Tag: Portugal

Oranje starts the new season with a decent draw… (edited)

Oranje broke the deadlock (and the horrific series) against Portugal last night with a draw.

Midfielder Strootman scored the Dutch goal in the first 20 minutes of the game, C Ronaldo was gifted a late equaliser.

Strootman is one of the three players Louis van Gaal considers starters. Before the game, he said “Van Persie, Robben and Strootman have a bit more credit points than the rest. They can consider themselves protected players. The rest? They all have to keep on proving their worth.”

Comments made, after questions on De Vrij and BMI who seem to be on edge after some lesser performances with Young Oranje and Feyenoord. “I too read and hear about De Vrij and Martins Indi lack of form. That might be the case at Feyenoord, but it’s not in Oranje. They haven’t let me down and I do not doubt De Vrij’s qualities. However, I am looking with glee at the development of Bruma and Rekik and in all honesty, if they do better than the Feyenoord couple I might be tempted…”
raf port


The following eleven were used as starters against “angstgegner” Portugal: Vorm, Verhaegh, De Vrij, Martins Indi, Blind, Wijnaldum, Stootman, Van der Vaart, Robben, Van Persie and Lens. It’s a special game for Rafael who joins Gio van Bronckhorst with 106 caps for the Dutch. Only Sar (130) and Frank de Boer (112) played more in orange.

First chance is for Portugal but the header is too weak. Van der Vaart and Van Persie demonstrated some nice build up play in the start of the game but nothing comes of it. Paul Verhaegh has a decent debut and offers Van der Vaart a chance with a good cross but Raf can’t control the ball. The start of the game is lacklustre. Both teams forgot to take the handbrake off.

In the 17th minute, it’s Kevin Strootman who scores for Holland. The midfielder gets the ball on the edge of the box and pulls the trigger. Goalie Beto doesn’t have a chance. In the 28th minute, a mistake by De Vrij allows Micael a sitter but the Portuguese aims badly and misses. Van Gaal acts his role again when Verhaegh fouls a Portuguese player and the whole Portuguese nation starts to complain, whine and provoke. Memories of 2006….

C Ronaldo does find the net after half an hour of play but the winger is given off side. His chip was nice but won’t be allowed.

c ron port

Van Gaal keeps on playing his part, when the frustrated Portuguese make more and more bad fouls, like Coentrao who can’t control himself.

In the first half, Oranje played with a three man midfield with the center player in an offensive role (“the point up front”). In the second half, Van Gaal switches tactics and plays the center player as holding mid (“the point back”). It’s Van der Vaart who is rested and Van Ginkel coming in. Van Rhijn comes for debutant Verhaegh. In the first 5 minutes, it’s Vorm with a good save on a Coentrao attempt. After one hour of play, RVP is subbed for Huntelaar. Robben gets the captain band.

Robben offers Lens a decent chance but the winger mishits the ball completely. Robben gets a nice chance from the right, later, but curls the ball just over the goal.

The game starts to open up and C Ronaldo tests Vorm who won’t be beaten tonight.

In th 70st minute, skipper Robben has a good action with Wijnaldum, but is tackled on the edge of the box. Free kick. Wijnaldum, Robben….they can all do it, but it’s Huntelaar who hits the ball weakly in the wall.

The Portuguese are not happy with the score line and put more pressure on the Dutch. Machado hits the cross bar. With 10 minutes to go, Lens is taken off for Schaken. And five minutes later, it is C Ronaldo scoring for Portugal after a corner kick. De Vrij didn’t look too good there, but he wasn’t the only one. Ball watching (De Vrij), not alert enough in the marking (BMI) and more silliness (Van Rhijn)….

robben port

C Ronaldo gets a free kick in the dying seconds of the game but hits straight at Vorm, who stops the ball.

And thus it remains 1-1.

All in all, not a great game, but Oranje didn’t do too shabby. Paul Verhaegh can look back on a decent debut, as the defenders were under the microscope this particular game. They all faired well. Verhaegh set up the attack resulting in Stroot’s goal and bar one costly mistake (De Vrij), the defensive four did alright.

Louis van Gaa had difficulties naming positive points, although he did see “a fantastic Verhaegh”. Mostly he saw things that went wrong. “In the first half we did create chances and we scored a goal, so I can’t be too critical, but in the second half we made a lot of mistakes in possession. We were very poor. And with some lads, you could see the tank was empty. We haven’t lost against Germany, Italy and Portugal now, so we haven’t do too badly, but this was the poorest game.”

About Verhaegh: “I think he did very well. He played with maturity and smarts. He could leave C Ronaldo to De Vrij regularly, we knew he would try and come into the center a lot.” Van Gaal also emphasized that the door is open for Sneijder. “Listen, Wes knows what he needs to do. If he is fit and in form, I can’t ignore him. We all know how good he can be. But it will also depend on how players like Van der Vaart, Maher, Van Ginkel and Wijnaldum develop.”

orane port scoresRobben was vice captain and took his job seriously in front of the microphones. “I’m disappointed. When you lead 70 minutes, you want to win it. You don’t want to concede so late. And it’s a bit sour grapes for us. A deflected ball and our friend happens to be on the right spot. It’s shit. But all in all, a good lesson. These types of opponents will be at the World Cup and you will need to learn to beat them. We did well in the first half, I think but in the second half we sort of forgot to play football.”

Van Gaal repeated his words, that he is not really happy as team manager. His passion is club coaching. “I have trouble working in this role. I am not only dependent on the players but also on their coaches. How do they prepare them? Do they get playing time, etc…. As a club coach, you have more control. Now, I only see them 7 or 8 times a year. But….in the coming months it will become more fun, I guess.”

Paul Verhaegh ended the night on a high, with his first Oranje jersey in his bag. “No way I would have exchanged it, not even with C Ronaldo. This is a boyhood dream for me. If you would have told me two years ago this was to happen I would have had you locked up. But this now does give me a taste for more…. But I can’t count on anything. I will keep on doing my best at my club and then we’ll see.”

“The lads told me that C Ronaldo basically floats everywhere and doesn’t really get bothered with defending. This did allow me to attack and support the build up. He is very strong and athletic, that bloke but I still got to play my own game. ” Verhaegh was one of the better players in his passing and positioning and he started the play that resulted in the 0-1 by Strootman. But at the end of the first half, he felt his hamstring. “At my age, you know your body well. Probably the result of the tension. My hamstring tensed up and I felt I had to make way.”

Ricardo van Rhijn came in, while normally Daryl Janmaat and Greg van der Wiel are also in the picture. “Yeah I know there is competition, but that is good. I won’t say that I am better than they are. How can I?”.

robben cr


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Oranje – Portugal preparation

The Deer in the Headlight look of Paul Verhaegh

The first international game in the new season. After that breezy Asian tour, important wins over Indonesia and China, we are now facing our menace Portugal. 2002, 2004, 2006, 2012… Just some random numbers for you.

And in the lead up to this friendly (…) there is some unsettling news:

– There is LVG’s criticism on our former skipper Wes Sneijder… Is it justified? Is LVG motivating the little playmaker?

– There is everyone’s criticism on De Vrij (and Martins Indi). Can the Rotterdam man face the pressure?

– There is the generic criticism on our young and somewhat naive back four ( Janmaat? Blind? De Vrij? BMI? All untested)

dirk oranje

On top of that, LVG has demonstrated his fickleness in his selections. No Nigel and Siem, for instance. Although Siem would have had to thank for the invite anyway (as Schaars and Janmaat had to do). Schaars is injured. Janmaat has the flu. But Siem de Jong is in hospital with a collapsed lung? He is out for weeks.

The media can’t help themselves. When Dirk Kuyt came to the Dutch trainingscamp, most journalists wanted to hear what Dirkie thought of Wesley’s fitness. The two recently played the Turkish Super Cup against each other and Sneijder (and Drogba) won.

Kuyt: “I see Wesley a lot in Turkey. And we talk about football of course and about our families… Wes is really disappointed about the whole thing but he is committed to fight his way back. That is how he is. He really wants to be part of Oranje of course.”

Asked about Sneijder’s game, Dirk said: “He is fit alright. He trained all summer and he played really well against us.”

The largest Dutch newspaper was quite critical on Van Gaal and his selection criteria. As per usual, Van Gaal loves players he can mould to his own liking. Players like Maher, Wijnaldum, Van Ginkel (the ideal sons-in-law) and doesn’t like player with a mind of their own ( Sneijder, Robben, Van Bommel). With a number of key players lacking the form and rhythm it will be interesting to see how things will develop.

gio wijn

Paul Verhaegh is the player most media jumped on, as he is the big unknown in the squad. And the Augsburg player has just gotten the chance to get used to the idea being part of Oranje, or the next surprise came in: Daryl Janmaat can’t make it. So there is a fair chance that Louis van Gaal will let the former PSV prospect start against one C Ronaldo….

Verhaegh: “I will see what happens. I heard Janmaat is not here so who knows. All I can do is do my stinking best and hopefully I get the chance to show myself. And sure people are surprised hearing my name. I was surprised! I will turn 30 soon and this coach is known to go for youth, so….”

Paul Verhaegh was with one Klaasjan Huntelaar at the PSV youth system and like Hunter, Verhaegh was moved to AGOVV which played first division back then. He moved to FC Den Bosch and after a year he was signed by Vitesse. He somehow made a move to Augsburg in Germany, which has since moved up to the Bundesliga. “I took a long and winding road, haha. Many of my team mates from back then play for big clubs now. Augsburg is not a big name. Most people think of Schalke, Bayern or Dortmund when you talk Bundesliga.”

raf oranje

As Verhaegh is somewhat older and not playing top drawer football, people wonder why Van Rhijn and Van der Wiel are not above the debutant in the Oranje squad hierarchy. “I don’t think I am above them at all. I would not even state I am better than them. How can I? I think Van Gaal wants to see me up close. I am not even considering the World Cup. That is so far away still. I will take this one step at a time.”

Although the Portugal game is “but” a friendly, Holland does need a good result. A win – and maybe a draw, will keep Holland as number 5 on the FIFA ranking. The first seven nations will have a protected spot in the draw of the World Cup. Holland is well on its way of qualifying of course but the differences in the Top 10 are small. Portugal is now number 7 while Belgium is on the rise, as the number 10. If the draw was today, the following nations would be group leader: Spain, Germany, Columbia, Argentina, Holland, Italy, Portugal and Brazil.


Jeremain Lens and his dad, former PSV winger Sigi Lens

lens oranje

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Van Gaal irritated and impressed….

Louis van Gaal has announced his squad for the Portugal friendly. Schwarzenegger, Willis, Statham, Stallone, Jet Li…. Oops.. wrong list.

Louis has come up with some surprises… We miss Clasie (not in great form yet), no Nigel de Jong (long injury period), no Siem de Jong (LVG chooses others), Ricardo van Rhijn ( some lad from Augsburg gets the nod) and Adam Maher (because Wijnaldum was more impressive).

And other surprises: Schaars and Wijnaldum are in. The latter had a good spell with Jong Oranje in Israel and started well (as skipper) for PSV. Schaars was always a Van Gaal fave (AZ days) and has always been close to the Oranje squad. Schaars will go for the defensive midfielder spot ( with De Guzman).

Another big name not present is Wesley Sneijder. De former CL winner and Oranje skipper has not done himself many favours. When he wasn’t picked for the prelim selection, the Galatasaray midfielder couldn’t stop himself and was critical about his coach. “He will need to get fit first. Then regain his form. And only then can I compare him with the other players I have….”. Van Gaal was annoyed that Sneijder made comments in the media. “He should not have said that. Experienced players know what will happen with that. I don’t like that, as I constantly have to respond to questions from the media. Sneijder needs to vent internally, not via the media.”

“Players need to talk about their club when they’re at the club and the should talk about Oranje when they are with Oranje. That is the manifest.” Van Gaal also wanted to make it clear that Sneijder was wrong: “I have talked to him many times. In Turkey, Hoenderlo, Indonesia and China. If he still doesn’t get, than I don’t know what to do next with him.”

wijnaldum oranje

Van Gaal has not yet written Sneijder off. “No, he is still on the radar, but he will have to show it. It’s not an automatic situation that he will be part of the Oranje squad.”

Gio Wijnaldum is a fresh face in the Oranje squad. Criticised last season at PSV but a central part in Cocu’s vision for the new PSV team. And one of the best players at the Israel EC with Young Oranje. Louis van Gaal is clear about his choices. “PSV has played three official games. Those players are easiest to assess. Clasie, with Feyenoord, only played one official game and Feyenoord lost that game. Schaars and Wijnaldum were very impressive. Wijnaldum is a real surprise. I know what Schaars can do, but Wijnaldum has made a big step, in his maturity and the way he dominates the game.”

Oranje does not have a great record against Portugal. And Van Gaal is partly to blame, as he played two qualification games against them for the World Cup 2002.

We played them 12 times and we won only once! It was 1991, in the EC qualification game for the Sweden EC. We won 1-0 in Rotterdam, thanks to a Richard Witschge goal, under management of Dick Advocaat. Oranje played couple of remarkable games against Portugal. The home game in the 2002 qualifications, in which a fan blew a whistle and Davids stopped playing, gifting the ball to Portugal, who scored the 0-1. Reiziger played left back and led in the second goal with a horrific back pass.

In the away game, Oranje needed the win and was 0-2 up. With 10 minutes to go, Van Gaal took off two midfielders and put two extra strikers in, to go for the jugular. Davids was red carded however and Portugal pulled two back: 2-2.

The most infamous game was the 2006 World Cup knock out game. Referee Ivanov lost control and handed out 16 yellows and 4 reds (he gave one player 3 yellow cards if I am not mistaken). Maniche decided that game for Portugal, with horrific misses by Cocu, Van Persie and Kuyt.

Richard Witschge scoring

The Festival of Mistakes

The Hitchcock Thriller

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The new Black Pearl of Benfica: Ola John

Last summer, Man United wanted to sign Benfica’s Nicolas Gaitan. Sir Alex was happy to offer 25 Mio euros + Fabio and Macheda. Benfica refused.

Today, Gaitan warms the bench and Benfica has a new young star. The Black Pearl (Mark II) has arrived: Ola John.

Ola’s older brother Collins is still a pro. He plays his football for English club Barnet. The twice capped striker started his career at Twente and took him to all sorts of places. From the EPL (Fulham), to Belgium, the US competition, Iran even (!) and now back to England.

But his biggest claim to fame, by now, is being Ola’s manager (and role model, but more…like how you don’t manage your career).

When young talent John came through the Twente ranks and left at an early age to Portugal, most fans thought he would make the same mistake as his brother (chasing the money at a young age).

But Ola himself tells a different story. “I actually didn’t want to leave Twente. Collins is not my manager either. He does support me of course, but I went to talk about opening up my contract at Twente but instead of that they said they accepted an offer from Benfica. That was a surprise for me. I remember saying: Good for you, but I will determine where I will play my football!”.

John’s manager Frank Schouten confirms this. “We were flabbergasted. Nine mio euros was the deal. Ola decided to check Benfica out. We went for a day, but Ola wasn’t able to decide. He was on his way back to the airport when Twente called and asked him to stay a couple of days longer. He had training the next day, but Twente allowed him to forget about that.”

In those days, John felt that Benfica really wanted him. They did what they could to make him feel at home. “I remember playing Benfica for the CL qualifications the season before. I played a good game and after the match their coach came up to me and said “very good game”. I don’t think I ever heard that from the opposing coach, haha. When we went to play there, the players of Benfica told me I was going into the wrong dressing room. In hindsight, it seems they had an eye on me for a while.”

“When I met Rui Costa, Benfica’s manager, he said he only needed to watch a video of my highlights for 15 minutes to know he wanted to sign me. And they followed me for 20 games! It was clear that the coach knew exactly what my qualities are and how to use me, I was really impressed.”

Ola John is a football fanatic. He watches everything and is very aware of the qualities of Benfica. “I followed the competition and knew most players. Benfica as a club, with their history and players like Eusebio, Nuno Gomes, Rui Costa… I always liked them. I remember that big game against Man United of two seasons back in the CL and they do have a reputation of making players better.”

And John is right. Benfica is not like Man City or Chelsea. They don’t buy big names and spend money. Benfica is – more even than any Dutch club – capable of spending a couple of millions to on-sell players after they developed for multiples. John: “People who think I went to Benfica for the money don’t know football. I would have gone somewhere else for that, if that was my goal. At Benfica, we play modern 4-3-3 football. We play CL almost every season and we play for trophies domestically. A great step for me and I improve here daily.”

John plays on the left flank when their game against Barcelona is on. Due to injuries, the coach asks the Liberian born to play on the right wing. John plays against Carlos Planas and is Man of the Match. In the Barca game, Ola John demonstrates that he is the complete package. Physically strong, explosive and fast and he is a good decision maker. He can dribble, play pass and move, he has a good long pass and cross and he can score goals. Skilled and intelligent. How is it possible that the Dutch Under21 coach believes VVV winger Wildschut is better?

Judging him on his Barcelona game, John is better than Lens, Narsingh, Elia and Schaken and belongs in the Big Oranje.

Frank Schouten is used to scouts from other clubs to harass him. “After the Barca game, the Man City scout came up to me to ask when John’s deal ended in Portugal. The Sunderland scout asked me for players like Ola, but in a less expensive category….”

John was brought with care. His coach didn’t throw him for the lions, but allowed him to get used to the football in Portugal. I didn’t agree. I wanted to play. But they talked to me about Angel di Maria. He played 12 games in his first season. 14 games in his second season, and then Real Madrid signed him for 33 mio euros. Benfica plays 60 games per season, so you will always play a good number of them.

“Practice every day with guys like Aimar, Cardozo, Gaitan, Bruno Cesar and Luisao is something else. I played with Theo Janssen at Twente. An amazing kicker of the ball. But check out what our striker Cardozo can do with it. That takes it to a different level altogether. In Holland, training is mostly skills based. Here it is too but also more tactics. I think I have become smarter here, as a player.”

Heading a ball is the only weakness in John’s game. “I never had to. I was always used on the flank. I was the man of the cross. I am perfectly two footed, thanks to Boudewijn Pahlplatz and Theo ten Caat, my youth coaches at Twente.”

Despite his one weakness, Ola John is dazzling the pundits in Portugal. In his first full game, Benfica won 3-0 and John was involved in all three goals. He has played everything since.

The only downside of living in Portugal is the intensity of trainings camps. “At Twente, you slept at home before a home game. In Portugal, we basically live on the trainings ground. We have our own rooms there and we have camps for every game. That takes getting used to. You’re never home. But my girlfriend understands. We love life here. We hang out with Ricky van Wolfswinkel and his girlfriend a lot. He helped me find my way a bit here.”

Ola John may not have been on the radar of the youth teams in Zeist, but Bert van Marwijk did select him for his first trainings camp with Oranje. “That was great. A nice confirmation. I remember I had to pass as I got injured, but I knew I was on a list in Zeist. When Van Gaal started to use all the youngsters in his campaign, I knew I was close to a call up. All you can do is perform at your club. This is what Mr Van Gaal told me too. Simply focus on playing well and regularly for the club. I trust that everything else will follow from that. Any next step, or any Oranje invitation. I focus on what I can influence: my game and my contributions to Benfica.”

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And we're out…

C Ronaldo scores twice, hits the post twice, misses chances and offers team mates chances.

Huntelaar gets first shot on goal in the 86th minute. And misses the target.

End of review…

But seriously… We were simply not good enough. We scored early. And we did get more chances in the second half. Vlaar’s header, Van Persie’s run into the box, Van der Vaart’s shot on the post. But that’s it.

Portugal got at least 10 open scoring opportunities. This game could have ended 8-4.

I hate to say it, but Portugal was simply better. They outplayed Germany before. Now they outplayed us. Their midfield bossed us in the first half, which is an almost obvious result of the line up we started with.

We just didn’t click. Van Persie played an invisible first half. Van der Wiel was atrocious, yet again. Vlaar couldn’t keep up with C Ronaldo if Wiel lost him. We were simply not good enough.

Skipper Van der Vaart: “We didn’t play well enough. We lost three times. Then it’s clear where you stand. We started this game ok, but after our goal we slipped away and they got stronger. We didn’t deserve it.”

In this game it became painfully clear why Van Marwijk insisted on playing with two holding midfielders. The Oranje defense is shockingly weak.

In the first half, Sneijder was supposed to play on the left flank but he was hardly engaged, while Van Persie was simply not able to be important. Robben had his moments and in an offensive way, Van der Wiel did ok. Even had one good cross.

In the second half, Sneijder played more centrally and Van Persie took the flank but it didn’t make much of a difference. Every time Portugal took over, they looked like they could score.

Bert van Marwijk: “This was highly disappointing. I failed. And with me, the group. It’s too early to talk about my future, so quickly after the game. We’ll do that later. But I believe we had trouble overcoming the first dip against Denmark. We constantly started well but somehow insecurity came into the game. And we missed crucial chances up front while giving away too much at the back.”

He continues: “The vibe in the group was great. We had a different dynamics then during the World Cup of course, but despite the losses everyone was positive. I had to deal with some players who were dissatisfied, but that’s not something I can concern myself with. I can only play eleven players so you’re bound to disappoint a number.”

Arjen Robben: “I have no explanation for this. We constantly start well. We play well for 20 minutes. In this game, we even scored! And still we let it slip. What is that? Intend? Physical strength? Focus? You tell me… But suddenly we make silly passes. We start to lose the ball and insecurity sets in. But we need to be straight: we lost as a group. In 2010, we did it as a group, and now we lost as one group. The players and the staff. Should Bert leave? That’s not for me to say. That is for him to determine, with the KNVB.”

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Our line up??

The picture above shows the players who got the coloured vests at practice!

This is where we will follow what our Men In Black will cook up in 8 hours time!

Live. So join in ok?

In the meantime, some thoughts…

Germany will definitely win against Denmark. Reasons? 1) they can’t play half hearted. The Germans aren’t playful. They take it all very seriously. So they will go for the win. 2) They have to, as Denmark could beat Germany and progress and Portugal could beat Oranje (not really!!) and progress too….

Bert will make changes. That might mean: to his hair. Or a different jacket. Or maybe he will change his facial expression. But most likely he will change the team. But don’t expect too much. We won’t see Kuyt as full back or Narsingh on the wings. We will most likely see Robben on the right, Sneijder on the left, Van Persie behind Hunter. And Nigel and Mark as holding midfielders.

If Bert would really go out of his way (and comfort zone) he might even replace Mark for Rafael. But that is as far as it goes.

I would love to see Strootman, as I believe we need a midfielder who can go from box to box. Strootman is the only one who can do so. But I can’t see Bert benching both Nigel and Mark so a holding duo Strootman/Van der Vaart is out of the question.

The main thing is not who plays, but how they play. Will they be able to go through the pain limit? To work for each other? To track back? Then they have a fighting chance. If Wiel and Willems will stop the threats on the wings and if Robin and Hunter will do what they’ve done all season (score, duh!!), then we might end up partying like it’s 1999.

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Portugal Preview

Bert van Marwijk practiced behind closed doors. And with a grim look on his face attented the press conference: “We will play 100% attack! We need two goals more after 90 minutes, so that is a clear mission.” And: “I wish the vibe in our camp was as bas as it allegedly is in the Spain camp. They won 4-0, despite their internal strife.”

Van Marwijk is on edge. It’s do or die for Oranje. Not winning with 2-0 or more ( and Germany not winning vs the Danes) means Oranje will go home and Van Marwijk will most likely go home. And the next job won’t be Tottenham, Liverpool or Valencia but West Brom, Freiburg, Salzburg or Tenerife.

Skipper Mark van Bommel looked back at the Germany game: “I played a good pass onto Robin. He missed. Not much later, I missed Schweinsteiger and he allowed Gomez to score. I could have been the king, but I ended up the joker.”

“It’s football, isn’t it? I haven’t the “son-in-law” comment for many years but now things are going bad, everyone mentions it again.”

Asked if he believes that he can’t manage the midfield role anymore? “I can. But I do understand these criticisms. The first Germany goes was totally my fault. But our midfield is too stretched for anyone to cope.”

Ironic pic: Mark and Bert creating history together…

The skipper had this Euros as the last big trophy with Oranje on his wishlist. After a Champions League with Barca and titles in four countries ( PSV, Fortuna, Barca, Bayern and Milan).

“The vibe is a bit different now, that is true. Players like Van der Vaart and Huntelaar were benchwarmers at their clubs before the World Cup and are established players now. Dirk was a starter at Liverpool but a benchwarmer now. But we are still one group. We are mates and we support each other. If we would have won twice, no one would have concerned themselves with Van Persie making that phone-call, simply because he didn’t have connection in the dressing room.”

Van Bommel did see his team lose it tactically and physically. “It was like playing in a wok. It was so hot and humid. We couldn’t keep on pressing. Why we didn’t pick a hotel in Charkov? I have no idea. I believe we decided to pick good hotels before the draw and Charkov didn’t offer what we needed? But that was not my call.”

Van Bommel has a positive outlook. “Italy won the World Cup in 1982 after three dreadful group games. And in 2004, The Czechs beat Germany with their B-team. Allowing us a trip to the quarters…”

Portugal has a tremendous record against Holland. Of the last 10 games, they won 6. We won only one. And three draws.

Belgium might be historically our foe. Germany might be traditionally our arch enemy, but is Portugal then our “angstgegner”?

The last time we won was in 1991, in the qualications for the 1992 Euros. With a Richard Witschge goal.


These statistics are flawed. Let’s look at the last four games.

May I remind you that we should have won twice in the World Cup 2002 qualifications when we didn’t win (lost one, drew one) because Louis van Gaal had his moments of madness against them in both games? We lost at home because Van Gaal played Reiziger as left back an some moron in the stands had a referee whistle. He blew on it, Davids stopped playing and Portugal took the ball and scored. Ouch.

In the away game, Holland was 0-2 up when Van Gaal brought more forwards to humiliate them. Within ten minutes, Davids was sent off, Figo scored from that free kick and they equalised in the dying seconds.

The 2004 Euros game we lost was a deserved loss. Portugal was better.

The 2006 World Cup in Nuremberg was a disgrace. We lost, but not because we were not good enough. We had a massive Van Persie chance he fumbled, Cocu hit the bar and Kuyt choked one on one with their goalie. With a tad more luck, that game would have been ours.

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Support your local team!!

My dear friends, I need to ask you all to keep the positive spirit up.

Yes, we are disappointed. Yes, we believe the team should do better. Yes, Van Marwijk is too rigid and headstrong. Etc…

But… Our players bleed orange. They do. I am 1000% certain. Has to be.

Remember how Robben played with pain at the World Cup? How hard he worked to get back? How Huntelaar is swallowing his pride tournament after tournament?

Van Nistelrooy was in the studio the other day and said he had intense contact with some of his buddies in the squad (Bommel, Boulah, Mathijsen, Robben) and said with conviction “there are no cliques in the team, there are no ego clashes!”. He was convinced this team was mentally focused on this tournament but tactics and maybe physical condition are lacking.

I think it’s painful to see how heroes like Robben, Van Bommel and Van der Vaart are crucified on this blog.

Van Persie is all professional and played some good game for us this tourney. But sadly missed too many chances. I’m sure he suffers like we all do.

If you saw Arjen Robben sing the anthem while prepping himself mentally, you could have seen he wants to give his right foot (useless anyway) for a good win.

And the reason why we have Robben in the first place is because he has that skill: taking on people, coming inside, taking a shot… This is how he bailed us out many times. And now he has difficulties getting to his normal level. Support the lad!

Mark van Bommel has been our fierceless leader for years. And him being Bert’s son in law was never a problem. I don’t think it’s now either. I expect Bert to bench Mark for the Portugal game.

Stekelenburg got us into the semis two years ago. He hasn’t yet won games for us this time around, but give the guy a break, please.

At times like these, it’s the Al Pacino “inch by inch, we claw ourselves out of this hell” monologue that springs to mind! And this is where we need to support our boys.

If we suddenly burn our orange jerseys and start insulting our players, we are doing the thing we accuse them off… Our task is to support. So, maybe if we start doing our job, they will do theirs….

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Oranje – Germany; what went wrong?

It’s 24 hours after the Germany game. The Day After.

We are not yet out of the competition. It’s a simple calculation. If Germany wins against Denmark and Holland beats Portugal with two goals difference, Oranje is through!

So, let’s first analyse the Germany game.

What happened exactly?

We needed a win. Germany would have been happy with a 0-0. So Holland starts with some intent. Indeed, the first 20 minutes were fine. Not great, but we did create opportunities. Robin van Persie on a good long Van Bommel pass, Van Persie with another opportunity and Afellay with a cross to Van Persie which he basically squandered by playing it behind Van Persie.

The pace was good, the passing was ok, but when Germany had one opportunity, they scored. 0-1.

And fear entered into the frame. The defence stayed back. The midfielders drowned, the wingers didn’t get a good ball and Van Persie was on an island.

And when Germany had another option of slicing through our defence (another Schweinsteiger pass for Gomez) it was 0-2. And Oranje was chasing the game.

In the second half, Huntelaar and Van der Vaart came on and late in the game Dirk Kuyt came on for Robben. One great one-touch attack and Robin van Persie was able to score the consolation goal. Sneijder had an opportunity to score the equaliser but Boateng risked his ribs blocking this attempt.

Let’s look at what went wrong:

Our 4-2-3-1 doesn’t work if it’s not executed well. Our defence kept on tracking back while our forwards wanted to push forward. Space between the lines was huge and our holding midfielders drowned in that space. Our full backs didn’t do anything on the overlap. While our wingers lacked the form (Afellay!!) to make a dent.

The Goalkeeper
Stekelenburg actually had a couple of good saves. The Ozil ball on the post. The Badstuber header. The weird high ball falling almost under the bar. But he didn’t look too good with the second Gomez goal. The angle was astute. And for some reason, Stekel decided to go to ground before Gomez even hit the ball… Why?? If Stekelenburg would have stayed on his feet, he could have simply caught the ball.

Our defence is atrocious. Willems is a very young, inexperienced left back. Who did ok. He made mistakes, but that was to be expected. Where was the support for the young Sparta prospect? Heitinga and Mathijsen were both guilty for allowing Gomez all the space to score two goals and didn’t have the balls to pressure forward. Van der Wiel, like against the Danes, was invisible. Didn’t add any value to the game.

Both Van Bommel and De Jong seemed dinosaours. Too much space for them to cover, not enough balls or dynamics to push forward and play tightly within the team. Both Bommel and De Jong did not offer any added value and with defence were the “six players tracking back” while the forwards were focused on attacking.

The four forwards were again focused on attacking and scoring goals. But Robben and Afellay did not have the form while Sneijder had problems making his mark in the first half. He played a better game in the second half when Afellay made way for Huntelaar and Sneijder had more space on the left wing. Van Persie had a number of chances again, but he failed to convert them, while the Germans did.

Individual Form
Too many players lack the form needed to win gold. Robben, Afellay, Van der Vaart, Huntelaar, van Bommel and De Jong and the whole defence seemed to be seriously under par.

Physical Condition
It’s hard to say, watching a game, what the status is of the physical condition of the players, but it does seem like the energy oozes out of our players a bit quicker than with other teams. It could be result of being deflated due to the results… It could also simply be the result of the pitch being too long for our players to cover. But both Morten Olsen and Joachim Low stated that Holland didnt look fit. And of course this Raymond Verheijen character is yelling this in tweets as well. But then again, if you have 5 players in your line up that are not 100% fit (Willems, Van der Wiel, Mathijsen, Van Bommel, Afellay) is it possible to play this high energy game??

In a way, the mentality seems to be fine. Players like Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder, Huntelaar and co play top football for years already and are used to pressure and playing big games week in week out. Jetro Willems also doesn’t seem to be fussed playing with the big names, on the big stage, against big opponents. One thing that does puzzle me, is the fact that we have players who said a number of times already “we don’t have the form now, but once the tournament starts we will flick the switch and be ready”…. I don’t think that actually works like that.

The Dutch total football school is based on dynamics. JC everywhere on the pitch. Van Hanegem placing the ball anywhere. Krol being left winger. Rep center forward. Haan playmaker and Neeskens running from box to box. Etc etc. This worked with Gullit and Vanenburg and Muhren. And Erwin Koeman ran from box to box. And with Cocu, Bergkamp and Davids ran from box to box. But where are our dynamic players and patterns? Robben and Afellay? Predictable. Van der Wiel and Willems? Limited overlaps. Two central backs. NEVER pushing forward. Holding mids? Static. Just like Sneijder… Lots of dynamics in his passing, but doesn’t pull his weight in yards covered like Iniesta/Silva/Ozil/Modric… In my view, we lack penetration. Who runs from box to box? How many times did we see a potential cross (ok, they were mostly shite) but only Van Persie in the box? Maybe time for Strootman!

Gomez only needs 4 chances to score 3 goals. Van Persie, Robben and even Sneijder seem to be overzealous or maybe lacking sharpness… amongst ourselves, we might have had 15 good opportunities? Only 1 converted. And with his right! Is it lack of sharpness or too much will, too much eagerness… Did you see Arjen Robben’s face and grimace when singing the national anthem? Was he impersonating Jack Nicholson as the joker (Heath Ledger for younger generations) or does he simply want to it too badly?

The Run Up to this Euro Tournament
Before we started the WorldCup 2010, most of our players came out successful seasons. This time around, Sneijder has had his problems, Afellay hasn’t seen a ball, Van der Wiel was injured, Mathijsen was injured, Robben had some dramas to process and Huntelaar now has to accept that he’s not a starter.

Everytime Oranje played a good tournament, the next tournament was played crap. In 1974, we were vice world champs, in 1976 we made a mess of it. In 1978 we were vice world champs, in 1980 we were sent home after the group. In 1988 we won the Euros and in 1990 we ended in shame. And now we are the vice world champs, so this tournament might be the next drama…

Available Players
Looking at Germany, one sometimes wonders what kind of squad Holland could have if our country was bigger. If we has 30 Mio in stead of 15 Mio people. I’m not saying “Let’s invade Belgium”… But if there ever was a reason to do this, this is the one!! Add Vertonghen (left back), Vermaelen (CB) and Kompany (CB) and we’re laughing all the way to shake Platini’s hand. If we need to rely on an 18 year old lad who played Emmen and Helmond Sport last year….well….

The Coach
So, summing all the above up… Our coach is obviously responsible for this all. For team selection, for fitness, for tactics, for team motivation, etc (not for history, ok….).
He might be a great guy for a focused campaign when all the players are on a high and fit (2010) but maybe the wrong guy for a campaign where we need more tactical flexibility, more balls and more empathy. Who will tell him? I am guessing that we will….

Let’s create some solutions for the Portugal game!

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