Mark van Bommel has officially not yet resigned from Oranje. Not officially, but the most decorated active international ( not counting Seedorf in other words) did say after the Euros that “others should pick up the mantle”… The 35 years old returns to PSV this season and his only aim internationally now is to win the Europa League.
“Yes, it has come that far now. I remember crying in 2010, after the Spain final… It all came out. I didn’t have that this time around. It was more a numbness, I guess. Anger, despair, flabbergasted… But it’s over. I think I have maybe two good seasons left in me and I will give those to PSV.”
It does seem you have tendency to cry suddenly?
“Oh you mean the press conference at Milan? Well, the weird thing is, I have felt so at home there in such a short timeframe. I only played there 1,5 season and everyone at the club was asking me to stay. They even offered me a better deal for another season. When I finally told the people I wouldn’t stay, most of the cried. The laundry ladies, the physios… And when the press officer shed a tear at my press conference, I couldn’t keep it dry either, hahaha… It’s just so emotional you know….”
There were tears amongst the fans too, after the Euros…
“Sure… I know… It was a very bad experience, for us too… Really…I don’t know…unexpected…”
Some people, analysts, say they could see this coming. And they believe Bert van Marwijk – your father in law – saw it coming too?
“No, I don’t believe that. Ridiculous. This team reached the finals two years ago and we have an awesome qualifications again. We only lost our last game against Sweden in the second half as a result of personal mistakes. People who now say they saw it are not straight. I don’t think Bert saw it. I do believe he was concerned for our last line of defense, with Gregory injured, Pieters injured and Mathijsen not 100% fit. Obviously Robben had fitness issues in the start of the season, Sneijder, Afellay, so it’s quite normal that a coach has questionmarks… But we were honest to God pretty confident going into the tournament…”
Too confident? Complacent?
“In hindsight? Maybe… But I don’t think so… Most players came out of a good season. Robin, Klaas Jan, Rafael, myself… Ibi was fit again, Gregory had his games. Johnny Heitinga was man of the season… We had reasons to feel strong. Robben had a tough season but he’s strong and we counted on him taking revenge with Oranje, you know. But that complacency might have been there in the Denmark game. When we were 1-0 down, it did feel as if we all thought “we will turn this around”… We were playing well, creating opportunities. I never expected us not to score… When we had our half time talk, we knew we had 45 minutes to score two and with Huntelaar and Rafael coming on later, we felt we were going to. It was really weird that game…”
What went wrong?
“I think the answer is not that hard. If you look at the game, you see two faces of Oranje. In the first 20 minutes, we push forward, we play our game, we create opportunities and are confident. We pressed as a unit. But somehow we lost that “tightness” and while our forwards pressed high, our defence tracked back… The gap in midfield for Nigel and myself was getting too big. And there was no way we could change it around.”
Why did that happen?
“I am guessing, but I think Johnny was getting a bit concerned with Vlaar and Willems – new lads – close to him and maybe he senses Gregory not being in top form…. There was no cohesion… But we did create opportunities so I thought – like the rest – that we would turn it around… And suddenly, the game was over… That game, we simply should have won it. Even that hand ball was not seen by the ref… pfff… It was not brilliant, but it wasn’t that bad.”
And suddenly you had to play all finals to even get close to winning it.
“Yes and that sort of broke our confidence I guess. We got all that criticism and the lads at the back felt the pressure and Robin got all those questions about him not scoring… It didn’t work for us. I think we made the right decision to stick to our gameplan against Germany. We again started well, with a couple of good opportunities… ”
You could have been the Dutch Pirlo if Robin would have scored that ball alone facing Neuer…
“Well, that’s football. I could have been the man with that pass but I ended up the loser. And yes, I let Schweinsteiger get away, but we made these mistakes as a team. Sneijder let his man go, Willems lost his, Mathijsen made the wrong decision and Gomez did everything right. Bang. Another smack in the face. And that 2-0 was not helping either…”
Again, it felt like a 2-2 was possible.
“Of course. You know people like Van Persie, Robben and Hunter only need so much to score a goal. It takes seconds. We had a number of good plays in the second half and Germany really didn’t play that good. But it wasn’t to be.
And the criticism became stronger. Van Basten and Gullit were ruthless.
“And why? As if we enjoyed it? They know what it’s like. They had that 1990 World Cup. Why would they be so cynical. And they never explained what they thought we should do. It was only “Oh this was sooo bad…” Well, we know that! They were both great players and I didn’t expect this sort of attack.”
But it wasn’t good…
“It wasn’t but in both games, Denmark and Germany, we could have had a much better result. There was no team playing great the whole tournament. Spain played a tremendous finals, but their other games weren’t that good. We lacked luck, we didn’t have “it” at the right time. We deserved more against Denmark and we could have had a second goal against Germany. I accepted the criticism on the first goal Germany scored. But I was not ok with the people saying I didn’t have the legs anymore. That is simply unfair. If I would have played 4 or 5 games bad in a row, sure. Then I would say myself: maybe time to step down. But I played well against England in the friendly, I didn’t do too shabby against the other teams in the friendlies.”
Was it hard to hear from your father in law that you were benched for the Portugal game?
“That father in law thing…that hasn’t come up in four years but when I’m benched people suddenly call the coach “my father in law”… No, it was not hard. It was good for the team. I’m not here for me, but for the team and if it’s good for the result that I sit on the bench, I will. The team needed something and I wasn’t playing great against Germany. I totally accepted that. And again, despite Portugal’s dominance: we were close. Vlaar had an amazing opportunity and Rafael hit the post. We were very unlucky.”
And then it was over…
“Yes. With all the crap that goes with it. Suddenly all sorts of talking heads knew exactly what went on. I don’t know where they got it from, seriously. The vibe in a group is always good when you win and always shite when you lose. That is a given. We don’t have a bad group. We’re all professionals. We talk about stuff and we accept that we are not all the same. We don’t need to be friends. What Robben yelled at Bert or what Huntelaar did in the hotel is all stuff that is part of top sport. In the heat of the moment, things are said. Big deal. We had stuff going on in South Africa too! But, I guess the Dutch people needed to vent their disappointment. I get that.”
But mistakes were made, correct? Willems? Afellay? The Huntelaar situation?
“Well sure, in hindsight you know everything. When Bert selected Willems, everyone though that was ok. Cool and ballsy. Willems did well in my book. Played good against Denmark, didn’t do too badly against Germany… The Portugal game, well… Playing all those offensive players put a lot of strain on the defenders, but he has speed and he was simply a better option than Schaars. Afellay played a very good warm up and seemed fit. And Huntelaar…I think he was getting frustrated and you know what, these are tough situations. If we would have won the Denmark game, everything would have been different… It just went downhill from there… Sad.”
Did Bert discuss his resignation with you?
“No, why would he? He’s strong enough to take care of himself. I expected him to stay in the job. I haven’t really spoken with him. I’m on my holidays now and I’ll return to Eindhoven soon. Looking forward to that. PSV has always been my club. I promised them in 2005 I’d return and here I am. An emotional thing for me, as they were very good for me. And since then, I played for Barcelona, Bayern Munich and AC Milan. Not bad….”