In 5 days we’ll know. Whether we’re out of the World Cup or whether we are still hanging in.
It’s been a while, since Oranje missed both an EC and a WC. Tension is rising and the Dutch media (and people) are edgy.
Dick Advocaat has not made the ironclad impression we are used of him. At PSV, his earlier stints at Oranje, the Sunderland escape, the Zenit successes… The headstrong and confident sly fox has been slipping up since taking over from the much maligned Blind and his current choices also result in frowns all around.
Against France, he failed to make defensive changes when we were 2-0 down and without a hope in the world. The search for a late goal resulted in two more goals conceded with the known impact on goal difference. After the match, it appeared as if Dick was unaware of the goal difference importance. His gamble to hope for a Van Persie moment of brilliance also didn’t work out, with the Fener striker out with a knee injury.
Against Bulgaria, with 25 minutes to go, again, Dick failed to make changes. This time, offensive changes were needed as every goal counted and we could have gone for a 5-1 win, for sure.
Surely, Dick is now fully aware that every goal scored counts, but after a courtship of Klaas Jan Huntelaar, the Ajax striker saw his name omitted from the squad. Dick didn’t believe in too many central striker and he opted for Janssen and Dost, with either Babel or Locadia as the pinch hitter. Babel deserves his call up for me, but Locadia only impressed once this season with his four goals vs an unlucky FC Utrecht.
And now Dost is sidelined thanks to a practice injury to the knee, Huntelaar would have been a great option B for the striker position. Too late.
I personally believe we have one defender too many (Veltman?) and we are one forward/midfielder short. Locadia won’t be the Oranje saviour. I would personally always selected Sneijder, if he’s fit. The fact that he hasn’t played for weeks… Against France, I would not have used Sneijder (but would have opted for a 4 man dynamic midfield of Vilhena/Van Ginkel/Klaassen type players. But against Belarus, surely, Sneijder could be of use for the last 25 minutes? The opponent getting tired, bring in Sneijder and let him play his passing game. His corner kicks and free-kicks will always be threatening. I’m convinced he doesn’t need weeks of match-play to hit a dead ball.
His leadership off the pitch will be missed too. He’s been our talisman for so long and Oranje’s true skipper.
Another player I’d like to see asap, is Frenkie de Jong. Maybe not as a starter, but this kid has something unique (like Sneijder). His first pass is always vertical and he has the balls to play with risk and pizzazz.
According to the media, Cillesen will start. Janmaat and Blind will be full backs and Hertha’s Karim Rekik and Virgil van Dijk are the central defenders. The midfield will consist of Vilhena, Propper and Wijnaldum, with Robben/Janssen/Babel up top. As you know, Strootman is out.
I can see this work. Robben and Babel will keep the central defenders busy allowing Janssen to roam. The full backs will provide the wide option, like Blind demonstrated versus Bulgaria and like Janmaat does where ever he plays.
Wijnaldum will play in a controlling way, like Vilhena, with timed runs into the box. Propper again, will play the false striker behind Janssen.
I believe a 0-4 win will be possible, but the circumstances aren’t great. The team lacks cohesion, confidence is brittle and we lack options (Dost, no Huntelaar, no Sneijder). And it’s cold in Belarus. Very cold.
If we score in the first 20 minutes, we can get to a 0-4 or better score, but if it remains 0-0 for a long time, we might have to keep the fingers crossed for a 0-1 win.
It’s tempting to believe that Luxembourg will contain Sweden (in Sweden) but it’s wishful thinking. Normally, Sweden will win this game with at least 3 goals difference. And don’t think France will slip up again. Won’t happen.
There is one thing I’m uncertain about. The rules are not that clear. Once the group games have been played, the results against the worst nation will be scrapped. Including the goals. If that is Belarus – which makes sense if Holland beats them with good numbers – the goals will be taken out of the equation. Sweden scored 8 goals vs Belarus. Which means we will have a better goal difference than Sweden, provided we beat Sweden coming Tuesday. Which is also not a cert, by the way.
But this does mean that we need to look at the different scenarios, because Luxembourg could also be the last in the group. We took 6 points from them, while Sweden drew against them. We will lose more points in this case.
I am not sure if this is all correct, so I’m open to your comments.
But even if we end up second in the group, we could well be the worst second of all. In which case, we won’t get a chance to go to the World Cup. Otherwise, we do get this play-off game and we’ll most likely get an opponent of strength (Italy for instance, or Portugal). Qualification is still a long way out.