Tag: Van Ginkel

Davy Pröpper retires: unhappy with football industry

Davy Pröpper is a pro player no more. PSV made this announcement this week. The 30 year old tore his contracty up (he had 1,5 year to go with PSV) and the 19 times capped Dutchie will be focusing on other things in life. In the past six months, he realised he was done with pro football.Davy’s decision was a big surprise for everyone at PSV. The situation became a tad clear last season already when Davy had difficulties getting back into the Brighton first team. He wanted to return to PSV to get some fun back into his life and some sense of purpose in the football world.

PSV was like home for him and his buddy Marco van Ginkel was there too. But the reality was harsher, also due to a series of small injuries blocking a successful return to the Eredivisie.

“I made my decision before Xmas and it feels good. A relief. I know I made the right decision for me. In my time abroad I was slowly noticing a diminishing sense of joy being a player. I found it tough to constantly find the discipline in myself to live the life of a dedicated pro. My whole life was determined by my busy football schedule. The corona situation and being separated from friends and family didn’t make things better.”

This joy in the game didn’t come back to him in Eindhoven. “I just don’t feel comfortable in that football culture. I have adapted where I could and at times I shut myself off from it all. But I don’t want that anymore. I will find out what my real passions are and I will dive into these. I did have amazing moments and memories and I will cherish these. I might get regrets, who knows. But for now, I want to invest my time into my family, friends and everyone who supported me.”

His decision has nothing to do with his relationship with PSV coach Roger Schmidt or his team mates. And PSV has nothing but respect for him, who will cover all financial damages of this contract. Pröpper won the title once with PSV in 2016 and was key in their Champions League campaign.

Partly as a result of this, Joey Veerman saw his much-coveted transfer click into gear. Feyenoord was negotiating with Heerenveen (and Veerman) for weeks, and the cash poor club from Rotterdam needed to negotiate the transfer fee down. PSV swooped in and put the desired 8 million euros on the table, leaving Feyenoord to switch their interest to Richedly Bazoer of Vitesse.

The Pröpper announcement did come as a shock but not for the people close to him. Pröpper is always seen as a deep thinker. When he made his break through at Vitesse demonstrating his exquisite technique and touch, he was quite open in his first interviews. “I am not a talker. That is not necessarily a problem but it became one for me. I was suer shy. I never said anything in a group. Whenever I thought I should mention something, I’d mull it over in my head and then the moment passed.” His shyness also limited him on the pitch. “As a kid, being shy and introverted didn’t help on the pitch. I knew I was a good baller but I was not going to get many balls as I simply was almost invisible. The kids with the big mouth would get the ball and I would play in their service. But coaches started to see that I could play so they started to make me important in the team. And slowly but surely I started to claim more possession.”

The lack of confidence was always a problem for him. “People in my environment would always tell me I was a good player but I never believed them. My confidence levels were so low that I always talked myself further down. I was someone who would mull over stuff constantly… The outside world would never know what was going on with me. I sometimes wanted to be way more extraverted but now I don’t see all these big mouth guys from my youth team nowhere. They didn’t make it. At the end of the day, quality is key.”
Davy with brother Robin Pröpper
And quality, he had. He is a member of a true football family. With his brother Robin ( pro centre back at FC Twente) and Mike and dad Peter, they were always present at amateur club VDZ. Dad Peter is still a youth coach at the club. Davy went to Vitesse at a young age, while Mike and Robin played for De Graafschap.

It is easy to say that Davy didn’t get everything out of his career, but it’s actually the other way around. Pröpper needed his resilience and adaptability to still have a top notch career, with 200 games in the Eredivisie, more than 100 games in the Premier League, games in the CL and 19 times capped for Oranje. And all that, in a world in which he was never comfortable.

Davy Pröpper regained the captaincy of his own ship. His real life is now beginning. Will we ever hear from him again?

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Dutch football impresses…

This was a good week for Dutch football. I don’t want to bore you too much with the co-efficiency ratio discussion ( a battle played out in a spreadsheet, not on green grass). In short, the # 6 of the list – best nations in this calendar year – will get 2 CL places in the 2023/24 season and 6 clubs in Europe overall. At this stage, we are #7, with France and Portugal on spots 5 and 6 and very close. Portugal currently has 4 teams in the race, we still have 5 (Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord, AZ, Vitesse).

The many qualification games PSV, Feyenoord, AZ and Vitesse had to play means we collected the most points (!) of all nations in Europe. By December, we should be #5 or #6. Great stuff! Vitesse’s 1-0 win over Spurs B team has helped as well.

So, combine that with Van Gaal’s recent successes and Ajax’ impressive performance vs Dortmund and one can’t escape the feeling we are truly on the up and up.

Van Gaal must be purring with pleasure, as the Norwegian medical team announced Haaland has a hip injury and will be out for week. Ajax will play Dortmund sans Haaland and Oranje will face a Haaland-less Norway in November. What can go wrong?

Van Gaal selected 30 players in his pre-selection now, because a number of players are a bit of a question mark (Ake, Berghuis, Luuk, Klaassen, Rensch, Wijnaldum) and LVG will drop players who are truly out of rhythm.

The biggest gloater this week will most likely be Ten Hag ( honourable mention for Daley Blind of course), after his team took Dortmund apart. Just before midnight a proud Erik ten Hag enters the press room in the JC Arena. His German colleague has just summarized their game versus Ajax in one word: “Scheisse!” (Shit!). Ten Hag: “We have all enjoyed this together. Coaches, players, supporters, everyone. The cross polination was great. But you need an opponent that wants to play, to make a great match and Borussia Dortmund came her to get something. We won, we were dominant and that is great to see. We had so many top performers, I think it was a Collective Men of the Match situation for me.”

You are a critical coach. Can you see points to improve even now?

EtH: “Oh yes, but now it is not time to be too critical. Tonight, after the match, we need to enjoy the win. But tomorrow, different story. We did see some lessons, some positive, some negative. When you want to grow as a team, you will always have to look in that critical mirror.”

So what were some of the negative lessons?

“The Germans are great in the turnaround, in the gegenpress. We had too many moments where we lost the ball too easily. We had a situation in the first half, where Alvarez, Antony and Pasveer lost possession in a row, that is something we cannot accept It’s lethal, normally. In this case, it wasn’t, but we need to iron these things out. Another problem is our effectiveness. We had so many chances and “only” scored 4. That is something we need to work on. Berghuis had two amazing flicks for Haller and Gravenberch. If they score, these two goals will go right across the globe. We could have had 8 tonight. And Borussia maybe 2. It could have ended 8-2. A classic score line for Ajax :-).”

Can you actually enjoy the match, as a coach. Even briefly?

“No not against Germans. They never give up, you know this. It’s part of their DNA. It’s over when the ref whistles three times. And I told the lads at half time. We’re 2-0 up but should they get the 2-1, you can get in trouble. The 3-0 of Antony was super important. Missing chances, or even going with Dortmund in their pace, you can easily lose your head and than a match can pivot. We do need to work harder to kill games off.”

After Antony scored, he had his by now classic celebration with his mate and rival Neres. You immediately coached him. What did you say?

“I love the euphoria and Antony typically wants to celebrate the goal with every squad player. This is needed for a group to bond and become stronger. But, I also told Antony to leave the trickery and the circus act behind. It needs to be effective. Tricks, stepovers, back heels, I love it when it has a function. Like I said, Berghuis could have had 2 assists with a flick behind his leg, but Antony does these things needlessly too and I like him to limit that. No tricks purely for the tricks.”

How do you explain the difference between Ajax and Dortmund?

“That was purely optical. We did a great job and Dortmund did help us a bit, but that was also because of us. We executed everything we wanted to perfection.”

You had to select your #10, Klaassen or Berghuis. Was it a hard decision to make?

“No not really because I go for what the team needs. Steven played really well for us as #10, also in the CL. He has been decisive for us so it’s not logical to sub him. Davy would have been disappointed but he is a top athlete who understands how it works and we know Davy can also play there and be great for the team. But differently. And Steven again was amazing for us tonight.”

Ajax has 9 points and 11 goals (1 conceded) in the CL group now. Are you surprised?

“I never look that far ahead, in all honesty. We go from match to match. We need to simply look in the mirror and try to be as good as possible. We’ll see where we end up.”

Was this the best match under your management?

“Well… I remember a game some time back against Real Madrid away. That wasn’t too shabby. But this was incredible and it gives a lot of confidence. And we need to take the good and work on the not-so-good. We could have a great season, you know?”

It’s amazing, because 3 seasons after that Madrid game, only a couple of players from the current team were there…

“I think we are on the right track. We built a new team and I am very happy with where we are. But we can improve still. And we need to be and remain critical. Against Utrecht, we didn’t have the energy and focus and therefore we lost. But when you show that mentality, as we did versus Heerenveen, we can win. We need to keep on bringing this.”

Daley Blind and Tadic are the leaders who remained from the Madrid game. And they’re both important yet again.

“That is never in question. Any coach wants players he can fall back on. Feyenoord has Toornstra, PSV will see Van Ginkel as the culture guardian, as we call it. These players understand the club, the culture, they understand tactics, they recognise moments in the game where we might get caught, or where we can pounce… But you mention Daley and Dusan, I would like to add Klaassen to that list, although Alvarez and even young Timber are developing more and more into leaders.”

The first 10 minutes, you were very actively coaching. Why?

“Because Dortmund played differently to what we expected. And we made the wrong choices at times. It took a while for the team to adjust. We were a bit nervous, or seemed nervous. Once we got more steady on the ball we started to create chances immediately and as a result we were able to dominate both in possession as without the ball.”

So you had to change the shape during the first 10 minutes?

“Yes, and I would love it if the players would be able to spot it without me interfering from the side. We need to be able to do this quicker.”

This will give heaps of confidence for the PSV match?

“Of course, but we don’t lack confidence. We need to watch out for over-confidence. Sunday is a totally different game. We know and we need to prep for that. We need to be top on Sunday in order to win.”

Goalie Pasveer was also key for you, does this settle the goalie problem in Amsterdam?

“Remko only demonstrates what we know already. He has so much potential still. He did have some glitches in the first weeks, but that is normal. He has been one of the best in the competition now for years and he too will have to keep on making steps up. I am happy that he is growing. At Vitesse, you may get 10 saves to make per game, at Ajax only 2 or so. But you really need to be there for that. I am proud that he was indeed one of the MoTM candidates.”

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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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Analysis Oranje failure to qualify

Let’s look at the way we had to operate during qualifications.

And allow me to first draw your attention of the Pre-Qualification period.

1. WC 2014

Van Gaal decided to change the 4-3-3 tactics of Oranje drastically, to not get obliterated by the likes of Spain, Mexico et al at the Word Cup in Brazil. He worked diligently to get his players to get this game plan under their belt.

It didn’t work too well. Oranje’s best results came when he abandoned 5-3-2 at half time to play 4-3-3. The key thing for us though, was the quality of players like Robben, Vlaar, Sneijder and Memphis. We also got a bit lucky. Spain had a 2-0 opportunity (Silva), Australia had a massive chance to 2-3 which they missed and Oranje was given a soft penalty later in the tournament (was it Mexico?). The Costa Rica game, we couldn’t put to bed and we didn’t create much vs Argentina.


Our 3rd spot was achieved thanks to Germany’s trashing of Brazil earlier on. The home team looked dazzled and rattled and gave up after Holland’s quick goal.

Coming out of the World Cup, several players made big moves to Portugal, Italy and England. Highly disruptive in the flow of a player. And most players would focus fully on their club, once back in action for qualifications so early in the season against less attractive opponents in less attractive circumstances. It happened to us, to Spain, to Germany, Italy and Portugal too.


I do believe we were quite complacent too. We reached #3 at the World Cup and entered a qualification group that many felt was impossible not to win. This was subconsciously taken into the game. “We can play on 80% as we are Holland. No way Iceland can beat us!”. That sort of thinking. I’m sure players will deny this but I am positive this played a part too.

2. Guus Hiddink vs Louis van Gaal

After Van Gaal’s straightjacket approach, the KNVB in their glorious wisdom, decided to go totally the other way, appointing Loose Guus to manage Oranje. He also was instructed to return to 4-3-3. As a result of massive criticism from the media, fans and ex-players. In the Italy friendly, this failed and as the Czechs also play 5-3-2, Hiddink decided to go back to 5-3-2 for the first qualifications game. He couldn’t use the same team as Van Gaal used though and the team never looked like the Brazil team in execution. Danny Blind was caught between a rock and a hard place. Danny is a Van Gaal adept and uses analysis and thorough preparation, like Louis, while Guus is more a “enjoy yourselves out there” kinda coach. Body language of the two sharing the bench at times was telling…



3. Available Players

Czech Republic away

Against the Czechs, Hiddink missed key players from the World Cup. Vlaar and Robben were both missing. We played alright, created chances but failed to score more than one. And Janmaat had that atrocious back header in the last minute which cost us the draw. (Hiddink punished Janmaat immediately for this, which didn’t go down well in the squad. A faithful soldier who played well for Oranje was axed for one mistake… The players who failed to score up front were not held accountable).

Nederlands tegen Tsjechië

Kazachstan home

A must win game. And we did. Not pretty, but who cares (especially now). Afellay and Van Persie scored and Afellay had the assist on Huntelaar (Tiju, paying attention??). No Janmaat, but Van der Wiel. No Vlaar either. Robben was back, as was Lens. Martins Indi played alongside De Vrij.

Iceland away

In October, playing in Iceland… Not a lot of inspiration. But, despite conceding (WC2014 hero De Vrij giving the spot kick away) Holland had opportunities to score. But didn’t. One Arjen Robben for instance, missed a good chance. A dead ball situation (back then already…. nothing new under the sun) gave Iceland the 2-0. We tried to get back into the game but couldn’t. This game was played with most of our top guns available: Robben, Sneijder, De Jong, Hunter, Van Persie but without Vlaar still. Clasie, Klaassen and Memphis are not to blame for this loss (TIJU!!!)

ijs uit

Lithuania home

6-0 win. Huntelaar, Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder all in good form. Good goals. You will be happy to know that Clasie, Memphis, Afellay were all involved in this game. Van der Wiel played again, for Janmaat and Bruma played for Martins Indi.

Turkey home

A draw, after conceding yet again. A late Sneijder shot, deflected by Huntelaar got us the point. Memphis and Afellay played the whole match. Van der Wiel and Martins Indi in defence. Nigel de Jong, the captain in midfield according to Hiddink, got subbed and would later on be silently phased out by the same Hiddink.

turk thuis

Lithuania away

Tough but decent win away, with Wijnaldum and Narsingh scoring for Oranje. No Robben again, no Vlaar. Daley Blind in midfield. Van Persie with Huntelaar in the team. More tinkering… Janmaat coming back in the team as a sub. Van der Wiel still in starting line up.

4. Hiddink out!

With only 4 games to go (and in need of at least two if not more wins), the KNVB decides to stop working with Hiddink. The experienced coach doesn’t get on with Van Oostveen. Hans Jorritsma, team manager and as such reporting to Hiddink, plays a double agent role. The three meet to talk about their differences in Hiddink’s Spain home and the end result is Hiddink being sacked, with Daley Blind thrown in the deep to secure a Euro spot. The home game vs Iceland is next up, in September 2015. Basically, early in the new season and as per usual, some players haven’t settled in yet… Martins Indi and Van der Wiel in particular didn’t see a lot of action.

exit guus

Confidence was low at this stage. Some of our top players were struggling. Van Persie wasn’t happy. Van der Vaart disappeared. Martins Indi lost his spot. Memphis was struggling. The soul was gone from the team. The belief was gone. Guus Hiddink demonstrated this in his post match interviews, where he looked lost.

Danny Blind had to gamble.  Four games to go, four victories needed. He decided to go with players who are used to big occasions and puts Robben on a pedestal. Sadly the more experienced lads disappointed and Robben blew his engine up.

Iceland home

Arjen Robben is all pumped up as new skipper to lead Oranje to victory. In 33 minutes, all changes. The Bayern winger is too pumped up and tears a muscle. Martins Indi gets provoked by an Sighthorsson (Feyenoord vs Ajax)  and retaliates and gets red. Holland creates opportunities but lacks belief so it seems and poor Van der Wiel has an error that leads to a penalty. In this game we lost Robben and we were already without Vlaar, Van Persie and Afellay. Van der Wiel played as Afellay wasn’t available and Van Rhijn was no longer starting for Ajax. Tete was spotted as top talent but considered too early to call up. Oranje struggled in the matches with eleven players, in this game with 10 (for an hour) it simply was too much…

robben ijsland thuis

Turkey away

The pressure is on. We copped an early goal again, in a must-win game. And again Blind needed to make changes. Bruma came in, Riedewald made his debut and Robben wasn’t fit to play either. Turkey scores after a brilliant through pass. Holland’s team dynamics and pressure doesn’t work. Not much later, Narsingh gets a similar chance as Turkey and he misses… Memphis creates a tremendous chance for Klaassen who misses. Memphis finds Van Persie who offers Sneijder an amazing shooting opportunity but the Gala midfielder aims right at the goalie. Three good opps, none taken. Then Blind makes an error and Cillesen looks horrible when Turan scores the 2-0. De Vrij leaves at half time with knee injury. Memphis creates another chance for Oranje in the second half. An unmarked Wijnaldum can score with his head, but uses his shoulder. Memphis is hacked down again by Turk with yellow. Ref doesn’t care but should have given a red. Luuk de Jong misses big chance as well and late in the game, Turkey scores their third after a foul committed by Caner.

turk nl uit

Kazachstan away

A must win game for Oranje and we do. Again, lots of changes: Krul, Tete, Van Dijk, Riedewald, El Ghazi and Huntelaar are in. Artificial pitch. Holland attacks and has a good phase. Memphis and Blind combine well but the winger misses. Wijnaldum scores not much later. Sneijder scores a beauty in the second half after a wonderful passage of play. El Ghazi has a wonderful chance to 0-3 but misses.  Oranje has to win and wins, in a sometimes pretty good performance.

Czech Republic home

Zoet in goal as Cillesen and Krul are out. Riedewald, Tete, Bruma and Van Dijk are back four. Probably never had a back four consistently for two games and 1,5 years after Brazil we play with a totally different defensive line. El Ghazi for Robben again and Huntelaar instead of Van Persie again. The Czechs have qualified already, and you can tell. They play really well. But, counter attacking style. Inviting Holland in. Memphis with first opportunity, Oranje has good start. But the game is slowed down too much and Sneijder sits deeper and deeper. Van Persie is warming up as Holland needs more creativity and pace. Our defence fails twice. Incl Zoet. He didn’t look good with the 0-1 and the whole defence failed for the 0-2. Van Dijk and Zoet aren’t dealing with cross. Czech’s get red card for tackle on Memphis. Van Dijk very close to scoring. Tete is one of the few decent players. And to add insult to injury, Van Persie scores own goal. The same van Persie deserves a penalty later but is denied. Huntelaar and Van Persie get Oranje back into the game, 2-3 but we needed more but we didn’t get more.

rvp own goal

Everything that went right for us in Brazil, went wrong in this qualification campaign. Injuries, bad luck, bad decision making, loss of form. So many chances missed, so many unlucky and unlikely situations. Van Persie own goal, Sneijder missing chances, Memphis missing chances, penalties conceded but never received, etc etc… As if the Devil had a say in it.

5. Perfect Storm

Overall, we also lack quality. If quality is defined as a the total requirements to play top football. Sure, technique, they all have. They all have tactical smarts. But leadership, desire, mentality, physical presence…this is where we lacked the most.

Add it all together – wrong coach, wrong tactics, individual mistakes, key players missing, no team dynamics – and even the best football nation can lose against Iceland and Turkey.

guus balt

Something to add here, is the pretty crucial element: our lack of European top clubs. In the past, coaches were always able to draw from the key players of good performing clubs. Most teams in the 1970s and 1980s used Dutch players. When Ajax and Feyenoord ruled Europe in the early 70s, Michels used the top players from both teams in Oranje. They both played 4-3-3, no sweat. In the early 80s, the coach tried it with the AZ Alkmaar top players (Peters, Jonk, Tol, Kist, Hovenkamp) and in the mid 90s Guus Hiddink went with the Ajax talent pool. That effect slowly died out. But today you’ll find that Spain is making use of the Barca framework, which enables Spain to have a recognisable playing style, just like Germany has Bayern Munich and Italy have Juventus. England has a couple of top teams, mostly with non English lafs and hence, there is your England hangover. The Dutch have failed to impress in Europe at club level for some time, with this season a notable exception with PSV doing well in CL. For this reason, lots of people push Blind and his staff to go with the PSV skeleton for Oranje. Zoet, Bruma, Willems, Propper, Van Ginkel, to be supplemented with top players from other clubs like Sneijder. Robben, Bazoer, Van Dijk and Tete for the remaining spots. Obviously, some people believe the combination Willems, Propper, Luuk de Jong should be utilised. But this PSV core might well drift apart. Van Ginkel is still owned by Chelsea, Willems and Bruma might make a move and Luuk de Jong might lack real quality… The fact that Dutch clubs underperform in Europe will definitely have its impact on Oranje. But that is a fact of life. For now.

The good thing is, the Euros will be over and done with in 4 weeks or so. It will be history. And we will be facing Sweden without Zlatan, who will have trouble getting worked up for the qualifications so soon after the Euros. While Holland will pull a “Czech Republic”. We will want to eat the opponent and we will start our flow with a good solid win over the Swedes.



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First Oranje practice sessions – Van Ginkel called up

While I am laughing my arse off watching Louis van Gaal being interviewed by the English media, I am writing this. The first session of training for the PrePreLim squad and the reporters from Blighty gathered around the Oracle. The question: “So obviously you know about Man United, you played against them…” and Louis says “Now that is a stupid question”. Hahahaha, may the games begin! In all honesty, that clip alone would be enough for me – if I were the Man United decision maker – to pick another coach, hahahahaha.

Anyway, as Louis said “I am now Oranje manager and I will focus on my job here now” I will leave all that alone.

Now it’s 33 Days to Go to the World Cup and we are none the wiser!

LVG practice

“Don’t talk back to me or I will have you spend the afternoon in that corner facing the wall!!”

This week Louis started his first sessions with the players who 1) could make the cut, 2) are no longer involved in official games in their competion and 3) some filler players from Young Oranje to make the right numbers.

Remarkable names like Castaignos and Locadia are not that remarkable as they can be seen as the Young Oranje contingent. The same can be said for Terrence Kongolo but the in form Feyenoord defender played too well, has too much talent and too versatile to overlook. I wouldn’t be surprised if LVG used the tall defender as Strootman replacement in midfield….

Another potential replacement for midfield was on the list as well. Chelsea player Marco van Ginkel The first and only player coming in from another competition amongst the Eredivisie players. Without a doubt Louis has checked with the Annoying One what the status of our popular midfielder is and based on the response requested for Mourinho to release the former Vitesse man for Oranje.

Interesting… I am not surprised if Afellay gets a go as well.

luc zoet

“Castaignos, Zoet (l) and Martins Indi (r) didn’t want to play spin the bottle.”

So there are three practice sessions and on May 13, the future Man U coach will announce the preliminary 30 player squad. On June 2, he has to announce the definitive list and that list of 23 needs to come from the 30 in the prelim. Oranje has a training camp in Lagos Portugal for a week in May and will play two friendlies after that, versus Ghana and Wales. Oranje plays Equador on May 17 in Amsterdam by the way.

Terence Kongolo was nervous to meet Van Gaal and went to the first Oranje camp with team mate Jean Paul Boetius. His career goes really fast. “I noticed this in particular when I drove up to the hotel with all those media people waiting. It was intense. Feyenoord is big but this is humungous.” After the session the talented defender said “Mr Van Gaal is very direct but I don’t mind that. I really enjoyed myself and will do what I can to to stay with the group. I hope Mr Van Gaal is going to need me in Brazil and if he does, I will be ready.”

Before any World Cup, Johan Cruyff will be asked about Oranje. The Oracle this time wanted to spend some time on his relationship with Louis van Gaal. “People think we have this whole thing going on, as if I don’t like him or he doesn’t like me. That is not it. I do not have any issue with Van Gaal. He is a good coach. But, our football vision is totally different. That is all. Literally, totally different. People say “but you both play 4-3-3 and want to attack”. Yes, that is the only similarity. We need too much time for me to explain but I’m talking about specific roles and tasks, about positioning, about pace. In Van Gaal’s way of playing, the midfielder will open up to the build up from the defence with his back to the
opponent’s goal. That is 90% of what happens and then 90% of those times, the ball goes back to the goalie or to the full back. In my tactics, the central defender is a player who moves into midfield to become a midfielder with his face towards the opponent’s goal. I would use individual class to play fast paced pass and move football. Van Gaal is more a handbal type coach. With players wide, strictly on the byline and a more rigid approach.”


“Kongolo demonstrating how Louis van Gaal dances in the clubs”

Joel Veltman (Ajax) and Stefan de Vrij (Feyenoord) seem to be tight buddies already. In tv interview Veltman gave a hint re: the tactics Van Gaal will try out. “He will play with more defenders. The 5-3-2, but with the emphasis on attack. We want to see the ball the most and this is a way of creating dominance. The principles will remain the same.” Stefan de Vrij: “Mr Van Gaal wants us to think, to use our brain as a tool and make rational choices in the games. He is working on that on specific situations and makes us pick the right decisions and offer up solutions. He is very clear in his instructions and that is always wonderful to work with.”

Luc Castaignos is used to working with great players and coaches. He was part of the Feyenoord squad, worked with Sneijder and Milito at Inter Milan and is now the main man at Twente. But working with Van Gaal is a level higher even… “Everything needs to be perfect. That is something… Everything you do needs to be good. Van Gaal demands a lot. I never expected this and was quite surprised. This experience is wonderful. I noticed it immediately, we had this practice where I had to use my left foot and I was instinctively going to my right all the time… But there is no time for those sort of moves at this level.” Castaignos had a tough season. “I had some ups and downs. I played ok but missed a lot of sitters. But still I did well if you look at the stats. But I do realise I got lucky to be invited. Mr Van Gaal was cool. He said “Enjoy yourself and show me what you got” hahaha. I do know I have many names in front of me, potentially, such as Van Persie and Huntelaar… But I am allowed to dream, right?”


Van Ginkel’s nightmare might be finally over now

Louis van Gaal is working behind closed doors for a spell but will open up the practice to the public on the last days of the trainings camp in Holland.

On June 3, Oranje trains in Alkmaar in the AZ stadium and on May 30 in De Kuip in Rotterdam.


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Some good, some bad… Hup Holland Hup!!

Interesting times. A wise man taught me, that if one door closes, another door opens up. Sometimes more than one….

And I have seen this happening many times. We can see how Kevin Strootman’s injury is one of those doors closing for us. And we can all moan and whine and feel a victim. But this picture will make most people happy.


And why not? It gives a new dynamic to the whole team and the whole debate. Louis van Gaal said Strootman was one of the three players certain to go to Brazil and probably certain to start. Don’t get me wrong, I’d play Strootman as a starter too. But he is not Cruyff or Messi. And he would have had a long season in the Serie A. And it is not like sans Stroot we are rubbish.

If we are rubbish, we would be with Forza Kevin as well.

The dynamics will change. And maybe LVG will be forced to rethink a couple of things.

The San Marco analogy of 1988 ( Marco not fit, started on bench, won us the trophy) might well work for players like Van Ginkel and Huntelaar. Or Van der Vaart and Sneijder. Who knows? Sometimes, having played 55+ games and won a lot of trophies with club doesn’t mean one can repeat this in the Summer with the national team. Look at Messi’s performance in 2010, for instance….

There are many scenarios here. LVG might decide to go 4-4-2. He will probably never announce it but it will clearly look 4-4-2 when executed. This will happen if KJ Huntelaar keeps on impressing.

Klaas Jan and Robin on top. Robben, De Jong, Van Ginkel and a fourth midfielder (Blind??? Klaassen??? Lens?? Wijnaldum??) in midfield.

And some guys at the back.

Strootman’s absence might have impact on this as well. If Stroot – who is a physical powerhouse – gets replaced by a lesser iron man (Clasie? Wijnaldum? Klaassen?) we might see Sneijder bypassed in order to restore balance.

Don’t forget: most successful midfields these days ( Liverpool, Bayern, Arsenal, Real, Juve, PSG) consist of players who can run AND tackle AND pass AND score. Whereas Holland seems to think in terms of “we need one guy to tackle, one to run and one to make the play”.

Marco van Ginkel is back. The Chelsea midfielder is officially not longer injured. He is part of the Under21 Chelsea squad and will most likely get some benchwarming time and maybe even minutes in the first team in the coming weeks. He is keen. “I have worked very hard and Chelsea has worked hard with me on a daily basis. I literally was the first player in and the last one out every day. It was tough but good.” Asked if he dreams of the World Cup. “Everybody dreams of the World Cup, so why not me. But I have to be realistic. I need to start making some minutes on the pitch for Chelsea first.”

Robin van Persie was in a bit of a pickle. The Rotterdam born striker is known to be a bit disappointed with the Moyes approach at ManU and somehow the magic seems to be gone. No real chance on reaching CL football via the EPL anymore and if it hadn’t been for RVP’s hattrick, the CL of this season was history too. Robin did take a knock in yesterday’s game but it doesn’t seem to interfere with his WC chances. But what will he do, coming summer? He is 32 years old next season. And Like Sneijder and Robben, Robin wants to win the Champions League. He might do so with Man United this summer, but if not, he will surely not win it next year. He has a clause allowing him to leave, but where to? Real Madrid? Bayern Munich? And if he indeed is considering a move like this, will we see a repeat of the performance he gave off pitch in 2012? When he refused to speak to the media? As they might have asked about his future at Arsenal? Today, Robin is the team skipper and Van Gaal will not allow his captain not to talk to the media….


But as Robin’s career is on its way to autumn, his successor might have been discovered already. Ricardo Kishna of Ajax is toted the new Van Persie by many. His length, his winger-style (Robin started as a left winger at Feyenoord) and certainly his arrogance and cockiness (RVP was not as PC as he has become under Wenger and Sir Alex).

Kishna impressed in his first Classic against Feyenoord when he tricked Martins Indi and Janmaat as if they didn’t existed and was key in Ajax victory. Daryl Janmaat was spouting venom at the Ajax talent after the game. “That kid Kishna…what’s wrong with him. This is his second game at Ajax 1 and he is moving around with little gestures and things as if he’s C Ronaldo?? Who does he think he is? When we got onto the pitch for the second half, he strolled lazily onto the field. He is a weirdo.”

Kishna laughed the matter away in his recent interview with VI. “I was happy with my game against Feyenoord. I did hear from my mates that Janmaat said something negative about me, hahaha. I had to laugh about it. It probably means I played well and he couldn’t get a grip on me.” The 19 year old is seen as a super talent. Everyone can see that. But most people – incl Frank and Ronald de Boer – are somewhat concerned about his attitude. Some call it bravado or flair. Some call it arrogance and provoking. “I enjoyed the Feyenoord game. That entourage, the atmosphere is just brilliant. I don’t value what Janmaat said. I am not an annoying guy. I don’t do silly things. I focus on my game. I would never make a foul on purpose or anything.” Fons Groenendijk, Kishna’s coach at Ajax 2: “Kishna has something special. Something ungraspable. He has what you only see very rarely. That pure and utter class… And most of it, he is born with. It’s talent. His ball touch, his speed and in particular his first touch. Exceptional. And we can all claim we taught him, as coach, but it’s nonsense. This is natural. A gift.” But he didn’t get it all for free. The ADO Den Haag developed talent couldn’t play for two years ( between 16 and 18 years) as he had marrowbone issues and he had two heavy knee injuries. When Kishna went from the Ajax youth to Ajax 2 he was disappointed. He wanted to move straight into Ajax 1. His coach, Groenendijk, taught him to earn that. “I needed to remind him that the only way Frank de Boer would pick him, if when he would show that he was eager. By working harder than anyone.”

And last week, in his first interview with VI, he was able to tell the world what his ambition is. “I want to become the best player in the world. I have big dreams and no one will stop me.”

We are doing well in the young talent department. To have players like Blind, Clasie, De Vrij, Martins Indi, Veltman, Klaassen, Boetius, Promes in the national squad is already quite something. But the European Top is also around the corner for Vilhena and Kongolo. Terence Kongolo’s little brother Rodney already made the step to Man City. The two youngsters + JP Boetius, all three under management with Stellar Group, are said to be on the radar at several European top teams. This summer, according to rumour, the Feyenoor trio might already make their move.

Fey 3

Feyenoord is not waiting for all their talent to run off and they are about to sign the “American Messi”, the 15 year old Wan Kuzain, who was on trial in Rotterdam earlier.

From the American Messi to the Dutch Messi. Rafael van der Vaart. Impressive in the qualifications games of Oranje, but now too slow, too fat and too injured?

“It drives me mad at times. People ask you wherever they can, and the kids sometimes don’t get it either. In my car, these media people sometimes chase me as if I’m Princes Diana. I ask them friendly to leave me be, but what I can do?”

Van der Vaart had always time for fans and media (and our blog) but when it doesn’t well or when a player is injured, it sometimes is hard to please all. “Its part of the game, but sometimes it goes too far. And when the results are like this, fans and supporters can become hard to deal with. We were yelled at, cursed at, threatened… As skipper, I have to interact wit them but you can’t win. I remember seeing Marco van Basten…. One of the greatest ever. He is an Ajax legend, but the Ajax supporters really made his life miserable. He quit. That was sad for him and I can only sympathise. No one wants to perform badly.”

And then people ask him whether he made a mistake to return to HSV? “Well it crosses your mind, yes. But what can I do? I am here now. We will need to fight our way out of this. Even when big name icons start to criticise you, you can only respond with your feet, on the pitch. And listen: we did play horrible! We started well under Bert but something went awry.”

Van der Vaart needs to have the ball a lot, in order for a team to get some result from him. In recent games, Van der Vaart was making sliding tackles. It didn’t look good. “I know… but I needed to help the team. But I also realise, once I have to be the one making block tackles, something is going wrong. We didn’t see the ball and then we concede a goal and the whole thing falls apart….”

And all this with the World Cup only months away. “Well, yes…it crosses your mind. But I think the coach knows what I can and cannot do. I think I was important for Oranje, even recently. And if I make sure I regain fitness and form, I will have a chance. There are never guarantees. You have to show it yourself.” Van der Vaart had serious difficulties with being a benchwarmer at the Euro2012. Will the current World Cup need potentially be a repeat of that?

“Eh no. I never said I didn’t accept a role on the bench. My problem was more that Bert had picked his team before the Euros no matter what I or others did. There simply was no room to play yourself into the team. My beef with Bert was that he promised everyone would get a chance and that didn’t happen. With Mr Van Gaal, I think and I know it is different. He will say what he does and he will do what he says.”

Was it hard to play under Van Marwijk again, at HSV? “Not at all. We are close, actually. Bert is a very very good coach and an honest and good man. But he picked a strategy for the Euros and it failed. Once we were at the point where we needed to change it, it was too late. We were all – incl myself – on the wrong track. Tactically in particular. We were not longer a team. Then it doesn’t matter how much skill you have. It simply fell apart.”

raf hsv

Van der Vaart was the model the KNVB used to show the new WC-jersey. Interesting choice, a player who isn’t certain of a starting berth at his club. “Ah well, I really think I will make the WC squad. That is my ultimate goal. Playing for Oranje is the highest honour and a joy. And I think we can surprise in Brazil. We have a young but super eager and talented team. And we all want the same thing. I think something could evolve, you know?”

Your 6th tournament, potentially. Where will it end? “Well, I still have one more big jump in me. I am not ready yet. And then I might just play a couple of years Jupiler League. I don’t play for fame or fortune. I play because I love the game. I might play in the amateurs with my dad in the same team… That would be cool!”

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Dutch football, when the dust (almost) settles….

The Dutch competition is on its way and most other competitions have followed suit.

Oranje will commence it’s qualifications journey soon and there is more than enough talking points.

We’ll do this one quick and dirty. And get on with more Oranje related articles after this one.

But the European adventures of our Dutch teams prompt some comments.

For starters, PSV seems unlucky to have drawn AC Milan. Any lesser opponent and the frivolous Cocu team might have had a real chance. They still do, of course. 1-1 is not that bad a starting position for the away game, but I think Milan will have learned their lesson and PSV will be brushed aside in the San Siro.

I might have to eat my words in 5 days and I’d be happy to :-).

Feyenoord, in the meantime, really looks in trouble. The consummate pro that is Ronald Koeman has no clue how to handle these situations and seems the first to criticise his players via the media, where the players are not allowed to make any comments in the press. The rules clearly don’t apply to Koeman. It is really key for Koeman to get this right, real fast. The season for Feyenoord (and indirectly Oranje) might depend on his ability to pull his team together.

ricky scores

Ricky scores everywhere….


Ajax doesn’t have any real issues. Yet. The CL is not starting till later for them and there is no real competition in the Eredivisie for them, bar PSV.

And I personally believe Eriksen and Alderweireld will leave the club which will not make Ajax any stronger (bar the bank account).

Gertjan Verbeek is doing well with AZ. He had a good draw of course, compared to Feyenoord, but his new team (Maher and Altidore left, which is a big thing) has done really well already. I expect some firework from AZ this season.

Internationally, some of our players are out with injury (Hunter, Strootman, Narsingh, De Guzman, Janmaat), and others are not in the picture due to lack of form and/or rhythm ( Fer, Sneijder, De Jong, Ola John).

Van Gaal likes to work with youngsters, players he can ‘control’. He added Rekik and Bruma to the squad based on their good work in the first matches for PSV. Stijn Schaars is back too and so are Clasie and Van Wolfswinkel. Clasie’s return is remarkable as the youngster had an abyssmal start with Feyenoord but Fer/De Guzman/Strootman/De Jong not in the picture has everything to do with that.

Wesley Sneijder again not selected is quite logical. Sneijder had only one competitive game with Gala, and although he played well, it is clearly not enough for Van Gaal. And it would be a bit silly to invite him back in after one good performance.

As was stated on the blog earlier, Van Ginkel could have chosen to play for Ajax, and he would have had 3 matches under his belt, instead of the 2 x 8 minutes he has now. For now, LVG seems to accept this, but once Strootman and Fer are back in the picture, the former Vitesse man will be in trouble if he doesn’t add some minutes fast.


This coming weekend, some more exciting fixtures…

Fulham vs Arsenal… how will Stekelenburg hold up…

Hull – Norwich….Ricky Wolf and Leroy Fer

Newcastle – West Ham….. Krul and Anita

Aston Villa – Liverpool…. Vlaar

Blackpool – Reading…. Fan fave Roy Drenthe 🙂

Verona – AC Milan…. Urby and Nigel

Bayern vs Nurnberg…. Robben

Hertha vs Hamburg…. Rafa van der Vaart

Tottenham vs Swansea…Vorm, De Guzman

Augsburg vs Stuttgart….Verhaegh

Feyenoord vs NAC…. BMI, Clasie, De Vrij

Ajax vs Heerenveen….(De Boer vs Van Basten)

ManU vs Chelsea….. RVP, MVG

13 x 90 minutes of football…. not bad….

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Jong Oranje failed!

I think hard and long about my post titles, and this is the one that won. Not “Lousy Italians steal victory”, not “Unlucky Jong Oranje leaves tournament with heads up high” and not “Cor Pot rested his players but it didn’t show”.

It was a horrific game to watch. I think for neutral viewers but definitely for Oranje fans.

In the first 5 minutes, we saw one yellow card and numerous referee forced stops. After 30 minutes, there were already 20 fouls. And of course a free kick on the post by Maher.

It took at least 25 minutes before we saw some flowing play (by Holland) and to be honest, that whole phase before the break was Holland’s most impressive, with good runs and plays on the left and right flank, with Wijnaldum and Van Rhijn on the one, and John and Blind on the other side.

We ended the first half with another free kick opportunity for Maher, who sadly missed the target, as the Italian goalie was frozen to the ground.

But all that didn’t result in a goal.

The second half was pretty one-sided until that one moment. The so-called attractive and attacking playing Italians played their traditional defensive game and Oranje simply was not good enough to break them down.

Only one real chance in that stage and the pull back from De Jong, beating the goalie, was 2 yards behind runner Van Ginkel. Not De Jong’s fault, in my book. It was too eagerly run by Van Ginkel. If he paced it, he would have had an easy tap in and if the ball was 2 yards in front of him he could have slid it in. Now, he forced De Jong to give a pinpoin accurate pass. Without De Jong being able to see where Van Ginkel was.

For all the rest of the effort, little to show for it. Ola John’s engine was out in the second half, Wijnaldum couldn’t get the combination going, Van Rhijn was indecisive, Maher active but unlucky, Van Ginkel made runs that weren’t rewarded and Strootman fought for all he could but never really contributed in the build up.

Pot responded with the usual, predictable changes. Depay for John was logical and the young PSV winger had some good spells. Van der Hoorn had to come on for the injured De Vrij and Fer came on late (too late for me) for Blind.

Van der Hoorn would unfortunately play a part in the Italian goal, where he clumsily “bit” in the trick and allowed the goal scorer to turn away and score.


But we didn’t lose this game because Van der Hoorn made a mistake.

We lost the game because the Italians were better, fitter and smarter.

And had more luck. One has to say. One ball on the post and a penalty shout in the first half, could have gone the other way of course.

But Holland needs to look into the mirror.

First to do so: the KNVB. If they take this tournament and this team seriously, why put Cor Pot in charge?

What is his claim to fame? How is he the youth development maestro? (See Spain, where their coaches move up through the system and “breathe” the Spanish style of football. Italy by the way, same deal).

The KNVB is the first to blame, with coach Cor Pot the second. Although I think he did what he could. He simply can’t do better than he did.

A team like this, with these prospects, a year before a World Cup deserves a coach of a different caliber. Someone like Ronald de Boer maybe? Phillip Cocu? Alphons Groenendijk? Jean Paul van Gastel? Jaap Stam? Alex Pastoor? Ron Jans? John van den Brom? John van ‘t Schip?

Someone with tactical smarts and who knows what it takes to win at the highest level.

Sure, you can say “the players had to do it and they didn’t”, but the players that were on the pitch were clearly not gelled into a swinging team.

Lets take the pace.

If you want to create chances against a defensive Italian side, you need to play with pace. High ball speed. Swift one touch / two touch passing. Simple but quick. And reach the wide players fast (so they are one on one) or play into the deepest man fast (so the midfielders can either move up or even overlap). None of this happened.

Lets take the build up patterns.

As I said before WHERE IS CLASIE? We need one player in midfield who can sit deep with defence, always available to take the ball and always ready to accelerate the game forwards. Against Germany, Russia and against Italy, none of the midfielders took that role. The reason is simple: Pot plays with three midfielders and the central one plays high. The other two mix up the tasks of box to box so one of the two came back to collect and build up, if the other went high up the park. Strootman is not bad at this, Van Ginkel is not used to it. He can do a lot but giving the killer pass is not what he is about. He even had clumsy loss of possession a number of times close to our last line of defence. This team – these central defenders – need a central midfielder who sits deep, not high. A player like Scholes, Xavi, Cabaye… A player like Clasie. Although Adam Maher can play that role too, mind you! So I missed that role (and that player). I would have played Strootman and Van Ginkel on left and right of midfield, with Van Ginkel free to make his forward runs. And I would have benched De Jong who is not that helpful against opponents like Italy and Spain. De Jong is great against lesser opponents. I would have played Adam Maher in the Messi role. The roaming center forward, making space for Wijnaldum and Van Ginkel and John.

That would be a dreamteam.

Still not convinced of Jeroen Zoet, I felt his clearances were poor and added to insecurity with Blind and Van Rhijn.

Italy won it deservedly, at the end of the day. More mature, more shrewdness. Not as bad as the Euro2000 semi finals, fortunately.

But we have learned valuable lessons this tournament.

The most valuable one: there is a LOT of work to be done. But Van Gaal is a coach who can handle that, at least.

We thank Cor Pot for all his contributions. I fear he was too lightweight for the job, but you can’t blame him for accepting the task of course.

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Young Oranje coasts to semi finals…

With an empathic win over Russia, Holland has confirmed their status as finals favorite. In the second game of the tournament, Oranje added five goals to their tally of three, but unfortunately could not keep a clean sheet against a weak Russia side.

Cor Pot hadn’t changed his line up for the Russia game. He probably knows best, but playing 3 games in 8 days after a long season might be a good reason to mix things up a bit, I thought. I could have justified bringing Fer for Van Ginkel for instance, or as I said earlier on, Clasie for Strootman or Van Ginkel.

But as the punters here have picked up: Strootman seems to enjoy a protected status and is beyond question.

Russia played a defensive game against Spain earlier on and had to get something out of this one, so we expected Russia to open up a bit and allow for space. That indeed happened, the game was fairly open from the start, although Russia did resort to counter football and slowed the game down to walking pace for long stretches. Oranje played patient game but in my view was still very sloppy in taking advantage of certain moments.

Oranje being sometimes too playful, too intricate and at times not seeing the easy solutions.

It seemed like Russia would be able to reach the break with an even score and memories of the late winner of Spain came to mind for this game.

But in telling style, it was Wijnaldum who broke the deadlock, almost in similar fashion as his goal against Germany.

The winger-who-is-not-a-winger cut inside again, dribbling and spotting the gap before hitting the leather with his powerful right (it was his left against Germany).

wijnaldum scores 2

Wijnaldum lifted, Cor Pot enjoys it…

Wijnaldum was almost invisible the whole period before his goal. He made room for Van Rhijn (who played very good by the way) and had some combinations with Van Ginkel but we saw none of his dribbles on the flank.

Contrary to Ola John who started the game with the spring in his step. John is a natural, as he would prove time and time again in the game. Great first touches, vision in the pass-move dynamics, work rate, good crosses and scoring ability. The real deal.


So a lot when through the middle and over the left flank and mainly in the center of the pitch I felt we disappointed. Maher and De Jong played a tough first half (although De Jong rattled the post with a free header). De Jong is always threatening when the ball is crossed in, but in the combination with Maher and Strootman, he seems lacking.

Maher seems tired. The youngster had a big season with AZ (winning the National Cup) and must be thinking about his future, as Ajax and PSV expect to do battle over him although numerous EPL clubs are now chasing him too.

Maher showed his class in moments. He needs to be more dominant, needs to be the high up the park playmaker for us, but he has never looked the part. This is partly also because he lacks a player behind him capable of playing the one-touch killer pass.

In the second half, the game opened up more for Oranje when the French ref deservedly sent a Russian player off. He slid from behind with his studs up and a stretched leg into Maher achilles… A dangerous tackle, from behind. Ergo: red. It might have looked harsh, but the rules support the ref and we could have had a similar situation as with Italian star Insigne, who had to leave the pitch early against Israel.


Luuk RussiaFinally Luuk gets one…

The same Maher showed he could play on, when he took a Van Rhijn cross on his right on the half-volley turn and hitting a cracker on the cross bar. The whole stadium could hear the goal frame moan and Maher almost had the goal of the tournament. Luck again, for the goalie.

With 10 against 11 it was not a real contest anymore. Or so it seems. Luuk de Jong got his goal after being close a couple of times, on a measured Van Ginkel cross.

Unmarked, he placed the ball diagonally across to the far post, giving the goalie no chance.

Russia, however, stepped up a gear. Being behind and being one man down, they played all or nothing. And got a goal. Another defensive debacle with lots of orange shirts running around but no one marking the man that mattered. Infuriating Cor Pot on the bench who saw a “Germany-scenario” unfold.

But Holland didn’t get a tight arse this time and played itself to another 2 goal cushion when a long Zoet kick got extended by De Jong into the path of Ola John who had not trouble chipping the ball for the 3-1.

With Leroy Fer for Maher, Clasie for Strootman and Hoessen for De Jong, Cor Pot secured the win. A well worked attack involving John again gave Fer the chance to score his second of the tournament, as his buddy Wijnaldum did. Not much later, Fer – with some luck – got the ball to Ajax striker Hoessen who in typical Oranje/Ajax style chipped the goalie again to make it 5-1.

There were certainly chances for more, after Russia gave up but the heat and fatigue coupled with some sloppy play shielded the Russians from a double-digit debacle.

An easy win, in hindsight with a lot of great and not-so-great aspects to it.


There is nothing wrong with 4-3-3 but as Wijnaldum showed in the two games: he is not a right winger. He loves to come inside and allow Van Rhijn the overlap. Playing Van Ginkel as right midfielder sort of blocks Wijnaldum on the right and a couple of times it was clear he had no space to operate in. Playing with a wide winger on the left and a more inside focused player on the right is absolutely fine, but I believe Van Ginkel should make way for Clasie.

In this way, the defensive four have a target always (Clasie) while Wijnaldum can drift into the open space on the right. Van Rhijn hardly ever has a direct opponent at this level, so why not?

game end

Van Ginkel does well, don’t get me wrong. He is active, he works hard, he can penetrate but I feel we need less running and more brains. A one-touch pass right in the feet of a runner (Wijnaldum, Maher, John, Strootman, Van Rhijn), perfectly weighted, is more needed. And currently, we don’t have anyone offering that.

Player dynamics

Mostly good. The left flank is strong. The combinations between Martins Indi, Blind, Strootman, John are solid and John almost always wants to execute the correct decision.

The right flank is a bit sluggish. Wijnaldum needs space to drift. And doesn’t get it.

Maher and De Jong have not forged a romantic relationship yet. Whenever Maher drifts deep to get the ball, you know he is in trouble. And he did so a couple of times in the first half.

Strootman, Van Ginkel and Maher in midfield to me is out of balance. Too much testosteron, not enough brains. (Maher definitely is a smart player of course, but he needs someone behind him who recognises his actions). I believe Maher’s disappointing game is also the result of the players around him. Say no more.

The Defensive four played really strong and these lads should be comfortable as they will play a lot of senior games too.


I think Ola John, Daley Blind and Ricardo van Rhijn were the key players in this game for us. Martins Indi and De Vrij were good, De Vrij atoned for his bad spell against Germany while Luuk de Jong worked hard but was unlucky with his team mates just fumbling the key pass or playing the ball behind him.

Strootman and Van Ginkel put it in a good work shift but at times their passing was too hasty or at times too lacklustre.

Jeroen Zoet didn’t impress me. Again. The second German goal was not unstoppable and he missed a corner against the Russians and had some below par clearances against Russia. He is not yet of the level of Vermeer or Cillisen in my book (let alone Tyton (PSV) or Vorm and Krul (Oranje)).

Cor Pot now has choices to make against Spain. Is he playing the same eleven again (3rd game in 7 days)? Will he risk it? Or is it time to mix it up and use the Dutch Xavi (Clasie) alongside Leroy Fer instead of Strootman and Van Ginkel?

Maher didn’t look fresh when subbed and he might also be on the list to sit one out. Wijnaldum clearly relishes the no. 10 spot and with Jozefzoon (or even Van Ginkel) on the right wing, we will not lose any strength.

If we do beat Spain, we are likely to face off against Norway. A very physical team. Which might be a good reason to rest Van Ginkel and Strootman for a game… We will need at least 16 players to win this one, as Fer, Hoessen, Jozefzoon and Clasie have already demonstrated…

blind pot Daley Blind played a perfect game

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Oranje wins in German style….

Any international game between Oranje and Germany is ALWAYS eventful. And it always matters a lot! Even if it doesn’t matter at all….

It has been 20 years since Young Oranje beat Young Germany and if there ever was a good time for Jong Oranje to win again it was now. In a group with Spain and Russia, getting three points in the openings game was considered key.

And man, did we show the Germans!! Beating them in the dying minutes, Mannschaft style!

And man, did we give them football lessons in the first half!

And man, did we squeeze our arses together in the second half….

I’m a glass-half-full man myself… Actually, I’m the guy pushing the glasses aside and grabbing the bottle….

But we do have to face up to that dreadful second half start. My goodness. NOT good.

We will stay positive, of course. And despite a slow build up, it was all Oranje in the first half. The Germans did show they can play good football, but Oranje beat them on every aspect. More aggression, more pressure, better understanding, bigger work ethos and most definitely more skill.

We demonstrated some good moves, got a couple of corners, Maher got a 100% chance. It was very good to watch on all counts. Wijnaldum was invisible for the first 15 minutes and I remembered thinking “why not Jozefzoon”, but boy did he show his metal.

It was a fine football demostration (the Setanta commentator couldn’t find enough words to praise Oranje) but one has to say: Germany was really weak (and needed a tactical change to counter us).

Although I personally would have preferred to have seen Clasie for Van Ginkel. De Vitesse player did have a good first half (and he definitely played a strong second half) but Oranje missed a quick accelerator in midfield to support in the build up. Strootman is capable of playing the Van Ginkel role while Clasie’s presence gives the center backs an outlet, allowing our full back to push up more…. I believe Van Ginkel and Strootman are too similar and don’t seem to have the rapport you would want your players to have, also not with Maher. The AZ midfielder did have an instrumental role but drifted out of the game too often too.

Adam Maher found the net first, after a slick move by Ola John, while Gio Wijnaldum created the second all by himself. Clearly annoyed that was not used in the first 20 minutes of the game, the PSV player started to show more of himself by drifting inwards.

Dribbling past 4 opponents the winger took the ball on his left for a zinger. It seemed the goalie blocked the shot but it veered into the net of the goalies fingers. A massive celebration ensued and Wijnaldum would add a couple of very cool flicks to the game before being subbed in the second half, after having taken a knock.

But in typical Oranje form, we forgot all our best intentions coming out of the dressing room.

You could see what was going to happen. The German players were ready and waiting, eager to start the second half. You know what that means.

And one minute into the second half, my growing doubts on Stefan de Vrij further increased. He has made a number of these slip ups, in some key Feyenoord games recently, and you can not do that at this level. Against Germany, it is immediately a goal.

And with the risk of a sending off for Zoet and a penalty against, De Vrij really needs to have someone give him a blowdry speech.

The period after that German goal was atrocious. Around 20 minutes of headless chook football. No system, no pressure, too much space between the lines…. maybe, no leadership either (although Strootman was seen gesticulating and yelling…). In these cases you need to be able to hold the ball in the team. How do you do this? Positioning. Work rate. Pass and move. This is how you take the sting out of the German game. They can’t press for another 45 minutes, and the resolve would go out of the window.

But we failed to do so. Our positioning play was horrific. We seemed to panic almost.

Allowing Germany to take two short corner kicks without realising it (offering them shooting chances) is a typical symptom of tactical imatureness, lack of communication and leadership and downright weakness. It was Ola John at first and Jozefzoon later who were caught out and the Germans played for a spell as if they were Dutch.

We slowly got more composure and the work rate of players like Van Ginkel and Strootman got us back in the game. Luuk de Jong made a nuisance of himself and through a quick break Jozefzoon was almost the matchwinner with his first touch of the game.

The 2-2 again demonstrated our defensive weakness. In the EPL, this would never have been a goal. You simply are not allowed to take the ball in a wide direction without a massive block tackle. And when Holtby took the shot, two players could’ve / should’ve blocked him… And I personally believe Zoet could have done better….

So, 2-2.

I feared a complete meltdown. But somehow the team decided not to give the game away. And led by a fearsome Martins Indi and a hard working Adam Maher Oranje fought itself back into the game.

Cor Pot decided to abandon the 4-3-3 and brought Leroy Fer for Ola John. Luuk de Jong and Maher played upfront and the team pushed once more, resulting in a fine opportunity for Fer, who headed over and beyond.

A couple of minutes later, Van Ginkel was loose running into the box and a desperate block stopped the Chelsea target from scoring. It was from the resulting Adam Maher corner kick that the aggressive Fer could attack the ball and score like we have seen him score so often already. And with 5 minutes on the clock, we would not allow the Germans back into the game.

A deserved win, is what I say (but I’m biased). It puts Holland at 3 points and Germany on zero, and the Germans are up against Spain next… A great start. Key for Holland now is to keep the first half form and lose the second half dip.
Coach Cor Pot was the winning coach, bringing the matchwinner only minutes before he scored…. “Yep, a golden change,” he said. “I’m happy with that. But I’m totally soaked from sweat, haha. The first half was beautiful to watch but after the break we did it all wrong. We became insecure after that quick penalty and they grew wings. We needed more physical presence and with Fer we got that.”

Leroy Fer was matchwinner. The man who scored so many important goals for his club Twente and Jong Oranje in key games. But he started on the bench. “Yes, that is always crap of course, haha. But I knew I would get my chance. And to come in like this is wonderful. But it is a team sport, it’s not about me.”

Skipper Strootman was not happy with the second half. He was playing like a traffic warden for 20 minutes… “We got that penalty after an individual mistake and then we all seemed to lose it… But I’m happy we were able to straighten our back and winning this is absolutely great. We showed the world that we can play and we got the three points. What more can you ask?”

Jeroen Zoet was relieved to only see a yellow card after his foul on Holtby. “I know that some refs do give red for this. I’m not sure if Holtby would have been able to keep the ball in, and I’m not sure what made the ref give me yellow. I was a bit scared there….”

Van Ginkel admits the team had fear. “Well, you know the Germans can come at you when it’s suddenly 2-1 and I think we did get some fear into the team, yes. And they did have chances to win it even, they may have been the more dominant team in the last phase. But I knew we would have chances in the turnaround.”

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