Guys, it was good to be back! Enjoyed our actions re: Turkey and Spain. Will keep the blog going I think. I have had some highly generous donations from some of you, and wouldn’t mind just reminding the others to push the donate button on the home page and drop in what you can spare, ok? Every $ counts as it does take some budget for me to run the blog.
We’ll be on slow pace for the next 2 months but then in June we’ll see some key action again, all the way to October 2015! Exciting!
Here’s the interview with Hiddink:
Every team manager we had has been interviewed at length for this blog. Well…not really for this blog. I made that up. But we had MVB, we had BVM and we had LVG. Now we’ll put Guus on the spot.
The ol’ sly fox, terribly highly rated abroad, has seen his leadership challenged and his choices at times ridiculed.
The man with the Midas touch might have lost it… 2 wins out of 7. And that with a team that finished 3rd at the World Cup, only 8 months before…. In the autumn of his career the happy go lucky coach, formerly of PSV, Real Madrid, South Korea and Russia, finds himself in a big storm.
Bert van Oostveen (left) not happy with Guus dropping points….
Lets ask the man some questions.
After the loss against Iceland, the man who only reaped kudos and compliments for his way of working got vicious attacks to fend off… A first for you?
Guus Hiddink: “Well, I haven’t been reading the media for months now. Nice, peace and quiet. But obviously friends and family do feed you the headlines and the gist of it all. I’m a bit over the media guys who call me up and say “sorry mate, I’m not in charge of the headlines…”. That is cowardly to me. Hiding behind the editor. I think that is lame. It’s like when I let Ruud van Nistelrooy practice on the set pieces and corners, and whenever we concede from one of those situations I say “hey, I’m not responsible”. Bullshit. I am responsible for the team and a journalist should be responsible for his article. So don’t come to me for end-of-year stories of christmas interviews or whatever. There are journalists I share a whole history with, so I tend to be generous to these guys, but those days are over….”
After the Cech defeat you seemed even over the top angry in Jack van Gelder’s tv program….
GH: “I saw that a day later and I have to agree with you. I had trouble putting things in perspective. But we were not on the same page. The whole interview was a mess. I was waiting in some room for them, they were waiting for me. The organisation didn’t work out and we were both agitated.”
The principal idea that came across was “Guus is not in control”….
GH: “Correct, and I wasn’t. I was still trying to get everything to work out for us. After Iceland is when I noticed things started to go like I wanted it to. Not just on the pitch. But on the pitch, I want to see a team with balls. With teeth. Like at PSV when we won the Europa Cup. We had players like Gerets, like Kieft, who would say “This is where it stops!”. You gotta show an opponent you won’t give anything away. That is your attitude. The Lithuania game was a turnaround. The swagger was back. I saw their willingness and commitment. I missed that spark in the first games.”
Guus as player and as coach…..
Did you threaten to quit for that reason?
GH: “No? Threaten? No, someone asked me : if you lose this one, what then? And I basically said: It doesn’t make sense to keep on being the man in charge if I only lose games…. That was all.”
But now, you get that question before every game?
GH: “That is not needed. I have made the decision now. I am going on with the job. I couldn’t say that before, as I was not settled in. I had a number of meetings to book, a number of talks to do. Internally. Like I said, it’s not just what goes on on the pitch. Also in the organisation around the games, with my staff and with the KNVB… I needed to make it all work like I want it to work. We have been through all that now and I am happy.”
Oh, with whom did you talk?
GH: “With everyone who has a role to play.”
That is cryptic?
GH: “I don’t need to name names do I? Everyone that plays a role in the inner world of Oranje. Everyone that I have to deal with. Team manager, management, staff, medical staff, press people, players…. As a team manager you are like the CEO of a company. All departments need to function in service of the key activities: winning football matches. And I needed to make sure everyone understands what I want. Simple. But everything I say will be magnified and interpreted…”
Still, you can give an example?
GH: “There were meetings that I would do differently. And the responsibilities weren’t too clear. My predecessor was more a top-down dominant leader. I am more bottom up. So I need my staff to take matters in their own hand. So just do what you think you must and if I don’t like what you do, I’ll tell you and we can discuss it. Louis probably was more dominant in instructing. This also applies to on pitch antics. I need players to start thinking for themselves.”
Guus, captain of De Graafschap
Danny Blind has been working in the LVG style for years. Whenever you see the two of you, it doesn’t exude warmth….
GH: “I have no complaint about my relationship with Danny whatsoever. Danny is doing a marvelous job. I told him from day 1, I am happy to be the senior mentor guy, you can do the work you want to do. The KNVB wants to move forward with him, great. I have a good or better, excellent relationship with him. It is working like clockwork and I said it really fast into the process, I am happy to let Danny do the team talks and press conferences.”
Bert van Oostveen, general manager of the KNVB, said after Iceland he wanted to evaluate sharply?
GH: “And we did. This is what I said earlier. I spoke with everyone that has a role to play. And after these talks the major impulse is: let’s go for it! The key thing was to find common ground in the way we play. With all due respect: we can keep on going like “we have two top players up front, lets park the bus and let them sort it out” but if the defence is not good enough, it’s like a cake foundation that is faulty, with Robin and Robben being the cherries on top of the cake. But the cake implodes… what good does that do? So the key is: pushing forward, high line of defence, high pace and supporting our attack as much as possible. We can only utilise the quality upfront by offering a foundation for them. That foundation is a strong and solid defence and a smart, fleet of foot midfield. We need to build smarts, a killer mentality and physical strength. We cannot let ourselves be played out that easily. The lads need to learn, really fast now, when to put pressure on, when to drop back, when to give support, etc.”
Were you shocked with what you saw?
GH: “A bit. I thought they’d progressed more. It’s what I call their ability to get themselves out of a situation. Even when you don’t play well, you need to make sure you don’t play bad… This is a Cruyff quote. Player bad is ok, but you still gotta grind out the result. Against the Cech’s we didn’t even play that badly, but we gave the 3 points away. Unnecessary.”
Janmaat realises his mistake against the Czechs….
Was it your time spend abroad? You didn’t assess Dutch football properly?
GH: “Oh no I saw all the games. I did a lot of research. I saw that at the World Cup even with 5 in the back our defence was vulnerable. It was more a question of too many players so the players think “he’ll take care of it”. And so you do have two players there in a situation but they’re both too late…If you have more space to defend you tend to be on your toes. Four men at the back breeds more responsibility and alertness. This is what we are working on. The biggest issue is the post game talk. I love prepping the team in training, but to drive the point home, you need to be able to get the guys after the game and do a de-briefing. In our case it sometimes takes weeks before that can happen.”
Is it a disadvantage for you to get this team after they reached the 3rd place at the World Cup?
GH: “That World Cup was quite amazing. There is nothing to discount the result. I have complimented Louis and his staff and the lads on this. Well done! But, once you analyse the individual games afterwards you need to realistic. The coach was looking for ways to find a foundation for a result. The qualifications were fine but the friendlies against France and Belgium were a disaster. Even briefly before the World Cup Oranje didn’t play flash in their prep games. And without cynicism I say this: shortly before the World Cup Louis changes the tactics for the first big game. Versus Spain. The team concedes one goal, almost concedes a second. Louis said he was ready to go 4-3-3 in the half time break as it wasn’t working. And then Robin van Persie scores that wonder goal…. And suddenly the team has the confidence and understands how it can hurt strong opponents. There are examples where you can see that Oranje conceded with that new system.”
Lucky Gus working for the Socceroos
The Australia game. Holland is 1-2 down and Australia creates chances…. Depay comes in and is responsible for two goals….
GH: “If I say this, people will say I’m jealous on Van Gaal. Bullshit. If you analyse it, you will see this. It looks like the World Cup was one sensational high point, but the Australia game could have gone the other way. The Chile game was irrelevant. The Mexico game, we need a penalty late in the game to win it. And with Costa Rica and Argentina, it came down to penalties as well. We did have little hurdles in our gameplay and we did see players of the opponents slip through at times… Moments where you thought “Oooh…there is a little angel on our side….”. But, Oranje had Arjen Robben, who is or at least was in the form of his life. The power, the speed… what he did was phenomenal. Any game, he had energy left at the end of the game for his sprints over 60 yards. He wasn’t the small difference in a very good team but he was the big difference in a mediocre team.”
So what was the plan, in September 2014?
GH: “Well the man who made the difference, Robben, wasn’t available due to injury. We had that friendly against Italy. It was our intention to play more offensive. To use some other players and go back to our more dominant playing style. But an early red card made that impossible. In hindsight, that game against Italy should not have been programmed. We came back from the World Cup, with a new coach- me- and new intentions. You ideally want a week to work together on this new playing style. If you can focus on it with 5 tactical talks and 5 focused training sessions you can make good progress. We didn’t have that time and then the Czech game was looming….”
And you went back to 5-3-2?
GH: “But with reason. Our intention is to play 4-3-3 but Czechs play with 2 forwards and 5 at the back. It made sense to play 3-5-2. We weren’t oozing with confidence after Italy and the team surely knows how to play 5-3-2. We also missed two players that normally give us backbone: Vlaar and Robben. The first away game in a qualification series against a relatively strong opponent. If you don’t play well but still get a point, that would be considered a good result. Like the first game at a big tournament. You don’t want to lose that. And there was no need for us to lose that. But we did. It was 1-1 until the final minutes and we gifted them the win.”
Iceland better than Holland
The idea was to make Sneijder the free man in midfield but that didn’t work?
GH: “True. It has to do with the execution. The whole debate about systems is overrated. People in Holland love those discussions but you can play counter football with 4-4-2 or you can play dominant, attractive with 4-4-2 (like AC Milan in the early 90s). You can play counter football with 5-3-2 or dominant like Italy does. We didn’t execute it properly. It all starts with defence for me. The Italian defenders push up and defend at a high line. This supports midfield enormously and would give us opportunities to get the ball to Sneijder. You get opportunities on the flanks and you can provide service to the strikers… But in our case, we almost always conceded within the first 15 minutes! Incredible. And not because our system failed. And never because we were outplayed. No, simply making silly mistakes. Bad execution of the gameplan. Our players make the wrong decisions at the wrong times. It’s all about decision making.Take Iceland. We concede twice: once from a throw in and once from a corner kick! You cannot make these mistakes in the final third. You can not! Like Janmaat’s mistake against the Czechs. That needs to be ironed out. And I was quite disappointed to see that we still play naive and dreamy, despite the World Cup results. Innocent and too sweet. We need to know when we show and use our teeth!”
Apparently, Robben has had a number of group pep talks between Mexico and Lithuania?
GH: “True. He did that really well. It was quite heavy too. But it needed to happen. We took the time. We had a number of sessions together and were very open. Using video images too. Showing it is a good thing. This team has no reason to be cocky or arrogant. The World Cup is history. We need to learn how to draw a line in the sand and say “No. More!” And don’t get me wrong, the players also made us, the staff, accountable. There were things we promised we’d do and didn’t do, and they have every right to call on us. If Oranje fails, we all fail. Including the technical staff.”
What was the key learning point?
GH: “A confirmation of what we knew: that we need to play better organised. We need to be aware of the role we play in the team and we need to execute our tasks with 100% commitment and focus. Only then are we capable of achieving a result. We are vulnerable any other way. We believe that to be dominant you need to be able to base your dominant play on a well organised and alert defence. Playing high up the park and reading the game well. We need that balance. And we need the lines in the team to operate as one organism. You can’t have three defenders moving up and one going back. The decisions a team makes are important. As a whole. Do we accelerate the pace? Or slow it down? Do we go for a long ball? Or pass back and wait for the full back to move up? Do we go for the pass through the center or the ball over the top? The playmakers need to read the game and need to be on the same page as the defenders and the forwards… Barcelona is the example of a team of players who know each other so well… A national team is harder to get to play like this. We have players now from at least 6 different clubs. A goalie of Ajax. Defenders of PSV, Lazio, Porto, Newcastle…midfielders of Galatasaray, AC Milan, Feyenoord, PSV or Man United. And forwards from Bayern, Schalke, Man United, PSV…. We need to work hard to make this work well together.”
When Guus won the Europa Cup 1 with counter football and parking the bus 🙂
And playing counter football against smaller nations won’t work….
GH: “No not really. This is not our intention as it won’t work. Counter football is not something weak teams only can do by the way. It is sometimes said in a way as if counter football is inferior. It’s not. It takes certain skills. Particularly upfront, you need 3 players with speed. With the ability to run 60 meters at full speed maybe 8 times in a match. Our forwards are amongst the older players… We don’t want to play this game. We think we are able to push up high, take possession of the ball and then maybe use 2 or 3 passes to get a player in a good position. I don’t like the game where we possess the ball and then pass back to the center back and he passes to a defender, gets it back, pace goes down and he plays it predictably to the central midfielder etc etc. It is needed at times, but rather not….”
Still, it looked like this against Turkey
GH: “Of course it did. We were not able to execute our game plan too well. Some cogs in the machine had trouble delivering, without me naming names. And I am proud of Nigel de Jong and the patience he had to have. He is smart enough not to force anything. Turkey didn’t come to play. They parked the bus. I told the lads to try and get Turkey to react to what we did. We invited them in, they didn’t come out. Nigel had to be patient and he is now being punished for it. Turkey was organised well. And we were totally in control. Our problem, again, is that we conceded first. Again, we were chasing down the facts, as we say. We were chasing the game. Had at least 5 clear cut opportunities. In any other version of this match, we would be 2-0 up after one hour of play. The Turks needed 2 chances to score 1, we needed 7 chances to score 1. In the end we are happy with the point, as it looked grim. But normally we put this game away.”
Respect for each other, Del Bosque and Hiddink, both former Real Madrid coaches…
You said you’d use the same players in hindsight…
GH: “That is theoretical though. There is no hindsight. You will never get me to say “in hindsight I should not have played Player XYZ”. I will not let the lads down publically. But it was clear that some players didn’t perform as I wanted them to. That does happen. Sometimes when a game doesn’t go your way, it might look like it is all bad, but in our case we simply lacked that final ball. In the first 15 minutes or so Depay had a couple of good actions and it could have worked out differently. The goal we conceded was a comedy of errors. Everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. Sneijder playing left back. De Vrij positioned to far forward. Van der Wiel hypnotised. De Jong marking on the wrong side…. A coaching nightmare. But the lads deserve our respect for their fighting spirit.”
The Spain win was nice at least.
GH: “It helps with our confidence. You can see that it doesn’t take much to get the team going. A couple of changes and it can suddenly work. But Spain helped a lot. They want to play football too. It does take two teams that are willing to create a good game. I do hope people realise this.”