Only 15 days to go!! And 5 days until we learn the final definitive selection!
The Netherlands has 15 mio team managers. People (fans, ex players, coaches, analysts, media people) and then there is the actual team manager of course…
And in the run up to the World Cup you will hear them all. And they all have their own ideas. Feyenoord assistant coach JP van Gastel repeats what his former head coach Ronald Koeman said earlier this week: “Van Gaal should have taken Mathijsen. It’s clear that the Oranje defence is young and inexperienced, albeit very talented. It would have helped if he would have picked at least one experienced trooper. Joris would have been perfect. He was in top form the last months, he has leadership on and off the pitch. I think this is a missed opportunity.” Pundits like Ronald Waterreus, Co Adriaanse and Ronald de Boer expressed a similar opinion. But, that is irrelevant now as Louis is not able to call him up even if he wanted to. The definitive group will have to come from the prelim squad.
The discussion centers more and more on “who will Louis select”? The future Man United coach said he has 20 names on paper already. Only 3 more to go. The practice sessions show a potential line up with Cillesen on goal and a back five of Janmaat, De Vrij, Veltman, BMI and Van Aanholt. In midfield Nigel de Jong has taken the role of Clasie (pretty useful against Spain and Chile of course) with Daley Blind on his side and the golden triangle of Sneijder, Robben and Van Persie upfront. Depay, Lens and Clasie will have to wait their chance on the bench.
Van Gaal also made some comments about a certain player who might not be top fit but whose yield – for lack of a better word – has always been very high for Oranje. “The ability to deliver sometimes overrides match fitness. And we still have a couple of weeks to get players more fit.” It seemed like Louis was referring to Raf van der Vaart. The HSV player has not had a super season in Germany and struggled with fitness. At the Portugal camp he had the flu and he suffered a little calf injury which kept him off the pitch today. But the former Ajax, Real Madrid and Spur midfielder has the ability to turn games around with his ability to deliver in big games and Van Gaal knows he might need an experienced player like him to bring in difficult situations.
With Depay he has a young gun who will be able to surprise with his confident performance and trickery. According to former Oranje wingers Regi Blinker and Bryan Roy the PSV winger might well be the surprise of the World Cup. “He won’t start, we don’t think, but he’ll get playing time for sure. And he might be able to do something special. Against Ecuador you could see how Van Persie rated Depay as he allowed him a free kick which RVP would normally take himself.”
Roy did say a bit more: “I would never go for 5-3-2 by the way. We have always impressed most with three strikers. We have the players to play like that and we can put more pressure on the opponents. But I do understand Van Gaal’s reasoning and you can’t ignore the fact he has proven himself as a world class coach, so maybe we should simply support his choices.”
Skipper Robin van Persie won’t say too many negative things about his coach. “We have special relationship. I never knew him too well before he took on Oranje and we had that first meeting in which he told he would go for Klaas Jan as his striker. That came out and people thought I would be disappointed. But I wasn’t. That comment was only one comment in a meeting that lasted hours. We talked about many things. Football and non football matters. And we still do. He might have said that to motivate me, but at the same time I wasn’t very impressive in Oranje till then and I know it. Anyway, we built up a good relationship, something you don’t have with just any coach.”
Van Persie grins when Van Gaal’s intensity is mentioned. “Well, he expects everyone to give 100% like he does. And that is tough at times. But I like it. It sort of lifts you up to do better. And he is very open and clear and direct. And that is good. He also wants you to talk to him about things you experience or believe. He welcomes debate. But if you didn’t perform, he will tell you.”
The Man United striker had a difficult season in England. No European football for him and he missed a number of games due to injuries. But in Portugal the former Feyenoord man is reaching his top level again. During the 5 against 5 games they played he dribbled past opponents as if they weren’t there and scored from all angles possible. He is expected to play a full game against Ghana and will be ready for the big job against Spain by then.
“Do what I say, nose, otherwise I will take your new job away from you!”
About the new system: “It is not really new for some. Feyenoord played like this and we played like this with Man United as well. I am sure half of the squad has played this system, but with Van Gaal it is always about the perfect execution. It’s almost sacred geometry with him. The distance between players needs to be exactly right and it takes a lot of thinking, coaching and focus. But we have a couple of weeks to go and you can tell things are improving fast.”
Van Gaal was not happy with the way Oranje played vs Ecuador and took Kongolo and Clasie off at half time. Does the Oranje skipper do anything special towards these players to keep them motivated? “I don’t need to, believe me. And I don’t have to tell anyone they played great if they didn’t. But it was one game, a friendly, while the non Eredivisie players were still absent. So you can’t judge too much. It was Kongolo’s first game in Oranje. And I have had many great assists in my life, but the one Clasie played against Ecuador was probably one of the 5 best passes I have ever received. So he didn’t do too badly. And seriously, all players are making giant steps. Did you see how Martins Indi positions himself, how he handles the ball and is coaching others? He has made huge steps compared to two years ago.”
Van Persie continues: “The key thing for young players is to keep on watching and learning and taking it all in. We are on the verge of a World Cup in Brazil. It doesn’t get bigger. I was never a bright player. When I was young, I was a selfish player and wasn’t really too smart tactically. I can see that now. And if you see how disciplined youngsters like Martins Indi, Clasie, Fer and Depay can play, that is quite something.”
Van Persie and Robben were the two top dogs in Oranje, with Strootman before he got injured. Wesley Sneijder, the former skipper and leader, had to worry about his position in the squad. But not anymore, it seems. The Gala midfielder has surprised Van Gaal in a positive manner. The team manager: “The biggest gift I received is Wesley Sneijder. He is very fit. If he stays in this form, he will be a very important player for us and I am very very content.”
“For Clasie we have a water bottle with a straw”
It seems the following players can count on a ticket to Brazil:
Cillesen, Janmaat, Verhaegh, De Vrij, Veltman, Martins Indi, Vlaar, Van Aanholt, De Jong, Blind, Sneijder, Van der Vaart, Robben, Van Persie.
I do think Krul and Vorm are certain as well and I think we’ll see Clasie and Depay on the plane too. Huntelaar is the best stand in for RVP of course and if Lens is fit and in form he will be a certain squad member.
Three more field players needed. I suppose Van Gaal will consider Blind as left back if he believes Kongolo is too light for the big job. In which case we’ll see Fer and maybe De Guzman come along. As we will play with two forwards, having Depay and Lens as stand ins is probably enough and Boetius and Promes will be able to book his summer holiday, while Rekik suddenly might be needed to make up the numbers in defence…. Wijnaldum will lose out if LVG picks both Sneijder and Van der Vaart.
If Kongolo however impressed Van Gaal, he will be a perfect stand in for center back as well and Rekik might unlucky which might give Van Gaal the opportunity to bring another wild card in the form of Promes or Boetius or midfielder Vilhena…
The latter has been loaned out to Young Oranje (with Boetius, Rekik and Promes) while Kongolo was allowed to stay with the big boys. Tonny Vilhena: “It’s not a big deal for me. People tend to forget that even Young Oranje is already a step up for me, as I should normally play under 19s. And I have not given up on Brazil. It would be fantastic to go along. The coach told us he will make his mind up after seeing us play on Wednesday. So if we perform well, who knows?”
“I’m glad that my little media games with you worked out well, Sneijdertje!”
Karim Rekik adds: “The coach has told us specifically that we still have a good chance to be part of it. And why not. The other players will also have to prove themselves. I would love to go, and would love to see how Robben and Van Persie and those guys deal with the stress and the pressure and all that….”
We will give the Men in Blazers the last word in this post. The American comedians look at the chances we (and Belgium) have this time around. Funny. Not.