Tag: Turkey

Pressing Masterclass by Louis van Gaal

Michels was known to be a burly, surly man. Never a smile. Never a kind word. A disciplinarian. But in his final days as a coach (1988 and 1992) he suddenly emerged as a charmer. An amateur opera singer and a funny guy. He softened up a bit and the world was witness to it.

Louis van Gaal always said Michel was his great example. And like Rinus, Van Gaal is now working on his last (??) trick and guess what: the stern school teacher has become funny, open, generous and warm. What age can do…

The Dutch started their fore-checking – as we called it back then – in the 1970s and it has always been part of the game plan, albeit never continiously. The Germans called it gegenpressing and there are different terms to explain what it is and how it works.

Van Gaal calls it Total Pressing and after the Turkey game he complimented his team: “it is remarkable what they have done. They played total pressing for 90 minutes! And my subs did the same thing. They came into the team and the flow was never paused or anything. I am very proud of my players.”

When asked what Total Pressing is, he was quite brief. “Simple, you play the high press everywhere on the pitch.”

Van Gaal’s Total Press can be seen in two typical situations: when Turkey has the ball or when Oranje looses possession. “The turnaround was managed perfectly,” Van Gaal added.

Look at how the first goal happened. Where the German coaches never seem to care too much about the opponent, when they start the press, Louis is different and ordered his men to play man-to-man in the situation of a press. Three players focus on the ball but the rest of the team (Mempgis, Klaassen, Frenkie) all make sure they cover a Turkish option, making it even harder for the Turks to find a way out.

Van Gaal’s total press concept is more based on the Argentinian school of Bielsa and Pochettino than the German School.

Look at the actions on the other wing.

The Turks are put under pressure on the flank and a bunch of Orange wolves immediately focused on putting all relevant opponents under pressure. This is how Oranje was able to suffocate all potential counter attacks.

Every time Turkey had time on the ball, the options in the centre of the park were covered off, forcing them to go to the wings, where the pack of Orange wolves would immediately force them to turn over the ball.

Optically, the press didn’t appear aggressive. This is because Van Gaal didn’t want to pressure the goalie. This would force him to go long, and Van Gaal wanted him to build up from the back. Interestingly, De Boer played 4-3-3 in the Turkey away game and statistically, it seems our press was more successful in that game. The Passes Per Defensive Action (PPDA) was only 8,4 in the De Boer managed match, and 13.1 in the Van Gaal led game. This image below explains it somewhat.

De Boer instructed Malen to stay close to the right CB forcing the Turks to build up via their right full back. He became the free man.

And it was left back Wijndal’s task to pick up that right back while left central defender Blind was going to take on the Turkish right winger, which resulted in a one v one situation in our defence.

What you see here, is that Wijndal repeatedly was high up on the pitch, sprinting towards his man. This aggressive variant meant that the Turks couldn’t really use their passing game to build up. Under De Boer the Dutch were more successful breaking up the passing, than the Van Gaal Oranje team. But… this forced the Turkish goalie to go long and both Yilmaz and Karaman won five aerial battles for the ball, and this resulted in danger as Oranje played 3 v 3 at the back. In other words, the Turkish coach found a way to undo De Boer’s battleplan.

And it would immediately be “all hands on deck” as our defensive organisation was immediately shot and our midfield couldn’t track back fast enough. The 3rd and 4th Turkish goal both came from a long ball up the park and with our defenders and midfielders unable to deal with it.

Van Gaal learned the lesson. He took way less risk on the flanks with the press.

This moment above shows Turkey trying to play out of the Dutch pressure. A couple of differences with the De Boer tactics come to mind. In the win over Turkey, we were able to pin their midfielders. Van Gaal didn’t want the Turks to shift the game from left to right. This would give Oranje good opportunities to put pressure on their flank and outnumber them. The second difference is the position of our left winger. Where Malen pushed on the central defender, it is here Bergwijn in that role but he is covering the right back and the right centre back by positioning in between them. The third difference being Memphis’ role. He was positioned in front of Soyuncu and not behind him. Memphis didn’t mark him, but simply stopped the pass into him. Turkey was forced to build up using Demiral, a lesser passer.

And another example of the changes, you can see above. Blind in the left back role stayed in his zone, instead of Wijndal in the away game who abandoned that zone. In combination with Virgil’s aerial strength, the Turkish long balls never really got us in trouble.

Another example. No pressure on the ball, but all passing avenues were shut tight, with Wijnaldum even in front of his man. The only player we wanted to have the ball was right footed left back Muldur.

On that ball was played, the wolf pack would kick into gear. Berghuis covering the forward ball, Memphis covering their libero and Wijnaldum ready to knick the ball away too. There simply was no escape.

At times, the Turks came up with a solution. In the above situation, Demiral drops further deep to make the space between him and the right back to big to cover. Interestingly enough, Davy Klaassen recognises it and points to Bergwijn to drop back. The result: Demiral still can’t build up from the back and is forced to play a risky ball.

Here you can see how fluid we played. Klaassen, Bergwijn and Memphis are now the forward three while Berghuis drops in to support the midfield and Wijnaldum tracks back to support his defenders. Daley Blind has taken over the coaching role from Klaassen and instructs Bergwijn in his movements. Demiral plays the risky ball and Oranje gets possession back because the distances between the players were spot on and the passing lines were interrupted.

Just before the break there was a situation where Blind simply had to step up. Memphis pushed onto Soyuncu and Bergwijn pushed onto Demiral. The midfield was marked so the goalie went for a risky pass to the right wing. Yilmaz had drifted to the left side to give his team options so Blind abandoning his zone was not a highly risky move. Van Dijk moved into the role and allowed Blind to press their right back.

That what was standard under De Boer versus Turkey was just an exception in the Van Gaal tactics.

The important thing for Van Gaal is, making sure the right opponent gets the ball. The goalie, the worst build up player and/or the full backs. The left back of Turkey ended up as the player with the most touches and the lowest pass accuracy. In the away game, he had been the player with the least touches.

Van Gaal didn’t play one v one over the pitch and didn’t let his team hunt for the ball constantly. When the weaker players were on the ball in a particular zone, he would order the press. The players asked for clarity, he said before he started his role in this international break. It seems he gave it to them. That he was able to prep the team according to his principles in a week’s time is quite remarkable.

( data via Opta, images via Instat, thanks to Pieter Zwart of VI Pro)

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Dutch devour Turkish Delight

What a night. We had early goals before (WC finals 1974 anyone?) and it hasn’t always resulted in greatness. This time, things seem different. An early goal. Another goal in the first 15 minutes and a very energetic and focused performance.

Things are taking a turn for the better in LVG’s third spell at the helm.

And what a quality goals they all were! Amazing to see how “question marks” like Berghuis, Klaassen, Dumfries and Bergwijn stepped up to the plate and played their key parts in this wonderful win.

The line up was logical. Van Gaal only put experienced Blind back in for Malacia and used Bergwijn in place of Gakpo on the left. He is clearly cementing his favourite eleven (or fifteen, rather) and slowly but surely his go-to guys are making their mark.

Justin Bijlow will be the new #1, hopefully for years to come. Stefan de Vrij was picked ahead of De Ligt and again he was one of the Men of the Match. De Vrij was solid on the ball, focused in his defending and overall Mr Cool at the back.

Frenkie showed his class as did Memphis again and the Oranje right flank, wanting versus Norway, impressed from the start with Dumfries and Berghuis demonstrating their connection.

But it helps, a goal in the first minute of course. And a quick second – also a beauty – helps even more. Oranje demonstrated their swagger without becoming arrogant.

The pace was good, the creativity was visible more and more and the workrate was just outstanding. If the Dutch can keep this mentality up, we are definitely back!

The criticasters on this blog will probably point out Dumfries “hard feet”, or Berghuis’ risky passing, or Blind’s one moment of lack of concentration (letting the ball slip), but overall, I think we can be happy with the step up Oranje made.

There was one moment in the 65th minute which will have made Van Gaal pissed off. Berghuis has the ball in midfield, there is no movement whatsoever. Dumfries is walking, no runs or options. The ball stays there in that zone. Koopmeiners comes to help, Van Dijk comes to help but between the three they suddenly lose the ball for no reason. We tidied it up, without a problem but that little moment must have angered the gaffer.

Being 4-0 up against 10 men, and then exchanging key players (Frenkie, Wijnaldum) never helps the flow of the game of course but these are little moments that need to be ruled out.

Two more goals (subs Til and Malen) and a horrific scare in the last seconds, when goalie Bijlow makes his only mistake in selling Van Dijk short, allowing Under to score a consolation goal, and an annoying knock for Captain Van Dijk. Van Gaal will not be happy (and neither will Klopp be).

The attacking play was excellent. False striker Memphis was everywhere again, Berghuis and Bergwijn played disciplined on the wings. Dumfries was marauding as per usual and Frenkie and Gini kept ticking things over.

A solid performance allround with some incredible moves and exciting play.

Captain Virgil was happy with the performance. It all seemed to fall into place: “This is what we wanted, and the early goal helps a lot of course. We played with intensity, with focus and it’s wonderful when it all clicks.”

Hattrick hero Memphis was less positive. “I think we did well but I think we have room to grow. And I am talking about myself more than anything. My first touches were poor and I feel there is more in us than we showed. And even though we score 6 and I score 3, we need to keep on focusing on improving because we want to do this against the top nations as well.”

Coach Louis van Gaal was beaming from ear to ear: “We have seen an outstanding performance. This group is so good and so great to work with. They have an opinion, they operate as a group, they welcome new players, it’s quite impressive. This is the best group I’ve ever worked with. And sure, I can see room for improvement. We lost the ball too often and we also didn’t play in a very high pace. Against 10 men you need to up the pace and find the free man, but overall we did play some good football and we scored some amazing goals!”

Van Gaal deserves the Man of the Match award, he clearly did everything right. But of the players on field, for me, Klaassen, De Vrij and Memphis (again) were the pick of the bunch.

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Van Gaal focuses on Turkey

Today was the presser pre-Turkey. The fact that Gakpo and Nathan Ake had to leave the trainings camp. Gakpo due to injury, Ake for ‘personal reasons’.

Van Gaal was disappointed, as “we don’t have a lot of wingers in the first place”. Gakpo would probably have played against Turkey. Van Gaal didn’t want to make the Turkey coach smarter, but he did say that Daley Blind returns into the team.

Memphis Depay was Van Gaal’s colleague representing the Dutch, explaining how playing against a compact shaped opponent works. Less space, lots of physical challenges. But Memphis demonstrated his usual swagger and confidence in his response: “We are confident, we know what we need to do. We will get our chances.”

Van Gaal furthermore lauded the Turkish coach, for his smart and his ability to turn the Turkish egos into the team. Van Gaal expects a counter-attacking Turkey and will analyse the way Turkey find their space moving forward.

Furthermore, Van Gaal expressed his belief that the Turkey match is not “a finals” but it is a key game for us. We play at home, and should have that extra to make a difference against Turkey. Van Gaal thinks the Turkey match will be the toughest match for the Dutch.

The question how Van Gaal and Depay were able to mend their relationship was answered in a balanced way by Memphis. “I think I was a different player and a different human being back then. We didn’t have a lot of success together but that doesn’t mean there was a lot of drama. That was magnified by the media.” Van Gaal added: “I can’t say it better than him. I recognised his talent when he was 20 years old and took him to the World Cup. I also took him with me to Manchester United, but that didn’t work too well. But that was partly also the team. I positioned Memphis on the #10 position! Not as winger. I think he, as an intuitive player, is at his best on that position, like he plays with us. As a false striker. The team couldn’t carry him and when I placed him as left winger, he started to get blockages. And my analysis, he didn’t have the orientation qualities he has now. He had trouble with the activities around him, to scan it fast enough. Now, he has developed and he is now as good as I knew he would be. He has unbelievable qualities.”

“Team work is super important. That was the case for Memphis at Man United but also for instance, Berghuis and Dumfries. By playing Dumfries, Berghuis will be able to play better. When I play Klaassen as a box to box player, this will help Memphis.”

Speaking of Memphis: he always cops a lot of criticism. Is it his rapping? His fashion style? His tattoos, or his swagger? No matter, because he just scored goal #29 and 30, getting close to the top 10 of top scorers in Orange. And only one player was younger than Memphis in that top 10.

After the Norway game: “I expected more from myself. I wasn’t able to make a difference, but I do need that ball quicker. I only have half a second of freedom and that is when the ball needs to be played in. Otherwise I have a big defender on my heels and I can’t turn that easily.”

Against Montenegro, this worked better. Although Memphis did start as a striker, but was everywhere on the pitch, except for…the striker position. That was the area where Klaassen and Wijnaldum ended up. The partnership between Gakpo and Memphis is developing rapidly and they both were involved in several goals. The penalty kick Memphis converted is his sixth and he now only had Koeman (8), Van Persie (7) and Neeskens (7) ahead of him. More coming, I’m sure.

Memphis played 70 internationals and was involved in 53 goals. That is superb. Only eleven Oranje platers scored more than 30 goals. Memphis is part of that list now. Only Kluivert was younger than Memphis. Kluivert did need less games though, as did Huntelaar and Bergkamp.

Faas Wilkes in the late ’50s needed 33 matches. Cruyff only 38. Of the modern era, Huntelaar needed 48 matches. Record holder Robin van Persie need 69 matches, just one less than Memphis.

It seems clear that Memphis will topple Van Persie and grab the record. He’s only 27 years old, so should he score 5 goals per season and has another 5 years on the clock, he’ll add 25 goals to his tally, reaching 55 goals for his country. Robin van Persie has 50 goals from 102 matches.

In terms of assists, Memphis is the #5 on the all time assist list behind Sneijder, Robben, Van der Vaart and Bergkamp and #6 on the combined list behind Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder, Bergkamp, Huntelaar. Great company to be in.

I think it is time for all of us to realise that Memphis Depay is becoming another Oranje legend, in the same way Cruyff, Van Hanegem, Neeskens, Gullit, Van Basten, Bergkamp, Van der Vaart, Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder are Oranje legends…

This is my line up (well, the line up I think Van Gaal will use) for the Turkey game.
I expect a 3-0 win (again) with Berghuis, Memphis and Bergwijn to score.

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We’re back in action (almost)!

After a bit of a break (and a lot of Olympics ! ) it’s time to focus on football again. This weekend, the Eredivisie starts and so do some of the competitions around us (EPL, Ligue 1, etc).

National Team Manager Louis van Gaal also presented his prelim squad for the upcoming September WC qualification games.

The news that dominated the sports papers though, was Messi’s exit from Barca. Much has been said about it. I have to admit: I was saddened by the news. The guy wants to play at Camp Nou but other people’s mistakes (and maybe some foul play by Real Madrid??) have pushed the Best Player Ever ™ out. We all saw the presser, we all have our own ideas about it. I’m sure Memphis will have mixed feelings. Would it be grand to play with Leo? Yes it would. But without Messi, there is a vacuum in leadership and star-ship (?) and Memphis will be the first to put his hand up to take the free-kicks and penalties from now on.

Wijnaldum must be giggling himself to sleep. One of the reasons why he desperately hoped on a deal with Barca was the chance to play alongside Messi. The finances weren’t good enough for Team Wijnaldum and when PSG offered him twice the deal Barcelona had on the table, he decided to go for his future generations, more than his ego.

And guess what, Gini will be super busy in that midfield now, knowing that Mbappe, Neymar and Messi are not known for their zealous pressing. Wijnaldum might well turn out to be PSG’s key player, amongst all those Hollywood stars.

In the Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord impress. PSV because of their rollercoaster games in the CL qualifications, with power in midfield, speed up front and goals. Schmidt and Co were able to secure the services of Brazilian Ramalho who made an impression. Boscagli bounced back from his horrific start under Van Bommel and in midfield Marco van Ginkel is playing like a true Roman emperor: back straight, always looking over the ball and playing like a real captain. With the likes of Propper, Sangare and Gotze in midfield, PSV is a formidable challenger for the title. English junior international Madueke claimed all the headlines with his goals, while we all know that Cody Gakpo is destined for great things too! Mo Ihattaren who?

Feyenoord impressed too, not so much due to the wins over Drita and Luzern (which you could expect) or the “friendly” victory over Atletico Madrid, but more due to the fact that coach Arne Slot’s ideas are being processed and implemented so easily, it seems. The addition of CB Trauner from Austria is a big plus, as Feyenoord can now play higher up the pitch. Danish RB Pedersen also adds speed to Feyenoord’s defence. Marco Senesi is impressing with his passing ability and in midfield it seems Guus Til has been able to convince Van Gaal to give him a look in, with his prolific goal scoring and work rate. Up front, Iranian Jahanbakhsh will dazzle the Legion and we also expect Sinistera to get back to his full form and fitness after his tough injury. Oh, and if goalies are key to winning games and titles: Ajax has 37 year old Pasveer, PSV has the somewhat insecure Drommel but Feyenoord has the future Oranje goalie between the sticks. That could well be the differentiator.

We don’t need to mention Ajax, I don’t think. They are in good shape. When you have Blind, Tadic, Antony, Berghuis, Kudus, Timber, Schuurs, Martinez and Klaassen in your squad, you will be the title favorite. Although for me, Ajax will most likely focus more on the CL this season.

In other news, Dumfries finally gets his transfer to Inter. Van Aanholt moves to Turkey. Donyell Malen impresses at Dortmund, Donny van de Beek buffed up in the gym and Virgil is back in action and just signed a new deal with Liverpool.

Which brings us to Louis, who explained how he works as the National Team Manager.

As per usual, Van Gaal is not afraid to give youngsters their debut. In this case, maybe also an oldster. Remko Pasveer, Justin Bijlow and Joel Drommel could all make their debut in Oranje, as could Tyrell Malacia as left back and Devyne Rensch as right back. The Feyenoord LB is the only real left back in the squad, as Van Gaal doesn’t believe Wijndal and Van Aanholt have the fitness levels currently.

Stekelenburg has ended his international career and Cillesen is still not fit.

Louis van Gaal creates a squad every week (!), usually. Even in weeks/months when the NT doesn’t play. This makes his life easier and this is how it works. LVG and his staff use three stages in their work: preparation, execution and evaluation. Execution is the match itself, obviously. The preparation consists of: 1) analysis of opponent, 2) selecting the NT squad, 3) downloading information to the players via tactical talks, video analysis and training.

The evaluation is in group processes and individual, also with video analysis.

In his first tenure as NT coach, in 2000 for the 2002 World Cup, he made a crucial mistake. He decided to trust the core of players he worked with before: Davids, Seedorf, Kluivert, De Boer bros, etc. He gave them his trust also when they didn’t perform. He stopped doing this. For the 2014 World Cup, he went with his system and playing principles and picking the players who were in form, in full fitness and mentally ready (to be coached).

He produced a profile per position in the team and that is the benchmark for picking players. Then it’s all about: form, talent, fitness. He has a group of around 60 potentials, which he follows with his staff every week. Every Monday, he and his staff gather in Zeist to discuss the games they’ve seen and in particular the performance of the players. And every Tuesday, he’d make a 23 player squad. And thus, making his final squad for a certain NT match is an easy process. The skeleton frame is there, it’s just a matter of checking which of the lads is potentially injured, or lost his spot or has issues otherwise…

In 2,5 weeks, our beloved NT is ready to rumble again. Away against Norway on September 1, at home vs Montenegro on September 4 and at home v Turkey on September 7. By then, we know where we stand…

This is my eleven for Norway away. The other line ups will have to wait (depends on result, on fitness, etc).

What is your fave line up for Norway away? In the comments please :-).

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Oranje on the road to Qatar

Not selecting Weghorst but bringing Stekelenburg back to Oranje are the two main talking points re: Oranje.

The first training is behind them, for the WC qualifiers. Rene Wormhoudt was leading the warming up. Assistant coach Ruud van Nistelrooy and Maarten Stekelenburg (the other one) were managing the rondos, and keeper trainer Patrick Lodewijks was working with his three goalies while senior assistant Lodeweges was managing the attacking patterns. With Frank de Boer interrupting from time to time.

Memphis and Gini Wijnaldum are the last to leave the trainingsground after practicing their free kicks. Frank de Boer was watching from a distance, big smile on his face.

At Crystal Palace, he used to practice with the rest and would get some flak from the players (“Show-off!”) when he curled another ball in the top corner…

Frank de Boer is aware of the humbug concerning Weghorst, Stekelenburg (the goalie) and the Qatar situation in general but wants to focus on the ball. Three qualification games are planned (Turkey on Wednesday, Latvia on Saturday and Gibraltar on Tuesday. This will be the last opportunity for De Boer to weigh his players before we start the prep for the Euros mid May. Without skipper Virgil van Dijk, if we have to believe Jurgen Klopp.

Normally, Stefan de Vrij would come in for Virgil, but the former Feyenoord has tested positive for Covid. Nathan Ake is also absent, as he missed months of game time due to a muscle injury. But there is no shame in playing Daley Blind and Mathijs de Ligt in the centre defence.

Frank de Boer seems to build on the work Koeman left him, with as key difference, the use of a real number 9 in Luuk de Jong and Memphis back on the left wing. Koeman struggled with that position himself as well. Under his reign, we saw Justin Kluivert there, Arnaut Danjuma, Dilrosun and Boadu but Koeman constantly went back to mainstay Ryan Babel.

Right wing is also not a settled spot. Steven Berghuis has the most caps, Calvin Stengs is considered our biggest prospect and Steven Bergwijn has experience in a top competition.

There are heaps of choices at right back. Kenny Tete’s return gives De Boer more options, on a position where Dumfries and Hateboer seemed to have their stamp. Joel Veltman can play there too, as can Jerry St Juste, while Rick Karsdorp is knocking loudly on the door as well.

On the left, Daley Blind seems to have that spot as his, but Van Aanholt and Wijndal are strong contenders when the Ajax man is needed elsewhere. Daley Sinkgraven is an option outside of the squad, but looking in…

In midfield, Tonny Vilhena and Kevin Strootman – southpaws both – seemed to surpassed by Teun Koopmeiners, who excels week in week out for AZ. He’s currently with Young Oranje but for the Euros, you can count on the AZ captain to be present.

The battle for the third midfielder spot will be interesting. Frenkie and Gini are beyond discussion, so the third spot will be between Klaassen, De Roon and Gravenberch. Davy Propper is working on his fitness while Donny van de Beek hasn’t had enough games, you’d think.

The meeting with Turkey on Wednesday is the 13th match up. The last time we met was 6 September 2015, when we lost painfully, 3-0. We lost three times against them and we won five matches. Four games were undecided.

Daley Blind is about to play his 75th cap and is the 22nd player to do so in Oranje. Blind is the most experienced international, with Gini Wijnaldum and Ryan Babel as 2nd and 3rd (respectively 70 and 67 caps).

Frank de Boer at the presser about his decision to ignore Weghorst. The former Heracles striker scored 22 times this season but hasn’t gotten the chance to add another cap to the last game he played in November 2019. He has played four international games so far.

“I had to choose between Luuk and Wout and I picked Luuk. I understand it’s delicate. It’s a very tough call, also for me. And definitely for him of course. He has performed ever so well but so did Luuk at Oranje. We now only have a couple of days to prep for this important match vs Turkey and taking that into consideration I decided to go with the player who is used to our processes, who knows the way we work and train… Luuk.”

“I did call Wout and explained it to him. It’s a tough call and he wasn’t happy with me, that can be clear for all. I told him to keep on making it hard for me. He is knocking on the door… or even worse, he hit a couple of holes in the door already. This was the most difficult decision I had to make.”

“I do feel they’re a bit the same, as types. And yes, I can take both, but for now I think, for these three games, I needed Luuk only. But Wout is heavily on the radar for the Euros. I truly admire him and we will follow him. Others know that they also have to keep on performing to stay in the race. Wout is definitely in the mix for the Euros.”

I think Frank should play this eleven:


Dumfries – De Ligt – Blind – Wijndal

Klaassen – Frenkie – Wijnaldum

Berghuis – Memphis – Malen

I can see us win this game 1-3, with Memphis, Malen and Klaassen on the score sheet. Expect a top game by Wijndal!

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Oranje licking wounds preparing for Spain

As per usual, I found myself in decent company. Both Dutch football gurus Van Hanegem and Cruyff lamented Hiddink’s line up choices after the game vs Turkey. Both legends of the game and former success coaches felt the midfield set up was wanting, with the slower build up in the hands feet of Nigel de Jong and Martins Indi while Afellay was out of place as right winger and Wijnaldum got choked up in the masses around the Turkey box.

You need quick feet, decisive passing and good running patterns to break down a team like Turkey. Clasie has that in spades. Klaassen offers you the penetration options and with Promes and Narsingh you have real right wingers…so why not use them? Van Hanegem went a step further and implied that in his line up Blind would have started on the bench, with Willems on the left back spot. “Willems has the best left foot in Dutch football, so if you want to service Huntelaar, you’d want to use him.” Both Cruyff and De Kromme felt that too many passes went from defence (Martins Indi) to De Jong (midfield) and back. “If you play like this, the player in midfield is always with his back to the opponent’s box. What can he do? He needs to get the ball in his feet while facing the goal. The way to do this is to play the ball to the forwards, who pass it back into the feet of the penetrating midfielders. Martins Indi and De Jong won’t play those passes.”


Klaassen and Janmaat

Cruyff also mentioned Klaassen in particular, who – in JC’s vision – has the right skills and positionings smarts the team needs.

Cruyff felt it was a chore to watch the team play.

Now, I have to be frank with you. I wrote my earlier post without having had a chance to see the game. I have now watched the game in its entirety and what I am about to tell you will shock you:

It was NOT that bad.

Yes, Martins Indi and De Jong are not the right guys for the build up. I agree. Like I said, I would have been comfortable to use Veltman instead of Martins Indi or even Daley Blind as center back. I like Willems a lot and would have loved to have played him. And Clasie in place of De Jong. All that is a given.

But despite this, the team was focused, worked well and tried hard to get something happening against a sturdy and tough defending Turkey. We might not have had many open chances but I did count a number of good distance strikes from Sneijder (one free kick that would have been out of reach of the goalie), a pretty decent early chance for Depay, a shooting opportunity for Depay later on in the first 30 minutes…. Then we had that flick by De Vrij, scooped away by the goalie. There was a distance strike from Afellay that deserved better. That weird Narsingh flunked chance and Willems with an inside foot riser. And after the 1-1, Depay even had the opportunity to kill the game for us but missed.


Narsingh should have scored

The team kept the field wide. Dost did what he could to lay off balls. Blind and De Vrij played very decent. And Sneijder took his responsibility. Wijnaldum and Afellay were poor but I blame Hiddink partly for this, as Afellay should not have to play right wing.

In my view, there are two major causes for this performance:

1. The inheritance of the World Cup 2014

Oranje had a dominant leader in the last two years. Van Gaal moulded and fabricated a system and pushed the squad into that mould in weeks on end, before we started the World Cup. In dominant LVG style. After the World Cup, a number of things happened that had a tremendous effect. 1) Van Gaal left and with him the dominant in your face mentality, and 2) Hiddink came… a relaxed grandfather type laissez-fair coach. 3) opponents were/are extra motivated to play us as we were the #3 in the world. 4) Hiddink wants to or was told to go back to a more Dutch style 4-3-3 system and 5) key players were injured at key moments or players were distracted in the early stages of the season due to their moves to bigger clubs ( Porto, Lazio Roma, Man United, Newcastle United).

2. The tactical mistakes of Guus Hiddink

The KNVB decided to hang on to Danny Blind for the future, the LVG adept, but with Guus Hiddink as his mentor. Hiddink, being a totally different coach than Van Gaal (and Blind). Literally, the opposite on the spectrum. And Hiddink was given the task to let Oranje play more “Dutch school”.  So Guus goes 4-3-3 but everyone knows Guus is conservative, so he decided to use a midfielder as winger and destroyer Nigel de Jong as dreh-und-angel punkt as the Germans call it. The pivot. Wrong wrong wrong. You want Huntelaar to get service and you use two wingers who will drift inside and go for glory….


Memphis on the radar of Man United and Man City

This Oranje has been wounded from the first game. There is no real system, no automatisms in the team. The flow is gone as there is no real game plan and the players don’t fit the team tasks. And if you see the look on Blind’s face on the bench next to Hiddink you know enough…. Where is the pleasure, where is the football smarts?

Afellay is not really doing well in Greece. Martins Indi lost his spot in Portugal. Nigel de Jong has a dramatic season with AC Milan…. They are all big names, but the names don’t correspond with form. Why not Veltman? Or even Van Beek? Bazoer? Klaassen? Clasie?

The game against Spain will be an interesting one. If there is one team in the world with a game plan and clarity in how they play it is Spain. And they’re opposing a team that is drifting and swirling. In that game, Del Bosque says his team is not out looking for revenge. He might be truthful: “We just want to play a good game of football.” I do hope Hiddink’s lads are out for revenge though. On themselves. Hiddink has already mentioned he will rest a number of players. And according to the newspapers, we’ll see the likes of Janmaat, Promes, De Guzman and Klaassen come in. Huh?

opstelling spain

Not a midfield I have a lot of faith in, to be honest

What good will that do? I think it is wrong. Against Spain, in a friendly, you need to test your preferred starting line up, or at least your defence. These lads will be tested. Against Turkey, who park the bus, you want quick young feet (Klaassen, Clasie) and against Spain you want a destroyer like Nigel de Jong! Not the other way around? Promes would have been good against Turkey. Against Spain, that might be a bit much for a youngster like him. De Guzman on the holding mid spot is also not what I’d like to see. Use De Guzman on no. 10, but please play Blind as holding mid, Guus, and use Willems as left back.

I would also like to see Vermeer in the goal, or Krul. Time for the goalies to do some rotating.

The Spain game only makes sense if we use it to get better. Just throwing the B-team in front of the train will not do us any good!

I’d like to know what the game plan is against Spain. Win? Win in any way possible? Or play 4-3-3 Dutch style and win? Or practice certain patterns and who cares about the result? Or let young players experience a big game? What is the objective of this game?

Maybe we need to play this guy below as the striker?

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Sneijder helps Oranje escape!

Bert van Marwijk was criticised to be a little bit too….blend. Too grey. Too vanilla. Not daring enough. So the KNVB wanted to go back to the swagger of total football. Back to the Dutch School. And decided to go with maverick coach Louis van Gaal. Results and attractive football are his two building blocks.

The headstrong egotistical coach did half the job right. He got results. He coached us to the #3 spot in the world. Not with great and attractive football though. But it was also never boring. Also thanks to the likes of Robben and Van Persie of course.

So when Louis left, it would have been logical to allow a similar type of coach pursue the objectives. A younger coach, who is closer to the younger generation of players. And who would be able to use the qualities of the likes of Blind, Depay, Clasie, Willems and Janmaat to create another footballing machine.

Someone like Danny Blind? Ronald Koeman?
hidd ruud

The KNVB claimed to be happy with Blind. And planning on giving him the job after 2016. Why not let him have a go? With Hiddink, in terms of football vision, we’d take a step back after Van Gaal. What was the reasoning? Is 53 year old Blind not senior enough? If not, would that be different in 2 years time?

The KNVB demonstrated their lack of balls (exactly what they want a coach to bring in to the team) by going for good ol’ Gus.

Against Turkey, which have a lot of phsyical strength and are good at parking the bus, you need agility in your team. Speed. Young legs. Good eyes. Everything Clasie has.

nigel turk

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not against Nigel de Jong. At all. He was the key player in Brazil for me, with Vlaar and Robben. But he is key against the likes of Spain, Argentina, Chile. Not Kazachstan or Turkey. And using Afellay as a winger? I have not seen the game as I write this and for all I know Afellay was great but he’s not a winger. Depay tends to come inside, and if you have Huntelaar in the team but no service from wide positions, you will make it hard on yourself. Playing one driftin’ winger (Depay) is ok, but the other one needs to be hugging the line a bit more. Narsingh? If you have him in the squad, why not use him?

turk team

These tactics (a midfielder as winger and a central midfielder with limited build up qualities) are typical for a coach like Hiddink. We needed to win. But we weren’t set up as such. With Clasie, the game is played faster. De Jong need two touches and two looks. Clasie needs one look and one touch. And with Narsingh there is your station going deep, instead of wanting it played into his feet.

I am not blaming Hiddink… He saw what Oranje did in Brazil. Then he got the job: “we need you to coach the team to the Euros and to mentor Blind”. Old Gus thought: easy. With Robben, RVP, Sneijder, Huntelaar…what can go wrong. We will easily get the third spot at least.

Well…. sadly. No. Holland started well. Got some deserved opportunities but failed to score. And just like in all other Euro qualification games, we conceded first.

So what happens next: confusion. As skipper Sneijder said after the game: we lost it a bit. Conceding is something we don’t handle well, although we had a lot of practice this qualifications…

Even Hiddink post-match said: “I will get this Oranje to perform… I just don’t know how yet…”

sneijder scoort turk

Not good soundbites. But Bas Dost said it right: “We could and should have won this!”. Sneijder and Afellay had some bad luck with distance strikes. Depay had his opportunities, hell even Narsingh could have proven Hiddink wrong.

Hiddink, again post-match: “We wanted to win this but we didn’t play well. It feels like we lost 2 points but maybe, at the end of the line, this draw might have given us the most valuable point…”

hunter dost

Btw, not sure who’ll get the goal. Sneijder seemed to have gotten it during the game but after the match, Huntelaar claimed it. “I saw the ball coming and thought if I flick it on the goalie won’t have a chance. I did it on purpose. It’s my goal.”

Anyway, we are still in it. No one will remember this game if we win the Euros in France, next year. We’re still no. 3 and we can lick our wounds and see if we can get some swing in our game vs Spain.

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Hiddink shows glimpses of his Oranje

Oops!! I forgot to give you my prediction!!

Well, I think we will win this 3-1. The Turks will score a late consolation goal. I think we’ll grab them by the throat and score an early goal (15 minutes or so) via Huntelaar. This will allow us to settle and before half time it’s Depay or Sneijder scoring a second. In the second half, almost an hour in,we score a third. Probably again Huntelaar. Hiddink will make some changes (Huntelaar, Sneijder, Wijnaldum) and the Turks will be able to score a cheap goal.

With RVP and Robben sidelined, most people are keen to find out what Guus is doing for the Turkey match. This match, remember, is a must-win match. The Spain friendly is irrelevant. It’s probably relevant for the Spanish, as they will want revenge. But we don’t really care. If we lose against Turkey, we can’t be bothered. And if we win against Turkey, we probably can’t be bothered either :-).

I mean, winning against Spain is all well and good, but it won’t bring us closer to the Euro.

So all eyes are on Guus and his lads. Guus, who used to coach Turkey. One would almost forget. The campaigns he had with South Korea and Australia will never be forgotten. His previous Oranje stint was shabby either. But the Russian job was ok but the Turks decided to let the man go. But Turkey didn’t improve after Hiddink. Far from it actually.

hiddink coaxhing

But today, he’s ours again. The journeyman used his influence to get rivals Huntelaar and Van Persie to become mates. Who’d thunk? They were rivals for a long while. Both central strikers and not very cleverly handled by Van Gaal. Who first pointed at Klaas Jan as his main striker, only to quickly use RVP when he noticed the Man United man was in glorious shape. Klaas Jan is used to being sidelined in Oranje, but already has 70 games under his belt and an average of 1 goal every 99 minutes!! ( Klaas Jan: “That is an annoying statistic, because we’d need 9 minutes of extra time against Turkey for me to score!”)

Kluivert’s tally is Hunter’s next goal and if he really has his swagger back he might even challenge Van Persie. The two had a fall out, publically, on the pitch against Kazachstan. Van Persie didn’t pass the ball to the open Hunter and the Schalke man politely informed RVP about his thoughts.

Hiddink did what apparently no coach before him ever tried: he told the two to grab a coffee together. Huntelaar: “We never did that before. I never drank a coffee with Robin. Mostly, because Robin doesn’t drink coffee, hahaha. But seriously, we were never friends. We never played together, which is different for me than my relationship with Robben or Sneijder. We never played together in the past. We simply never really connected. But Hiddink played us together and told us we could look forward to more of this. And now we have had our one on one, we actually enjoy talking to each other. We sometimes call each other up now. Just to have a bit of a chat. It’s good.”


Van Persie and Huntelaar together, with Robben in a free role. It resulted in 6 goals. The Hunter will have to do it without the two veterans but will have two younger forwards with him. “We have enough talent to make it work. Sure, we’ll miss Arjen and Robin but that’s football. Turkey is a tough opponent, but we’ll win this. I’m 1000% convinced.” The former Ajax man was not keen to name names: “The coach will decide who he plays. I’m cool with any solution. We have players that can play like real wingers, we have players who want to come centrally, either way…. I can deal with any situation.”

Hiddink did practice with both Dost and Huntelaar, but the sharp observer saw that this was a tactic being practiced in case Oranje would be behind. Huntelaar: “This team can play many different systems. And with a player like Dost, we can play long balls. We have players like Sneijder, Clasie, De Vrij and Blind. They are all capable of position a ball on your necktie.”

unter head

Stefan de Vrij, the Lazio defender, obtained a bit of a swagger in Rome. Where Strootman was hailed as a rock star when he was signed, De Vrij walked around Rome unnoticed in his first weeks in Italy. Not any more. With Lazio on a firm third spot in the Serie A, the ex Feyenoord man has built up some sensational statistics. “They keep track of everything in Italy. The number of interceptions a defender makes is similar to the number of assists for a winger or the goals of a striker. In that competition, I am actually number 1.” De Vrij is being humble. His statistics are even great on an international level. The pessimistic Lazio supporters believe the quiet defender might be sold to a European top team even, this summer. “I noticed I made some big steps. I played Luca Toni some time back with Feyenoord and he owned me. Last week I played him again and he didn’t touch the ball. I know people in Holland always say Dutch defenders need to become more gritty and tough, but I don’t get a lot of complaints in Italy.” The land of strong defenders… Both Blind and De Vrij will collect their silver platter tomorrow, for their first anniversary in Oranje.

blind de vrij

It seems Hiddink will pick De Vrij as one of the first players when making his list on the team sheet. Cillesen will be on there too, along with Sneijder and Huntelaar. There will be some question marks too. Depay is not necessarily Hiddink’s first choice. The PSV man has had some run ins with Guus before and will need to step up a bit, according to insiders. It seems Clasie and Wijnaldum might start alongside Sneijder in midfield. Which could mean that Blind starts on the bench. Because should Depay start as left winger, it makes sense to use Jetro Willems as left back. As Steve mentioned in a comment, Blind would be an interesting option as center back, given that he played there a lot in the youth and had a number of good games for Ajax 1 in that role too.

I wouldn’t be surprised myself if Hiddink uses Afellay as a false winger. This will allow him to use a 4-3-3 style system with possession and a 4-4-2 without possession (Afellay dropping back when we lost the ball).

Hiddink is holding his cards close to his chest so we’ll need to wait and see what happens.

The good thing is, that Luuk de Jong lashed an elbow in Bruma’s face and drew blood.

Or let me rephrase: the good thing is that the lads train at a high intensity level. The training is tough, intense and with aggression. Something we will need to “replace” Arjen Robben.


It is all seriousness and gravitas currently in the Oranje camp but Wes Sneijder couldn’t help but lift the spirits with some comments. The former Real Madrid man is happy with his skipper role. “I don’t look back with negative feelings about me losing the band. We have been through that. It has been discussed and the topic lies at the cemetery for me. No, in general it is good to be the skipper for your country. And against Turkey, in a big match! Last time I scored against them, I didn’t celebrate. But this time I will. Not only that, I will cheer very loud!!” This last comment is a sarcastic nod to Van Gaal’s shout out when a journalist asked what he would do if Sneijder would score…

Hiddink is a fan of relaxed. Take it easy. Do normal, then you do crazy enough. Hiddink, like Huntelaar, is from the Achterhoek (the Back-corner) as the area east of everything is called. The fun factor at the last public training was Joost. A Down Syndrome kid who was present and commentated the training really loud. He knew all the names of all the players, but he kept calling Hiddink “Louis van Gaal”. Hiddink: “Isn’t that just fun? This lad, his spontaneity and his openness? Great.” But all fun aside, Sneijder said: “Tomorrow, the fun needs to stop. Particularly for Turkey. We are 6 points behind the Cechs and 3 behind Iceland. France will be far away in the distance if we let this game slide.” Hiddink looked back at the press conference on his time as Turkish team manager. “We missed the Euros in 2012 narrowly. It took the decider vs Croatia and that is a strong nation. Turkish players are very skilled but sometimes undisciplined. Once the emotions run riot, you sometimes lose them.”

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Oranje keen for some Turkish Delight

And we’re back!! After a long pause, in which yours truly had to muster the energy to keep on going as well.

A long spell without Oranje and some serious side effects getting used to an Oranje sans Van der Vaart and sans Van Persie. With Van Gaal gone and Hiddink not yet having a handle on the team and with our former heroes struggling with fitness (RVP, Fer, Strootman), relegation (Van der Vaart) or even playing time (Afellay, Stekelenburg, De Zeeuw) I really loath watching EPL games with not enough Dutch names in the teams. Janmaat, Krul, Blind… That’s about it. I will have to make do with semi-Dutch players like Bony, Eriksen, Vertonghen and Chadli.

But, it’s starting again. And I’ll give it one more go.

Guus Turk

I do ask for your support yet again as I can use it very well these days. The cost are always there before the benefit (traditional Dutch saying)  and times are lean. So please find it in your heart to drop me some coins to sustain this adventure.

Two major topics, as far as I’m concerned!! The game vs Turkey and the Future of Dutch football.

Oranje has a good balance against Turkey. We played against them eleven times and won five, while we only lost two. We blocked their qualification for the WC Brazil in 2013. Arda Turan, Turkish playmaker in Atletico Madrid’s service is suspended. For Holland, De Jong, De Vrij and BMI are in danger of missing the next game when booked.

Arjen Robben had to take a break the last week due to a slight injury but Hiddink does expect the Bedum winger to play and carry the team.


Team manager Hiddink has added Bas Dost to the to the definitive squad, along with De Guzman and Klaassen. The latter two were not part of the prelim squad. RVP is not part of it, neither are Van Beek, Elia, Promes, van Rhijn, Vlaar (injured) and Jeroen Zoet.

Oranje will perform their away games in a classic tribute to the seventies. All white jerseys with the iconic lion on the chest. The shorts are very contemporary though. Orange with white stripes, resembling speed, according to Nike. “This new style is a tribute to Oranje’s style of play and is symbolic for speed, movement and energy”. Oranje will not wear this versus Turkey though, as Holland plays at home in the usual Orange kit. The friendly against Spain on March 31 will be the first opportunity for us to showcase the new kit.

Until De Kuip is renovated, the Amsterdam Arena will be Oranje’s home ground and the KNVB has sold 48,500 tickets for the qualification game. As per usual, there will be a lot of Turks living in the Netherlands cheering their team on.

Robben turk

Hiddink will not link his future to the result vs Turkey. “I did that against Lithuania. That is a small football nation. We should always win that. But Turkey is different. This is a big nation. Any team can lose against the Turks. But losing against them means we do lose grip on our qualification and that will be bad. But I am convinced we will get the result. ” Hiddink was a bit vague about his future after the last qualification game. “On purpose. For me it’s not just the football. I needed to get a better handle on things around the team. The broader organisation. I had to have a number of talks internally. And we did. I’m currently really pleased with my situation and the circumstances of the team.”

With Ajax’ exit from Europe, Guus was quized about his views on the Dutch clubs in Europe. “It’s a disappointment becaue we can do better. Sure, Zenit has a higher budget and AS Roma is a big club, but you can compensate that with effort, energy, spirit and smarts. It’s about taking those opportunities and giving it the extra 10%. But having said this, we have tremendous talents still coming through and if you see players like Van Beek, Bazour and Kishna, it’s ok if they make some mistakes. They’re still young. Oranje is still being carried by players playing abroad. Our next generation of players there, like Fer, Dost, De Vrij, De Guzman, will need to grow to the level of players like Robben, Sneijder and Van Persie.”

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Wesley Sneijder's decision to move to Turkey…

Gobbledegook…. Turkey time…

28 years old. Skipper of Oranje. One of the best playmakers – if not the best – on the planet. Won titles. Won Champions League trophy. Played for Ajax, Real Madrid, Inter Milan… Next stop…. Manchester? Nope. London? Nope. Liverpool? Nope. Munich? Nope. Barcelona, Valencia, Moscow, Paris….Nope.


Why, a lot of people will say….. WHY? WWWWWWHHHHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY????????

Well, simple. There were no other takers. Man United sniffed a bit. Liverpool made some moves. Man City hesitated. Anzhi made inquiries. But Galatasaray was the only club putting a concrete deal on the table.

Wes even waited for Liverpool to come with a serious offer… but it wasn’t to be.

So Wes had the option to stay at Inter, make a lot of money (still) but not play. Lose his spot in Oranje. Lose fitness.

Or, go to a club where they will revere him, where he will play CL football and where he can prove his fitness. My idea is, that he has a limited transfer sum in his new deal with the Turks.

Galatasaray paid 8 Mio Euros for the playmaker. If Wesley plays a great second season half (based on his limited transfer sum of say – 15 Mio), a club like Chelsea, Man City or Man United might decide to have a bite.

Time is tough for big transfers now. No club is capable of spending mega-bucks at the moment, and Wesley is picking the best option for him and his international career.
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