Tag: Simons

Oranje fights itself into semi finals

At some point, you stop worrying about the how and just want to celebrate the result. The first semi finals since 2004, when Portugal defeated us in the semi finals. A great comeback – the first since the 3-2 win over France in 2000 – and it’s always good to win a game when you don’t play great.

Oranje’s start was pretty good. Turkey played with 5 at the back and in the first 10 to 15 minutes, our “box” in midfield performed really well. Xavi found space in between the lines, Memphis was threatening and Schouten penetrated well on the right hand side.

Memphis had the first chance in the first or second minute and with a bit more balance and luck, he could well have scored the first for us.

But Holland can’t repeat the positioning game we played versus Romania. The main issue is the lack of patience. We try to make every touch count and the somewhat erratic play went against us. Sloppy touches, wrong decisions and on top a tactical change by the Turkey coach and as a result, our dominant midfield…well… disappeared.

This image from the 8th minute shows the triangles we should be using more often.

Turkey does what it has to do to avoid the Dutch press, by playing long opportunistic balls towards their speedy forwards. As a result, De Vrij stays hanging deep a bit and this means Schouten is forced to move to the right to create space and as such abandons the box concept. De Vrij is too static and we can see Virgil gesticulating to him at times to move forward more.

This is an image from late in the first half (Turkey is leading) and Turkey forces us to one side and tries to suffocate us there, stopping our flowing build up. It is during the stage in the game when Oranje loses grip on midfield that Turkey scores and we make a series of errors leading up to the goal.

For some reason, Dumfries allows the ball to go out of play, resulting in a corner kick. When Guler has the chance to bring a cross in, several things go wrong: Dumfries is not aligned with the defence and he puts the goal scorer on side. It’s Simons and Ake’s job to block the cross but they lack the aggression and allow the cross in. And to add to this, the rest of the defenders are all ball watching and “forget” the three Turks at the far post. I also think Verbruggen could have done better there.

Koeman knows he has to respons and takes a page from the Austrian text book, when Rangnick decided to bring a typical #9, a target man.  In our case: Weghorst. The not 100% fit Bergwijn makes way and Simons moves to the right, while Memphis becomes the new #10 behind Weghorst.

Still, we keep on doing things wrong. The combination Schouten / De Vrij falters and stutters, we try to find the complicated solution instead of the simple pass and our defence was too scared to press up, due to their speedy attackers. Still, we manage to get back into the game as a result of a good opportunistic attack. First it’s Memphis offering Weghorst a chance. The goalie could have let that one go in to the side netting, but he touched the ball, so it become a corner. Schouten and Memphis take it short and the club-less talisman puts the ball with feeling onto the head of De Vrij: 1-1. A symbolic assist for Weghorst for blocking the defender.

Montella’s Men do lose their head a bit after the equaliser. Their defenders start to trickle back, and their wingers leave their position, making the spaces wider for us. Koeman immediately responds by bringing speed in Van der Ven and guile by bringing Veerman.

Some good play between Veerman and Weghorst brings the ball to the right flank, which is abandoned by Kadioglu, who had a top game again, by the way. Dumfries hits the ball low and it’s Gakpo ghosting in from the left to surprise the Turkish defender: 2-1 (goal attributed to Muldur).

The 2-1 is the sign for Turkey to throw everything at Oranje. Several top blocks by defenders (Van der Ven, Schouten and even Weghorst) save the day and Bart Verbruggen had a top save right at the death to secure the win for us.

The Turkish left flank offers us problems so Koeman brought Frimpong to fix that side of the pitch and Zirkzee – in his debut – to keep the ball a bit longer – in stead of Memphis.

We can conclude that Oranje got a bit lucky and needed fixing by Koeman to get the win. It’s the Austrian Opportunistic Target Man approach that got us the win, and not the famed positioning game. As a result, we don’t really have a foundation to build on for the England game. And luckily for us, neither have England.

Despite the less that great execution of the plan, I do think the core of this Dutch team will need to start versus England.

I don’t believe making wholesale changes will help much. Expect the same back four and the same goalie.

I also think Schouten and Reijnders will start, but i wouldn’t be surprised to see Weghorst from the start.

He will make war, he will keep 2 or 3 defenders busy and he will be a nice target man for Memphis to play off of.

For me, Xavi and Memphis are not compatible as #10 and #9. Memphis needs a runner behind him to find the space he abandons. Xavi is a “ball to feet” player. Weghorst deep and Memphis circling him will be more effective.

The question was and will be: who will be our right winger? Malen will be less useful as I don’t see England playing high up the pitch. I think it will be Xavi, Bergwijn or Frimpong.

Now we have two classic semis to watch, with the four strongers European teams at the kick off. Any team can beat the other team. Who knows?

I think Verbruggen and De Vrij were the top performers for us (despite de Vrij’s limited build up play against the Turks). I found Virgil wanting in some situations, a bit too easy, to lacksydaisical (?). Schouten was fine, Reijnders a bit more anonymous. Memphis in the #9 role was again disappointing with lots of loss of possession but showing class as the #10. I thought Xavi was wasteful, at times looking too much for the complicated pass. Gakpo had his moments during the game and did get “his” goal. And Weghorst did exactly what he needed to do. We can’t ask more from him.

 

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Oranje’s problems for Koeman to fix

This Euros is turning into a really fun tournament. Fans of Belgium, Holland and England might beg to differ but the neutral is enjoying him/herself immensely. It’s not a surprise that some teams (include Italy, France) are not at their best.

Most of the players in those squads have played 45+ games this season at the highest levels. It’s not a surprise that the bow will bend and break at some stage. The international calendar is a joke, really.

I’m sure England has more problems on top of that, with a coach who can’t gel a top team from top players and bemoans the absence of Kalvin Phillips as if he is Frenkie de Jong.

Belgium seems to play with fear. France seems tired. And Oranje… is a bit lost.

But… we do have Ronald Koeman. Not for his tactical skills, but for his luck! He was criticised at Valencia but still won the cup. He had to go at PSV, but still won the title. He’s got a golden d**k as his dad always said.

And his former assistant Gio van Bronckhorst once quipped: “If Ronald Koeman trips, it’s over a golden Rolex, that much luck does he have…”.

We need more of it. Normally, we ended up in the left side of the draw (Germany, Spain, France) but finishing third brings us Romania, Austria, England and who knows…

I will not be the one claiming “Romania is easy” because it isn’t. Remember the Euros under Frank de Boer? We got into the “easy side of the draw”. We only had to beat the Czechs and then Denmark and we could touch the cup. Right. Well, we lost in the first knock-out match. So lets treat Romania with respect.

We all know that we traveled to this Euros with 8 players remaining at home who normally would be in the squad. That is 30%. Frenkie, Quinten Timber, Jurrien Timber, Koopmeiners, Luuk de Jong, Noa Lang, Mats Wieffer, Marten de Roon, 5 midfielders. A pinch hitter and top header of the ball. And a mercurial winger.

So, we need to make do with an older sandpit midfielder and some untested players (at this level) in Veerman, Schouten, Reijnders and Gravenberch. Typically for the fans…they yell for years for coaches to bring new blood in the team and now Koeman finally does so because he has to, and the fans now want to bring more experience in the team. And I wonder… who? Clasie? Adam Maher? Kevin Strootman? Vilhena? Til? Donny van de Beek?

We need to do it with these lads.

So lets focus on where we go wrong tactically. Because we all know the individual skills of these players are there. The lowliest club team we have is probably Burnley ( Weghorst). All the others play for Inter, Man City, Spurs or RB Leipig or the likes.

So it’s tactics. What are the problems?

Against Austria Geertruida was gesticulating and yelling to his mates in the first 60 seconds!

Schouten, Veerman and Reijnders are too far away from the zone where Austria wants to attack and when De Vrij can’t step in due to the presence of Arnautovic, Geertruida is alone in the zone with three opponents coming at him.

Whatever Geertruida does – stay or attack the ball – he is in trouble.

Problem 1. Being a Little Bit Pregnant

These are the words of Ralf Rangnick: you can’t be a little bit pregnant. You’re pregnant, or you’re not.

It’s the same with pressing. You press, or you don’t. You can’t press a little. Rangnick is clear in his idea: three elements are important: ball, team mates and opponents. First you focus on the ball. Then on your team mates and then on your opponents. Against Austria, Holland was a little bit pregnant. Koeman: “We lacked aggression and allowed too much space We are way too focused on the man and defended like headless chooks, one might say. We were terrible and had no control whatsoever. We instructed the players: block the pass line to the sides which means the backs need to remain in their position. But we didn’t and then this is what happens. Malen let his man go, yes, but I didn’t want him to backtrack all the time. When their outside man comes inside, one of the central defenders needed to step in. Because I don’t want my wingers to play as full backs.”

Geertruida yelling at his team mates for someone to pick up Wimmer

And Austria found a quick solution. The central defenders and the backs stretched the pitch so much that Malen and Gakpo couldn’t close the gaps. But the main issue was Oranje being outnumbered in midfield.’

The Austrians played 3 midfielders as well but their wingers joined in. Koeman instructed his wingers, Gakpo and Malen to remain wide. And thus, Austria had two players in the pockets, available to be passed into. And this is why Geertruida’s first contributions to the team was his vocal warnings about the mismatch. It took 20 minutes for Koeman to respond.

Koeman used the 4-1-4-1 same as he did in the second half versus France. This is tough to do against a strong opponent as there is too much space to defend for the 1 holding defender. This is why most teams use two players in the engine room. Morocco used this system with great success at the World Cup. Whenever an attacking mid puts pressure on, another attacking mid needs to drop back to keep the balance.

Koeman and Lodeweges call this “the box” in midfield. Sadly, we hardly saw the box. And instead of defending the space, our midfielders kept on tracking their direct opponent, leaving all this space for the free man from Austria.

Interestingly, Koeman blamed Geertruida for the first goal, claiming he should communicate with De Vrij and force the central defender to take over, so the Feyenoord right back can stay in this zone. But Geertruida tried this. And De Vrij was covered by Arnautovic and simply couldn’t take over.

Geertruida pulled in to cover Wimmer and Prass is about to leave Malen for dead

It seems Koeman saw a different game and I have to say: this match clearly demonstrated that Koeman is out of his depth and should retire and leave coaching in modern football to the younger generation ( Van der Gaag, Slot, Pastoor, Buijs).

End conclusion: Oranje failed to defend the zones and allowed Austria to constantly find the free man in space. The reparations from the coach came way too late.

Problem 2: Plan B without safety net

Plan B was started after 20 minutes. Man marking across the pitch. Austria has great runners but their players are less comfortable in possession. Holland starts to get more control and started to win duels, with the long balls. However, Plan B doesn’t offer a safety net. When a player gets passed or loses his man, the opponent has a man-more situation. And players can be stretched. In both Austrian goals in the second half, the space between Van Dijk and De Vrij is wide open. Both goals were the result of Dutch players losing their man or not going with their man.

Koeman is again being unclear. Initially he blames the players for going too much with their man. And in Plan B, they have to stay with their man First blame, then accountability. No wonder players were confused.

We saw top players (Ake, De Vrij, Van Dijk, Reijnders, Gakpo, Malen) who play for top teams ( Liverpool, Man City, AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan) completely lost.

Like in the juniors, all Dutch players focus on the left side, with 3 Austrians completely open on their left

And yes Gakpo and Schouten lost their marks, but those actually weren’t their marks! The second Austrian goal sees Gakpo spring 50 meters back and he’s covering for a team mate here.

And the winning goal late in the game was anothe example of bad communication. Schouten steps forward to put Sabitzer in off side but Van Dijk had drifted two yards back and gave the man of the tournament so far the opportunity to hurt Oranje.

Problem 3: build up by the full backs

Rangnick pushed the opponent – Oranje – towards the flanks. We were allowed our buildup there, instead of through the centre. And we did, and in principle, we should be doing ok with this. But the positioning of our full backs was not good enough. Koeman: “The full backs can’t stay at the same level as the midfielder, you need to create triangles. If they were higher or deeper, it would have worked.”

Problem 4: Where is the box?

Koeman talks about his plan of attack, using three midfielders, as this would give Oranje a dominant position, although… it didn’t. Because Austria moves with the ball. If the central defenders of Holland have the ball, their forwards drop back to stop the pass line to the midfield. If the ball goes to the full back, Austria pivots to that side and even the winger on the other flank will move inside. We needed a 4th option in midfield, to get control and Koeman’s “box” would offer this, but the box is non existent. Only after half time does Geertruida move into midfield to become Oranje’s fourth midfielder.

The box restored. When moving properly, we always have at least two options, if not more

Everytime we let go of the box (France, Austria) we lose control. Moving forward, it’s clear we need to get back to that principle.

Problem 5: We have no patterns or “automatisms”

The toughest job of any national team coach is creating patterns. For Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona have dominated the national teams, so automatisms came natural. Same with Bayern dominated Germany. In the olden days, with many Ajax players in the team, Oranje had a similar advantage (Overmars, Kluivert, Bergkamp, Ronald de Boer, Reiziger, Davids, Seedorf, Frank de Boer, Edwin van de Sar, Bogarde).

Take Geertruida now. He is a certainty at Feyenoord (and will make a big money move this summer). But he lacks the options he is used to at Feyenoord which makes him slower and a bit more uncertain. At Feyenoord, he gets the ball on the half space and he knows: I have a player to my right and and midfielder ahead of me for the forward pass. These triangles are what players need.

Geertruida at Feyenoord, always two forward passing options

But in Oranje, Geertruida only has one option (against Austria): the forward pass to a marked midfielder. And as a result, Geertruida disappoints. And Austria gets the time to press him. This can be said of many players at Oranje. When the box is not used, there are less options and that results in issues.

Geertruida in Oranje: can only go square and opponent is ready to pounce

Conclusion

There are still positive things to say. We created a number of good chances, despite all this ( Malen, Reijnders). We scored twice and we created more shots on goal and got more expected goals than Austria. So even with a less than mediocre performance, we still create. This says something about the quality of our players.

As Koeman said in the presser: “I am responsible for this result” and he is right. He made errors in the starting line up. He made mistakes in judging the Austrian plan of attack and he was not able to instruct his players properly re: their positioning. You could say that Rangnick beat Koeman as a coach. In a big way.

I won’t jump to the same conclusion as journaist Valentijn Driessen who implied Koeman should resign (yet). But in Koeman’s own words: we’re not knock-out. We are still in the fight And Koeman needs to show the world now, that he is capable of getting up.

Sources: VI, AD.nl

 

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Oranje ready for the Austrian Press?

Ralf Rangnik has been long touted to be an impressive coach. Dutch ex-players who played in Germany speak highly of him. Man United fans probably less so.

Still, he took the boring, defensive Austrian football team and turned them into a force of nature.

The specifics? High press. No mourning moments after possession loss. A goal attempt within 10 seconds of repossessing the ball. Pressing the opponent to the side. Stacking the axis of the field.

They may not have the best eleven players, but Rangnik might have formed the best team, with Baumgartner and Sabitzer as the stand-out performers.

Koeman was quite impressed with Austria, naming them one of the big surprises of the tournament.

There are different ways of dealing with them. France did it with long balls from deep. No build up from the back, but hoisting the ball forward. This does make sense, as Austria tends to leave quite some space at the back.

Oranje plays a similar kinda game on paper and could decide to go head to head in a similar vein and “let the best team win”, but Oranje can also use the “France tactic” and hoist the ball towards our forwards.

Koeman will have to pick the eleven that match his tactics best.

Knowing Koeman a bit, I don’t think he’ll mix the team up too much.

I do expect Veerman back in the line up. Veerman might not be ideal vis a vis the fit and physical Austrians, but his passing might be the key to break open the Austrian defense. I don’t think we’ll see Xavi. There was some criticism on his positioning against France and I wouldn’t be surprised if Koeman falls back on Reijnder on the 10 spot.

Memphis will play, this is what Koeman already said in the presser. He clearly doesn’t want to get in a discussion with the media, so he bluntly said: “I trust him, he’s important for us and he will play.”

No Weghorst, because he has demonstrated to be great as a pinchhitter.

Zirkzee is slightly off it, having dealt with a flu attack and Brobbey might need a bit more time too.

We’ll see the usual back four, I think, although I do hope Geertruida in place of Dumfries. The combi Dumfries/Frimpong wasn’t great and I do believe the slender Leverkusen winger will start.

I think it will be tough game but I do believe we’ll end up winning 3-0, with finally Memphis on the score sheet, alongside Gakpo and Reijnders.

 

 

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VAR injustice against stronger France

Oranje had to fight for a point against a dominating France. The point will be cherished but despite the VAR error, Oranje couldn’t really claim to be the better team.

We all thought a sensational win was in the making when Xavi Simons ran to the Orange Legion behind the goal after good strike into the net. It took minutes for the VAR to decide that Dumfries was blocking the French goalie. Even Stevie Wonder saw how Dumfries did not block the sight on the ball and he also didn’t block any attempt, as the goalie was frozen on the spot, to slow to respond in any which way. Most if not all of the pundits ( Wayne Rooney, Cesc Fabriegas, Roy Keane, Raf van der Vaart and even the French referee boss Stephane Lannoy stated: “This goal should never have been disallowed.”. But… that doesn’t help us now.

We had a good start this time around. Koeman wanted to use Frimpong’s speed in attack and work rate in defense against Hernandez and within 50 seconds, the small former Cityzen was on on goal! After 20 interesting open minutes, the game became more and more of a chess game and Holland realised that France has a world class player on every position and their central block is made of granite. Memphis Depay, most likely still not 100% match fit, had no business against these big boys. The longer the game went on, the more it became apparent that a draw would be the best possible scenario.

Initially, it seemed the game had goals in them, with some exciting moves, but France adapted quickly to Koeman’s game plan and started to dominate the pace in the game. They controlled possession, against their nature, and Oranje was hoping on the mistake in the transition. We had some options to break but it was always “the ball too short”, “the ball not accurate” or “the ball to the wrong player” or “i will dribble instead”….

We didn’t note many clear cut chances whereas France kept on pouncing on the door. The lack of quality of our main attacker Memphis, the inability to launch Frimpong, the inability to use Ake as a playmaker… all these aspects were partly our own doing (Memphis) or a tactical move by Deschamp ( Ake).

The pace went down and the Orange Legion started to chant “Woutje Weghorst” after an hour. First Koeman brought Wijnaldum, Veerman and Geertruida, who all three had a decent run in the game. Weghorst got this 12 minutes at the end and fought for what he is worth. To no avail.

After the match, Koeman was accused of being “prudent” and “conservative” but the coach couldn’t care less: “I am happy for anyone to think what they want. I’m happy. 4 points after 2 games, I would have signed on for that.”

It was a tough game.

I think Verbruggen was excellent. His passing accuracy is astounding.He is the rightful #1.

De Vrij and Ake were exceptional as well, although Ake was forced in the full back role by France and didn’t get much chance to roam in to midfield. Deschamp had seen us versus Poland. Van Dijk was fine.

Dumfries and Frimpong did what they could but in my view they demonstrated not to be able to play well together as they want to make the same runs. I think Frimpong needs Geertuida.

Schouten was good too. Reijnders less so, he had real trouble dealing with Griezmann. I thought Simons worked his ass off and tried to be constantly available. I liked him today and he deserved to be the match winner.

Gakpo was strong first half, almost invisible second half, but in the moment he wasn’t, he was great. Frimpong had a good start but peetered out a bit. Top notch work rate though. Memphis… he tried hard, he worked hard, he tackled and slugged but the touches weren’t great and the setpieces poor…

Koeman could have seen that Geertruida would be a better starter than Dumfries. When you can’t win a game, just make sure you don’t lose it.

 

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Oranje gets 3 points and some valuable lessons!

After some solid performances by our lads in their club teams (PSV, Liverpool, RB Leipzig, Atalanta, Man City), it felt that we could have a good go at this Euros. The last friendly results were also pretty hopeful. Despite the absence of Frenkie de Jong, Luuk de Jong, Marten de Roon and Noa Lang, I believe we all felt that this could be our tournament. And… it still can be.

But the Poland game did put our noses on the some of the facts (Dutch expression).

If have to summarize the game, I’d say:

  • good start
  • some good chances
  • one moment of lack of concentration and Poland scores
  • we keep on going and get a bit of luck on the Gakpo goal
  • Oranje’s energy drops after 60 minutes or so
  • Koeman needs to make a change in the second half as Veerman and Simons (and others) are less effective
  • Wijnaldum comes on but isn’t found in between the lines
  • with 10 minutes to go, Koeman brings two secret weapons ( Weghorst and Frimpong)
  • Weghorst scores

We can be happy with the 3 points and we can be very happy with the performances of Ake, De Vrij, Schouten, Reijnders, Verbruggen and Gakpo.

We need to be critical on Van Dijk, Veerman, Memphis, Simons and Wijnaldum.

Van Dijk wasn’t terrible but showed some weakness in positioning. Veerman had to deal with a man marker (Szymanski) and had no answer to this. We saw this in earlier matches where Frenkie was manmarked and had to work hard to get away from his man. Veerman is a passer. Not a dribbler. And he doesn’t have the explosive runs Frenkie or Reijnders has. The switch with Reijnders back to the 6 position worked well, as he has more legs and can take a man on. We have seen Veerman struggle with this before and it’s been my ongoing criticism of him.

Simons started fresh but ran out of steam. Memphis tried hard and potentially too hard. That shot he hit hard over the bar was a 100% chance for a player like him and it didn’t need that power. Relax, Memphis!

Wijnaldum, finally, was told by Koeman to not drop deep to get the ball but to stay close to Memphis and find space between the lines, where the midfielders/defenders were supposed to find him. Sadly, they didn’t.

Btw, we did get to 21 shots. The highest number since that dreadful first game against Denmark in 2012. When we had 32 attempts on goal and scored zero goals.

Another fascinating stat: in the 90 minutes of play, Oranje didn’t use a single Ajax player. This is the first time in 95 matches!!

Some conclusions:

Joey Veerman struggles with man-marking

Szymanski wants to hold Veerman’s hand

You need to be dynamic to lose your man. Frenkie would move to left wing or right back or wherever he had to go to make the man marker uncomfortable. Joey is too static. Plays too much in one pace and lacks the dribble and speed to bypass an opponent and create a man over situation. Yes, against Iceland he played well. Why? He didn’t encounter man-marking. This needs to be taken care of.

I wonder if Koeman will use Veerman versus France. Their midfield – no, their whole team – consists of top athletes. My fave line up below.

We defend set-pieces terribly

A free run towards the ball for Buksa

Again, we have to mention Veerman. He was one of the blockers in that situation but he didn’t get a grip on Buksa, who could out-jump Dumfries and head the ball home. Veerman did try to pull Buksa’s jersey, only briefly, but Memphis was totally ball watching. Van Dijk: “We’re sick of that goal. In a dead ball situation, this has to improve. The goal scorer had a free run towards the ball. That needs to improve!” was his opinion. One comment in defence of the Memphis and Veerman (and Schouten). They were facing a number of tall lads in that box.

Nathan Ake is our playmaker

When Frenkie is absent and his replacement Veerman can’t get a foothold in the game, it’s good to know that one of our centre backs can play playmaker. The City player started so many great moves and basically had two assists. The second one for Weghorst doesn’t officially count as the ball got a slight deflection.  Frankowski decided to press on Ake, who was seen as the danger man at Oranje’s side, but that resulted in the Polish wingback to be drowning and offered Gakpo the time and space to shine. The result: Bednarek had to deal with Gakpo. Who is a very agile and elegant player, whereas Bednarek has trouble turning even without an opponent in sight.

Oranje has a strong bench

With Memphis upfront, we actually have Bergwijn, Frimpong, Malen, Brobbey, Zirkzee and Weghorst who can come in to change things around. Weghorst has made the difference already at the World Cup, some friendlies and now also at the Euros. Holland lost its grip slowly in the second half and Koeman has a nice menu of options available to him. Wijnaldum didn’t impress, but his little run was key for the Weghorst goal. In a way, that was an assist. Frimpong and Malen add speed and depth to the team while the strong Brobbey could well be a key player for us versus France.

Bart Verbruggen does his job

The youngest Oranje goalie ever at a final tournament had no nerves. He had 6 more than decent saves, which is the highest number for any Oranje goalie in 5 years. His footwork is also lauded and De Zerbi taught him well. Keep your foot on the ball and pull the opponent in, to create space elsewhere. It seems like the ongoing musical chairs of the keepers is well over.

My musings for the France game

I know it’s early days as the France game isn’t until Friday and lots can happen in between. But, I think the midfield we played versus Poland won’t be good enough versus France. I hope Veerman can accept it, but I would use a different line up versus France.

I’d opt for Memphis on the left. Against two big, strong centre backs, Memphis – who is not 100% – would probably drown. On the left, he will get a chance to roam and get touches. I’d play Frimpong on the right. Allow Simons a rest but don’t write him off! I’d play Brobbey as a 9. Strong, grit, fight, speed. Let him deal with these two monsters and let them deal with Brobbey.

I’d use Gakpo as a 10, with Reijnders and Schouten in the engine room. Gakpo learned to play midfield at Liverpool and will be key to give a 75 minute “give it your all” game. I would also opt for Geertruida as he can play into midfield. There won’t be overly much space for Dumfries, I don’t think and I find him still a dissonant in possession and not necessarily that good a defender.

If Giroud plays, I’d use De Ligt.

 

 

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Why I think Oranje will be the next Euro champs!

There are several responses. 1. because I always think we win the next tournament. 2. Because it will be fun for us and the blog. And 3. because we have a great group of players who – even without Frenkie – can dazzle and win games.

I’m sure that the work of Ten Hag, Slot, Pep, Klopp, Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Peter Bosz will rub off on Koeman and after meddling with 4-3-3 and 5-3-2 and 3-4-3 he finally landed on the best system for Oranje, the 1-4-2-2-2.

Where he used to have the inclination to leave the right flank open (so Dumfries could bomb into space left available by Wijnaldum or Xavi or Lang or whoever played there) today he has the option to do the same at the left side and play with a more contained option (Geertruida) on the right. In this way he can utitlise a proper right winger (Frimpong) and leaving the left flank open for a player like Van de Ven or Maatsen to dominate the left flank.

Koeman would stack the left with ball players (Blind or Ake, Frenkie, Gakpo) and the right with legs and speed. Now we can do this on the right, with Geertruida,

We can play the compact game against dominating teams (Spain, Germany) and play high up the pitch against transition teams parking the bus.

Our goalies are very decent if not more than that.

Our defence is world class.

Our midfield is talented and eager.

Our forwards are getting in the groove. Memphis is hungry (playing for a new deal, remember?), Xavi and Frimpong are exciting, Gakpo has class and with the addition of Zirkzee, we do have a bit of everything. We have a real 9 in Brobbey, a roaming mercurial forward in Memphis, a class act like Zirkzee and of course pinchhitter Wout Weghorst.

It feels like the team has finally realised that 1. winning is everything and 2. we have the goods to be the winner.

So I say, we will probably beat Poland 3-0. I think we’ll have a shock win over France as well ( 0-1 Frimpong) and Austria will end up being our toughest opponent in the group.

I have a good feeling people! Hup Holland Hup!

 

 

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Koeman calls up Jan for the blog!

Hi my friends, the last months on the blog were quite….quiet. My dear friend Tarcisio is having some IT issues and as our boys will be playing for the title soon, I thought it prudent to get back here and commentate on the Oranje games.

Word of warning: I will not go into the deep end for other national teams. Focus will be Oranje and their games.

And a big ASK: I have had to spend more money into getting the site back up and running.

After years of offering this platform, there have always been just a handful of committed fans who would support the blog with some digits. You probably know the cost of running this sortathing?

At the same time, I do see some people really getting a lot of joy/mileage from this platform so I need to ask all who can, to chip in a bit for the opportunity I offer people to share stories, their comments, their comical banter and at times their less than friendly banter.

If we value this orange community, please share a bit of your materialised energy so we can keep it going.

A proper post, soon! For now, please use the link below:

 

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Oranje making up numbers at Euros

Well, we made it. We qualified. But the performance quality – or lack thereof – doesn’t instil a lot of confidence in me.

I don’t think I have seen one match after the World Cup that gave me a good feeling. And sure, we miss a couple of big players, but I can’t see how Frenkie or Memphis would have improved the play much, all by themselves. I mean, there were games with Frenkie in the side post-WC which also didn’t dazzle us.

I do think Koeman is doing the right thing in his squad selection and today’s line up, for me, was quite logical.

I personally would have doubted to put Weghorst in, but he did score the winner so people will probably laugh at me.

But i just don’t like him. And I think that another player would have scored if we had Malen as right winger and Xavi as false 9.

I probably also would have played Wieffer instead of Schouten. I’m a big Schouten fan but to put him in in his second game after being shoved aside by Van Gaal quite rudely, I would have used him versus Gibraltar. I think Wieffer is settled more in Oranje and is known to be quite stoic.

I also need to add: I think Schouten played a very decent match and will only improve.

Lastly, I think I would have picked Bijlow over Verbruggen. The latter is a great talent but still so inexperienced. He had to field two shots on goal and one went in through his legs. Ouch. Luckily for him, the Irish attacker was off side.

But overall, I think Koeman’s decisions re: line up and squad are fine.

It’s the execution (and maybe the prep by Koeman) that leaves a lot to be desired.

The excuse that we miss so many players is not a real excuse for me. We missed a lot of central defenders ( Botman, De Ligt, Timber, Ake, Van der Ven) but that area was not where the issues were today. I thought Blind and De Vrij did well. De Vrij was probably one of the best. His passing, some of his footwork, obviously his defending too. No worries at all.

The issues were in build up and the speed of play. We played walking football. Every time there was a chance to accelerate the game, we seemed to not want to take it. Where Frenkie naturally turns “open” when getting the ball and pass through a line or two, the two “6”s were too cautious. Schouten did it a couple of times, but it still was a bit timid. The pass backwards was found too easily. A simple acceleration on the ball, either with the man or by the ball in terms of a pass, was constantly an option and mostly not taken.

Up front, Weghorst seems to “block” forward motion. Every time he comes into the ball, Simons and Gakpo would move forward for the flick, and every time Weghorst would simply bounce the ball back to the midfielders. No flow.

And most annoyingly, none of the players had the urge to make runs in behind. The corner triangles you see so fluidly at Man City, Feyenoord and Arsenal were not there. The only player at times to recognise the space was Reijnders who’d run into it, but the pass never came. It was sterile and flat. There were options enough ( for Hartman, for Xavi, for Weghorst or Dumfries) to make the dart into that space, even to just stretch the Irish. But no.

My biggest disappointment was the post match interview with Weghorst, who was angry at the reporter asking him a question about the lack of flow in the game. As if the great man is above critical questions after doing his heroics for king and country. Pathetic!

There is a lot of work to do. The good thing is: we do have the players. But we need these players to realise they need to up their game two levels if they want to compete with Spain, England and France at the Euros.

 

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Oranje simply not up to it

The cliche “men versus boys” has been used here a lot. In the past. And how I hoped that would remain a thing of the past.

But the games versus Croatia and Italy have yet again demonstrated where we go wrong. Again.

And I wonder who or what is going to change this!

The System

Lets start this two-match review with the obvious: some people claim that due to the losses and the conceded goals we will need to consider a switch back to the 5-3-2 of van Gaal.

One photo will show you why this is nonsense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As one can see: we had enough defenders in the box (5!). It’s not about the number of defenders. It’s about how the defenders defend and about what they do.

Combine this insight with the fact we conceded two downright idotic penalties versus Croatia and the analysis is done: stupidity, complacency and laziness.

Gakpo trying to turn the best midfielder of the past decade on the edge of his own box. Gakpo losing the ball and then trying to pick up the little maestro from the back (and what… bring him to the kids’ stands??)…. And late in the match, Malacia with a lunge in the box. I mean, a rush of blood to the head of course but I could accept the explanation of Malacia: only minutes left to score a goal and we needed the ball so I took a risk. And failed. But either way: two cheap penalties and very unnecessary.

The Croatie second goal was a typical example of alibi defending. Or pseudo defending.  Making people believe you’re doing what you can. Dumfries, in this case not putting any pressure on the ball and staying at 1,5 yards from the forward. In his own box! That is not something you see Croatian or Italian defenders do. And Ake, Virgil and Koopmeiners all looking at each other. Typically something that happens even more with a 5 at the back system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not enough pressure on the ball. No communication. Ake can see it all happening in front of him,

Versus Italy, same old same old. Two early goals because no one really defends! No one attacks the ball, no one clears the ball, no one puts pressure on the ball and the key forwards who should track back to cover the Italian wing backs: absent!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dimarco gets time and time from Malen and his defender mates were not able to recognise or communicate the danger to him. Where is a screaming Frank de Boer when you need him?

We didn’t lose because of the system

The quality of the players

I think we all know we have a lot of players who can play some neat, nifty football. Xavi Simons, Noa Lang, Donny Malen, Joey Veerman, Frenkie, all gifted players. But tenacity, leadership, personality and mentality are also part of the complete package of qualities a player requires.

And we lacked it. Again. We did see some good moves, we did see some decent actions and at times we played some nice football. Sure. But it’s about when things don’t go your way. When the opponent finds spaces where you didn’t expect it. When team mates get sloppy.

The quality we need then, is not the step-over of Noa Lang, the shimmy of Frenkie or the dribble of Xavi. We need the leadership of a Roy Keane. The big mouth of Gatuso. The piercing look of Mark van Bommel. I can fully understand that Wieffer, Geetruida, Dumfries and Lang are not the players to demonstrate this part of the game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Virgil. Nathan Ake (treble winner!), Frenkie de Jong ( skipper at Barca) and Koopmeiners should do more in this domain. Captain Van Dijk should be in Malen’s face, if he doesn’t track back! Frenkie should be ready to make the tactical switches where need be.

It’s all too sweet. We’re too friendly. We play too many card games at training camp and we focus too much on funny youtube clips with quizes, or raps with cigars and fashion shoots.

Mentality, commitment, leadership

And these are the elements that are missing. Some players came to the Nations League final round complaining that the season was too long and if we don’t win versus Croatia, we can’t be bothered to play the Losers Finals. Koeman should have sent these players home!

If you can’t get inspired for a football game, not hoping the coach will do it for you, then you have nothing to do in an orange jersey.

Every single player of Spain, Croatia and Italy has had a long and tough season! Man up!

We believe we are great football players. But we are only great on the ball. And not great. Above average. And we suck in the mental department.

And this is not something we fix by changing systems.

The Coach

I never believe in getting a coach back for a second stint. It was a success with Michels and Oranje, ok. But not in any other instance. Mourinho at Chelsea. Van Marwijk at Feyenoord. Van Gaal at Barcelona. Van Gaal with the Oranje/Ajax contingent in 2000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a sense of “comfort”, working with a coach you know. Whenever a coach says it feels like coming home, you know you’re in trouble. It shouldn’t feel like home.

Why pick Koeman again? Because it worked so well before? Well…. did it? He bailed before the Euros. Not really a success. So in my book, a big cross should have gone through his name.

Peter Bosz was available. Just sayin’.

Koeman has end responsibility and he needs to get his players mentally ready for a match or send the ones that can’t be bothered home. And when Malen doesn’t track back twice in 15 mins and we get hammered twice: immediately sub the dude. Show grit. Show courage.

Just like our team wasn’t able to show courage versus Croatia, our coach lacked courage in his choices.

The Future

I do believe the youngsters we see in Orange will grow into good solid players for the team: Wieffer, Veerman, Geertruida, Simons and even Malen, Gakpo and Lang are still youngsters, compared to Blind, Van Dijk and Memphis. We need to give them a chance.

But we need to give Botman, Frimpong, Schouten, Dallinga and Spierings a chance too.

Bijlow was not 100% top, but was only really at fault with that third Croatia goal. It wasn’t an easy one, but it was stoppable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A back line with Ake and Botman, De Ligt and Frimpong should work. Or Malacia, Ake, De Ligt, Frimpong.

A midfield with Veerman, Frenkie and Wieffer should work. A forward line with Lang, Gakpo and Malen should work. We do have enough quality on the ball. But we need to turn it into a team and we need to wise up really quickly now and start switching that button on in their heads.

Playing for Oranje is not a summer camp outing after a tough season at the club.

It’s do or die now.

 

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Epic win Oranje

This is not a long post, people. I am still reeling behind my computer, not capable of creating a well balanced review, as the adrenaline is racing through my body. We needed a win, in this Group of Death we’re in.

Beaten 4-0 versus France was tough earlier on and having to play heavyweights Gibraltar after only 4 days of rest and recuperation is tough.

When you do win the Gibraltar game, with the vintage 3-0 scoreline, it’s cause for celebrations!

3-0 is that heroic end result we all know and remember from our game versus Peru in 1972 or Poland in 1975. People still talk about that 3-0 versus Iran in 1978 or the 0-3 versus Greece in 1987. Oh, and who doesn’t remember the 3-0 versus Canada in 1994.

The Football Gods must have interfered.

The stress in the Dutch camp was high, of course, having to face up against defending behemoths Gibraltar. Luckily, Holland had the home advantage.

We saw the team fight, battle, dazzle and being unlucky too. With Weghorst pushing the ball past the wrong side of the post, as we see him do so often for Man United. We saw Wijnaldum playing the ball back mostly and Berghuis zipping balls blindly into the box, to no one in particular.

Veteran Mats Wieffer was the best man on the pitch, as per usual and a big header by Memphis got us on the score sheet in the first half, finally beating Man of the Match [name of Gibraltar goal keeper].

But it took until Daley Blind finally came on to the pitch to make a difference that Holland put it’s stamp on the match with some brilliant individual performances. Blind and Klaassen led the Dutch to an epic history, which will no doubt result in mad parties in the street and fire works till dawn.

If you can keep France at 4-0 AND beat Gibraltar at home 3-0, it’s clear that a new generation of football geniuses is prepping to win maybe another friendly game later this year as well.

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