Tag: Virgil

VAR injustice against stronger France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a tough game.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Koeman calls up Jan for the blog!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Prelim Squad announced for Oranje

Almost a month to go and we’re starting to leave the club competitions behind us.

You will have seen the squad selection by now? I don’t think too many surprises.

For some, the absence of Bizot was a surprise, as he was called up for the last international games. He was most likely part of the prelim squad, if not for some domestic family issues. Marco decided to forfeit the Euros as his family circumstances have not been resolved and he prefers to be with the family during the summer.

The list of injured players ( Hartman, Wieffer, Lang) might become longer with question marks for Marten de Roon, Frenkie de Jong, Memphis Depay and Zirkzee, while Luuk de Jong definitely retired from the NT.

Calvin Stengs, Thijs Dallinga and Steven Berghuis will have had idle hope and should something happen to Malen or Bergwijn or Xavi Simons, these three might still get a look in.

If Frenkie and Memphis can join the squad, I do believe we’ll be in good shape.

We simply need our key players to be in form and Koeman to pick a logical starting eleven for the games at the Euros.

I mean, our goalkeepers are fine. Our central defenders are top. Maatsen and Ake can cover the left side, even Blind might be able to play against opponents parking the bus. Frimpong and Dumfries will cover the right with Geertruida also on hand.

Our midfield options are pretty good, with Veerman, Schouten, Reijnders and Koopmeiners and when fit, we can expect some fire upfront from Malen, Gakpo, Simons and Brobbey.

As mentioned, we need Koeman to make the right decisions and allow the players to play to their strengths.

It may sound simplistic, but we need two teams: 1 that can dominate possession against the minions and 1 that can play on the transition when playing the strong countries who themselves want to dominate.

I will suggest three at the back in both scenarios and I would personally use Bijlow as first goalie.

My two teams:

 

 

Tell me your fave line up in the comments….

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Oranje simply not up to it

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

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

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

The System

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

One photo will show you why this is nonsense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

We didn’t lose because of the system

The quality of the players

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Mentality, commitment, leadership

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

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

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

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

And this is not something we fix by changing systems.

The Coach

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Peter Bosz was available. Just sayin’.

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

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

The Future

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

It’s do or die now.

 

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Memphis’ injury a blessing?

This is not a sentence I expected to write. Ever. Memphis has been super important for the Dutch NT, ever since his appearance at the World Cup in 2014. Under coach Koeman, the explosive and talented forward led the team, scored a record number of goals and is well on his way to become Oranje’s all time goalscorer and most likely most capped player. Or so it seemed.

But, the former Sparta youngster hasn’t been able to shine for more than a year now. His Euros was lacklustre and his World Cup a big question mark. He went from injury to injury and was absent more than present, both at Barcelona and more recently at Atletico.

But, as we established here, as the Dutch have trouble to thank their heroes and force them out to make way for new stars, it was a real question whether coach Koeman would make wholesale changes or whether he would rely on the old guard. Virgil, Cillesen, Memphis, Daley Blind, Wijnaldum…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like many coaches before ( Zwartkruis in 1980, Beenhakker in 1990, Van Marwijk in 2012, Van Gaal recently), it seemed Koeman was falling back on the old hands, but reality has reared up it’s not so ugly head and helped the former snow flake a bit.

Cillesen had a couple of howlers at the end of the season and couldn’t dig a hole big enough to hide in.

Daley Blind hardly played and has already been told he’s out of the squad.

Wijnaldum is stil with the squad but with his recent lacklustre performances and with Koopmeiners’ classy run as a #10, I don’t think Gini will feature much.

Virgil was able to claw back to a decent form, after a season of mishits and stumbles and will most likely lead the team out versus Croatia.

And Memphis? Well, he pulled out himself. Not fit enough to play and prefers – smartly – to prep for the new season in Madrid.

And it’s a blessing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arie Haan in 1974

And don’t forget: we know how coach sometime end up with their success formulas just by sheer luck, coincidence or as the result of setbacks. Michels lost all his centre backs in 1974 (Israel, Laseroms, Drost, Mansveld, Hulshof) and decided to put midfielder Arie Haan in the back with young stopper Wim Rijsbergen.

Or in 1988, when the same Michels started the Euros with 4-3-3, with Marco van Basten on the bench. A player who almost didn’t make the cut. After one match – losing versus USSR – Michels went to a 4-4-2 with Van Basten and Gullit up front. The rest is history.

Van Gaal and his three at the back in 2014? This came about due to an injury for defensive mid Kevin Strootman and an experiment of Koeman with Feyenoord away at PSV.

The Memphis injury could well be a key break for Koeman. Or, as Cruyff would say it, this could be an advantage resulting from a disadvantage.

Koeman and Van Gaal both were tempted to to use two wingbacks and three defenders, to build a solid foundation and create space for his mercurial forward. Memphis needed freedom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Bosman versus USSR in 1988

But the 3 at the back system didn’t work for Koeman as he saw that his team had issues dominating the game. At the same time, Ten Hag showed how you can do it, with a 4-2-3-1 system. When Frenkie de Jong came into view, Koeman switched to the Ajax system, with two central defenders, at times augmented by the deep lying De Jong, who’d drop in between, pushing the full backs further up the field.

Frenkie made his entrance in Sneijder’s farewell match versus Peru and the new Oranje system was settled. In 2018, Koeman built his team around Virgil, Wijnaldum and Memphis. The latter two do not have the status or form they had back then and it’s time for a change.

The only two Dutch forwards who perform at a high level in big competitions are Cody Gakpo and Donyell Malen. Therefore, it seems only logical to build the team around a new #9: Gakpo.

At Liverpool, he plays like a false 9, with two offensive midfielders in his back. Fabinho, the defensive lock, will be paired with Trent Alexander-Arnold who joins the midfield from the back, a role Geertruida plays at Feyenoord. At Liverpool, Andy Robertson is the third centre back, which is the role Ake plays at Man City. Both Van Dijk and De Ligt are accustomed to this system.

It seems Oranje could well play in this same form, although Dumfries might be at odds in this role. It’s not very likely that Koeman will drop the Inter right back though, but this Liverpool/Man City system could well work for Holland.

For me, I don’t think we can go beyond Ake as left back. He can fill the job the way Blind did, as Ake too is a great passer of the ball.

This leaves space for Frenkie to explore the left side a bit and in my midfield, I would have Mats Wieffer playing the defensive mid, with Frenkie next to him but with freedom to roam on that left flank.

My number 10 in this system is Teun Koopmeiners. I don’t like him much as a six, but in the #10 role he is killing it at Atalanta. I’d pick Xavi Simons as the left winger and Malen on the right, of course.

Noppert should not start, in my view, and if it’s a toss up between Flekken and Bijlow, I’d go for the latter.

As for the RCB, I would pick De Ligt versus a static #9 and Timber versus the more diminutive forwards (like David Silva or Alexander Isak). Not sure what Croatia will bring.

This is my line up.

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Naive Oranje humiliated in France

The number of times I had to write “boys v men” on this blog in the past decade is simply not funny anymore. Rafael van der Vaart compared our game v France with youth football.

This virus plagued Oranje got hammered by a lethal France and only have themselves to blame. Debutant Geertruida and youngster Xavi Simons are two of the players who scored a decent rating. Most of the others disappointed gravely in an avalanche of errors.

When Daley Blind is the cause for the only positive aspect of this game, you know we’re in trouble. Daley got his 100th cap for Oranje and joins the Oranje elite (behind Sneijder, Van der Sar, De Boer, Van der Vaart, Van Bronckhorst, Kuyt, Van Persie and Cocu and just in front of Robben).

In the 21st minute, when we’re trailing 3-0 against Les Blues, the stats tell the story: Holland has close to 70% possession of the ball. France has 3 shots on goal. Holland has 4 shots on goal. France has 3 goals. Oranje zero, nada, zilch.

We dominated the ball but France scored the goals. Deschamps gets the game he dreamed of, with The Netherlands gifting Coman, Kolo Muani and Mbappe all options to counter attack with their speed.

Koeman’s line up surprised a bit. Berghuis as winger/midfielder was a surprise to me, I expected Xavi Simons there. And I expected Malen, with his speed as well. I hoped for Wieffer but he wasn’t 100%, so Koeman decided against him and picked Taylor. Gravenberch was added to the squad late, after Veerman had to depart due to the gastro virus, but Taylor had more games at Ajax. De Roon was an obvious choice. But to play Geertruida and Timber “against type” was another surprise.

Oranje’s 70% possession didn’t do much for us. Why, because the French coach had a good idea which Dutch player to allow the ball. Griezmann covers Taylor (like he used to do on Frenkie) and De Roon is the man in midfield allowed to build up. Not his strength.

Another remarkable aspect: Koeman wants his full backs to remain wide and hugging the line. Ake on the left and Timber on the right usually play more inside as full backs (like Malacia at Man U and Geertruida at Feyenoord). Playing so wide means that the centre backs Geertruida and Van Dijk have difficulties reaching the wide man and regularly only see De Roon as their outlet. Again, not the man where you want the build up to start.

And this happened under Koeman I as well: the moment De Roon is played in, the French midfielders pounce hoping for a mistake. And this is exactly what happens in the first 90 seconds when Holland is patiently kicking the ball around.

The ball is on the right flank. Taylor omits to look over his shoulder, he only sees the ball. He is played in and is totally obliviousto Griezmann making a go for the ball. He passes square to De Roon who is hijacked by Rabiot and two passes later it’s 1-0. Also check the video to see how Taylor jogs back instead of busting a lung to mark Griezmann who ended up scoring their first goal.

The second goal is also the result of an error. It’s Cillesen this time who should be able to just collect the ball from a free kick from the right. But the NEC goalie misjudges the ball and the leather bounces from his arm onto the oncoming Upamecano: 2-0. An error yes, but at least one that you can sympathise with. A number of attackers and defenders were jumping in front of Cillesen, obstructing his views. A mistake like this is easily made. But … not nice to be 2-0 down after 9 minutes.

The free kick, from where this goal came, was the result of another positional error by the team. As you can see below.

Van Dijk is trying to play the offside- Liverpool style. But Timber and Geertruida have other ideas, probably due to the speed of MBappe and Coman. The pass is good, towards Coman and Geertruida makes the foul.

This miscommunication is typical for a team that doesn’t show any unity in thinking and doing. The players are too busy with their own individual role and don’t seem to see the bigger picture.

The third goal is after we see a variant used by Koeman in his first period, with a holding mid (normally Frenkie) dropping deep next to the central defenders to start the build up. This used to work, with powerhouse Dumfries high up the right channel. With Timber, it’s less logical. The Ajax central defender is best in the axis of the field. Why Koeman switched Geertruida and Timber is anyone’s guess.

This is just before the goal. Geertruida carries the ball. De Roon takes Timber’s spot. No one in midfield is open, so Geertruida is looking for Timber who is free. But the pass lacks pace, Hernandez read it well and sprints full swing to intercept the ball. In terms of numbers, this should not be a problem, as we have De Roon, Geertruida, Van Dijk and Ake in the defensive organisation while Taylor is also behind the ball. But still we get in trouble, as the players are not ideally positioned and Taylor does not coach his team mates like for instance De Roon or De Jong do in Oranje, or Kokcu at Feyenoord. So no one puts pressure on Tchouameni, the task of Wijnaldum. And when MBappe is at full speed, it’s De Roon who needs to track back, not something he does well. De Roon also lacks the speed needed. Muani lets the ball run and Mbappe gobbles it up: 3-0.

Koeman then switches Timber and Geertruida back to their usual positions and brings Weghorst for the disappointing Taylor, to spice things up a bit. It’s a bit too little too late, as France knows the match is won and they do take their foot off the gas. Therefore, it’s hard to judge the eleven that play the remainder of the game for us.

The game ends with another amateuristic error: a risky pass forward by Van Dijk, miscontrol by Memphis and he seems to pay the perfect assist to his friend MBappe who scores a superb 4-0.

Memphis missing a late penalty for Oranje is typical for the teams performance, on a night when everything we do fails.

Holland doesn’t have the calibre players that France have. As the saying goes: the better team will win against the better individuals. Sadly, Holland also doesn’t have the better team…

 

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Ronald Koeman interview

As per our customs, we like to present a new team manager via a “Big Interview”. In this case, the manager isn’t new. The interview is still big.

Ronald Koeman, the new team manager for Oranje. Welcome…

Koeman: “I am so blessed, happy and priviliged to be the….

Yes, you can stop the cliches and the asskissing Ronald, we know your drill by now, ladidadida I am so proud, yadda yadda… is there another clause in your agreement? Will you forsake Oranje again?? Maybe when Spurs come calling?

“Oops, no. I get what you’re saying. No clause this time.”

Yes, because you were so keen to coach Oranje but you left at a key time and you left us with Frank de Boer and Louis van Gaal. Two major tournaments wasted opportunities. What do you have to say for yourself?

“Like I said, there is no clause now and I am happy and blessed and….”

Enough! What can we expect?

“Well, like I said before. I am a 4-3-3 man. I will not proceed with the LVG style of 5 at the back, whatever Louis called it. We’re going back to the system with which I had success, before I …”

Yes, shut up. How did you enjoy the World Cup?

“I think it was an exciting World Cup. The Qatar location wasn’t a success, neither was the winter time, for me at least, but we saw some exciting games. The Dutch could and should have done better, I feel, but I think everyone feels this way.”

What was the reason? Van Gaal?

“It’s tempting to say yes to that. But in all fairness, our top forwards were not in good shape. Gakpo did ok, but Memphis and Bergwijn were the go-to guys for Louis and I think he betted on the wrong horses. Overall, we didn’t have the quality we needed to have.”

How do you think you can overcome this?

“I hope I will make better decisions. But I won’t go back into the World Cup or stuff that happened before me. It’s not fair on Louis and not fair on the lads. I wasn’t there. I want to focus on the games ahead and the tournaments where I can have an impact. I do believe 4-3-3 will be a better option for us. Playing three at the back because you have top defenders is not good enough for me. I mean, we won’t play 5 strikers when we have 5 top goal scorers, would we?”

You came up with the definitive squad for these two Euro Qualification matches. It seemed the goalies and the strikers were a problem but now that is overshadowed by the loss of Frenkie de Jong. Can we cope without him?

“Of course! We will field 11 players, don’t worry. And we do not have a “second Frenkie” in the sense that Frenkie is quite unique. But even with Koopmeiners injured we have alternatives. They will play their part in a different way, but they can definitely play in that role. Wijnaldum played there, De Roon did, Berghuis even, Taylor plays in his role at Ajax and Blind played there a couple of games as well. And I have Wieffer and also Joey Veerman in the squad. Geertruida can play there even!”

Daley Blind? People will wonder why he is even in the squad?

“Really? He played 99 matches for Oranje! A player like him will always get his exit through the front door! He has been a good and loyal soldier of orange and although I did tell him that he shouldn’t count on a starting spot at LB, he can still be very important for us. He can play on 3 different spots and he brings a lot of know how and experience in the dressing room. I want to be able to give him his 100st international game, he deserves it. But whether I will keep on selecting him will hinge on his game time, moving forward.”

Ok, so no LB role for him anymore?

“No, listen when we play 4 at the back, Nathan Ake and Malacia are two excellent candidates and we have the likes of Bakker and Hartman coming through too. Daley is vulnerable defensively, that is no secret, but he can definitely play in the central midfield role, when we play with two pivots.”

Exactly what Van Basten and Gullit said in the Rondo talkshow.

“Yes but I don’t need them to tell me. Everyone knows this. But I have options. I can play De Roon if I want to build in more defensive strength. Or Berghuis, Taylor or even Wieffer if I want to play more offensive.”

Would you risk it with Wieffer in his debut match? Against France?

“Sure, why not? When you’re part of the squad, you’re part of the squad. He will have to show me, of course, during practice here, but I saw him play against Ajax, and Shaktar and those are games at a high level and he was great. I also added Veerman to the mix, we’re not in bad shape at all and Frenkie is a player who – like any player – can get injured or suspended so we need to find ways to cope.”

How bad was the news for you, that Luuk de Jong and Vincent Janssen withdrew from international football?

“Bad bad…. it was a surprise. I would never expect a player to say thanks to Oranje but hey, times change. I mean, Luuk is getting on and his body might need the rest at times. I respect that. He’s 32 and started his pro life at 17 or so? 15 years of knocks and pushes and battles. It’s a shame because he is definitely one of the best headers in the game in Europe, but like Janssen, he wouldn’t be a starter. Vincent has a young family and I think the pace of today’s game forces him to slow down. I think we demand too much of our players. All these matches, it’s nuts.”

Do we now have a strikers problem?

“Nah. I don’t think so. Gakpo plays striker for Liverpool. Memphis at Atleti. We have Danjuma who will hope that Kane moves on, we have Brobbey, Dallinga, Malen, Lang and even Simons can play there. Oh and Weghorst. I think we will manage.”

And the goalies?

“I understand there was a highly scientific approach re: the goalies. I’m a simple man and the father of a goalkeeper and I think a goalie needs to stop balls from going into the net. With Cillesen, Flekken, Bijlow and now also Verbruggen we have good goalies. Cillesen has years in him still, and the others obviously too. Noppert is top as well, but injured now and I can see more good goalies in the Eredivisie, like Olij and Vaessen. We – again – should be ok.”

There was some surprise re: Frimpong versus Geertruida and Tete?

“I can understand this, but I have a simple answer. Geertruida can play RB in a 4-3-3, he can also play central defender really well, and he can play also in the defensive mid role in midfield. Frimpong for me is more a wingback or even a right winger! He is excellent in Van Gaal’s system, so to speak. I think Geertruida is a better defender, Frimpong excellent in attack. But defenders need to be able to defend.”

Dumfries is suspended of course, for the France game. Tete was quite annoyed with the snub, he made some public comments about it. It felt like you were playing with his balls?

“I didn’t hear him say it, and he might have used this as a metaphor. I’m not impressed but I will call him after these matches and suss him out. I don’t think he has anything to complain. I got him into the squad again and I have gotten him into this prelim squad. I think Geertruida has been impressing way longer than Tete, who is only back at full form since this season. But I will call him up and see how he is.”

So Geertruida versus Mbappe? 

“Yes why not. Or Timber.”

How do you see this qualifications group?

“I think we’ll need to be at our best versus all opponents. The onus is onus is on us and France. Two nations qualify and that should be us. But you can easily get into trouble against one of the others. Maybe not Gibraltar but even that match will not be an easy one. They never are. But if we don’t qualify, I will have failed.”

Are you positive about our future? Talent development?

“I am very positive. Look at the level of the Dutch clubs these days. Sure, Feyenoord is top, Ajax is always top, PSV will be there, but now AZ and FC Twente are joining in, Sparta, NEC and RKC are performing ever so well, our overall level is going up. And there is excellent talent, all over the place. Xavi Simons, Summerville at Leeds, Struijk at Leeds, Huissen at Juventus, we have Wieffer now, I still believe in Rensch and Teze, I can see talent at Ajax and Feyenoord, like Hartman. And it’s great to see a player like Malen getting back into shape, Lang and Danjuma are still young. We develop some great central defenders too, there is Botman, Struijk, Schuurs and Micky van de Ven, Bjorn Meijer, I mean truly… The future is bright.”

And you also seem to be keen to bring Wijnaldum back?

“For me, Wijnaldum always needs to be part of Oranje, as long as he’s fit. He always delivered under me. I am not saying it was Van Gaal’s problem, as Gini could indeed have a lesser period, it happens, but I can only refer to his many goals, his partnership with Memphis, his work ethics, I mean… Gini is top class. It’s not for nothing that the Liverpool midfield struggled without him.”

How do you rate Xavi Simons?

“He is a tremendous talent. From a footballing perspective, he’s a top class and his mentality is even better. He is not here to do tricks or to make pannas, he wants to win matches. Whenever he plays, something happens. That is really good to see.”

What do you expect from France?

“I think they will play their usual compact game. They want to create space for MBappe and they won’t press high. The pitch will be small when we have the ball and we need to be neat in possession and create options for triangles. And our rest defence needs to be top notch. We will need some training sessions for this, still.”

My eleven for the France game:

Cillesen

Geertruida  –  Timber – Van Dijk – Ake

Marten de Roon – Daley Blind – Wijnaldum

Xavi Simons – Weghorst – Memphis

Result: 2-2 (goals Memphis and Wijnaldum and two own goals by Daley)

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King Kenny finds his balance

Kenneth Tete came into Ajax 1 at a young age. What is good, comes quick they say in Holland. And Ajax has the tendency of using their talented players from a young age (Cruyff, Van Basten, Bergkamp, Van der Vaart). But for any of those, there are also Riedenwalds, Bazoers and El Ghazis, who take a longer road to success (if any).

He made a name for himself as a young and un-Ajax like player: no frills, no circus skills but dogged defensive work. I remember a typical game of Tete (at Olympique Lyonnais) against Neymar of PSG. “Keep looking at the ball and take it from him.” He didn’t display the attacking prowess of his rivals (Karsdorp, Veltman, Janmaat) and was considered a top defender but lacking in the attacking department.

This season, at Fulham, he made his way back to the EPL with a debut match vs Liverpool. An assist on his striker Mitrovic displayed a Kenny Tete who had developed into a rebel rousing wingback.

And it didn’t stop there. The 27 year old had assists versus Spurs, Nottingham Forest and Southampton and is one of the first on the Fulham team sheet.

“i want to be a modern full back. I worked hard to get there. I was always the only real defender at Ajax and it gave me a status, if you like. They didn’t have many players like me, until Tagliafico came along. At Lyon, under Bosz, I was forced to add more to the attack as Bosz wants his teams to defend and attack as a unit. My move to Fulham made that even more important. In England, the game is also way more physical so I had to work even harder, both on my physical strength and on my football skills. I could have had more than four assists. I mean, you’re depending on the guy who gets the ball to score. If they would have scored, I would have had more assists.”

In this heat map, you can see how Tete indeed covers the whole flank, but also assists his central defenders where needed.

More and more forwards realise they’ll have a tough day in the office, versus Tete. He played new Chelsea signing Mudryk from the pitch. “I tell you, I never heard of this guy before. But I did hear he cost Chelsea 100 million euros. So then I thought, hmmm, he’s probably pretty good and that motivates me even more!” Mudryk didn’t get any thing going against King Kenny and remained in the dressing room at half time.

“My first big encounter against a super star was my game against Neymar. I was super nervous, but I decided: just do what you normally do but stay 100% focused and don’t start to think “oh my , I am facing Neymar”. And ever since that match, I feel secure and confident. And yes, when a guy like Mudryk gets hooked, it feels good but at the same time: at Chelsea they’ll put another top player opposite you and you have to go again. You know, Sterling or Mount or Havertz, they’re all top players.”

Tete ended the match vs Chelsea with the Man of the Match trophy.

Football players are never “safe”. Coaches want at least two players for any spot so Tete got competition from a new signing, Swiss international Mbabu. The talented defender hasn’t had a peak, so far. Tete: “I used to overthink things, you know. What if this, what if that. And I made myself anxious and lost confidence, by not controlling my mind. I’m different now. I take things step by step. I am not thinking about the matches in April, or next season, or the new signing. I am working hard on training and go from match to match. It serves me.”

“When I was at Ajax, playing in the first team at 19 years old, there were rumours of Real Madrid having an interest. And that screws with your mind a bit. You start with fantasies and with dreams and you play with the idea in your head that the next game might get you that transfer. I mean, many players made big moves in those days, and I too wanted to reach high. I ended up with Fulham and got relegated! But I stayed, I love this club and now we’re number 7 in the league! I am focusing fully on Fulham as I love it here, I love living in London and my family loves it here too. If I have to finish my playing career here, I wouldn’t not mind a single bit.”

Marco Silva’s team has found the way up and has the best season since a long time. “We didn’t lose too many players and were able to bring in some good new lads and it just clicks now. We are playing with flair, with passion, with joy and it works. And we played Arsenal twice, the number 1 in the league, and we lost to them by goals in the last minute. This does mean we are not 100% there yet, but it also means we’re getting close.”

In the past years, the Dutch National Team was a no fly zone for King Kenny, but it might well be that a mainstay in the Premier League gets another call up. Dumfries doesn’t play a lot at Inter. Rensch doesn’t convince. Karsdorp only just started playing again, Geertruida plays as a central defender… Any thoughts? “Well, I was on the prelim list of De Boer’s squad, but I wasn’t a part of the squad for a long time. I missed the Euros, missed the World Cup so I’m not a go to guy at the moment. And I will not claim I should be. But sure, playing well in the EPL does mean you’re reaching a good level, so if the invite comes, I will be ready.”

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Oranje back to drawing board

And here is the final result of the little Scorito competition we had going, the competition of course being called Lowievenkaals Armie. Shawn is the absolute GOAT of this competition.

Shawn, congrats! You will have bragging rights till the next World Cup. Robin is France, I am Croatia and Sjaak is Morocco. Ah well….

Despite a heroic comeback versus Argentina, Oranje is home licking their wounds. I am sad Morocco didn’t get a trophy to show for their contributions and with the Atlas Lions out, the real Dutch connection ( Ziyech, Amrabat, Mazraoui, Aboukhlal) to this World Cup is gone. There is no real connection with the French for us, and generally speaking, the Dutch are not big fans of Les Blues. Messi will always be my fave player, even if he gave Weghorst and LVG a piece of his mind. The Argentinian connection is there (Rijkaard / Ten Cate > Messi, Tagliafico and Martinez > Ajax) and I wish them well.

In The Netherlands, it’s back to the drawing board. Van Gaal’s final conclusion seem to have been “We have not wingers of top class”. Despite this, it was the move of Gakpo to the left and Berghuis to the right with two tall towering strikers which got us the equaliser and extra time in the quarter finals. It was warrior Wout Weghorst who got the final free kick which Koopmeiners took in Weghorst’s Wolfburg style, to get us a sniff of hero-ism. But Van Gaal made a bad judgement call for the extra time, counting on penalty success.

The fear of conceding was bigger than the wish to kill the opponent off.

Before the match, he also made a bad call, in thinking Argentina would not adjust to us and he felt the 3-4-1-2 would give us a good chance to win. But, Scaloni surprised by bringing Martinez as an extra defender, nullifying our tactical “advantage”. Argentina forced the ball onto us and this scenario paid out for Scaloni.

One brilliant Messi pass and a cheap penalty gave Argentina the lead: Van Gaal beaten with his own stick.

Since the bronze medal in 2014 we missed out on two major tournaments. We seemed to stick to what we know best, building up from the back, possession based football with wingers. All this in an era in wich the game got quicker and more tactical. Countries like Iceland, Sweden, Turkey and Bulgaria were able to throw sand in the not-so-slick Oranje machine, by defending as a team and playing compact. Waiting for the mistake. The Dutch were the Dodo of International football.

Self professed fans of Dutch football, Guardiola and Klopp were able to introduce concepts like the high press and positioning play by dividing the playing field in particular zones. In this way they found new ways to achieve balance while attacking. In the Eredivisie, coaches like Peter Bosz, Erik ten Hag and Arne Slot followed suit and were able to perform on the European stage with success.

Ronald Koeman copied this blue print after a shaky start. Left back Blind became the third central defender in the build up. Bergwijn would drift inwards, opening up space for Dumfries who covered the full right flank. On the other flank, Koeman used Ryan Babel to keep the width on the left. The yield of the wingers was limited. Bergwijn didn’t score at all in 9 matches, Babel scored 4 in 17 matches. Oranje was very dependent on Memphis Depay and his partnership with Gini Wijnaldum. Under Koeman we beat France, Germany and England, but we also lost against France, Germany and Portugal.

We could beat any team but we could also lose against any team. Under Frank de Boer we lost against Mexico, Turkey and the Czechs using different systems. This was the context when Van Gaal stepped in.

Van Gaal decided to use the learning from the past and introduced the compact playing style to the team, with the aim to build up with short passes and moves in order to combine forward. The execution was poor, to say it nicely. The simple basic things didn’t work. Creating triangles to get players on the ball, for instance. In particular the right flank was weak. No wonder Oranje played its best game against the USA, the only game in which we had less possession than the opponent.

We can debate endlessly about what went wrong, but in essence it comes down to quality, or lack thereof. Phillipp Lahm, the former Germany full back, said it best when comparing Argentina with Holland: “All the players of Argentina have what it takes in modern football: strong in the one versus one, defensively and offensively. These individual skills are what it takes to win matches, not tactics.”

Guardiola says it differently: “When I look at a player to sign for my club, I basically look at one thing only: can he dribble. Does he control the ball? I only want players who have a dribble. All the other things, like a touch, or a pass or a shot, I can teach. I cannot teach players to dribble. It’s impossible to beat a defensive team without players who can dribble.”

These are quite succinct statements explaining the problems we currently have with Oranje.

In five matches, incl extra time vs Argentina, we mustered 17 successful dribbles. That is less than Jamal Musiala of Germany on his own. Only Cody Gakpo managed to do this more often than twice. Gakpo totalled 5 successful dribbles, all in all. Mempis had 2. Denzel Dumfries? Zero. Frenkie had 3, Timber 3 and Berwijn only 1.

Arjen Robben had 5 successful dribbles in one match, in 2014. The lack of form and fitness of Memphis was not present this time, as he usually is the player to create something out of nothing.

We lacked creativity. That is the bottom line. In 2016, the Dutch FA came with a report: Winners of Tomorrow. Their conclusion was that we needed better defenders! While at that time, Ake, De Vrij, Martins Indi, Blind and others were already playing at very decent levels in Europe. While attacking creative talent was scarce.

Our successful generations ( Cruyff, Rensenbrink, Rep, Van Basten, Roy, Witschge, Davids, Kluivert, Bergkamp, Rijkaard, Rob de Wit, Van der Vaart, Robben) were produced not at the club but on the street. Exactly like Brazilians or Moroccans are developed. The youth academies don’t seem to be able to replicate the street, in their youth development plans.

This is the most important lesson for the KNVB. That, and never ever allowing a coach to abandon his post because a dream club is interested in signing him.

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Oranje does what it needs to do

We didn’t expect a glorious performance after the Ecuador game. Just a decent performance, some urgency and no goals conceded and at least one goal scored, is what we wanted. That should be enough.

At half time, the glass is half full for me. De Roon does what he is asked to do. Break up their attack and shield Frenkie. De Roon will not leave the starting line up anymore. Memphis. We need him, a good Memphis. He seemed lethargic v Ecuador but in this first half, Memphis showed an appetite. He played ok but lacks rhythm. Playing him regularly now is smart to get him in form. Gakpo sustains his good form and will be Oranje’s breakout star this tournament.

Blind, Timber and Frenkie play at a decent level. Timber drifted more into miidfield and allowed De Jong to move up a bit more, with the protection of Timber and De Roon in midfield. Klaassen had another assist and that is top, but also had some sloppy touches. Dumfries had a lot of options to make his usual darts but is not making the right choices always and tends to be a bit clumsy.

The intensity is ok, the ball pace is good, the movement is way better, all compared to Ecuador of course.

We’re looking better now, we might improve even more. This is a weaker opponent of course, so it’s important to start playing really well. We’re not there yet.

2-0. Clean sheet. Leader of the group. Bouncing back from a dreadful performance v Ecuador. I will take it. We need to do better but we’re on that upward trajectory. Memphis was better, Frenkie and De Roon as a good couple and Gakpo is on fire.

I think Van Gaal had to bring Koopmeiners and Berghuis to keep them “on board” mentally. If they would be passed they might have become totally deflated after the heavy criticism in Holland after Ecuador. Van Gaal said in the presser that the time for Simons is near but he needs to be a bit more patient.

Lets see who you would like as our next opponent?

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