Not a title you would associate with an upcoming game vs Andorra.
But the State of the Union of Oranje is not too positive after the shock draw against Estonia.
And it’s not like Holland is not allowed to draw. After the amazing run we had under Bert and under Louis, it’s not a drama to not win for once. But what is a drama, that it happens in a game where we led 0-1 after 2 minutes. A game inwhich we dominated in the first 20 minutes. And a win would have secured our spot in the top 7 of the Fifa Ranking and would have given us that record to snatch away from Ze Zjermans.
The way we let this game slip away and the way we had to salvage a point were embarrassing, really.
Johan Cruyff is per usual the biggest contrarian. Where people only see good things, he sees negative elements. And the other way around. “It’s probably a good thing that Holland is not the first nation after Brazil to qualify. In all honesty, if we would qualify that easily and quick, people might believe we are really good. And we are not. Now, Van Gaal can work on the elements that need improvement, without bringing the qualification in trouble. This is maybe a blessing in disguise, this draw. Because now everyone realises: oops… We are not that great….”
The oracle talks on: “Take Tiger Woods. If he plays without concentration for one day, he can simply tumble from the 1st to the 10th spot. The differences are minimal in the top. If we want to go for silverware in Brazil we will need to work really hard. And that is easier for Louis van Gaal now. Because if we would have won, criticism would not have its desired effect.”
The other Dutch icon, Willem van Hanegem, spoke as well. “I like Louis and I can’t really criticise his football vision. But the last weeks he seems to be losing it a bit. He has lost his consistency, it seems. First he claims he doesn’t need a type like Sneijder anymore. But when Wijnaldum gets injured, he calls Sneijder up. At first he’s not fit. Then he is fit enough? And the result? Sneijder feels the pressure and plays his own game. In order to prove himself. You could have predicted that. And Sneijder does play too close to Van Persie, basically suffocating the Man United striker. He needs movement around him and space. Sneijder doesn’t offer movement and doesn’t allow space. When Kuyt came to play centrally, things changed a bit. Another problem Van Gaal generated is that weird switch of Robben and Lens. Why? He was adamant that Robben should play on the left flank and now that is not needed anymore? Sure, Robben scored. It took the Estonia coach a couple of minutes to realise Robben played on the right, but since that goal Robben and Lens did not produce one single cross for Van Persie and Robben blocked Janmaat too. I think Van Gaal should sit down with his key players (RVP, Sneijder, Robben) and determine what system will be used. And lastly, De Vrij vs Bruma. Everyone who watches the Eredivisie can see that De Vrij is not in his best form, while Bruma is very strong. Why would Van Gaal use De Vrij and then sub him when he made a mistake? This is not good for the lad, not for the team and not for the coach… He should have simply said: Stefan, you will be rested, I wanna try out Bruma for this game.”
Oranje needs to regroup and will do so by acknowledging the weaknesses of the team: defence. With players like Van der Vaart, Sneijder, Van Persie, Kuyt and Robben, most international opponents will be very careful. But with big names like De Boer, Stam, Rijkaard and Reiziger missing in the current squad, most opponents feel there is something to be had against this Holland team.
Skipper Robin van Persie does not allow criticism to creep into the camp. “It’s normal that the fans and the media are unhappy with that performance, but internally, we are not negative. The last thing we will do is point fingers. We need each other. We need to play and act like a team.”
The media asked Van Gaal about his substitution of De Vrij. Was it because he was to blame for that first Estonia goal? “No. I subbed him not for that. If someone makes a mistake, the team makes a mistake and the team will need to resolve it. I subbed Stefan because he lost confidence and didn’t play the vertical, deep pass anymore. That needed changing.”
Kevin Strootman: “The Feyenoord lads have been starters this whole qualification series. We did very well. Do you seriously think they forgot how to play football?”
In 2004, Holland played an away game against Andorra, and that was a special game. The 34 year old AZ midfielder Barry van Galen made his debut in Oranje under Van Basten. The current AZ scout would never be called up again. “I am eternally grateful to Marco for this. I think he simply felt I deserved at least one international game. And sure, I’d love to have played that game against Brazil, like Bart Latuheru, hahaha. But it was the best day in my whole career. And Marco asked me after the game: what did you think? And I said: I was shit. Because I was. I didn’t do anything right. And Marco nodded, hahahaha. And after the game, I was interviewed, and who was standing next to me? Johan Cruyff. My hero. Ah, those memories. I played with number 10, even. Van Basten made me the happiest man ever.”
Barry van Galen against Andorra, 2004
A won against Andorra will give Holland a ticket almost for certain. Romania would have to bridge 6 points and 15 goals in two games, something that is highly unlikely of course (*cough* Spain – Malta!!! * cough*).
If Romania drops points vs Turkey, Holland will be definitely certain of Brazil.
Van Gaal has to make some changes, as Arjen Robben and Bruno Martins Indi are suspended. Ruben Schaken is the obvious replacement for Robben. The Feyenoord defender will most likely be replaced by Vlaar. Karim Rekik is an option too although he is not 100% fit. However, Van Gaal could decide to play with three defenders only, taking into account that Andorra will probably only field one striker.
In this case, we might see Janmaat – De Vrij / Bruma – Willems/Verhaegh
And maybe four midfielders, with De Guzman to support the build up. I wouldn’t mind seeing Sneijder, Maher and Strootman together.
And Lens – RVP – Schaken upfront.
RVP most likely wants to play, as he is only 4 goals away from Patrick Kluivert’s record of 40 goals in the Orange Jersey.
Arjen Robben is the unlikely vice captain. The egotistical self kicker Robben, as vice captain. “I like the responsibility. I love coaching and supporting the young lads. And it gives me great honour to wear the band, you know.” Robben’s drive has not diminished after winning the CL at last. He was furious when he left the pitch against Estonia. “If you score after 2 minutes and you are the better team, you simply need to win. Period.” Asked about his drive and his loathing of losing….” Ask my wife. I haven’t changed a bit since winning the CL at Wembley. I still play as if it’s my last game. But Guardiola said something interesting to me. We had a good chat and he said: you have nothing to prove. If you simply play good football, I will put you in the line up. Just enjoy yourself. I loved that…. I need to learn how to do that.”