Tag: Sweden

Strong Oranje “forgets” to take the three points!

In what could have been a first upset on Game Day 1 of the WC qualification group of Oranje, Holland could have lead with 3 points, while favorites France couldn’t manage to score in their first match.

But, sadly, a strong Oranje created many good opportunities to score but saw Sweden hit the net first, after a rare Strootman howler. Oranje got back into the game with skipper Sneijder finishing an excellent move by Daryl Janmaat. Late in the game, Bas Dost seemed to have scored a perfectly legal goal to give Oranje the deserved three points, but the Italian ref somehow saw something untowards…

Dost scores

Danny Blind: “We’re bitterly disappointed, to be honest. Kevin Strootman is in a foul mood and he’ll probably won’t come out for interviews. I’m also quite cross with that referee. It was a perfect goal. What happened in that duel is what happens 67 times in both boxes during a game. Either you give a foul and a penalty for all these instances, or a defensive free kick, or not. But to disallow Dost’s goal…. Pathetic. We could have taken three points and have two points on France. It’s disappointing we didn’t, coz I felt the team did everything right. Our tactics worked, the players executed it perfectly, we created chance after chance… Very unlucky. But, it does give us  something to build on…”

stroot duel

Before the game, in the press conference, Blind was quite clear: “We are coming here to win. But, if winning is not possible, at least we need to make sure we don’t lose!”

I agree with Blind. We did everything right, but score. And if it wasn’t for that a-typical mistake by Strootman, the one Sneijder goal would have been enough.

Holland dominated from the start. Patient build up, allowing the ball to be zipped around. Sweden, playing at home, were set up to not lose. Two banks of four, with 2 strikers. Guidetti and Berg, shrewd and experienced. Sweden didn’t want the ball and was basically hoping for a mistake by the Dutch.

Blind’s set up was perfect. He opted for two strong defenders to deal with the Swedish forwards. Van Dijk in particular played a brilliant game. Strootman sitting in front of those two would be the safeguard. Ironically, it was the usually solid midfielder who gave Sweden a present. Blind used Janmaat on the right, knowing he would playing as a winger more than anything. This means that Wijnaldum, on the right hand of midfield, had to play more controlling, as Janmaat and Promes were in charge of the attacking side of things. The Liverpool man’s job was to guard the balance and he didn’t show a lot of penetrative running for us.

Sneijder goal Swed

On the left, with Sneijder as the false left winger, Blind wanted a player who’d play more controlled on that left wing, as Sneijder obviously wouldn’t be able to track 60 meters back all the time if a player like Willems or Van Aanholt would lose possession.

The left flank was kept open for Blind to venture into (at times he did and created some good crosses from the left with Sneijder) and Vincent Janssen and Davey Klaassen used that space to enter into as well.

And it worked wonder. Holland created close to 8 real chances, with a number of opportunities to shoot as well. The number of crosses and corner kicks added to this and you can see that Oranje’s only problem in this game was: scoring.

It was the penetration runs of Klaassen that got him the most opportunities. Couple of headers, little dink by Strootman, putting him one on one with Swedish goalie… Vincent Janssen did get some joy too, but the stocky striker was mostly impressive with his hold up play, his runs and work rate and a couple of decent efforts from distance (one tipping the bar after a deflection).


Everything clicked. No single player was disappointing. Sure, Janmaat had some defensive slip ups, but those things happen. Nothing came of it (in one instance, Van Dijk had to stretch and use all his agility to head the ball over the goal) and Bruma was not the best in his passing, but all in all, no one stood out in a negative way.

I would like to see more from Promes, personally. It feels like he lacks confidence. In the first half in particular, he made some bad choices, where a quick through ball or one-two combination was on the cards, but he did well with Janmaat on the right flank.

The only really negative moment I can recall by Oranje, was Strootman’s fumble. What was he thinking? Trying to get the ball under control with Markus Berg lurching, he could have played the safe square ball to Janmaat but decided to want to control the ball properly. He half stood on the ball, lost his balance and Berg was in possession. His goal was a peach!

Berg scores

In our first qualification game for the Euros 2016, vs the Czechs, Daryl Janmaat was guilty of a howler. Coach Hiddink publically attacked Janmaat for it and decided not to call him up anymore. That did not go down well with the players and was most likely the start of the drama. Now, when asked how he rated Strootman’s mistake, Blind said: “What can I say. Strootman is devastated. He knows he let the team down. I don’t need to remind him. Players make 100s of decisions in a game and it goes all very fast. Players who are in the thick of things, make mistakes. They’re not always lethal. This one was. We need to get over it and go on.”

Virgil van Dijk had a guild edged opp from a Sneijder free kick but he couldn’t bring the ball down, giving the goalie a chance to stop it, and Bas Dost was through on goal at one stage, where a simple side footed pass into the goal would have sealed the deal.

blind sweden

So, a disappointing result where 3 points were the deserved outcome, but all in all a good performance.

Particular taking into account that the pressure was on! The failure to qualify was still hanging over this team, add to that the shenanigans at the KNVB and the lacklustre 60 minutes vs Greece… It was game on and the punters in Holland were adamant that a bad result vs Sweden would mean Blind would have to pack his bags.

The Dutch coach was interviewed about this at the press conference and said this. “Do I feel the pressure? I don’t really. It’s the media that discuss this at length, we don’t go there internally. We focus on what we can do, should do, and must do. That is all we can do. I understand there is pressure, and that is normal. But I don’t feel it, I am not in any way constrained or influenced by it.”

Cool and collected, but the question was: would Oranje choke vs Sweden if things would go awry during the game?

And it didn’t. That, to me, is the biggest win of this first round. Blind picked the right squad, the right tactics, the right line up. It worked. What didn’t work, was us killing the game off and sadly one of our leaders on the pitch had one momentary lapse of reason, gifting the Swedes the goal of the Game Day.

Wesley Sneijder: “This is not the best Oranje I ever played in, in terms of individual qualities. But, this is becoming a solid team. And that is probably as important, if not more important.”

protest ref

Later in the night, Kevin Strootman did come in front of the cameras. “I’m vice captain. I can’t make a mistake and not show up to talk about it. I am pretty devastated though. I have been going on and on in the last months about how we make too many individual mistakes. And here I am, we finally play a real qualification game and now I am the one throwing it away. And I can’t tell you what happened, it was a black out of some sorts, I can’t turn it into any kind of excuse. And yes, I hear Dost’s goal might have been legit, but I am the last guy here to talk about another guy’s mistake…”

We’re away, and things could have been worse….

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Swedish Smorgasbord for Oranje? – Update

Today is the Day. First WC qualification game for Oranje.

Based on the game vs Greece and the training (and talk) sessions of last week, we can expect some changes.

Not confirmed, but according to the AD (official partner of KNVB), Blind will use a defensive heart of Bruma and Van Dijk (who’ll have to deal with the lone striker Sweden will deploy). Daryl Janmaat is now match fit and will take the right full back position – as predicted – and Jetro Willems will lose his spot to Daley Blind.

Blind will most likely play more as a midfielder, with Klaassen coming into the team to strengthen midfield and add legs and penetration, allowing Sneijder in a more protected play-maker role.

Danny Blind: “We need to play more compact. Keep the lines more tight. We did well before the Euros in our friendlies, but we didn’t manage to do so vs Greece.”

Wesley Sneijder (hitting the balls in the goal at practice from every single angle), with a cheeky grin: “Tonight is a night for Big Boys. Let’s see how many Big Boys we have in our squad…”

practic sweden

With all the drama we had to endure in the last months (Hiddink gone, no Euro qualifications, Robben still injured, assistant coaches resigning, Hans van Breukelen axing Jorritsma’s tenure), the loss to the Greeks in a friendly seems just another little annoyance.

We started well. Janssen impressed again. Sneijder looks superfit. Stekelenburg and even Vorm are back in good form and Strootman is back (with Robben not far away).

But individual mistakes (and some unfortunate substitutions) helped Greece to the victory.

Mistakes that we’ll need to iron out of the team. And fast!

I’m sure Danny Blind has a way to go, still, in finding the right line up for Oranje. Janmaat disappeared from the squad a tad, Willems is not at his usual best. Promes hasn’t set Oranje on fire yet and it is not yet clear who should be partnered up with Daley at the back.

vlaar swez

But, his options are limited. Ron Vlaar is out for Sweden (injury) so it will be between Van Dijk and Bruma now. Van Aanholt is a good sub for Willems, but like Willems, the Sunderland man is vulnerable in defensive terms.

Veltman doesn’t cut it as right back for me, but somehow Janmaat doesn’t have the coaches’ confidence.

Zoet has been impressive for PSV but didn’t look solid in those two Greek goal situations.

Work to be done.

It also has to be said: we didn’t have a lot of luck. The two Janssen attempts deserved better, Sneijder had a solid crack and when Zoet boxed the ball away for the second Greek goal, the scorer was quite fortunate that the ball came straight at him. If that ball was pushed one yard either way, the guy wouldn’t have scored.

For me, in the state we’re in, 4-3-3 should not be sacred. We lack physical presence at the back. Defensive killer mentality paired with length and speed…it seems only Ron Vlaar brings that to the team. Van Dijk, Bruma, Veltman, Kongolo, Riedewald…it all seems to timid still. Hopefully De Vrij will get back into the team soon.

Our two top class players are Sneijder and Strootman, for now. These two should play in the axes of the team. A diamond in midfield for me. With Klaassen on the left, Wijnaldum on the right, for instance. Sneijder in the #10 role, and Strootman sitting deep in front of the defence. I’d use Janssen and Berghuis upfront, with Robben replacing Berghuis asap!

wijnald griek

Should Depay or Elia get back into contention, we’ll see how we can utilise them.

I’d also go for Van Dijk over Bruma, personally, and I’d use Willems on the left and Janmaat on the right. Although Willems needs a stern talking to by Blind, as he was not really tracking back when the Greek broke for the second goal.

In the meantime, rumours are rife re: Blind’s new assistants.

I think it is key for the KNVB to add some warmth and grit to the bench. Blind is a good analyst of the game and a good communicator, but not really warm and passionate. Someone like Henk ten Cate or Ruud Gullit would complement him on the bench.

aad willem

Aad de Mos (ex Ajax, PSV, KV Mechelen) and Willem van Hanegem (ex Feyenoord, FC Utrecht, assistant Oranje)

In Holland, a sort of lobby has started to get Aad de Mos and Willem van Hanegem to join the coaching staff, potentially with a fourth assistant, someone like Fons Groenendijk. The latter has done exceptionally well with Excelsior and used to be in the Ajax youth academy after his playing career (Ajax, Manchester City). Aad de Mos will bring grit and venom (and tactical smarts) while no one works better one on one with players than Willem van Hanegem.

If Van Breukelen is smart, he’ll drop his idea to replace Hans Jorritsma. The players wrote a collective urgent letter to him, asking him with force to reconsider that move. Sneijder in particular is very close to Jorritsma and everything De Breuk does now, should be in service of the First Team.

The pressure is on though, and Blind will realise that a loss vs Sweden will put him under a lot of pressure. As the KNVB will have to replace the two assistant coaches, they might well decide to let Blind go as well. At this stage, it would be hard for any inexperienced coach to keep his head clear and the KNVB might be forced to go to the aforementioned Aad de Mos or Co Adriaanse to rejuvenate the team.

board NL

The power brokers from left: outgoing Van Oostveen, Michael van Praag (ex Ajax chair but sadly invisible at KNVB), unkown and new general manager Gijs de Jong (no reason to smile, but probably happy to be promoted)

Despite this pressure, the players are quite stoic. Kevin Strootman simply believes that we shouldn’t get to worked up about results in friendlies. “We need to do the business on Tuesday. We shouldn’t be too focused on a loss or a win in a friendly. When we need to do the business, we will, I’m certain. And don’t forget, it we would have beaten Greece, everyone would have said “yeah nice guys, but don’t forget: we need to win next week!”. We conceded two goals and that was too easy. But it’s not the fault of this player or that player. It’s a team failure. We lost too many duels at one stage. We need to act better as a team. We did ok in the friendlies before the Euros. And we didn’t give away too much. Even against Greece, we only gave them two chances, but they did score in both situations. But hey, Greece at home… we should have won that game of course…”

stroot griek

Wijnaldum: “Whether we lose 1-2 vs Greece or win 5-0… Our plan for Sweden remains the same. The Greek game could have been 3-2 if Janssen had been a tad more lucky. We are focusing too much on the end result. My coach at Liverpool always says: The best players aren’t key to winning and even the best team is not key to a win. What is key is the best game plan. I don’t think we’ll have more pressure due to this loss. The pressure is on due to us not going to the Euros. We know this and we can handle it. Portugal won the Euros. Were they the best? Not really, but they worked as a team, gave it their all. Leicester in the EPL. And even Oranje at the WC2014. That is what we need to focus on, instead of the fact some players are injured or we seem to have a weaker generation. Klopp always says: “99% is simply not enough. You have to give 100% or go home.”

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Dutch football debacles continue: Ajax out of CL!

It has been quite a disappointing week – again – for Dutch football. Not a good way to start a Dutch Football Blog. Our disappointing Euro summer was even compounded with disgraceful antics at the Olympics in Rio. Not so much athletes being drunk, or orgies at the Olympic village or coaches groping young boys… But the Dutch mission chief; first sending gymnastics gold medal candidate Yuri van Gelder home after he decided to spend a night on the town with his girlfriend and missing a training session…as if this athlete (world champion) doesn’t know what he’s doing… And then this moron sent all the “losing” athletes home prior to the closing event, on what he deemed “the loser flight”. Taking away their once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of the Olympics Closing Ceremony. People who train four years or more for their big event, who already were disappointed with missing any trophy. To put insult to injury, “our” Chief decided to punish them further by sending them home, like little kids! The Dutch sports fans are irate (as I am) and nothing is done about it of course.


We also saw money grabbing Dick Advocaat leaving the Oranje camp, for some extra euros in Turkey and when the KNVB approached Ruud Gullit to take Dick’s place in the backroom staff, he happily said “he would love to be of support to the Oranje team”. But only a couple of days later, he returned the invite to the KNVB’s technical director Hans van Breukelen, saying he was insulted with the package offered to him.

Gullit wanted to be a full blown staff member and was keen to be able to scout the Dutch players in his preparation for his job. The KNVB felt it wasn’t needed. Gullit was not required at meetings, would not get a travel budget to see games. Might have been a way to simply let him decline the job, for PR reasons (the KNVB is under a lot of pressure) and as Gullit also demanded a clause in his contract allowing him to jump ship when a better deal would come by. Not a strong thing to demand, if Dick Advocaat just used this clause to find the exit. Gullit, allegedly, also demanded to be promoted when either Danny or Marco decided to leave… Another clause Van Breukelen wouldn’t agree to. So, two days after the news got out that the former AC Milan and Oranje legend would join the team, he did not…


All in all, frowns were visible on the foreheads of many analysts in The Netherlands. Danny Blind, team manager, simply does not have a lot of experience as a club coach. He coached Ajax in total for 14 months or so. Marco van Basten had one year at Ajax and some seasons at a lower level, only to conclude that “head coach wasn’t this thing”. As an Oranje team manager, he didn’t do so badly, by the way.

So the KNVB decided to pick a seasoned, experienced coach to support Blind and Bassie. And Advocaat fits that bill. With the Dick leaving again, suddenly Ruud Gullit was seen as the perfect replacement. Say what? The last time Gullit was club coach was 10 years ago, and his work at clubs like Newcastle, Feyenoord and LA Galaxy can not be summarized as “successful”. How on Earth does that KNVB work…. Anyway, Gullit is out and now Blind and co will get their second assistant after the Greek friendly.


Hans Jorritsma, key in all organisational aspects of Oranje

On top of all that, the KNVB has decided that Hans Jorritsma will have to make way. The team manager and former hockey coach (winning gold and world titles) worked for the KNVB for 20 years. He reaches retirement age but was definitely not unwilling to stay on. Danny Blind was keen to have the man on board. “Jorritsma is one of the best organisers I know and with Russia 2018 on the horizon, his experience could be vital. I was not heard in this decision and I am not happy. I will let the federation know.”

Jorritsma has been hailed by former coaches (Van Gaal, Van Marwijk) but was allegedly “used” by the KNVB to help sack Guus Hiddink (technically, his boss), which helped Blind into the job, of course.

More to come I’m sure.


The new technical director, Hans De Breuk Van Breukelen. Lost two assistants in the process already…

In the meantime, Danny Blind has to gel together a team to play the key first qualification game vs Sweden in a week and a bit. Robben still injured, Van Persie not really in great form, De Vrij not match fit, Memphis hardly used, Eljero Elia injured and many other regulars not in great shape (Janmaat, Martins Indi, Veltman). The transfer period is still open and the likes of Bas Dost and Jasper Cillesen are with their heads and hearts involved in relocation plans, finding homes, learning languages and other logistics.

We seem to do alright with goalies of course. Stekelenburg had two great games for the Toffees in the EPL while Jeroen Zoet is doing well after his quality progression last season. CF Barcelona’s new goalie Cillessen had a pretty shitty start this season but it still a good goalie of course. Blind might decide to start with Zoet or Stekelenburg to keep the new Barca keeper out of the wind a bit.

Cillessen barca


Defensively, Van Aanholt impresses again at Sunderland. Daryl Janmaat made his move back to the EPL (Watford) and might play himself into the limelight again. Daley Blind and Van Dijk perform well, as does Ron Vlaar but the Ajax defenders have been disappointing. Willems also hasn’t reached his level of before his injury and might also be trying to make a late transfer deal.

In midfield we see similar issues with the Ajax contingent playing below par. The PSV midfielders have impressed, and so much so that Tonny Vilhena is not part of the current squad. Jorrit Hendrix joins the squad after a good start with PSV, while Propper, Wijnaldum, Sneijder and Strootman seems to be mainstays by now for Oranje. I hope.


PSV prospect Jorrit Hendrix

Up front, Huntelaar and Memphis have been dropped. New Spurs strong man Janssen will lead the line with Luuk de Jong and Bas Dost as pinch hitters and Promes, Berghuis and Narsingh vying for the winger roles.

Blind: “I spoke with Huntelaar and told him Vincent would lead the line and he agreed with me that he is not the ideal pinchhitter. I have Dost and De Jong for this and we decided to not work together at this stage. It was a pleasant conversation. Klaas-Jan was ok with it.”

The team manager also spoke with Van Persie: “He still is not in great shape. He is fit, but not match fit. Now Advocaat is his new coach he might well get more minutes. Last weekend he played 70 minutes as a starter, so who knows. I have not written him off.”


Stefan de Vrij is also not yet part of Blind’s plans: “He was out of contention for a long time. He just made his return at Lazio. I told him I need him to focus on getting rhythm back and once he has established that at Lazio, it’s a new situation.”

Memphis Depay simply hasn’t played enough. “I spoke to Memphis too. He was disappointed of course, but he only played 1 minute, I believe. I think his main concern should be to get into the 18 player squad for Mourinho. Then he will get more minutes and once he is back in regular game time, we will assess him again.”

We are all nicely focused on Oranje of course, but you will all be aware of Ajax’ failure – again! – to reach the CL group stages by beating an opponent in the qualification stages… This time, Rostov seemed to strong. I can’t remember all the other teams that blocked Ajax in reaching the millionaire’s ball, but it was teams like Salzburg or Augsburg or Prague or something like that… Not Juventus, or Chelsea. Rostov… Don’t have words for it, really.

Blind presser

Ajax is not Ajax anymore. They got their asses handed to them and suffered their biggest European defeat since…. 1732?

I think Frank de Boer, heavily criticised for his conservative and boring game plans despite his titles, was aware of the lack of brilliance, class and leadership in his squad. This is why Ajax played un-Ajax football in the last seasons. He covered it well. They won 4 consecutive titles in the 6 seasons he was there. And in the earlier seasons at the helm, he even had Vertonghen, Eriksen and the likes at his disposal.

With Peter Bosz as coach, Ajax wanted to play like Ajax again. Bosz seems the right coach for this job. His teams always played adventurous, ballsy and at times almost suicidal… With Hendrie Kruzen (former 1988 Oranje squad member and Euros winner) as assistant, he made an impression at Heracles, Vitesse and recently at Tel Aviv. The former Feyenoord skipper failed as technical director at Feyenoord but seems to be more at home as coach. But Ajax’ Eredivisie start is horrendous, with Feyenoord already 5 points ahead of their rivals. The CL campaign could have fixed the early pressure but with the dressing down of the Sons of Gods, the pressure is on!

bosz kruzen

Ajax assistant Hendrie Kruzen with head coach Peter Bosz

A quick analysis of Ajax tells you that 1) they lack leadership and build up qualities at the back (Viergever is not Blind, Sanchez is not De Boer, Riedewald is not (yet) Rijkaard, 2) too many similar players in midfield (Bazoer, Gudelj are not playmakers) and Klaassen is the man who needs to play the killer pass and be on the other receiving end of it, 3) forwards lack class (El Ghazi is not Finidi or Van ‘t Schip, Younes is no Overmars or Roy and the center forwards are no Van Basten or Kieft).

Ajax has close to 150 mio euros sitting in the bank account, after Milik’s and Cillessen’s departures (32 Mio + 14 Mio). That money is getting close to 3% interest without a doubt, but Berghuis is now at Feyenoord, Ziyech is still at Twente and Haps is still at AZ…

hakim ajax

Latest news of course, is now that Ajax got done by Rostov, Mark Overmars is frantically renegotiating with FC Twente and Ziyech’s manager to get the winger/playmaker to play for Ajax. A bit late. But very much needed…

We’ll see how things will develop…

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