Louis van Gaal has announced his definitive squad for the coming two matches. He selected 28 players.
Why this big squad for the upcoming matches?
LvG: “For me, the World Cup preparation starts now. And apart from the fact that I want to see many players and test players, I also want to start implementing a new system. I remind you that in 2014, we were able to do this, but just. We had to grow into it, during the tournament and it was not ideal. Back then, i had 5 weeks (…) prior to the tournament to do this. Now, I will only have 1 week before the start of the World Cup. So I will need to start now.”
So these Oranje weeks are more about the new system than the matches?
“Correct. Usually, it’s two matches as a main course and the days around it, you practice. I see this differently. I now have a period to work on the new system and we’ll have two interruptions, two games, in between.”
Jordan Teze is a remarkable name. How did you come up with him?
“Well, as you will know, he plays for PSV. He is Dutch. So we follow him. Like we follow many players. And with De Vrij injured, we need some alternatives. Teze is a young player, with an outstanding build up pass. That is how he caught our eye. And that forward pass is important and it’s quite rare to see. He moved from right winger, to right back and now he plays centrally. That experience will be handy for him.”
And Hateboer is back.
“Initially, we wanted to test Frimpong. He is totally new for the group. But he got injured. Hateboer is not new, we know him, he’s an international already but lost his spot due to his injury woes. But he’s playing at Atalanta again, so it felt like a good time to call him back in.”
Denmark and Germany. Two top nations. What do you expect from them?
“I expect that they will be playing at our level, at the least. So we know there is intensity and pressure. They will defend on the front foot and we have not played those type of opponents. It will be great for the fans to see these games. I expect two full stadiums. Great opponents and Denmark has had a tremendous couple of years, Denmark qualified without dropping points and I hope the fans will want to be part of this process.”
Can we expect surprises these games?
“Yes, I think I will have surprises in the line up and in the way we play. Our spirit, but also our system.”
There was also time for some fan questions.
How is your hip doing?
“Thanks for that. I’m doing well. It was a 6 to 8 week thing. I had a tear in my hip, but it was super painful when it happened and I was not allowed to take painkillers, as I had to coach the team the next day. But it was really painful.”
How was it to be back as coach for Oranje?
“I was a bit reluctant and hesitant. There simply wasn’t anyone with the same skills and experience as me. I didn’t do it because I really wanted to. We were also two points behind, we had three big matches in that week and I expected not to be able to add much to it, in the first weeks. But I was wrong, because this is a super group, with a great commitment and maturity. The team spirit is amazing and that is just a joy for any coach.”
What changed since the 2014 campaign?
“Not much. My football vision has never changed. Same in 2012, or 2000 or in 1995. It’s just that the players are different and the generations are different. You cannot be a dictator these days. In the olden days, coaches like Michels were totally authoritarian. And another thing, at Ajax, we always worked from the perspective of “We are the Best!”. But clearly, when you play higher and higher you cannot expect to win all the time. At Barcelona I once played a match versus Valencia. The Valencia of Ranieri. We were 3-0 up in the first half. And we kept on attacking, so we lost that match 4-3. That was a lesson! And we used this too last time vs Norway. We decided to play fully on result and we were able to manage the game and kill the game.”
How is it for you to work with these young players?
“Actually, it’s great. Working with young players keeps you young. And this group actually triggers me, inspires me. More so than the 2012 or the 2000 squad. They think football, they use analytics, they discuss tactics and ask me questions. That is quite good actually and it keeps me on my toes. And it’s fun. I always look forward to working with them.”
If you had to pick a player from the current generation who is most like you as a player…?
“I was a so-called defensive mid, but I wasn’t. I didn’t defend too well. I was a deep lying playmaker. I could dribble if I wanted to, but I lacked speed. So passing was my thing. And I saw the game well. Of the current squad, I think I resemble Teun Koopmeiners most. He also is comfortable in the deep lying role and his passing ability and vision are great. He is capable to play passes through the lines and he skips lines with his passes. He’s now also more an attacking midfielder, as he does have more speed than I had, hahaha.”
Which coach inspired you most?
“That was Rinus Michels. I was around 14 years old and Michels was coach at Ajax. I was playing but I always went straight to the Ajax training after school. I wanted to see him coaching the team. And I also went the same trajectory as him. I went to study for a physical ed teacher and I got my coaching diploma like him. It’s cool that I too now have coached Ajax, Barca and Oranje, like him.”
Do you have any hobbies outside of football?
“Tennis, golf and playing cards. I love klaverjassen and kingen. Loving my wife is also a hobby of mine. I am never bored.”
What was your favorite Oranje match, as coach?
“That has to be our first match at the World Cup in Brazil, the win over Spain. Spain was World Champion and hardly lost games. The media in Holland wrote “why does Oranje even go to the World Cup??” and we created a plan and the players executed it perfectly and we won: 1-5. That was a big shock to the global football world.”
What do you think of the Nations League?
“It’s a competitive tournament, so that is good. And I see it as a good prep for the World Cup. We hardly have any prep time. So I will use the games to test different players. But playing against Belgium is top. Poland is also a tough opponent. We have amazing opponents, Wales is also not easy.”
What kind of music do you listen to?
“I guess soft-pop, would be the term. Music from the 60s and 70s, I suppose. The era of the best music. What the kids listen to now, that shrill type of pop beats, I don’t like it. Why would I try to listen to new music, when I know I have heard the best music already.”
Which player is the best young player you ever coached?
“I need to mention Clarence Seedorf here. He was 16 when he made his debut with me and he has won the most prizes internationally. But the ultimate are either Xavi or Iniesta. They were 17 and 18 when they made their debut. They were even better than Seedorf.”
Will we win the World Cup this time?
“I will never say this before hand. But what I can say, is that the Best Team will win. And I will do what I can to make us the Best Team. And then a bit of luck. It’s not the best individuals, but the best team.”
Sadly, I wasn’t able to ask my questions:
Where is Rick Karsdorp ??
“Well, Mourinho loves him. And I loathe Mourinho. So, there is that. Rick is also a Feyenoord lad. So that doesn’t work in his favour. And he might roll his eyes at me. So there.”