Talent? Check. Energy? Check. Balance of experience and young exuberance? Check. Goals? Check.
But still, despite all of this, we still look like a team of juniors, the way we play. In particular compared to the likes of France and Italy.
Austria shouldn’t be a problem for us, but despite an early 1-0 after a foul in the box on Dumfries, the Orange were not able to get more light between the teams, despite some good chances!
I can see a couple of reasons.
For starters, yes Weghorst is a work horse and a handful but he simply is not good enough in open play. His lay offs and passes never come off, he’s lacking speed and guile and really doesn’t belong in this team. With the space behind the Austrian backline, I started shouting for Malen from the 15th minute onwards.
Another problem we have, is the lack of ruthlessness up front. Again, we saw opportunities for Memphis and for Wijnaldum but the finishing is just not good enough. Too weak. We seem to have a team with talented players but not enough real hunger and desire.
You see this in the physical duels as well. Not when De Ligt or De Vrij are involved. These “Italian defenders” understand what is needed in the duels, but Dumfries, De Jong, Memphis, it’s regularly too soft.
The third problem, as has been mentioned here a couple of times by others, our key players are our wingbacks and Dumfries and Van Aanholt are simply not good enough.
That last problem is not resolved in this tournament. We’d need Karsdorp on the right and a player like Malacia or Willems as left wingback. Or Vilhena even.
The intensity and hunger is a typical Dutch problem, I fear. Compared to the Portuguese or Argentines or even the South Koreans, our youngsters are spoiled and lack the grit some of the youngsters from other countries possess.
The most simple solution to the issues we have is: Malen! With De Ligt and De Vrij and Dumfries, we have enough header strength. But we lack players with depth. Memphis wants it in his feet, and so do Wijnaldum, Weghorst… Malen has everything to be our “Mbappe”.
In the second half we see similar situations. Lots of possession, lots of passes but in the final third it becomes weak. Undecisive. Hesitant. Lacking quality.
After 63 minutes, it’s Malen on the pitch. Lets see…
Well, he’s 2 minutes on and he does exactly what I want to see. Use his speed and run in behind. Well done Memphis, with your pass and well done Denzel Dumfries in running along with Malen: 2-0.
The number of times the Dutch were able to break but then stop playing, start walking, looking around, and then playing back. They just were able to get back from right wing position to the left back position where Ake simply pays the ball out of bounds… That really needs to improve!
Statistically, we probably played an amazing game. Austria literally had zero chance. I don’t think Stekelenburg needed to flex his gloves during the whole game. But against the tougher teams, we will not be able to play this sloppy.
We did see some quality moves, the individual class of Wijnaldum, Frenkie and the two central defenders were on display and even though Memphis played a mediocre game, he still scored a fantastic penalty and is always threatening.
As it stands, we’ll win the group and I hope Frank will mix it up a bit and use some other players. I’d love to see Timber as right back, Gravenberch and Malen from the start and Koopmeiners instead of De Roon…
85th minute in… Ake, whom I really like, dribbles into the midfield with some nice long strides and then he passes the ball square into the feet of…an Austrian player… This is just maddening.
So, in terms of results, nice work Oranje. But looking at the quality of the performances (Ukraine and Austria), I think we need to man up a bit more if we want to get into the quarter finals.
We need to have way longer spells of intensity and pace and directness. Not vs North Macedonia or Austria, but against the big guns.
By the way, a big fat congrats to Mempis Depay for his big transfer: he is now formally a Barca player!
After the match, skipper Wijnaldum said: “We are happy to qualify and to be the first group winner. That is awesome, but I don’t want to become complacent. We cannot relax. This team needs to work hard for it’s success and we need that intensity to stay up.” The PSG midfielder admitted that there wasn’t as much “flow” in this match, compared to the Ukraine game. “We lost the ball too quickly, our short passing wasn’t up to speed. And then a game goes up and down. And we didn’t score the chances in the first half, which also doesn’t help. But, at least our pressure worked well and we did create chances. That remains key. But this is tournament football. We didn’t give a lot away and we want to grow into the tournament. You know, we finish the group as leaders so we should be happy and focus on improving.”
Daley Blind: “We have a plan for the press and in this match we wanted to use the press to push Austria to one particular side. If you then win the ball you can open up fast on the other flank. The plan was very good, the execution was not that great. Yet. But there were also moments when we were pushed back but we remained compact and I think Stekelenburg had a relatively easy day today.”
Blind continues: “It’s ok to not always have the ball. You can dominate without the ball too. If you saw France vs Germany, I don’t think France really cared not having the ball.” The Ajax defender was surprised to see his number on the substitution board. “We didn’t plan for my substitution and I felt I could go on, but hey, the coach decided. It took me two glances to see it was me, but the coach has his reasons and it’s all good.”
Memphis definitely didn’t play his best game, but he’s again crucial when it counts. The penalty kick was converted with gusto, and it was Memphis’ smart pass in behind which launched Malen into space. The PSV forward decided not to be greedy and allowed Dumfries his second goal of the Euros.
He did get a very good opportunity to score. “That was a superb ball by Wout and I should have scored it. It is that simple. I was a tad late and the ball bounced up and didn’t get my leg behind it, not well enugh. It happens, luckily it didn’t have negative repercussions. Next one will be in the net! Today we were sloppy, yes, it wasn’t top. But we worked hard, we kept to the plan and we pressed well. I think we can be pleased, 6 points, clean sheet today and top of the group. It’s fine.”
Marco van Basten was not happy with Mathijs de Ligt: “He is playing in Italy, but I don’t think he learned a lot. He has been playing football for, what… 15 years? It’s always the same. Eleven v Eleven. And as a central defender, you see the game in front of you. Twice, he allowed himself to be pulled into midfield. Twice, there was a gaping hole. Unbelievable. Austria didn’t know what to with it. Against France, Italy, Spain, England, Portugal, Germany…you’re out.”