Oranje has qualified for Brazil. And there was champagne! But the bad news had to land still…. The Netherlands dropped to position 9 on the FIFA Ranking. As you know, the first 7 (+ Brazil) will have a protected position as group leader.
We tumbled from #5 to #9 as a result of our last three games. We drew against Portugal and Estonia and those results in particular did it for us. At this stage: no group leader role for Oranje.
Obviously, things can still change (a number of games to go) and one of the current top 7 might still not make it but this doesn’t look good…
But, whatever happens…if we want to do well in Brazil, we need to take on any opponent, so…we’ll need to live with this.
But the late C Ronaldo equaliser and the off day in Estonia might be an expensive lesson.
Talking about $$, the CEO of the KNVB Bert van Oostveen personally poured the bubbly for the Oranje squad in Spain, last Tuesday. ” I am very proud of the staff and the players. You always want to qualify at home, with 40,000 Oranje fans but we can live with this too. I received many texts and sms messages from colleagues and some are actually jealous of our success.”
The KNVB made 2 Mio euros profit at the last World Cup. Is this the sort of profit Van Oostveen is counting on again? “Well, it depends. Brazil is more expensive for us. The travel cost are higher. But either way, we believe we should be able to break even. If we exit in the group stages, we will actually make a bit of money. If we exit after the first knock out games, we might have a little loss, due to additional travel. But it’s not about the money.”
And in terms of sports objectives? “Well, in principle, we believe Holland needs to be able to reach the semi finals of any tournament. But that does hinge on the form and availability of certain players of course. It’s too early to make those statements now.”
Stefan de Vrij was probably the most talked about player of Oranje, this last week (although RVP deserved that position more). The 21 year old Feyenoord defender was backed by Van Gaal and his team mates however and quipped: “It’s part of the game. I am very levelheaded. Whenever they hail me as the next big thing, I shrug my shoulders. I do the same thing now they tell me I’m shit.” Did he read all the news and the criticism? “No, the internet connection in our hotel was not great. I didn’t see it all,” he laughed. “It is all part of it playing at this level I guess.” For De Vrij, such criticism is totally new. He made his debut last year against Belgium but the measuring stick is put higher every game. De Vrij now has eight international games to his name and the nation follows his moves with scrutiny. De Vrij was subbed against Estonia, but coach Van Gaal and colleagues Van Persie and Robben almost stumbled over each other to defend the Feyenoord skipper.
“That felt good. I spent a lot of time talking to my team mates and Robin in particular. And I had a one on one with Mr Van Gaal. I won’t tell you the contents but it gave me confidence. I had it some time back with Feyenoord too. I guess it is normal at this level, as everything you do is now under the looking glass. Van Gaal does not have a single thread of doubt about De Vrij. Even though he did miss De Vrij’s build up play, one of his strong points, against Estonia. “We started really well against Estonia. A dream start. And building up went really well. But after the 1-1 something happened in the team. It wasn’t just me. Against Andorra, we knew it would be tough to break them down, but with a striker like RVP in the team, you know you’ll get your break through. I never doubted.”
And while the media are contemplating who will replace Van Gaal or why De Vrij is not good enough or which wing is Robben’s, the Oranje team has already chosen their Brazil resort for the World Cup. The Caesar Park Ipanema hotel will be the home of Orange for three weeks at least in Brazil. One of the few 5 star hotels in Rio de Janeiro. This hotel is close to the two main airports in Rio and is situated – like the hotel during the Euro 2012 – in the busy city center. The hotel is luxurious and modern, with a spa and wellness center, a gym, several restaurants and spacious rooms. The hotel is in the Ipanema suburb, the posh and very popular area made famous in the Girl from Ipanema song. The bar where this tune from the 60s was written is only a stone’s throw away from the hotel. And Oranje supporting thinking he can join in on the fun will have to think twice. Rio will be overly expensive in the WC time frame and Ipanema is almost exclusively booked by FIFA and its commercial partners. One reason for Van Gaal to want to pick this spot is the proximity to the training complex of Flamengo, only 10 minutes away. This venue was popular amongst most nations but team manager Hans Jorritsma was able to snatch it up before the other countries could do business.
We will end this post with some positive words of Willem van Hanegem. Normally highly critical but at the same time a tremendous football fan and loyal supporter of Oranje. Played a key role in the 1974 midfield of course and was assistant coach at the 2004 Euros. But he needs no further introduction. By far one of the best players ever ( classic left footed number 10) and a character to boot.
“I am really happy and proud that we qualified again for a World Cup. Congrats to all. And I do not say this in a cynical way, despite my criticism during the series. It was clear when I saw the draw for this qualifications that we’d get there, but still. It’s still a good job done. For the third time in a row. And in Brazil too. Any football player will get goosebumps to play a World Cup in the mecca of football. A dream. And I will look forward to this big time. We might have lost some quality along the way, but I don’t mind. I will still look forward to the World Cup.
But I will remain critical too. But my criticism will be focused on football, I won’t be bothered to talk about the fringe topics. And I also hope Van Gaal won’t be bothered by all the low level sarcasm on Dutch tv about him. Ignore all these people and focus on the game. Van Gaal needs his energy to build a strong team. Because no nation will have nightmares about our individual qualities. We do not have the strongest squad this time around. Robben and Van Persie are top notch. And Lens might have a strong weapon with his speed. When Sneijder has his form and fitness, he is special too, but that is it, really. We need to find it in team spirit, in workmanship and team tactics and sacrifice. And that is something you can build up. Because the category players Schaars/De Jong/Strootman/Blind/Janmaat/Schaken are either simply mediocre water bearers or inexperienced youngsters.
It is important that Van Gaal gives clarity early on. Who are the players he will build on. Determine the hierarchy and protect that structure. Make sure that the key internationals are aware of their role and tasks. I believe that if this team travels to Brazil as One Team, gelled into a football machine, we might be able to demonstrate something special to the world. We might not be the obvious candidate to win it, that won’t be easy, but with 10 months before us to grow, you never know. The team and all individuals still have a way to go. I will start enjoying myself already and I am very optimistic about this World Cup.”