We can thank two dead ball moments, two setpieces, for the victory over Poland. But we again ended up in trouble too often. Stronger opponents will slaughter us.
We did it before, we conceded first and we came back with a vengeance to turn the game around. But it wasn’t enough for a spot in the finals, like we managed in 2019. All four finalists this time around, are new nations.
Despite not qualifying for the finals, Oranje closed off the calendar year with a positive feel, thanks again to the duo Memphis and Wijnaldum.
De Boer wanted fresh legs and he put them in the team, on the wings. Two new full backs and new wingers, with Memphis as central striker.
Oranje started slow, for unclear reasons. The pace was down and when Hateboer got pushed off the ball and Jozwiak could start a sprint match with Klaassen, it was clear really quickly that we miss speed. Daley Blind was pseudo defending by never closing the run down and the Polish wing back was able to almost walk the ball into the goal: 1-0.
See the situation below. Van Aanholt is up high, Klaassen is flatfooted and De Vrij, Blind and Frenkie are the only players capable of stopping the counter. That is not a comfortable situation and after that more things went awry.
Below, the situation from above and demonstrating how it could have been dealt with. Klaassen is still ahead of Jozwiak and Blind is coming across to give De Vrij cover for when he pushes up to Lewandowski.
Below you see mistake #1. Frenkie decides to leave his man Klich to go for the man with the ball. As a result, Klich sprints away and now Blind has to choose. Jozwiak humiliates Klaassen with a sprint match and Blind wants Krul and Klaassen to deal with the ball as he is covering Klich. See below.
So, optically, it seems Klaassen and Blind are the men to blame, but it all starts from a bad organisation, Hateboer not strong enough and Frenkie de Jong making the wrong decision.
One of the troubling things is, that this doesn’t happen just once. Or twice. It happens many times, that Klaassen, Blind and De Vrij are the only three players able to stop the counter. Not ideal.
Below another example, how Poland can break using the wings, with Dumfries (for Hateboer) and Van Aanholt way in front of the ball, forcing Frenkie to help out his less agile team mates.
This immediately demonstrated the changes De Boer has pushed through versus Koeman’s tactics: under Koeman, the team played compact, closer to each other and the box. And as a result, Blind, De Ligt and the full backs never really got outplayed, like the Italians, the Bosnians and the Polish did, at times. De Boer wants to play more expansive, more direct and higher up the pitch, like Bayern Munich and Liverpool do. But does Oranje have the players for this, if the quick full backs (Hateboer and Van Aanholt in this match) push up too far, it comes down to De Vrij, Blind and Klaassen to organise the rest defence: great players, but none of them quick.
It’s not the first time Oranje started weak. Since Ronald Koeman, Oranje played 28 matches. In 19 of them, we conceded a goal. and in 10 times, that goal was conceded within the first 20 minutes! But, in most cases, Oranje was able to rise up and take the game to the opponent and turn the result around.
Poland had one more big opportunity with Placheta firing on goal but other than that, most opportunities were for Oranje. Wijnaldum with a weak shot, Klaassen’s attempt was blocked but Malen missed a sitter heading a ball off target, unmarked. Wijnaldum was stopped once when running in behind by Bednarek who also frustrated Memphis later. Malen shot one over the bar and Hateboer wanted to head a ball back to Memphis but it just failed. Frenkie de Jong’s attempt after a Malen through-ball was blocked by goalie Fabianski.
Poland started strong in the second half and stormed for 15 minutes but Oranje straightened their backs on the hour mark and started to dominate. Man of the Match Memphis with an effort pushed to corner, and with three sets of fresh legs (Wijndal, Van de Beek and Berghuis for Van Aanholt, Klaassen and Stengs), De Boer forced a final offensive. First, Berghuis shot a rocket towards the top corner and missed the goal by a fraction. Not much later, a header attempt by Wijnaldum was thwarted by Bednarek who pushed the Dutch captain with both hands: penalty. Dispatched by Memphis emphatically: 1-1. With only a couple of minutes to go, De Boer took Blind off for Luuk de Jong. Seconds later, Steven Berghuis corner was headed towards the goal by Wijnaldum. It bounched off Piatek into the far corner: 1-2.
Frank de Boer was satisfied with what he saw: “Well, for starters, we had a lot of moments that didn’t go well and that was good to see, in a way. We started so slow, and I have no idea why that was. This is something we need to discuss and analyse and improve. But I am very proud how the team fought back. The spirit was excellent and the quality of our play on the ball was top. And the impact of the subs was good in the second half too and I always felt we would get the result.” Asked about the reputation he has of “Play the Ball Square”, De Boer said: “It’s all about the material you have to work with. I was an offensive player myself. I love attacking play. I would always try and play the forward pass. But that is me. Today, we play with players like Frenkie de Jong, Daley Blind and Stefan de Vrij and you, with these guys, the ball will be played forward. Because that is how they play.”
When Memphis was asked about why Oranje starts so slow at times: “I don’t know, it probably is mental. And the pitch didn’t help. We also needed some time to get used to it. It’s frustrating, also for us. You want to be sharp, and then you concede after 5 minutes, it becomes even harder. But we fought back and we created chances. I think we should have scored in the first half already. But at the end of the day, we missed the finals and I’m really disappointed in that.”
Steven Berghuis hasn’t scored for Oranje yet, still he is making his mark. The 28 year old had another assist, for Wijnaldum’s winning goal. Stengs was given the preference, as De Boer wanted fresh legs. “I would have rather player myself, actually, ” Berghuis quipped. “But, it’s Oranje. We have many great players. ” Still, he didn’t have a negative feeling about it. “Of course not, it’s not a drama. But I would have played if the coach needed me. I feel fit and fresh. But I am happy I could show myself to the new coach and there will be more opportunities, I hope. I know Bergwijn is usually a choice for the right wing, but I think the coach will have made notice of what I can offer the team. That is all I can ask.”
Another element that got us into trouble, is the space between the lines. Frank de Boer wants to play more attacking, and Malen, Stengs, Memphis or whoever plays up front, love that. But with a slow defence, what you get is that the insecure defenders tend to go back a bit. As a result. A huge midfield for our players to deal with and gaps so big you can drive the players’ bus through. See below. De Vrij and Blind aren’t even on the pic. They are all the way to the left. Which means that the three forwards from Poland can play in behind Van Aanholt, and can pass their way past that line of 4 players (Van Aanholt, Frenkie, Klaassen, Hateboer) leaving De Vrij and Blind exposed against three opponents.
This 1-2 victory is a welcome warning. Oranje has a lot of urgency to attack, which is great, but this gutsy play comes with a wide open backdoor. The next international break, this will have to be dealt with, or else we won’t be playing for any trophies in the coming Euros.
Some early conclusions:
- Blind and De Vrij as a central defender pairing won’t work
- We need more coordination between full back thundering forward
- Tim Krul is the new #1 goal keeper for Oranje
- Berghuis is currently better than Stengs and should be on corner kick duty
- Babel and Strootman are superfluous
- Dumfries is the preferred right back
Next up, a big post on “What chance do we have at the Euros?”
Thanks to Pieter Zwart