Tag: Ziyech

Germany: Don’t mention the VAR!

Dear friends, I’ve been withdrawing from writing and blogging as work and World Cup took over priorities. But, now, with the group stage behind us, it’s nice to revisit the blog and share some thoughts. Expect more posts to coming sooner again by the way.

Thank you for the ongoing support! It’s always very nice and highly appreciated to see the support come in. You know who you are ;-).

As for the Tournament, I think we can all be quite comfortable with the recent events. For years we have been debating the decline of Dutch football, the development of lesser nations based on our football heritage, how the Germans stole our ideas, how Sweden and Iceland are even better than us, etc etc.

Well, the exit of Germany tells the story, I think. And as a result, we can now immediately stop focusing on “innovation” or “new identity of Dutch football” topics… It’s mostly the ebb and flow of football.

It’s talents coming up, or not coming up. It’s generations at the peak of their game and generations slowly becoming lacklustre, complacent, fulfilled…

Germany was killer diller in 2014 and completely at sea in 2018. Joachim Low was the meister in the past and he will be the failure moving forward.

Germany’s exit – very entertaining for us Dutchies – tells the story. A coach who can’t accept that his favorite sons can’t do the job anymore. A coach underestimating the bad run up to the tournament. Who failed to recognise why Tony Kroos is the King at Madrid and not in Der Mannschaft. A coach who wasn’t able to let the counter striker Werner shine in the more dominating national team. A coach who relied on veteran and unfit central defenders and who simply couldn’t find automatisms and patterns for his creative forwards, Ozil, Reus, Mueller… And to add to that: who felt he didn’t need Leroy Sane.

Germany uncharacteristically exposed vs Saudi Arabia

The Germans have been a mess, really, from November 2017 onwards. And their exit is a clear sign for the Dutch that if it can happen to the mighty, it’s not strange it happened to us. And just as the Germans will be back, we will be back.

And…look at Argentina! They have Messi, Angel di Maria, Aguero, Dybala… and it’s not much. Look at Brazil! Definitely not firing on all cylinders. Italy? In the same boat as us.

And from the likes of Sweden, Iceland and Switzerland, surely, we consider them to be inferior football nations to us, and they are only able to make an impression with muscle based defensive, compact football. There is hardly any creativity to be found in those teams and hey, if they can play at the World Cup, surely we can as well?

Australia, led by Bert van Marwijk and Mark van Bommel, were unlucky. It started with a bad draw, and slightly unfortunate matches vs France and Denmark. When they really needed to shine, vs Peru, they couldn’t, lacking a killer in the box and some composed decision making. Still, Bert made the Socceroos proud.

Ronald Koeman: “Based on what I saw up until now, I think Oranje would have done well at this World Cup. We’re not worse than at least half of these nations! We just need to qualify and once we’re in, we can always out perform our own expectations.”

Do we see any interesting trends?

A key one: dead ball situations. Lots of penalties thanks to the VAR introduction. I am good with that. Even though the esteemed VAR refs still missed a couple of huge ones (Mitrovic of Serbia, Berg of Sweden) and maybe handed out some soft ones. But it’s a step up.

Lots of goals from free kicks and corner situations. Stuff that can be practiced. Time and time again. With some creativity and hours of work, I’m sure we can dramatically improve in this area.

So, I’m quite positive moving forward to be honest.

My predictions for the final stages of the tournament? I fear for Messi and Argentina. I think England might cruise to the semis but Croatia will reach the finals, I believe. On the other end of the draw, it will most likely be between France and Belgium. With Dutch Bjorn Kuipers as ref and Danny Makellie as the VAR ref. The latter did well for his country :-).

Danny Makkelie impressing as VAR referee

In other exciting football news:

Dujan Tadic returns to the Eredivisie and signed a 4 year deal with Ajax.

Mark van Bommel takes the PSV job, while Phillip Cocu signed for Fenerbahce

Rafael van der Vaart will join PEC Zwolle pre-season for fitness purposes but Van ‘t Schip doesn’t rule out signing the artist up.

Morocco got the sympathy from lots of people, despite their disappointing run and Ziyech (Roma), El Ahmadi (France) and Nordin Amrabat (ex PSV) will surely be rewarded with a nice move somewhere else.

Juninho Bacuna of FC Groningen signed for Huddersfield Town.


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Dutch Football looking forward…

While us here at the blog could debate the positioning of Stekelenburg vs France or the Dost disallowed goals vs Sweden for weeks on end, the Dutch have shrugged off the Oranje drama and are all looking forward to what comes next!

Which obviously is the Classic, this coming Sunday. I have to say “classic” actually. The Capital C should be reserved for the home game for Feyenoord, in De Kuip. Playing in the Amsterdam Johan Cruyff Arena is simply not the same. And definitely not without any Feyenoord supporters allowed in…

So, the debate within the KNVB is going to go on ( will Louis van Gaal become the newly created CEO role? will Hans van Breukelen survive the assessment about his functioning? which coaches can we expect on the short list?) and I’ll keep on informing you about all that.

In the meantime, the media are focusing on the clash of the two Titans. And the key players in the Dutch classic encounter, are not Dutch players, but Moroccon! and interestingly enough, they are close friends, on opposing sides.

King Karim El Ahmadi vs Seer Ziyech

They could have played for Feyenoord together by the way. When Ziyech (24) left Heerenveen, Feyenoord wanted to sign the playmaker but he picked his career path with care and brushed Feyenoord off. And picked FC Twente. He does make funny choices. On the pitch, he’s all class. Off the pitch…. He picked Twente and they got into trouble soon after (unrelated) which meant Hakim Ziyech ended up leading a pack of juniors, with the aim to not get relegated. And he also picked Morocco over Oranje (due to an alleged conflict with ex-coach Van Basten and lack of warmth from Blind), but his headstrong personality resulted in the current Morocco coach to ignore him for the national team. El Ahmadi (32) was the midfield man for them in the Africa Cup, while Ajax was able to utilise Ziyech domestically.

King Hakim2

Character vs Class

Not really, though Ziyech oozes class but has character for sure, while El Ahmadi is the symbol of Feyenoord’s resilience, but the younger El Ahmadi was definitely a creative artist when he was at Twente. But his days in England have turned the flegmatic midfielder into a leader. Not unlike Phillip Cocu’s metamorphosis, from inconsistent left winger to hard working midfielder.

El Ahmadi was the moral victor in the last meeting between the two. Ziyech was signed for 12 mio euros from Twente to do exactly what he is aiming this Sunday. To put Ajax on top again. El Ahmadi, who was rested last week by the Morocco coach as a gesture to him and Feyenoord, knows that a win will mean they got the title.

El Amhadi will not have the Robin to his Batman in midfield. Tonny Vilhena is suspended for two games. Toornstra or young talent Nieuwkoop will complete the eleven.


Another interesting clash is the meeting of two white elephants in goal. Brad Jones and Andre Onana. At the start of the season, it was not even conceivable that these two goalies would become fan favorites and key in their respective teams’ game plan. Tim Krul was supposed to succeed Cillesen and Ken Vermeer was #1 in De Kuip with recovering Bernard Hahn as second in command. But Onana shrugged off the mistakes he used to make in Young Ajax and the 20 year old has established himself firmly in the starting line up. The Cameroon born player still likes to display his football skills (as he did away vs Groningen), and sometimes it goes wrong… But versus Groningen, he was fouled (not seen by the ref). Despite this, in front of the cameras, he admitted that despite the referee’s mistake, it actually was situation he should have avoided. The youngster also kept a cool head vs Feyenoord, when after Kuyt’s goal, Kramer tapped the mourning goalie on the head. He didn’t react.

Ajax wants to go on with this youngster. Krul is now at AZ and Overmars and co are currently negotiating with Onana for a continued stay as Ajax’ #1 goalie.

Brad Jones has had many clubs in his life. From playing some CL games for Liverpool he went to mid-table club NEC from Nijmegen where the aficionados recognised a classy albeit aging goalie. Confronted with Vermeer’s major injury (and Hahn not fit), Martin van Geel picked up the transfer free Aussie and with his experience and more importantly, his Australian Rules football experience, the keeper rules in the Feyenoord box and has had a massive impact on the success, with his composed and controlled nature.


Coach van Bronckhorst made it clear some months ago: whatever is happening with Vermeer and his return to fitness, Jones will be our #1 goalie this season! This message resulted in clarity and harmony in the Feyenoord camp. But the expensive Kenneth Vermeer (31) will most likely return to the number 1 spot next season, while the free agent and 35 year old less expensive Jones might well have to find another club. “I do not worry about the future. I understand how these things work. My focus is winning the title. The rest will fall into place.”

Here are some classic Classics…

1964: Feyenoord – Ajax 9-4

Ajax with Cruyff and Swart took the lead twice but Hans Venneker scored 5 goals this match for Feyenoord.  It’s 5-2 at half time.


1983: Ajax – Feyenoord 8-2

Cruyff switched sides and took his new team to Amsterdam to be humiliated by the kids he helped develop. Van Basten, Vanenburg, Jesper Olsen allowed Feyenoord to get to 3-2 before they rant riot. After the game, interviewed for national television, Cruyff said: “It’s just three points. We will still win the title”. And they did.

Marco 82

1995: Ajax – Feyenoord 1-2 quarter finals national cup

The year Ajax beat everything and everyone and took the Champions League. But in the quarter finals, it was cult hero Mike Obiku who scored the winner in extra time. Feyenoord would win the cup that year.

1995: Feyenoord – Ajax 2-4

Half a year later, Ajax is King of Europe. Feyenoord starts ferocious and leads 0-2 in the first seven minutes of the game. Ajax straightens its back and scores four times to take the three points.

2005: Ajax – Feyenoord 1-2

The last time Feyenoord won in Amsterdam. Kalou and Kuyt the goal scorers for the visitors. Feyenoord would win the home game as well (3-2) and that impressed so much that a documentary and two books were made about this feat.

2012: Feyenoord – Ajax 4-2

John Guidetti’s year. He loves Feyenoord and despises Ajax, as he demonstrated recently playing against Ajax with Celta de Vigo. The loanie from Sweden scored a hattrick and is a Feyenoord legend forever.


2015: Feyenoord – Ajax 1-0 third round national cup

Ajax rules in the Eredivisie and withstands Feyenoord’s pressure until the dying minutes. A last free kick in the 95th minute is swooped into the box and Joel Veltman allows the ball to ricochet into the goal. De Kuip explodes and Feyenoord would end up winning the Cup again. The festivities are insane at De Coolsingel but will fade compared to the party that will ensue when Feyenoord beats Ajax this weekend yet again.

Veltman og

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Dutch football debacles continue: Ajax out of CL!

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


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

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


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

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


Hans Jorritsma, key in all organisational aspects of Oranje

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

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

More to come I’m sure.


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

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

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

Cillessen barca


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

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


PSV prospect Jorrit Hendrix

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

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

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


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

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

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

Blind presser

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

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

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

bosz kruzen

Ajax assistant Hendrie Kruzen with head coach Peter Bosz

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

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

hakim ajax

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

We’ll see how things will develop…

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