis probably first in the line to need this…

But there were no complaints at Man United – from Van Gaal, Giggs or anyone else – about his work ethic and focus. The player has his own nutritionist, his own mental coach, he asked for more hours on the practice field and selected a very quiet suburb in Manchester to live. Away from the spotlights.

Memphis and Van Gaal did not have a break up due to his (Memphis’ or Louis’) antics. Louis knew what he was dealing with. But Louis left Memphis out because Martial simply was better on his position.  And the more the pressure mounted, the more Memphis tried to make every single ball contact count. He became too focused on doing something special. A trick, a dribble, a shot in the top corner, a shimmy… He wanted to give the fans what they needed and craved for.  And obviously, whenever he failed, it meant loss of possession. The risk in his game would become too high. Van Gaal needed wins over performance and went with players who played simple. Ashley Young became a relief striker because he only does what he does well. Memphis succumbed under the pressure of the expectations, the transfer fee and his obsession to be special.

But, at the same time, Memphis started to become more and more frustrated with the philosophy of his coach. And with him, other players as well. Rooney, De Gea, Carrick, Schneiderlin, Herreira… Control and discipline were key. The Dutch coach constantly focused on keep possession, no risk, tactical tasks and as a result the creativity and intuition and impulse disappeared from Man United’s game.

So, add all this to the fact that any player needs to adjust to the English league, and the causes for his disappointing first season are there. “It wasn’t a great season, but it also wasn’t a terrible one,” he said himself.

jose manu


Incoming ManU coach has his own ideas. He also is not a figure-head of beautiful football (although Van Gaal used to be). The Overrated One believes in winning. The centre back type that is Daley Blind doesn’t fit in his philosophy. In his teams, he always used to “destroyers” in the center defence. He doesn’t want tactically strong but physically light players with good ball and passing skills.

He will get millions to throw around, but there is a fair chance that most players will still be at Old Trafford once Jose starts. The rumours that Memphis will have to go are simply just rumours for now. Because Mourinho does like “characters”. He will play compact and will need speed up front. Memphis is a perfect player for a more counter-attacking game plan.Memphis is not the greatest in confined space. He needs space to use his skills and his golden right foot.

Memphis will have a couple of weeks to fight for his future at Manchester United. The fans and the media are done with him. It will be all or nothing. Exactly like Memphis wants it….

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Danny Blind focusing on life beyond Euro 2016

We’ll look at the Euros a bit. But first this: Henk Fraser to coach Vitesse. Zjelko Petrovic to coach ADO Den Haag.

And Tonny Vilhena said no to offers from Italy (Inter), Greece, Turkey, Spain and England to stay two more years at Feyenoord! Yay!

Which probably means he’ll go next summer for a limited fee, but at least Feyenoord will get some money + one more season of his game.


While Albania, Slovenia, Wales and Iceland dazzle Europe, while Belgium feels the pressure and Italy surprises, while Zlatan will exit the Euros sans glory and Germany, Spain or France will snatch the title….our focus is on life beyond the Euros.

And this is the cool thing… Now, every Dutch fan will feel frustrated on a daily basis not being part of this tournament. But in three weeks time, this Euros is history and Holland will be able to start sharp and solid with the WC2018 preparation.

Forget about Bert van Oostveen’s 2026 plan. It’s a disgrace. Let’s just get to the WC2018 and like Van Marwijk and Van Gaal before, let’s just play our way into the top 4. Why not?


Brows are frowned in Holland with the appointment of Hans van Breukelen as the KNVB’s new technical director (and boss of Danny Blind, San Marco and Dickie). The man does communicate well, presents well and was a popular keeper… But that’s all one can say about him. Goalies traditionally are not too successful as coaches (Dino Zoff is the only one that comes to mind for me) and De Breuk has not had any significant accomplishments in football since he retired. Sure, he helped FC Utrecht and PSV in non executive board roles but what exactly did he do?

Blind and Co. couldn’t care less I’m sure.

For me the focus should be on the following 7 items:

1. Set the goal for 2018

Van Marwijk and Van Gaal made it clear to the players once they started their WC campaigns: We are going to the World Cup! So goal 1: qualification. And when we are at the World Cup, we will go for gold. Goal 2: try and win it.

bert beker

Blind needs to clearly articulate what this means for the players, in terms of conduct and focus. For instance: nutritional plans, updates on fitness levels and programs (in conjunction with clubs)… but also…the rules. If you don’t play for your club, forget about being selected. Codes of conduct are part of this as well. If you’re part of the squad, you will talk to the press and represent your nation. No mobile phones in the dressing rooms and no Xboxes in the rooms, only PS4s. Van Marwijk said in his first speech to the squad: I want to win the World Cup! Blind will need to make his ambitions clear and maybe come up with a slogan. “The March to Moscow” or something….

2. Use the negatives!

The fact that we are not at the Euros is currently viewed as a terrible thing. But, in true Johan Cruyff style: Every disadvantage has an advantage. Take Sweden. They’ll go home soon, pretty deflated I’m sure. Zlatan will say his goodbyes as will many other players from the squad, including their coach. They’ll have one week to prepare for the Holland game. New coach, new players, maybe some Euro hangover. We need to use this to our advantage. So that in September, after the game, everyone will say: “Wow, a good thing we didn’t go to the Euros!”

oranje team

3. No more world class players? How about a team?

World class players don’t win you the trophies. Look at C Ronaldo. Lionel Messi. Gareth Bale. Arjen Robben. None of these lads have won a Euros or a World Cup. But in terms of quality, they could have. But they didn’t… In 2004, a mediocre Greece did. In 1996, a mediocre Germany did. Leicester won the EPL. Atletico has done alright in the last years. What is the common denominator? Yes… TEAM!


Spain has used the core of the Barcelona team to good effect. Germany falls back on Bayern and Dortmund. In Holland, PSV is the most solid team, with players like Bruma, Zoet, Van Ginkel, Willems and Propper. Add Wijnaldum, Memphis, Daley Blind, Janssen and some others and we might be able to use PSV’s core as the foundation for Oranje. Should Robben and Sneijder show up next season, great! The ingredients are there. Use the communication and automatisms that are developed at PSV and bring some additional talent and intelligence from afore mentioned players and we could be well on our way.

PSV team

4. Solid defence

One key element that stuck out in our Euro qualification games was the fact that we conceded first. In most games, we needed to fight ourselves back into it. Meaning we got more and more exposed at the back. Under Van Marwijk, we were solid (mainly due to two holding mids). Whatever system Blind wants to use, the focus should be on a solid defence. With players like Janmaat and Willems, Van Aanholt or Veltman being considered for full back spots, this means we need a cracking holding mid to shield the defence. Strootman seems to be the logical choice, although I really like to see him as the box to box man, personally… Clasie might be the man? Or will Fosu Mensah be ready for this already? Probably not, but he will definitely get himself on the radar in the coming years…


5. A new hierarchy

For years, Van Bommel, De Jong, Van Persie, Sneijder, Van der Vaart, Van der Sar and Robben were the core players of Oranje. Of those, only Sneijder and Robben seem to have clout and respect in the current squad. Van Persie will need to regain this if he ever comes back. The way Blind used Huntelaar says enough to him as well, I’m sure. We need a new hierarchy. Whatever Sneijder and Robben can add, is a bonus. We need players to step up and assume this role. Danny Blind can’t just appoint them. That is not how it works… Of the new crew, Strootman surely has “it”. I don’t see any of our goalies at this stage as leaders, but Tim Krul comes close. Virgil van Dijk and Ron Vlaar as defenders, for sure. Clasie had it at Feyenoord, but at Southampton I don’t see it as yet. Van Ginkel, Fer, Wijnaldum, Klaassen, Propper… all devoid of that charisma. Maybe Bazoer? Very early days… Luuk de Jong has it at PSV, but too lightweight for Oranje. Vincent Janssen might have it. Daley Blind is developing nicely, but Wijnaldum isn’t so much.


6. The Manifest

Louis van Gaal loves discipline. He introduced a strict regime and Sneijder felt it most. He pushed the player to total commitment and Sneijder did well for us in Brazil. Hiddink used it to great success in 1998, after the Euro England drama. But this time around, Hiddink allowed things to loosen up. Danny Blind claims to want to get back to a more rigid approach, which works well with a man like Advocaat in the staff. Using younger players, it will be more easy for Blind to use his authority. A player like Memphis might want to watch his steps.

7. Technical Staff

With young Van Nistelrooy making way for old hand Advocaat, it seems the staff is stacked nicely. San Marco for the details. Dick for the mental aspect and Blind for tactics. These three games / 10 days in Portugal will have set the foundation for Oranje New Style.

dick dan

We will need to live through these next weeks to shake off the hangover of this Euros.

Then, after July 7, it’s a clean sheet for everyone.

And we will support our Oranje Lions on their next journey!


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What are your best Oranje Euro memories?

Time now to stop bickering about whether Kuyt is a headless chicken, Memphis has thunder thighs (all that erotica!) and whether Tiju is a better coach than Van Gaal and Hiddink…

Time to swallow our pride and start this Euros 2016 experience with fond memories of our lads in past tournaments. The Euros are usually a hot and cold event for the Dutch. When expectations are high we fold, and when no one expects it, we perform…

The glorious World Cup wannabees at least won one EC trophy, although some of us here won’t have real memories of that day. Not yours truly though. He was there when we basked in glory. Partying with the players in Hamburg and Munich… But more of that later…

In the modern game, we played a fair number of exciting games and weather a few storms too… Let’s look at our past and share memories here.

Euros 1976 Yugoslavia

The first Euro tournament of note for Holland. On the back of a sensation 1974 World Cup, beaten by the Germans and more specific Sepp Maier, Oranje was ready for revenge. We had the bit in our mouths and the adrenaline pumping. The best forward in the world, the toughest playmaker ever and the bull running rampant in midfield (Messrs Cruyff, van Hanegem and Neeskens of course), with supporting role for Golden Dick Johnny Rep, snakeman Robbie Rensenbrink and Mr Cool Ruud Krol, we went to go, see and conquer. 1976red

It didn’t go as planned though. Coached by new manager George Knobel. By then Nees and Cruyff played for Barcelona together. The team impressed with a 5-1 friendly win over a strong Sweden. In those days, qualification games and quarter finals were like today’s group games, but played in the run up, in a home and away game. The actual Euros were only played with four nations and started with a semi final. Holland was in a group with Poland, Italy and Finland. The squad was divided into two camps: the Ajax and Feyenoord players vs the rest (PSV and other clubs). The big name players of Ajax and Feyenoord (and Barcelona) were given some extra privileges. Due to their European club efforts, they were given the option to join Oranje later than the rest. PSV stars Willy van der Kuylen and Jan van Beveren objected to this special treatment and this resulted in the two icons to leave the squad. Van der Kuylen had scored a hattrick for Oranje in the win over Finland.

Oranje started really well but got beaten severely vs Poland away. Due to results in other games, Holland won the group and faced Belgium in the quarter finals.  Robbie Rensenbrink and Johan Neeskens played a top game and Holland won at home for the first time since years in a 5-0 win. Three Rensenbrink goals sealed the deal. The away game was won 1-2 and Holland went to the Euro semis with high spirits. The semis against Czechoslovakia was supposed to be a formality. But things panned out differently.

The Czech provoked the Dutch, in particular with rough challenges on Cruyff and Rensenbrink. In typical Dutch style, Neeskens and Van Hanegem retaliated, resulting in cards and erratic referee behaviour. Cruyff in those days, used to talk to the ref a lot and when Neeskens got red carded and Cruyff was yellow-carded for debating, something shifted in the team. Rebel rouser Van Hanegem decided he didn’t want to come over to the ref when asked to do so.

“I’m not a dog” he explained later and he refused to kick off after the Czech’s scored as protest. Which got him a red card too. Holland ended the game with 9 players and lost in extra time. We played for the 3rd place and won it versus Yugoslavia in extra time 2-3 thanks to two Ruud Geels goals. Obviously, Van Hanegem, Neeskens and Cruyff were suspended.

In those days, Oranje players were considered serfs to the federation and the three Oranje starts were highly criticised for their behaviour. Cruyff and Van Hanegem lost interest in Oranje and would both not travel to the World Cup 1978, for different reasons. But one reason was the KNVB’s lack of support for their icons. Neeskens did go to Argentina.

Euros 1980 Italy

The big guns Cruyff and Van Hanegem had quit international football. The apprentices were supposed to take over. With some new names, most from European sensation AZ Alkmaar. Hugo Hovenkamp, Kees Kist, Pier Tol, Jantje Peters supplemented by Feyenoord defenders Wijnstekers and Van de Korput. Ruud Krol and Johan Neeskens and Johnny Rep were also still wearing their jerseys. zwartkruis

Coach Jan Zwartkruis (John Blackcrotch)

Team manager Jan Zwartkruis (former Dutch Military team coach… this tells you how important Oranje was in those days) found himself in a group with West Germany, Greece and Czechoslovakia. Holland started vs Greece in a 4-3-3 with Martien Vreijsen and Rene van de Kerkhof on the flanks. The team didn’t create a lot and Dick Nanninga of Argentina 1978 fame replaced Vreijsen, who’d never play a game for Oranje since. A soft penalty was awarded to Oranje and Kees Kist (AZ Alkmaar) scored what was to be the only goal of the game.

The second game was against West Germany, with Hansi Muller, Rummenigge, Schuster and Stielike. Oranje with an insecure Piet Schrijvers in goal and with Rep on the flanks for Vreijsen. West Germany was boss with Klaus Allofs scoring a hat trick. A soft penalty yet again gave Johnny Rep the chance to score and late in the game Willy van de Kerkhof scored the 2-3 but it wasn’t enough. Holland couldn’t reach the finals anymore but could still get in the losers final. An early injury to Rene van de Kerkhof had Oranje playing with 10 men for a while and the Czechs scored in that phase of the game. Kees Kist came on and he scored the equaliser in the second half but it wasn’t enough.

Euros 1984 France

One of the best tournaments I’ve ever seen without Oranje (the World Cup 1982 was one of my faves too by the way). With the Danish Dynamite, France of course… Many good games. But no Oranje.

Euros 1988 West Germany

I’m sure most people will know this tournament well. The period between 1980 till 1988 we missed three big tournaments. I won’t bring the mood down by explaining what happened, but I can assure you I was very close to all these events. Nuff said for now. Still hurts…

But with a new generation players (Gullit, Van Basten, Rijkaard, Koeman, Vanenburg, Van’t Schip, Kieft) we were going for it with Rinus Michels as head coach. Michels was keen to play 4-3-3 again and like Van Marwijk was struggling to find a good spot for everyone. We have Gullit, Van Basten, Kieft, Gillhaus and Bosman fighting for the central striker role and we have a couple of good right wingers but no left winger of note. Van Basten was recovering from a bad injury which kept him sidelined at AC Milan. Gullit had a great season in Milan like Koeman, Van Breukelen and Vanenburg with PSV winning the Europa Cup that season. Wouters and Van’t Schip had a good period at Ajax. Van Basten was close to calling it a day when he noticed Bosman was picked ahead of him in the line up and he felt he’d be the third striker. Cruyff implored the headstrong striker to stay in the squad and make it hard for Michels.

Van ‘t Schip played relief left winger and Gullit played right wing. But in the first game vs the USSR, despite dominating and creating pressure, we fell in the knife of the Russian counter and lost, 0-1. Michels decided immediately to turn the team around, also taking into account our next opponent: England playing 4-4-2. Van ‘t Schip and Bosman were the sacrificial lambs with Michels re-enforcing our midfield bringing Van Basten for Bosman and Erwin Koeman – a midfielder – for winger Schip. bassie gullit88

Oranje got lucky vs England. An offside goal (one of three scored by Van Basten) and two balls on the post by the English helped us to the victory. The Ireland game was scruffy and it took Vanenburg’s hand to stop a header from going in, before sub Wim Kieft misheaded a deflected Koeman shot from an offside position past the Ireland goalie.

Next up, host West Germany. And we had an axe to grind with these guys. In what is probably one of the most memorable Oranje games ever, Oranje overcame a 1-0 score from a soft penalty vs Rijkaard by fighting themselves back into the game. With a MOTM performance by Jan Wouters, it was Koeman scoring the spot kick after a fair tackle by Kohler on Van Basten (who was as surprised as Kohler when the ref pointed to the post) and Van Basten scored the winner late in the game after a superb through ball from aforementioned Wouters. The party afterwards in the players’ hotel is still strong in my memory. This was the infamous game with Koeman wiping his arse with the Olaf Thon jersey, something he later regretted… Allegedly.

The finals was against USSR again. Oranje was buoyant but USSR was much better than us in the first half. They missed some opportunities and a cross in from a defended Oranje corner ended up on skipper’s Ruud Gullit’s head who’d score his first and only Euros goal in 1988 with a thundering header. The Oranje skipper looked tired the whole tournament and couldn’t repeat his hero role as he had for AC Milan that season. But he was the Oranje mascotte and lightning rod, allowing Van Basten (in particular) to take center stage. The former Ajax #9 would grab his definite place in football history with arguably the best Euros goal ever in the second half. Right in front of yours truly, enjoying the game live, the overcooked Muhren cross seemed wasted but Van Basten – who had no support – realised he could only do one thing. Dasaev never even stuck a hand out. 2-0 was the final score, also thanks to Hans van Breukelen who stopped a penalty, which he handed the USSR himself first with a rush of blood to the head dive.

The Party in Holland would go for days and many a house boat in Amsterdam is still recovering…

Euros 1992 Sweden

The World Cup 1990 was the biggest WC disaster ever, for Oranje. The Euro 1988 squad plus Richard Witschge on their way to glory in Italy. The story of what happened there is well-documented and I will again ignore it. But Beenhakker obviously was out so Rinus Michels, by then management at KNVB, decided to take the coaching role himself again for this tournament. Ironically, with Dick Advocaat as his assistant coach. marco mist

Oranje had a good qualification campaign and Michels went back to a 4-3-3 system with Gullit and Bryan Roy on the flanks. Barca libero Koeman led the defence but brother Erwin missed this tournament, as did the injured Richard Witschge. His brother Rob Witschge had found his second wind at Feyenoord and played a starring role this tourmament, scoring vs Germany. Dennis Bergkamp played his first big tournie for Oranje, as did Frank de Boer. National team manager Danny Blind was stand in for Koeman and new Ajax coach Peter Bosz had a sub turn this tournament. Aaron Winter and Wim Jonk had cameos as well, as did former PSV striker Eric Viscaal (now in Belgium).

First game was vs Scotland and a late Bergkamp goal sealed the deal. The second game was against the former USSR, now called GOS, and a goalless draw meant Oranje had to get a result against Germany. Last tournament, Germany had ousted Oranje from the event, with the infamous spitting incident between Llama Rijkaard and Rudi Voller. It was Rijkaard who took revenge with an early goal, followed by two more goals. The aforementioned long distance strike by Witschge and a beauty by Bergkamp, created by Marco van Basten without actually touching the ball.

In the semis, Holland had to play Denmark. The beach team. The Danish didn’t qualify, but as Yugoslavia had entered a civil war, they were disqualified from competing and the Danes were called from the Spanish and Greek beaches. Twice Oranje conceded and twice they fought back through Bergkamp and Rijkaard. The extra time didn’t bring any goals and during the penalty shoot out, 1988 hero Van Basten was denied by Peter Schmeichel. The Danes would go on to win it.

Euros 1996 England

Like in 1990, the players yearned for the national team management by Johan Cruyff, but like in 1990 the KNVB couldn’t get “a deal sorted with the headstrong Cruyff”. In 1990 they never tried as Michels felt “the players can’t be given what they want, as they can’t think they call the shots”. In 1994, Cruyff had the audacity to claim the right to pick his own technical staff. Something which is pretty normal these days. But the KNVB insisted Cruyff worked with their assistant coaches. Cruyff said “you must be joking!” and said his goodbyes.

So Michels decided to push his former assistant Dick Advocaat forward for the World Cup in the US which didn’t end too well for Oranje. Lots of bad management decisions off the pitch and too much complacency when Advocaat came back after losing the quarter finals, claiming “it was a very good result”. Oranje needed a new strong coach and Guus Hiddink was selected. Oranje finished second in the qualifications and had to play a play off game vs Ireland, at Anfield. Patrick Kluivert sealed the deal with two goals.

This was the generation of Ronald de Boer, Edgar Davids, Danny Blind, Marc Overmars and Patrick Kluivert.

Like in 1992, Scotland was our first opponent. The usual central backs, Frank de Boer and Danny Blind were not able to play. Suspension for Blind and an injury for De Boer. Hiddink used Edgar Davids and Johan de Kock. Davids had played there successfully for Ajax at times and Guus picked Bergkamp as central striker, with Jordi Cruyff and Gaston Taument on the flanks. Ronald de Boer played in midfield with Richard Witschge and Clarence Seedorf.

Holland dominated and in particular Dennis Bergkamp had many opportunities to score but failed. Pat Kluivert came on but he couldn’t find the net either, resulting in a goalless draw: 0-0.

Against Switzerland, in the second game, Hiddink expected them to play the tall striker Grassi. Davids was considered to small for the role so Hiddink decided to play Seedorf as center back. Davids was benched. Witschge kept his spot and Ronald de Boer would take Seedorf’s central role in midfield with Aron Winter coming on for Davids. Cruyff played on the right this time around. After 26 minutes, Seedorf was subbed by Hiddink, who saw he had made a mistake. De Kock came on to play alongside Blind. Edgar Davids, on the bench, was highly tempted to knock the lights out of Hiddink and had to be restrained.

Jordi Cruyff scored for Holland and Dennis Bergkamp scored the important second, securing Oranje’s win. After the game, Davids was interviewed and said “the coach should do well to take his head out some players’ asses!”. Hiddink had to send  the Ajax midfielder home. And a rift was born. The media made it about race. The coloured players (Kluivert, Bogarde, Davids, Seedorf, Reiziger) vs the white boys (De Boer 2 x, Blind, Van der Sar). A whole thing came off it. But the players were adamant it had nothing to do about race. But about culture. The food the KNVB had organised for instance, was typical Dutch food (potatoes, veggies, meatballs) while the players with a Suriname background preferred rice and more exotic food. But their preference was ignored. More importantly, it seemed all the coloured lads at Ajax had lower contracts than the white players… It wasn’t about race per se. But race did seem to have had an effect…

In the next game vs England, Hiddink again used Seedorf as central defender (he had De Kock and Stam on the bench) next to Blind. The strong England forwards had a field day. Blind conceded a penalty, Shearer converted. Sheringham scored two in the second half with Shearer adding a second, putting England 4-0 up. Holland at that time was out. Hiddink kept on making weird decisions, bringing De Kock as left back for Witschge and putting Winston Bogarde in midfield. Kluivert was brought in at the 72nd minute and he almost immediately scored a consolation goal. But that goal got us to the number 2 position in the group and we were able to play the quarterfinals. France was the opponent. seedorf96 With players like Blanc, Desailly, Karembeu, Deschamps and Zidane. Hiddink finally made some logical choices. Seedorf on the bench. De Kock in the center with Blind. Kluivert in the starting line up with Bergkamp as number 10. And Phillip Cocu still playing as left winger in those days, replacing Peter Hoekstra. A goalless game, yet again, over 120 minutes. Seedorf would come on and ended up on the list of penalty takers. Not for the first time, he failed to score, Blind, De Kock, Ronald de Boer and Kluivert did score, but all the French players did as well.

Exit Oranje. This is a documentary about the alleged racism situation, of the Suriname players vs the white players. The name of this group of Suriname players is De Kabel (“The Cable”).

Euros 2000 Netherlands & Belgium

This was to be the one. Hiddink learned from his drama in England. He made up with Davids and with him, Hiddink got close to reaching the finals in the World Cup 1998 in France. His assistant Frank Rijkaard was promoted to team manager (as suggested by Cruyff) and Holland was spared from playing qualifications as Holland and Belgium hosted the tournament. Rijkaard played a massive number of friendlies with Oranje, including three matches vs Brazil. One of these ended up in a red-card festival. In Rotterdam, they played a sensational game vs co-host Belgium, ending in 5-5 with a special Edgar Davids goal. With one of the best squads ever, Rijkaard was destined for glory.

Against the Czechs in the first game, Holland did need some referee help in the final stages when a soft pull on Ronald de Boer’s jersey was enough for a penalty, to be scored by younger brother Frank. Rijkaard used Co Adriaanse’s xmas tree system, 4-3-2-1 but Bergkamp kept on running inside while midfielder Seedorf didn’t use the right flank and the team seemed to choke the space out for themselves, leaving them toothless.

Against Denmark, Rijkaard went back to 4-4-2 with Zenden and Overmars as wide players. Kluivert scored the first, Ronald de Boer had a tap in for the 2-0 and a break with Reiziger presenting Zenden with a free shot on goal resulted in the 3-0. Denmark missed a penalty. In this game, the injured Stam was replaced by Bert Konterman, while Seedorf was benched. The third match was versus world champions France, but both teams had qualified for the next round. Coach Lemerre left most of his star players out (Zidane, Blanc, Deschamps) and in an open game, Holland won the match 3-2, with a stunning free kick by Frank de Boer.

For the quarter finals against Yugoslavia, Bosvelt and Numan played as full backs. Oranje was on fire, with Kluivert scoring four, although one goal was taken off him as a Yugo defender deflected the ball into the net. Overmars scored the other two. This got Kluivert the golden boot for the tournament.

Red hot favorites Holland played Italy in the semis. Probably one of the most memorable losses on a Euros ever by Oranje. We did everything right. Bolo Zenden was on fire. Zambrotta saw red in the first half, and Oranje created chance after chance (Bergkamp!) but failed to find the net. Late in the first half, Holland got a penalty. Frank de Boer saw his attempt blocked by Toldo. In the second half, Davids was impeded and Kluivert stepped up. To hit the post. Still 0-0. Italy defended, battled and stalled. And got to the penalty series. Toldo became the hero. Frank de Boer the zero. He missed again, Jaap Stam’s attempt is somewhere on the bottom of the river Maas and Bosvelt missed too. Straight after the match, a crying Rijkaard was filmed sitting in the bus and not much later he resigned in disgust and shame. penalty2000

Euros 2004 Portugal

After the deception of failing to qualify for the World Cup 2002 under Van Gaal, the KNVB decided to pick two “warm” coaches to bring Oranje back up to top level. Dick Advocaat and Willem van Hanegem, two friends, took the role, with Willem as assistant.

Holland started the tournament vs arch rival Germany. The Germans took the lead but a late Van Nistelrooy goal got Holland a draw. The Czech game was next up and via Bouma and Van Nistelrooy, Holland got an early lead 2-0. Jan Koller scored for the Czechs and with an hour played, Advocaat decided to “spare” the slightly injured but excellent Arjen Robben for the defensive midfielder Paul Bosvelt. One of the worst substitutes in Oranje’s history (Van Gaal does take the price for this with his Portugal away substitutions in the WC2002 qualifications game). Holland didn’t have any teeth left and the Czechs celebrated the sub by firing on all cylinders and ended up winning the game 2-3. After the game, Advocaat was universally ridiculed for his decision and assistant and friend Willem van Hanegem quipped at the press conference: “Next time if he starts to make silly sub decisions, I’ll simply knock him out!”.

Oranje seemed out of the tournament, but the Germans had a shocking draw against Latvia and when the Germans got in front against the Czechs Holland needed a miracle. And it happened, as the Czechs again turned the game around and won the match, giving Oranje a life line for their Latvia game. It was a tough game versus a defensive opponent but two Van Nistelrooy goals and a late Roy Makaay hit sealed the 3-0 win. Next up, Sweden in the quarter finals. In an even game, neither team found the net. The penalty series would end the Oranje penalty trauma. Despite Cocu’s miss, Holland won it with Van der Sar stopping a Swedish attempt, after Ibrahimovic missed his spot kick. robben2004

The semi finals was versus host country and favorites Portugal, with a young C Ronaldo, Deco, Luis Figo and Maniche. The latter would score the winner in an even game. C Ronaldo scored Portugal’s first, while Andrade scored an og for Oranje. Greece would end up upsetting the hosts with their miraculous win in the finals. After the tournament, both Advocaat and Van Hanegem quit their jobs. The two friends wouldn’t talk to each other for years…

Euros 2008 Switzerland & Austria

Again, advised by Cruyff, the KNVB decided to go with a young, untested coach for the 2006 WC. Marco van Basten was John van ‘t Schip’s assistant at Ajax 2 when Johan Cruyff suggested to the KNVB to pick him as national team coach. Van ‘t Schip, who had agreed with San Marco to switch roles in the next season, took the assistant job. Van Basten lacked experience as a coach, but Cruyff was adamant that for a top player like him, this wouldn’t be a problem. “He has a good vision. All players respect him and he’ll let them play adventurous football.”. Van Basten saw the WC2006 as a development step with a new generation of youngsters (Robben, Van Persie, Sneijder, Heitinga) and hoped to peak at this Euros.  The qualification series went well, but Holland finished second after Romania. This resulted in Holland having to settle in the group of death, with opponent Romania, France and world champions Italy.

Oranje played with flair and dazzle and beat a stunned Italy with 3-0. A contentious first Van Nistelrooy goal, seemingly off side but ruled in favour of Holland, due to an Italian player lying behind the touch line. No offside. Sneijder finished a tremendous counter attack, after a superb Van Bronckhorst pass and a nice little Kuyt cushioned header. Van Bronckhorst finished the game off with his goal in second half. The France game was exhilarating as well. Kuyt with a header from a corner, Van Persie with a good finish after a wonderful attack, but Henry put France back into the game. At that stage, France equalising seemed more likely, but Robben got Holland back on top with a sensational goal in the near corner, taking some of Barthez hair along. Sneijder scored another beauty in the dying seconds of the game, 4-1 win for Holland.

The Romania game didn’t matter anymore, but with the second-tier players in the line up, Holland won 2-0. A dramatic incident would have a lot of impact on the Oranje squad. The players in the squad were all close and they all had small children and babies at that time. After a win, players like Kuyt and Van Persie would proudly take their kids onto the pitch to celebrate. Khalid Boulahrouz’ partner was pregnant but was rushed to the hospital as the baby was about to be born prematurely. The little girl didn’t make it. Most of the players spent two days with Khalid in hospital and this disrupted the preparation and focus for the Russia game. Van Basten allowed the players to take their time and as he was also good friends with Boulahrouz, he allowed the former Chelsea man to decide whether he wanted to play vs Russia or not. The defender wanted to play, which sadly ended up in him getting a muscle injury in the game. robben2008

So the next knock out game was versus Russia, managed by one Guus Hiddink. The sly fox knew how Oranje would play and had a tactical plan to frustrate our game. Despite some narrow chances for Holland, we never were able to score. The team looked sluggish and without focus. Most of the chances came off Rafael van der Vaart’s gifted free kicks. It was a weird game. In the second half, a Russia player was yellow carded for the second time. Inexplicably the ref decided to put the card back into his pocket, adding to the frustration of the Dutch players. Russia scored twice in extra time, sending the revelation of the group stages home.

Euros 2012 Poland & Ukraine

On the back of a glorious World Cup 2010, where Bert van Marwijk’s men grabbed silver (and almost gold), the expectations were high. Again, the qualification campaign was a smooth ride, with Holland dropping only 3 points. A tough group to face, with rugged Denmark, strong Germany and sly Portugal. We had some bills to settle with all three. In the run up to the tournament, Van Marwijk made Huntelaar and Van der Vaart believe they’d get a fair chance to get into the line up but the seasoned coach had his line up in mind and was only providing lip service. Erik Pieters was Holland’s left back after Gio retired but the defender had to undergo a foot operation. Lost for options, Van Marwijk decided to use 18 year old youngster Jetro Willems from PSV. In the first game vs Denmark, Willems gave his calling card by thumping a ball from 40 meters almost onto the cross bar.

The solid holding mids Van Bommel and De Jong were part of the plan, despite their dminishing speed and agility. The first game against Denmark went really well. Holland created chance after chance and Robben hit the post. But, the chances went begging. And Denmark in typical style scored a goal where everyone expected Oranje to score at least a couple. Several penalty shouts for Holland went unnoticed and stunned, the team left the pitch with the first defeat of the tournament.

Against Germany, Holland started on the front foot yet again, with Van Persie getting a glorious early chance to score. But he missed. First opportunity for Germany ended up in the net. 14 minutes later, the Germans repeated that feat. Holland fought back into the game, with a goal by Van Persie in the second half. With 15 minutes to go, Holland created more half chances but wasn’t able to get the draw. Second defeat and Huntelaar and Van der Vaart started to look more and more unhappy. persie

This summed it up

Holland had a chance to qualify if they’d beat Portugal and if Germany would do its job. Van der Vaart got a start and in typical fashion scored the first goal for a strong Holland vs a counter-attacking Portugal. The former Real Madrid man hit the post quick after the goal but couldn’t become the hero of the day. Two sharp counter attacks later and Portugal grabbed the victory, with Oranje taking an early plane home. Three losses. Zero points. Lots of frustration and golden wonder coach Van Marwijk having to resign from the job.

Euros 2016 France

In a parallel universe, Oranje made it to the 2016 Euros. Blind went with a team of youngsters, with Memphis, Berghuis and Propper in the line up. Playing 3-4-3 in possession and 5-3-2 without. The starting line up:


Bruma Blind Van Dijk

Janmaat   Propper   Strootman  Sneijder  Willems

Robben  Memphis

With Berghuis as super sub. Oranje sailed through the group stages and beat every big team they came across on their way to the finals. Belgum was our opponent. The game ended 5-5. Penalties needed to decide the winner. For Belgium, Hazard missed his penalty. Well, he didn’t miss it, but the silly Belgian took the penalty at the wrong goal and it was disallowed. Memphis took the final spotkick and delivered the Cup to Oranje…. (this is enough nonsense. End of post)

memphis euro

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Horrific start Ajax and Dutch football…

My oh my… what a summer (winter for me)… Apologies for not posting much in this time. There was not that much to share I suppose and I have been going through some changes with my business and circumstances so had to focus a bit more elsewhere.

Thanks for sticking with me guys!! We’ll see the start of the season soon and lots and lots of cool things to focus on!!

But sadly, we won’t be seeing Ajax in the Champions League :-(. What a disaster… What can I say… I think Ajax is the fifth club in a row from Holland now to qualify for the CL through pre-season qualifications. We simply can’t do it. Austrian, Portuguese and Czech clubs are stronger. Pffff…. This time around, I feel Frank de Boer needs to look in the mirror, long and hard. He has experience (and class) in Lasse Schone and defensive grit with ex international John Heitinga but he decided not to play them. Ajax made a mockery of their first leg vs Wien. They led 0-2 and could have been 0-4 by the break. But Ajax allowed the home team to get back into the game. And in the Arena in Amsterdam, De Boer’s youngsters made defensive mistake after defensive mistake. Naive, unprofessional and lackluster… And these were the good points. Poor Sinkgraven was the butt of Cillesen anger while goal scorer Gudelj “forget” to act one minute after equalising to stop Rapid from scoring their winner. What a drama!

De Boer accepted his responsibility but simply avoided the question “why not play some experienced players in these European games????” by commenting “I made that call and I can’t start complaining about that now…”. No… not complaining! But the nation deserves an explanation. What were you thinking??

Ajax now has to play for Europa League qualification and a PSV sans Depay and Wijnaldum will have to defend our honour.

Hours after the game, this pic went around on Facebook. Rotterdam cafes offering full replays of the Ajax game… Dark sinister humour….

ajax rapid

Here is the blackboard enticing Rotterdam based fans to come and “celebrate” reruns of Ajax – Rapid Wien on the big screen…

On the home front, Vitesse had a touch night against Southamption. Pelle and Tadic (both Dutch roots) played strong with Clasie ruling midfield and Stekelenburg being shot stopper. Koeman’s side will do well in the EPL this season and he is now also making a play for Virgil van Dijk (Celtic, ex Groningen).

Feyenoord had a quiet preparation, with too many losing prep games, but Gio van Bronckhorst knows that the games (losses and victories) don’t count in preparation. With Dirk Kuyt, former Ajax defender Jan-Arie van Heijden and (former?) international Eljero Elia one can expect some fireworks in De Kuip.

We can expect some lightning in the Eredivisie anyway, in terms of excitement, with new PSV signing Lestienne as Depay’s replacement. The Belgian forward looks remarkable with his Neymar style hair do and even groomed eyebrows and gold football earring… This player will sit nicely in a series of players who will keep the pundits busy, like Kazim Richards, Ole Toivonen and Marko Pantelic before him. Players you love to hate.

Another headstrong Dutch player decided to play in The Netherlands, Michiel Kramer will sign for Feyenoord. We did lose Depay, Wijnaldum, Clasie but we gained Kuyt, Heitinga and Elia so still a lot of expectations. PSV did well on the transfer market with aforementioned Lestienne, Davy Propper from Vitesse and Uruguayan talent Gaston Pereiro.


The talk in Eindhoven will be about forming a new success team and Champions League football while the talk in Amsterdam will be about changing course. It seems Johan Cruyff will come down from his mountain in Barcelona to fix things, even at the expense of Frank de Boer if he has to….

Ajax had one advantage last season: they played so dull than only Jesper Cillesen (and Kishna) were interesting for foreign clubs. Kishna has left (and joins the likes of De Vrij, Braafheid and Hoed in Roma) while Cillesen for now remains in De Arena. Ajax will most likely perform better this season with Sinkgraven settling in, Gudelj as engine in the midfield and Heitinga enforcing the bank four. The return of Mitch Dijks is a good move and Ajax and Feyenoord will most likely battle for the title with PSV (again). Vitesse is a dark horse after so many good players leaving the club, although Peter Bosz has proven to be a good coach and Chelsea seems happy to offload more good talents towards Arnhem. AZ lost good players (Gudelj, Berghuis) but has a strong foundation and a very good coach in Van den Brom and will most likely find its feet…

In the big European leagues it will be fascinating to watch Dost, Huntelaar and Robben in Germany, while I personally will keep an eye on Van der Vaart in Spain. The three Bundesliga lads will definitely be able to play a role for Oranje. Whether Rafael is still Oranje material remains to be seen. The Turkish competition will increasingly ask our attention. Sneijder at Gala and Van Persie at Fener while Ryan Babel is also making steps up in Turkey.

cillesen angry

Van der Wiel might leave Paris, but Rekik joined Marseille and wants to win the title. Unclear where Van der Wiel will end up. In Italy we have a contingent of players at Lazio and destroyer Nigel de Jong remains at AC Milan. With van Wolfswinkel and Martins Indi we have some reason to follow the Portuguese competition but the key for me will be the EPL… Depay, Blind and Van Gaal in Manchester, Koeman, Clasie and hopefully Van Dijk in Southampton and a number of exciting names in Stoke City… Erik Pieters is joined by Ibi Afellay and Marco van Ginkel while Nathan Ake is also still on the look out for a good club to be loaned out to… Dick Advocaat and Lens at Sunderland. And we have a nice Dutch contingent in Newcastle of course, what with Siem de Jong, Krul, Anita, Wijnaldum and Janmaat… Btw, the infamous Number 7 jersey ( George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, CRonaldo) will find the shoulders of one Memphis Depay now Di Maria has signed for Paris SG.

Lots of good football to look forward for sure!

The changes at Oranje make me smile too. With all due respect for Guus, it was time to make way for Danny Blind. Van Oostveen is as culpable as Hiddink in all this. Everyone in Holland knows Guus and Louis are not really good friends and have a totally different way of working. Van Gaal’s way worked really well in the WC2014 and Danny Blind is a Van Gaal adept… So why pick a coach whose style is totally the opposite and give him an assistant who has Van Gaal’s DNA and is supposed to follow in Hiddink’s shoes… Ridiculous. Danny now has his staff for the remainder of the qualifications with San Marco joining in. I would love to see Jan Wouters joining in as well but that is another matter.


The Oranje staff will be focused on winning every remaining game in the Euro qualifications of course, but the draw of the World Cup 2018 is upon us and the Dutch are happy to be in another Group of Death for the qualifications. Oh, how we love those…. Oranje needs to play France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg….

Danny Blind responded in typical style: “It’s a good draw. Exciting. But tough. You do wish to avoid the two big nations in the second tier (France and Italy) but what can you do? Only the number 1 of the group will qualify and it will most likely go between us and France. But don’t rule out outsider Sweden. Which probably was the toughest nation from the third tier and Bulgaria is the best of tier 4 in my view. So we got it tough. We don’t have time to dilly dally.” Blind represented Oranje at the draw in St Petersburg instead of Hiddink. “It doesn’t feel strange to be here. By now, I’m used to it. We dealt with it and we need to move ahead. The task ahead is not easy but we will focus on qualifying for the Euros and we’ll think about France and Sweden later… But these are the sort of matches you play for, so it is all good.”


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Memories of 2006 – Van Basten: "Oranje misbehaved!"

Only 2 days to go, gringos!!!

It is really taking me by surprise, this World Cup. I thought it always started in a weekend… Hahahaha!

Two more memory lane posts to make, my friends.

Here is 2006. What to say. It still makes me mad.

What a World Cup it was. Dick Advocaat and Willem van Hanegem were the duo coaches in 2004. The two buddies had a massive fall out over the Robben substitution agains the Czechs and Van Hanegem famously said “If he would ever try and sub our best player again, I will simply knock him out”….

We needed new blood. This is what JC thought and the KNVB followed his advice. Rijkaard did very well in 2000. Now it’s time for San Marco. JC sort of forgot to mention that until then, Marco had only coached Ajax 2 and was still to prove himself to be a good jockey (courtesy of Adriaanse). Mistake number 2 of the KNVB was to allow San Marco to assemble his own staff. Marco picked coach colleague of Ajax 2 John van ‘t Schip, Stanley Menzo and Rob Witschge. Rumour was, so they could play klaverjassen when the players rested…


Make no mistake, San Marco picked the right players alright. Some of them were still young(-ish) but not much different from the current squad. The names will make you drool now: Van der Sar. Gio van Bronckhorst. Tim de Cler. Joris Mathijsen. Mark van Bommel. Phillip Cocu. Wes Sneijder. Raf van der Vaart. Dirk Kuyt. Ruud van Nistelroo. Arjen Robben. Robin van Persie. Hmmmmmm……

Not that bad.

And this is a squad that could have had Clarence Seedorf and Roy Makaay as well, but Marco didn’t need them, he felt. Other notable players to be left out were Edgar Davids (Spurs), KLaas Jan Huntelaar (Ajax) Emmanuelson (Ajax) and Nigel de Jong (HSV).

Schaars and De Jong will travel to Germany as back ups, as Vqn Basten was left with five serious injuries after the Farewell Game against Hiddink’s Australia. The Socceroos were a bit too enthusiastic and Cocu, Van Bronckhorst, Sneijder, Van der Vaart and Jaliens all went to the World Cup not 100% fit. Schaars and De Jong weren’t needed though and were sent home.


The inexperienced Van Basten has a good eye for football. But was a bit weak in people management. He himself was a tad insecure and he foolishly didn’t bring a more experienced coach along. Gerard van der Lem? Wim Jansen? The options were all there. But Marco went it alone with his happy band of brothers and clashed with experiences and extraverted players like Van Bommel and Van Nistelrooy. PSV players… (JC and Van der Kuylen/Van Beveren comes to mind, in 1974).

The qualifications went very well. Marco played 4-3-3 and won 10 out of 12 games with his team.

Holland was in a strong group, with Argentina, Serbia/Montenegro and Ivory Coast. The Argentines had names like Crespo, Riquelme, Masscherano, Tevez and Messi while Ivory Coast had Drogba and Kalou.

Winning the first game (Serbia) was key, and Holland did. Thanks to a wonderful Robben goal on a Van Persie assist ( in case you forgot: a counter goal). Serbia maybe deserved a tad more but was unlucky. Van Persie played right winger and at times it looked like we played 4-5-1. Van Bommel was subbed for the more tactically astute and conservative Landzaat. Van Nistelrooy was also subbed early. Signs of things to come. Holland did play the dominant game, had 60% possession but Serbia had more corner kicks, more shots on goal and less fouls….

In our second game against Ivory Coast, Holland ruled in the first half, with a rocket goal by Robin van Persie and a quick second by Ruud van Gol. Ivory Coast fought themselves back into it, via Kone, but lacked the luck to get a draw: 2-1.

robben drogba

This time, Sneijder was subbed early in the game for Van Der Vaart and Ruud van Gol was taken out early yet again. Possession was 50-50 and Ivory Coast like Serbia had more corner kicks, more shots on target and less fouls than Oranje.

The last game was not that key anymore and dreaded Argentina was played with a number of yellow carded players being rested: 0-0.

messi sneijder

Kuyt came for Robben as left winger, Sneijder and Van der Vaart both played and Van Basten fielded Jaliens, Boulahrouz and De Cler in defence. Babel, Landzaat and Maduro would get minutes in this game as well. In this game, we had a tad more possession and the most corner kicks, shots on targets and the most fouls…

Sadly, we didnt’ win it. As we would have not drawn Portugal as a result. Portugal beat us earlier in 2004 at the Euros and was too strong for Van Gaal’s Oranje in the 2002 qualifications.

Marco psyched the team out as much as possible to give it all that they could but in the run up to the game, it was a rift between Van Nistelrooy and Van Basten that would start a dramatic series of events. Marco told some reporter he was unhappy with Ruud’s positioning. Ruud confronted Marco with this lack of discretion (“Tell me first, next time!”). And Marco didn’t accept this insubordination and benched Ruud. This made other players in the squad (mostly Van Bommel) irrate and this whole event, one day before the knock out game vs Portugal, made the mood in the Oranje camp very edgy.

The psychology behind this, by the way, is interesting. Both Mark van Bommel and Ruud van Nistelrooy adored Marco as a player. Both had posters in their bedroom of the Ajax star and both were keen to work with him. They idolised him but they soon found out Marco is a man of flesh and blood, with his own character flaws. This didn’t go down too well. When they found out that Bassie was biased and emotional in his decision making (unfathomable like he was as a striker) they couldn’t cope with the situation and spat the dummy.

Ruud famously introduced a new characteristic in football. The “I like you factor”. Marco selects players on that basis (Landzaat over Seedorf, Maduro, Babel, Heitinga over Makaay, Davids and Bouma). If you are happy to be one of Marco’s disciples he is happy to work with you. If you have your own opinion, you are out.


Ruud would later add: “I had a clash with Marco, that is right, but we fixed it and he would become one of my fave coaches. The 2006 World Cup was a failure but we worked really well later on in 2008 and I still think he was one of the best and most entertaining trainer I practiced with.”

So, Marco battled with some players before the Portugal game and made an emotional decision: Ruud would not play. Dirk Kuyt would be the striker in his place. Portugal certainly did not have a shabby team with the likes of Figo, Deco, Coutinho, Maniche and C Ronaldo.

The game would infamously be known as the Battle of Nuremberg and since 2006, I haven’t seen it or the “highlights” since. Too hard. But I will see the highlights soon again, I suppose. Holland had 60% of the ball. We had 20 goal attempts vs 10 for Portugal. We have twice as much corner kicks. In terms of stats, we had two reds, like Portugal and 9 yellow cards. Portugal lost that battle as they only got 7 yellows.

Robben was tackled in the box and yellow carded for diving. This time, unjustly so. Cocu hit the post after a terrific attack. Kuyt choked alone in front of goal. Van Persie had a sitter and missed as he attempted an outside of the boot shot. But all in all, despite the antics of the Portuguese and the aggression of Holland, it was Mr Ivanov the Russian ref who really made it into a mess. He allowed the lunatics to take over the asylum and allowed this game to spin out of control. He took over the record of Spanish ref Nieto who only used 16 cards in 2002 versus 20 for Mr Ivanov. Mr Blatter later stated that Ivanov deserved a red card himself as well.

bommel figo

It was a disgraceful performance and Holland did not deserve to lose this game. But we did.

A later analysis of the game showed that the teams only played 52 minutes of actual football. Matchwinner Maniche: “I think most of the cards were over the top. It was a tough game, as one expects between two top nations in world football, but I don’t think it was ever really mean. The ref added oil to the fire with all these cards.”


Maniche is right. A further analyses says that the Portugal – Holland game had the least (!!!) fouls of all knock out games that World Cup. Only 25 fouls and apparently 16 yellow card type of fouls? Whereas in some of the other games there were up to 51 fouls counted and only six yellow cards…

It was one of those would’ve/could’ve games… What if we had a different ref. What if Marco wouldn’t have had that argument with Ruud and the man from ManU was our striker. What if Cocu or Robin would have scored? What if the ref would have spotted that foul on Robben in the box?


We started well. We had some good attacking moves on the flanks and Van Bommel has a distance strike that just missed the target. But in the 20st minute, we go wrong. Sneijder loses possession to C Ronaldo. Deco gets the ball, unmarked. He crosses to striker Pauleta and the striker bounces the ball back to incoming midfielder Maniche. Ooijer can’t stop him and Sar doesn’t have a chance. C Ronaldo would have to make way for Simao and since that goal Portugal controlled the game. In the second half, Holland has a man more due to a silly second yellow for Costinha. Cocu hits the bar and Portugal decides to stop Oranje from attacking. Until we lose Boulahrouz as a result of some Figo theatrics. Ten against ten and from the 70st miunute onwards, it becomes a battle.

Enjoy 🙁

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And today is game time: Ecuador! First blood….

We had to wait a long time for this. But today, it’s game on! Sure, it’s a friendly, and sure, we are still missing a lot of lads and sure, Ecuador is only….Ecuador, but still….

We are starting in a “match-format” after weeks of guessing, commenting, waiting, watching Louis at press conferences, watching Louis at training… The last bit of news I heard is that Louis himself is now overseeing the way the Oranje squad bus will be decked out!! GOOD! We love control freaks.

bus lvg

They demand a lot from themselves, their players and hopefully set their aim high.

Let the games begin!

We know that Louis will start with Depay and Van Persie. He said so. Robin because he needs the minutes. He has slowly returned from his knee injury but hasn’t played a full match for Man United. So Van Gaal wants to make sure he will be fighting fit for Spain. Van Persie: “I am fit. And very focused. I feel good about this World Cup, to be honest. But then again, I always am positive. On the other hand, we do have some work today to find the right formula and we are also in a very tough group, so… It can go either way.”

RVP arrow

It feels to me like Kongolo will start as well. He is the only other (with Depay) U21 Oranje player who was told to stay at the Oranje trainings camp. And as Nigel is still in Italy, I think Blind will start as defensive mid and Kongolo as left full back. Van Gaal basically said that he will field only Eredivisie players, except for Van Persie.

I believe we will see:


Janmaat De Vrij Veltman BMI Kongolo

Clasie Wijnaldum Blind

Van Persie Depay

Daley Blind, by the way: best player of the Eredivisie, has played the most minutes this season of all Oranje internationals.

cil velt bmi

Van Gaal had eight intense trainings days with his current group and will report tomorrow in a press conference on his plans for the World Cup. We’ll be there!

Arjen Robben responded as such on the “news” that LVG might abandon the 4-3-3: “Ah you know, the numbers and systems… it doesn’t speak to me. I need freedom to do my thing. And I really don’t care if it is left or right wing, or behind the striker or as a striker. At Bayern, I have played all these different positions. The bigger teams, like Bayern, Real Madrid and Chelsea, all know how to switch systems. I think the coach will need to look at the quality of the players and pick the system that works best. For me, any system is fine. What I do like, is that we are all very realistic about this World Cup. And it’s about time. Every World Cup or Euro Cup people think we’ll win it easily. We are a squad in progress and we happen to have one of the best coaches on the planet to help us do it.”

lvg robben

Frank de Boer said something interesting about Hiddink and Van Gaal. “I worked with both. I worked with Louis at Ajax and Oranje and with Hiddink in 1996 and 1998 with Oranje. And I tell you: I can’t remember one single thing that Hiddink taught me tactically about football. While Louis is like a tactical wizard. But Guus got us to the semi finals in 1998 and Louis didn’t qualify in 2002. What I am saying is, that it takes more than tactics. We would walk through fire for Hiddink. He is such a strong people manager and a smart motivator. He left the tactics to us! He would ask us (Cocu, Blind, Bergkamp, Ronald de Boer) “how so you wanna play?”. And he listened and observed and made his decisions. Van Gaal is totally the opposite. He will instruct you in detail what he wants. Both are very different and the point is that you need to find the right mix. What does a group need, how can you work with all the ingredients… In 2002, it simply didn’t work….”

On May 29, a documentary on the failed campaign of 2002 will be aired on Dutch tv. There have always been stories about wild party nights and sex orgies. The players always refuted this. But now the security officer of Oranje of 2002 has his say, for the first time in 12 years. “We had tight security in the hotel. Louis wanted lights out at 10 pm. I sat in the hotel hall way for hours and we had measures… we had cords with alarms on the exits and we had little matches on the door knobs so we would know who would leave or try to leave….” This stuff is even new to the players of those days…. More to come for sure.

lvg traint de guz

Here is the Oranje program for the coming weeks:

Trainings camp Portugal: May 20 till May 27, in Lagos Portugal. The players will work for three days. On Saturday 24 May, the players have a day off and will visit the CL finals in Lisbon. Then two more training days until May 27, when the players return to Amsterdam.

Trainings camp Rotterdam: 29 to 31 May. Two days of training for Ghana and 31 May the game is on in De Kuip.

Trainings camp Alkmaar: 1 to 5 June. Three training days and on June 2 the definitive squad will be announced. June 4 we have the last friendly vs Wales and on June 5 the group depart for Brazil.

Oranje arrives June 6 and has a full week to get accustomed until we play on June 13 against Spain in Salvador. We play 5 days later on June 18 vs Australia in Rio and again 5 days later on June 23 against Chile in Sao Paulo. Be there of be square!!

LVG players smile

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