The Road to Qatar: Memphis believes!

We have seen many posts here on Memphis. About his rise to the top. About his tough childhood. His amazing skills, goals and stats and his incredible outfits. Yes, the latter has been a big thing in Dutch media, because… we have an opinion about literally everything.

The 28 year old is LVG’s hope in fearful days, but since his return after a 2 months absence, he has not been firing on all cylinders yet. Could we actually expect him to? But, Memphis believes he will improve and be ready to step up. “I have proven that I don’t need rhythm or even form, to play well in the next match.”

Oranje had a lot of possession against Qatar, but the ball pace was still too low. This is what made Oranje so wonderful to watch: good pace, lots of positioning chances, adventure, pressure… We didn’t see one decent attack – well maybe we saw a couple but not enough. But, Oranje qualified for the last 16 and is facing Team USA.

“I am very bad at watching a game from the bench. I’m even more nervous than. I don’t get nervous when I play. You have more control. Against Senegal and Ecuador, you see thinks that need to improve, but you can’t improve them. Medically speaking, it was unwise for me to start in those matches, but I always want to start and I can get a bit agitated when I don’t, hahaha.”

He did come on to the pitch, Louis van Gaal adamant to bring Memphis with some caution. “Getting onto the pitch after an hour or so is tough. Really is. The game has a flow, a pace and you need to quickly adapt. And in my role, I am a bit dependent on the balls I get, the way the others can play. Against Senegal, I had 3 touches in 15 minutes. That is debilitating for me. And then in the last stage, the ball comes into space, I can run with it and we end up scoring. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. You simply have less influence when you come onto the pitch in the second half.”

Against Qatar, he started. Finally. After 65 minutes he was rested but had a strong role in both goals. Overall, Van Gaal was high in his praise for Memphis, but the match was again quite disappointing.

Is it possible to play good football and to win?

Memphis: “Oh for sure, but it also depends on …what is good football? Some people love a team that dominates like Barcelona plays. Others like swift counter attacking teams, or teams that really do physical battle. But yes, I think we can all agree our match v Ecuador was below standards. We are all football fans ourselves and we are not satisfied.”

What is the solution?

“That is in the details, it’s subtle. The moments in which you can get away from your marker. Offering yourself as an option at the right moment. Passing lines, blocking them or opening them up. I am a forward, it is not my job to pick up the ball, like Frenkie does. And we need to have all the parts clicking. From the goalie to Virgil, via Frenkie and other players to me or Cody or whoever is up front. We all play our role. And we have lads on the bench who can make a difference still, with weapons we haven’t used yet. I think of Luuk or Noa or Xavi.”

Do you hear the criticism from Holland?

“Nope, I am not on social media during the World Cup. This all goes beyond me. I do that on purpose, to protect myself. I don’t need that info to perform. It’s all noise. I focus on what makes me better. I will hear from our coaches what I need to hear. All that is said and written by others, I try to ignore. I live in a tunnel at the moment.”

Is that easy to do?

“I had to learn that. When I played in England, for Man United, i heard all those things about me and it didn’t help me. At all. I was checking everything and I realised it is not something that works for me. It’s distracting and most of the stuff you read is not even true! The other day, they read that Noa was sent away from training. He came to me and said “why do they write this?” There was no issue, the physio wanted to see his foot and he had to go inside. Noa needs to close himself off from that, it’s a discipline thing. Once we are done in Qatar, I hope after the finals, I will turn my insta back on.”

How is your fitness?

“Well, there is fit and there is match fit. The muscle injury i had after Poland is gone. That happened two months ago and it’s all good now. But that doesn’t mean I am fit to play 90 minutes. You cannot emulate matches at training. As a sub, you do need to train the next day with the lads that didn’t play and that is pretty tough. I need it all to become fit as soon as possible.”

Did you ever doubt you’d be ready?

“Never. We didn’t need to rush anything in my recovery. There was a slight set back early on, and that has somewhat slowed me down, but not much. It is what it is. I never panicked. We had it all under control.”

There is being fit and being in form?

“Yes, but…what is form? You can have a nice period in your career, a flow, things go by themselves. But i can still be decisive for the team even if I am not in good form. I can decide a game in the 90st minute even if I play bad all match. It’s about moments. And I need to be there when my moment comes. That is tournament football. Is there one team that plays consistently good football? No, there are not that many amazing matches, but there are many amazing moments.”

Louis van Gaal basically said “we don’t have a chance without Memphis”. Does that give you additional pressure?

“No not at all. That pressure, I put on myself. Always. I want to be the key man, I want to be decisive for the team. I created those expectations myself. I have 42 goals for Oranje, well… people can expect something from me. And other players will step up too. When Frenkie and I were not there for the Nations League games, we still beat Belgium, right? We won against Senegal and drew versus Ecuador and Cody does the business for us. We will come far, as long as players remain fit.”

You created that level of expectation and if you’re honest, the whole team has done this, as has Louis van Gaal. Shouldn’t we be playing way better?

“Yes, for sure. I think so too and we are confident. No one will be able to convince us we are not good enough. Yes it was not good enough against Senegal and Ecuador, we know. But we did win the group and we are in the last 16 of the tournament. We will grow into this tournament.”

Even in a bad game, we don’t lose. This Oranje refuses to lose?

“Well yes, that is a quality, but it’s not something we want to lean on. We want to attack and win and we want to play better. The thing is, you also have to deal with the strength of the opponent.”

Did we underestimate Senegal and Ecuador?

“Maybe, these nations play different than we do, or than European nations. I remember we played Ecuador in the run up to the WC2014. We played 1-1, as well. I think the current Ecuador is even better. You never win easily against South American teams. We had a hard time beating Mexico in 2014 remember? We were watching Argentina – Mexico  the other day. And we were looking at each other. They were going at it, but the players are all cool with it. It’s there culture. They know they’re going to get kicked, but that is how they play and think: You’ll feel me today!”

is it possible to enjoy a World Cup as a player?

“Oh yes, we watch the games when we can. We follow the big names of course. We love watching Argentina, Brazil, Spain. I could watch football every night, but we also have our meetings and obligations. We have sessions per line, or individual. What is going well, what needs to improve, that sortathing. Discussing it is as vital as practicing it. It takes time but the talks are key. We need them and sometimes we miss a game as a result. A World Cup for us is more than just playing matches.”

In 2014 you were the Xavi Simons. Young, fearless, impatient. Now you are the leader.

“That is the fun thing of a career, all the different stages, the emotion, the pressure, the learning and now the responsibility. I have always wanted the responsibility. And it makes it extra tough when you can’t play due to injury.”

Do you find opponents play differently when you play or don’t play?

“When Frenkie and I are in sync, there is definitely more fear in the opponent and we can tell by how they talk and coach each other on the pitch. But, I don’t see myself as a real striker. I am more a creator and not a finisher. Like Lewandowski is a really killer. That is not me. By the way, super for him to score his WC goal. He is always leading his country and cool for him to go through.”

Do you learn from other strikers?

“For sure. I am not really a killer but I do watch him and learn from his movement and his positioning. The way he takes a ball first time, yes of course.”

For someone who is not a striker, you are close to being Oranje’s all time top scorer, with 42 goals you’re close to Robin van Persie

“That would be history wouldn’t it, a record like that. I have that ambition yes. And I missed the Euro 2016 and the WC in 2018, imagine that. I started to score a lot of goals under Koeman, before that I didn’t even score that much. Records are there to be broken, but let me stop talking and let me reach that number first. It’s not about me, at the end of the day. We want to achieve something special here and for me, it’s just a matter of doing my bit.”

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  1. From Jean:

    @ Jan,
    Now Jan, let me ask you and please be honest. Base on what I’ve seen so far including line up, tactic ect, I say we are out on Saturday. What do you say? Imagine the Netherlands being knocked out by the United States in a WC? Imagine that? Van Gaal would have to meet the press after the game no mater what. I can’t way to see that.

  2. Jean, I think there is a fair chance we will be out, yes. There clearly is a shift happening in football. Japan outdoing Spain and Germany. Morocco winning the group. Belgium out. So yes, the US has a great team. Young players, most of them playing in big leagues. It’s quite normal for the US to come to the top at some stage. I mean, check their medal tally at the Olympics, or check their performances in any other sports (basketball, volleyball, hockey). It’s arrogant to think that Holland will always beat the USA in football. Australia drew against us twice, I believe the US beat us before.

    In football, the minions who wait for mistakes can win. Saudi Arabia vs Argentina.

    IF you see all these results, this WC only, and you now say it’s unthinkable Oranje loses v US than you simply don’t get football or sports. Sorry.

  3. From orangutan:


    Re: …so LVG will not piss off Klaassen by ignoring him in a favour of a kid who hasn’t even played 1 minute for Oranje

    So your statement suggests that the likely reason that Xavi would never be played over Klassen is to protect Klassen’s ego and not to pixx him off because a newbie is taking his spot?

    And yet you are also suggesting that

    Re: There was a disciplinairy issue with Lang at practice (or so it seemed) and if that happens LVG is also likely to not use him on the next match

    Forget the fact that this sounds like the biggest excuse for Lvg. Can you also see the double standards in your statements.?

  4. @orangutan

    Wow you have a real talent of completely ignoring a lot of context around an topic and focus on one sentence that I wrote (not a quote from LVG or something) and then try to build your whole rant on that and end up concluding we (Me, the Dutch NT manager, the players, analysts, ex-players) are idiots.

    Holy cow, are you by chance a woman?

    The post I wrote gave lots of detail about how LVG will prefer a player who has delivered in Oranje many times and has experience and demonstrated a good relationship on pitch with Memphis over a young kid who only shone in training for Oranje.

    Do you really think this is different in other national teams?

    No one said Klaassen was spitting the dummy. You have a colourful imagination.

    LVG is a great squad manager. He will explain his choices and most players if not all accept it. Even rebel Sneijder had to concede and go with the discipline of LVG and to this day is thankful for this (even though he despises LVG in all other aspects).

    So you can take everything I write and put vinegar on it. Fine.

    As for Lang, this would also apply to Klaassen!!! Did I ever say otherwise? If Klaassen or De Vrij or any other seasoned player would be a dick in training, he’d have a go at him. I mean, this is the coach who took on Rivaldo and Angel di Maria and Sneijder and you think he will let Klaassen walk over him??

    THAT is not normal.

    Btw, the news re: Lang was fake news. There was no disciplinairy issue. It was a physio asking Lang to come back for treatment, that was all.

    (facepalm emoticon inserted here)

  5. In my eyes Depay is not even 50% of what he was a few months ago. He is much slower, seems like a ton heavy and technique and ball dribbling is almost gone. First touch is horrible. I don’t know if this is the result of sitting for too long on the bench at Barca but short of a miracle I don’t think he will show up any better during next game/s. He has also added a LOT of muscles and looks more like a WWF fighter. That can’t be good for a footballer.
    About the US game, we still have so much experience and skills that we can only beat ourselves at this stage. I will be very happy if we can beat that bunch of spoiled american arrogant loudmouth kids (not all of them) who behave like the world owes them something. I fear their keeper, he is excellent. I wonder who would we put on Pulisic? I have seen him at Chelsea, he is nothing impressive. Strange how some players get transformed when playing for their NT.
    Anyway, I know I will be chewing my fingers this Saturday. My daughter who was born in USA and is away in college will put her orange shirt on. She’ll probably be the only one in her whole friend group if not the whole college cheering for the Dutch.

    1. Balkan, which of the American players are spoiled loudmouths? I don’t understand this comment.

      Also, Pulisic is a very good player, maybe one of the top 10 us players of all time. He is an excellent passer, great ball control. Think of him as Frenkie with the ability to finish…

      1. Paul, maybe I exaggerated a bit but I need to inspire myself 🙂 I don’t like the attitude of a couple of them esp McKennie. Pulisic seems like a nice guy and yes he plays excellent for the US. He is just MEH in PL though.

  6. Frimpong is ok. Just a knock. He will be ready for Saturday.

    Amazing results and what a couple of games. How did Lukaku not have a hattrick?

    Pulisic is a special player but I trust Timber will take care of him.

    Someone said earlier “how can we lose against the US”, well… it’s possible. Spain loses v Japan. Germany loses v Japan. Tunesia holds Denmark. S Arabia beats Argentina. The list goes on.

    Team USA is not a bunch of amateurs (anymore). The goalie is at Arsenal, they have Dest AC Milan (Ex Ajax, ex Barca), Ronbinson from Fulham , Ream from Fulham, Aaronson of Leeds, Adam of Leeds, McKennie at Juve, Musah from Valencia, Reyna of Dortmund, Weah from Lille, De LA Torre ex Heracles now at Celta de Vigo, I mean…

    These are all young players with oomph. Don’t expect an easy win, whether we are in glorious form or whether we are not…

  7. Thanks Jan. Good article. It’s interesting to hear Memphis’ perspective. He and van Gaal certainly have had somewhat of a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship in recent years and there definitely is a trust level there. It would be nice to see him get back on track!

  8. US Team Summary (Part III):

    Just as with the other positions, the US defenders tend to be a fairly athletic group. The outside backs are agile and fast and create lots of attacking opportunities. The center backs are strong and consistent and don’t make a lot of mistakes. The US has only allowed 1 goal so far, on a penalty converted by Gareth Bale late in the match vs Wales. The US almost exclusively plays a back 4, comprised of 4 of the following 5 players:

    Antonee Robinson (age 25) is a left back for Fulham. He was born in England and grew up playing in Everton’s academy. After a couple of loan spells as a senior player, he played around 40 matches for Wigan and then was transferred to Fulham, where he has primarily been the starter for the last few seasons, playing 77 matches. He’s fast and gets up the line well, but generally does a good job tracking back as well.

    Tim Ream (35) is a center back for Fulham. After starting his professional career in the MLS, he’s spent about 10 years in England, first with Bolton and then with Fulham, where he’s been since 2015. He has been in and out of the US national team since 2010 and was just recently called back in for the World Cup. He’s generally steady and reliable, but is far older than the rest of the US backline and what speed he may have had in pretty much gone now.

    Cameron Carter-Vickers (24) is a center back for Celtic. He was born in England and came up in Tottenham’s academy before bouncing around through a number of English Championship level teams, before just recently signing with Celtic. His father is an American citizen and he began playing with the US at the junior national team levels and now has 12 caps at the senior level. He was recently called back up and made his first start in the World Cup against Iran. He’s generally a good passer out of the back but otherwise not really remarkable.

    Walker Zimmerman (29) is a center back for Nashville SC (MLS). He grew up in Georgia (where I live) and has played exclusively in the MLS, first with Dallas, then with LA, and now Nashville. He’s a big guy and a tough competitor, although he was the one responsible for the Gareth Bale penalty — the only goal the US has conceded.

    Sergino Dest (22) is a right back for AC Milan (formerly of Barcelona and Ajax). You may have heard of him 😊. Born in the Netherlands, he came up with Ajax before moving to Barcelona. He’s currently on loan to AC Milan. He’s an attacking oriented right back with decent creativity and good pace. He may not truly be Barca quality but is definitely an attacking threat.

    The defenders on the bench are a mixed bag.

    Shaq Moore (26) is a right back for Nashville SC (MLS). He occasionally substitutes for Dest.
    Aaron Long (30) is a center back for the NY Redbulls (MLS). He’s played his entire professional career in the US and probably won’t see action barring an injury.
    DeAndre Yedlin (29) is a right back for Inter Miami (MLS). He’s got great speed and was supposedly the next big thing in US soccer, playing for several Premier League clubs, primarily Newcastle, before heading to Galatasaray and most recently back to the US. Dest has pretty much displaced him, and he’s made just 1 appearance in this tournament as a sub.
    Joseph Scally (19) is a right back for Borussia Mochengladbach. He previously played for NYC FC and just recently moved to Germany. He’s a young and exciting player but probably not quite ready yet.

    Overall, the backline has played well in this World Cup, conceding only one goal, via penalty to Wales. The US had clean sheets against both England and Iran under considerable pressure. Our inability to generate many shots on target (or shots at all) doesn’t really bode well, but I do think we have the quality to score against the US, and if we can keep possession to some extent and attack via our wingbacks, we hopefully can keep Dest and Robinson pinned back and really neutralize the US attack.

    1. @Jan

      Re: Holy cow, are you by chance a woman?

      Maybe we should lay off the misogynistic suggestions. Women are sublime 🥰

      I don’t know how you are saying I took your statement regarding Klassen out of context. You clearly stated that Lvg wouldn’t like to pixx off Klassen by playing a new kid over him especially when his(Klassen) Oranje contributions are so stellar.

      Conversely, you claim that Lvg would deal with him like a bixch if he steps out of line.

      But Which is it? Is he allowed to throw tantrums because of his football contributions or, is he not allowed, even if Xavi is played ahead of him?

      Re: Do you really think this is different in other national teams?

      Yes I do. In almost every national team of consequence, they move on. They don’t keep players around with the hope that they can replicate a superman cross for the new RVP to score. Most teams don’t have a Blind situation.

      Like I said, other teams apply a rotation method to see what or who best serves the team. It’s only the Oranje that you don’t have to give a good account of yourself at present because you played good in the past.

      And newbies are not allowed to prove themselves because they don’t have an Oranje resume 🙃

  9. Amazing contributions JB, very much appreciated indeed. Most of the euro based yanks are known to us I would say, but the ones playing in the US or South America not so much 🙂

    1. Haha! Thanks Jan! Just trying to share what little knowledge I have, as the US team is more in my “wheelhouse” than a number of other topics.

      One more summary re goalkeeper and coach / style coming shortly…

  10. Funny thing, few minutes ago I was listening to music from a band called Asking Alexandria. One of their hits that I had not heard before is called Memphis May Fire. LOL. I take this as a good omen. Let’s hope that Memphis WILL fire.

  11. @ Jan,
    Again, I would have to respectfully disagree with you. If we lose against the US on Saturday isn’t because all of a sudden these smaller teams are more competitive. The have been for decades now. I agree we don’t have the talents that we onece had but we do have more than enough players to put together a decent squad and play some decent football. If we loose on Saturday, all the blame will be on King Van Gaal. So far, he got it all wrong. Have you notice how Musiala is leading Germany’s attack? King Van Gall have decided to bring 3 useless attackers to the world cup and left Danjuma. 3 guys with zero technical skills, no pace. the only thing they can do is just seating on the box and waiting for someone to supply them when you have no one to do that. After 3 matches, neither Blin nor Dumfries have provided one single cross. You did not select Kardorsh After 2 years, Berghuis has not convinced anyone. Klassen is a bench warmer at Ajax. Why can he tries some of the younger players? If you are playing 3/5/2 and your wing backs are suck, what’s the point. Bring Malacia, Frimpong, Xavi, Long and see what happen. BTW, like Wilson always say, these guys should have been part of a rotation long time ago not during the WC. I hope King Van Gaal hear the voice of reason.

      1. Germany got eliminated by their defense, not their attack of which I believe is one of the richest in this WC. If they went past the group stage they would have gone far in this WC. Not that I am crying about it.

    1. The US really is only recently more competitive. Like other countries’ “golden generations”, the US suddenly finds itself with a “euro generation”. For years they’ve filled their roster with subpar but athletic hustlers with pretty low skill and the occasional player or two that had some moderate success in Europe. For the first time, they have a core that plays regularly in Europe at decent clubs and largely in starting roles. Van Gaal isn’t somehow responsible for that. And even on the Dutch side of the roster for the upcoming game, it’s not like he’s stubbornly overlooking players who are regulars at Man City, Chelsea, or Barcelona, he’s looking past guys like Danjuma. Though I like him and wish he was part of the team, he’s not even consistently a difference maker at Villareal.

    2. I agree with you jean. If we go out it is all on LVG. But on the other hand we have to consider whether if we pass through it is on his merit. Bit of a fine line. Let’s see how far we go.

  12. @Wilson:i remember you had predicted Germany to play the quarter finals and they are gone. Spain has scaped through to the round of 16, what will happen to spain remains to be seen. I had put poland and croatia to go through. Japan is now interesting.

  13. @Jean, I think some others have responded to your question.

    For starters, I never said “the US is suddenly more competitive”. It’s a process. It’s been going on for decades and now the Oranje team is arguably not so good with the US has their best squad ever.

    We have decent players mate and we have performed well. We qualified (we didn’t for 2 tournaments) and we got to the Nations League finals, again. What are you on about.

    And yes Musiala was wonderful. A shame he is on the plane home. I mean it. But he’s out of the tournament, Sherlock.

    I’m not going to go further on your silly comments. No one rates Berghuis? That applies to some vocal people here. IT doesn’t apply to Van Gaal, Van der Vaart, Sneijder, Van ‘t Schip and Van Basten. I think I will go with them.

  14. @orangutan, there you go again.

    You take my words out of context, you make it sound as if Van Gaal said it and you use to paint a broad negative picture.

    This is what I said: “Klaassen is top scorer behind Memphis, and has two assists now so LVG will not piss off Klaassen by ignoring him in a favour of a kid who hasn’t even played 1 minute for Oranje and only 1 match for Jong Oranje.”

    This is my opinion. This is not something Van Gaal said. So I said 1) Klaassen is top scorer for Oranje after Memphis ,2 ) he works really well with Memphis and 3) he always delivered in Oranje.

    So if – this is my opinion !!1 – Van Gaal picks Xavi over Klaassen (Xavi only impressed in training and 6 months in the Eredivisie) over Klaassen, the latter would not be happy. If Xavi fails, Van Gaal will need to go back to Klaassen (or any other player who would feel bypassed) and that is something Van Gaal doesn’t like to do as he rewards loyalty.

    You can say all you want. You can use your own words and ridicule the situation all you like but coaches do this. They stick with players that they have a connection with and who delivered. There will still be time for Xavi.

    But yes, IF Klaassen would step out of line, he would be reigned in.

    You say “WHAT IS IT??” as it my statements rule each other out. No! They don’t.

    Klaassen is a preferred option for LVG (Trust me, I am not a Klaassen fan) but when he fails to show up in time for a tactical meeting, he’ll be out of the starting line up.

    What is so hard to understand here.

    I’d like to stop commenting on your nitpicking and would love to hear from you how the Dutch should have done it, in order to become the world champions.

  15. US Team Summary (Part IV)

    Goalkeeper / Coach / Style of Play

    Matt Turner, the starting US keeper, actually is currently a backup keeper for Arsenal, where he moved just recently. Prior to that, he played in the MLS for the New England Revolution for about 6 years, along with a few other lower league teams. He came to the sport late, having previously focused on baseball, but quickly climbed the national team ranks based on his performances and, sort of like Noppert, was somewhat of a surprise starter for the US after they chose him over Zack Steffen (who had recently been a backup for Man City before moving to Middlesbrough for more game time). Turner has seized the opportunity though and been very good! He’s a great shot stopper, although his distribution is probably average. That said, he’s kept clean sheets against England (!) and Iran and only conceded a late penalty to Bale against Wales. He’s a great story and has really earned what he’s achieved. The US has always been able to produce high quality goalkeepers, and Turner seems to the next of that group, but he still is relatively inexperienced, and we might be able to put him in positions where he is uncomfortable or makes a poor decision.

    Turning to the sidelines, Gregg Berhalter is the current US coach, and my view is that he’s done what he’s had to with the talent he has, but has not shown an ability to be particularly innovative or a problem-solver when things aren’t working. While the US did obviously qualify for the World Cup and has advanced to the knock-out stage (HUGE success relatively speaking), my sense is that achievement is far more based in the team’s increased talent level vs anything Berhalter is doing tactically. Interestingly, as a player, Berhalter actually played just over 100 professional matches in the Netherlands in the late 1990s (he played for Zwolle, Sparta and Cambuur). A defender, he then went on to play for several German clubs before eventually returning to the US and the MLS. As a manager, he coached first in Sweden, and then returned to the US to coach the MLS’s Columbus Crew. He eventually took over the US national team after all the Jurgen Klinsmann chaos, and proved to be more effective at getting the US to play a more consistent and better quality style day in and day out (but primarily utilizing the players whose develop began under Klinsmann’s initiatives, along with a few foreign born additions).

    The current US system implemented by Berhalter is largely based on pressing with speed and aggressiveness, winning the midfield battle, and getting the ball to their wings in attack (primarily Pulisic and Weah). These are all generally positive approaches to playing, but are really initiated when the US is out of possession. Ironically, the time when the US has the ball is when things generally bog down, and they really struggle to score outside of transition situations. Berhalter can’t seem to find a solution to this issue, and the midfield, although very effective in the roles he’s given them, is not a creative / attacking one. In other words, the US plays what my son calls the “boring, modern 4-3-3”, where work rate and aggressiveness create scoring chances rather than passing, movement and creativity (but hey, it worked for Liverpool, at least for a little while). The other issue for the US is doing the actual scoring. The striker position remains a question mark (although they do have a wide variety of options and styles in that role) and as noted above, the current starting mids are not really capable of breaking down a solid bank of defenders. This is where I think we are advantaged, as our back three are probably stronger than any other set of defenders the US has faced so far. And if Timber can neutralize Pulisic and force him to drop deeper and deeper to get the ball, we should be in business.

  16. Turning back to our Dutch team, another concept to consider that we really haven’t spent much time on so far is the interaction of LVG’s 5-3-2 system with the formations / systems played by our opponents.

    In our first match, Senegal appeared to play a straight up 4-3-3 against us, and although we put in a pretty lackluster performance, we at least generated a reasonable number of shots.

    Ecuador played something a little more unusual against us – I think it was essentially a 3-4-2-1. And in doing so, after conceding a Gakpo goal almost immediately, they really grew into the match and eventually dominated us, holding us to just 2 shots and almost coming away with the victory. Interestingly, in their other matches, Ecuador played something more like a traditional 4-3-3 against both Qatar (who was in a 3-5-2 like us), which they won 2-0, and against Senegal (who also played a 4-3-3), which they lost 1-2. I wonder if Ecuador’s approach against us actually took LVG a little by surprise. In any case, whatever adjustments we attempted to make against Ecuador obviously did not work, as we got progressively worse as the match went on.

    Qatar essentially mirrored or 5-3-2 formation and our quality position-by-position pretty much won the day there.

    In our opponent’s three matches so far, the US played a pretty straightforward 4-3-3 in each match. Wales played a 3-4-3 against them and ended up drawing 1-1 on a late penalty. The US used a virtually identical formation and line-up against England, but replaced their striker (Wright started over Sargent) and the three midfielders were shifted around a little. England played their traditional 4-2-3-1 and the result was a 0-0 stalemate. Then against Iran, Sargent was back up top and Carter-Vickers replaced Zimmerman, and the US survived 1-0, scoring just before halftime. Iran appeared to play something like a 4-4-1-1.

    In summary, we’ve played our now “traditional” 5-3-2 against one opponent who’s played a 4-3-3 so far – Senegal. The US has not played a true 5-3-2 team yet in this tournament. The closest is probably Wales with its three-back setup.

    Also interestingly, the US performances have all been very strong in the first half and have dropped off a fair amount in the second half. One possible explanation might just be fatigue, as the US plays with a lot of energy and pace and they may just wear themselves out over the course of the match. Another possibility, though, is that their opponent has made halftime adjustments and the US has not really responded, which may be more of a coaching issue.

    In fact, I think the Netherlands’ most significant advantage is actually on the sidelines. At this point, LVG has really seen it all. Although he didn’t devise an effective solution against Ecuador, his tactics so far have otherwise produced the desired result (although not quite the desired quality of play 🙁 ). Berhalter almost certainly will stick with the traditional 4-3-3 and try to win the midfield battle and get Pulisic and Weah a few chances. I imagine van Gaal will have predicted this match up with the US well in advance of the first ball kicked in this World Cup, and will have a plan in place to attack the US system.

    My perspective, having watched both teams pretty extensively, is that we need a fast and creative team that (1) makes the US chase and wear itself out, (2) attacks from the wings and pushes the US outside backs into defensive roles and (3) forces Pulisic to come deeper and deeper to pick up the ball. I’ve previously made my arguments against the 5-3-2 but don’t see LVG changing that now, so here’s my proposed line-up:


    Frimpong – Timber – VVD – Ake – Malacia

    De Roon
    Simons – Frenkie

    Gakpo – Memphis

    This is probably the fastest and most attacking line-up we could feature in this system. In my own coaching experience, I’ve always found that putting your best attacking players on the field is the best option because it forces the opponent to defend and let’s you dictate how the match is played. I don’t necessarily expect van Gaal to make this bold a move, particular since none of Malacia, Frimpong and Simons have featured yet in a WC match, but this would be exciting to see in action!

    1. @JB I would love to see that line up too! I feel like theres 3 positions that are kind of up for debate (plus de roons spot?)

      I do understand the logic of klassen starting (experience, hes getting assists, work rate etc).
      Same with blind and tbh, i would be ok with blind starting as he hasnt been exposed and hes breaking lines with his passing.
      I would love to see how frimpong would preform against a compact defence. It seems that dumfries is way more effective when he has space to run into, which he hasnt had many opportunities.

  17. I know we have not played amazing but we havnt lost under van gaal yet. It is crazy to me that so many people are so extreme in their negative assessment of him. It’s been a tough tournament.

    England tied the USA who are the 3rd best NA team.
    Argentina lost to SA.
    France lost to tunisia (with a very experimental line up in fairness)
    Spain and germany only have 4 points
    croatia only havew 1 win
    Belguim only have 1 win

    Every team is underperforming somewhere with the exception of maybe brazil, portugal and france?

    With this context, maybe we should be a bit more optimistic.

  18. JB,
    LVG uses that lineup …………..maybe in practice 🙂 It will never see the light of day in a real game. By now it is clear that LDJ, Xavi, Lang, Frimpong are there just for the numbers. Those who had already been slated to perform in this WC have been used and we saw all of them them during group games. Anybody else will see some game time in a desperate situation when “el maestro” decides to throw in the kitchen sink cuz the end is near.

    1. @ Balkan:

      I really fear that Klaassen and Blind are far, far too slow to play in this match and will be eaten up by the US midfield. If we were playing like Spain, where the opponent never touches the ball, and those two were key pieces in that approach, then I could see keeping them in for this match, but that’s not the case at all.

      Further, Dumfries has been a complete non-factor in attack, and we really need someone to use the width of the field and push the US outside backs back. I think it’s time to take a chance on two new wing backs for this match and to see what Simons can do.

    1. @ Anthony:

      Well, if this is going to be a high energy match, that’s probably the worst news of the day. Unless Simons, Frimpong and Malacia are all completely free of the virus and get to start as a result… That would be divine intervention via influenza

      1. @JB agreed. It could well be a blessing in disguise to try out different players.

        I think we will be able to manage any players with flu symptoms other than gakpo. All our CB are capable, alot of us think our back up wingbacks should actually start. We can make due with a combination of depay, bergwijn, janssen or even lang and simons as strikers but we would really miss gakpos influence.

        I would be shocked if frenkie doesnt play, even with the flu. But even if he doesnt play, we can put berghuis and koop at cm and I think we will be able to nullify the usa.

  19. I liked the German refree who was there for Ghna vs uruguay..Unlike that Pussy dutch refree who gifted penalty for messi and arjentina for touching messi…The refree made right calll despite there was pressure and shengaians from uruguay..

  20. Unconfirmed reports say that at least 15 players have “flu-like” symptoms including Frenkie and DeRoon. LVG is obviously downplaying this but he appeared worried. SMH.

  21. @Jan,
    Any update on this flu stuff? Some conspiracy theories floating around that FIFA is targeting European teams this time. Releasing a flu-virus in through the AC vents is one of the easiest things to do.

  22. The Fox US Broadcast had a great live interview with Ronald de Boer a few minutes ago. He showed up on set in shorts and tennis shoes. They asked him whether the Dutch team had a chance to win the World Cup and he just cracked up and said “No!” But then he backtracked a little and said, “But you have to believe you do, and in 2010, we made it to the final, so you never know…”

    Also, they just posted an interview with Tyler Adams and put up a little graphic noting that he had been “Captain in ALL THREE GAMES in the Group Stage.” Which is… sort of how being the captain works… Does the Dutch telecast say the same thing about Virgil, like it’s a award or something?

  23. In an interview that I just read in Daily Mail, they quote van Gaal saying that Frenkie is among the players battling illness and, though he didn’t elaborate, he said that “if it goes around in the group, that is worrying”.

    Vikram, I think your earlier post got it backward— van Gaal said “there are not 15 or so’ cases”. That’s a weird and kind of a confusing way to say that, probably a translation thing.

      1. And just like that, the Swiss are back, with a nice low cross and easy finish by Embolo! He was in front of the Serbian back line but still behind the ball

          1. Haha Guillaume! In addition to currently interacting with a firm in Japan, I have another deal involving a Swiss business. My contacts there don’t seem to have responded to my messages this evening 😉

          1. Congrats Guillaume! I don’t know that Portugal (or Spain or Morocco) is going to look forward to the prospect of facing an energized Swiss team…

    1. @ Alistair
      1. England 7 pts +7
      2. Netherlands 7 pts +4
      3. Morocco 7 pts +3

      We are statistically the 2nd best team after the group stage. I wouldnt use these stats to place a bet on who would win the world cup, but it is incredibly interesting that the general vibe from some people is that holland is absolutely terrible and the worst side we have produced in years. The other sentiment is that Van Gaal has gotten our tactics sooo sooo wrong and his team selection is awful.

      Surely our team and van gaal are not awful if we are statistically the 2nd best team. Time for some optimism.

      Heres how the knockout stages will go with 100% certainty….
      2-0 vs usa
      2-1 vs argentina
      1-1 Win on pens vs brazil
      1-0 win vs france.

  24. @Jan thanks for the post. Let’s hope Memphis reach his potencial soon

    @JB thanks for your comment about the game. I agree with your line up.

    Blind maybe playin against Dest. Bothe played at Ajax. Maybe this is a plus for us? Or maybe knowing that Dest tent to attach to much, maybe it’s better using a gaste Malacia.

    Pulisic. It will be wise to use De Vrij to neutralize him?

    Dumfries has been Pam him very bad, but also he hast received the support of a playmaker. I will like to see Frimpong.

    The Americans are very optimistic. They respect us, but don’t fear us. We need to address this match with the right mentality.

    1. @eduardo Interesting choice that you think de vrij should neutralize pulisic. I was thinking that timber may have better lateral mobility compared to de vrij or de ligt so would be a better match up but now im thinking that pulisic will probably roam and it will be less about defending him 1v1 and more about making sure we have proper shape and coverage for when he gets on the ball. My biggest concern vs the usa is getting caught in transition as I am not overly worried about them breaking us down when we are set in our shape properly.

  25. Wat about flu status??.. USA team is one of the most hardworking team flu will affect stamina… I think LVG goes with pragmatic 532 with non functional Blind and Dumfries… Our midefeild will get suffocated out numbered and out classed.. We need a fluke goal early.. Or else we will be trailing… But once we trail LVG team will get nack to 433 and we might see waves of attacks with Frimpong and Malacia… However not giving chance to Malacia and Frimpong. And throwing them to crunch match is called assh##₹ole mentality… Thats waht van marwijk did at euro 2012…

  26. De Roon said that the players do suffer a bit from the aircon situation. From a cold hotel to the hot outside training ground, back to cold physio space, and then warm outside area, back to cold hotel, bus, restaurant then the match. It is affecting the lads who are not used to it. I get this too when I am in Vegas or in Hong Kong.

    As for the JB analysis :-). Thanks, much of what you say is very valuable, thank you.

    The system comparison falls short for me. Qatar played 5-3-2 but we play 3-4-1-2 with our wingback higher (Dumfries really high) while Qatar kept the 5 at the back. It’s not enough to say “4-3-3” for instance. Because what does it mean? Two holding mids? Two attacking midfielders? Left footer on the left wing? Right footer on the left wing? These system discussions are always a bit shallow. Doesn’t tell the full story.

  27. Someone said the players are triple vaccinated? I know for a fact this is not the case. Not all players went for it and when LVG claimed they should all do it, there was some internal backlash which resulted in LVG shutting up about it.

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