While the big boys are preparing for the clash against Romania, it’s the Under21s who lead the way. The double fixture against Slovenia the last serious hurdle for their qualification for the EC next summer in Israel.
This weekend, Young Orange won the away game in Slovenia with 0-2, courtesy of two goals by Vitesse player Marco van Ginkel. The Cocu-like midfielder gets himself seriously on the radar for scouts of bigger clubs, although he’s happy to remain at Vitesse and witness the Arnhem team making its way back to the top with big names like Wilfred Bony, Theo Janssen and coach Fred Rutten.
Oranje won the difficult home game with 2-0 as well. Coach Cor Pot expected this game, played at the Sparta Castle, to be more difficult than the away game. “Slovenia plays reactive football and that works best when they play away. We need to be totally concentrated.”
But Holland did what it needed to do and won thanks to two second half goals by Georginhio Wijnaldum and Luuk de Jong.
Oranje didn’t start well and Feyenoord allrounder Kelvin Leerdam suffered a lot of possession loss, while central defenders Bruma and Nuytinck were too loose in their marking. Jeroen Zoet, the PSV goalie, had to act a couple of times and Oranje couldn’t find it’s attacking mojo.
Striker Luuk de Jong was too isolated and Wijnaldum and Cabral’s attempts to force something failed.
Pot made some changes in the half time. Maher moved to defensive mid, Wijnaldum moved to the playmaker’s role and Wildschut came on to replace Wijnaldum on the wing. Former Feyenoord holding mid Ricky van Haaren had to make way. This worked. Wijnaldum launched Cabral on the wing. De Jong was able to play his cross back to Wijnaldum who could score the 1-0. Ten minutes later, the game was played.
Wildschut was impeded in the box and Luuk de Jong scored from the spot.
Oranje won the youth EC in 2007, in Holland, but wasn’t able to reach the final tournament since.
Under21 coach Cor Pot, who started his career as youth coach at the famous academies of Sparta and Ajax, is a seasoned football man. Played for Sparta, MVV, Haarlem and Excelsior in his active career and worked at Feyenoord, NAC, Dynamo Dresden and most recently with Advocaat at Zenit St Petersburg as assistant manager.
Cor Pot: “This is a relief. This was not a great game. Or better, it was pretty weak… We had too many players playing with tension and stress in their bodies. We knew in the first half that a Slovenian goal was always an option, as they are a pretty good side. After the break we started to play better and we did the business.”
Pot saw his changes work out. “We needed more football from the back. Better build up. Van Haaren played ok, but Maher offers a lot more on that spot. With Wijnaldum on 10, we could still keep pressure on their defence.”
Luuk de Jong was a happy trooper. “It’s great that we reached this. Everyone really wanted to go, it’s a main objective for all of us. Most of us were there when we failed to qualify two years back and we needed to fix that. We want to shine at the EC.”
He supported Pot’s words. The game was not great. “I don’t think it was nerves though. I think it was more that we all wanted to show how good we can be. We were sloppy. Too hasty in the build up. And when you lose possession, they can lash out. I think we did well in the second half.”
Bruno Martins Indi and Jordy Clasie were not part of this game, but Martins Indi feels part of the journey. “I really want to go to Israel too. This a one tournament I haven’t played yet. And having made the step up to the big team is sensational of course, but I still would relish this EC.”
Ricardo van Rhijn, Luciano Narsingh and even Kevin Strootman can still play for Oranje Under 21. Although Van Gaal will take the senior team on a trip to China and Indonesia, he has already pledged to allow Cor Pot the strongest possible side to take to Israel.
With the team we can field in Israel, we wouldn’t even do too badly at the big tournaments, I reckon…
We will keep on following these lads…