Oranje is 100 days away from Brazil. Only 100 days…. It feels like it’s so close. But looking at the task of Van Gaal, you’d wish it was 1,5 season away…. So many uncertainties…. These last couple of days, Raf van der Vaart and Michel Vorm have left the camp, sick. Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben aren’t fit either. It wouldn’t surprise me if we would see a somewhat devaluated Oranje perform. Van Persie is also struggling with the flu, while Robben is trying to fight off a knock.
Siem de Jong is called up to replace Raf.
Wesley Sneijder will most likely start along with some new names up front. Huntelaar will play if Van Persie isn’t fit and he will be flanked by some youngsters left and right.
Van Gaal told the media he is ok with Van Persie and Robben not being able to play. “I will use them in Brazil anyway, of course. But now I have a chance to see some new kids. Boetius will most certainly play.” Based on the last practice session, it seems Karim Rekik will also play his first Oranje game.
Van Gaal has a rookie-card, or a wild card, in his mind for a youngster who currently is not yet part of the squad. Van Gaal knows who that is, but doesn’t want to announce the name yet.
Van Gaal is currently working with a 35 man squad (incl Van der Vaart and Lens). Willem van Hanegem wouldn’t be surprised if the rookie is Feyenoord defender Terence Kongolo. The last weeks, the young talents has played Mathijsen out of the Feyenoord team. “I have said this two seasons ago: that is probably our biggest prospect as a defender. He was the best player in the Feyenoord – Ajax of last weekend.” If the youngster keeps on performing the coming months, it could well be him. Virgil van Dijk could be another candidate. In Amsterdam, the name of Ricardo Kishna is being whispered. Danny Blind is a big fan of the youngster. When Kishna was badly injured, the top management of Liverpool traveled to Amsterdam to sign the winger. Blind was quicker and presented a juicy contract for the bravado boy and secured his services for Ajax. Kongolo, Kishna. Boetius, Rekik, Klaassen, Promes… It could be either of them. Boetius is cautious with his comments: “I have been battling injuries and I am happy I am playing for Feyenoord again. Everything else is a bonus. I will do what I can to show myself.”
Karim Rekik: “I have nothing to claim but I would be disappointed if I would miss out….”
Van Gaal discussed the situation of Jeremain Lens in detail at the press conference, as the former AZ and PSV man plays in war stricken Kiev. “We keep an extra eye on Lens, as he has a special training program during the long winter break in the Ukraine. But with this unrest there, the situation is pretty serious there and we keep an eye out for him.” The suspended Lens is not part of the squad now.
Van Gaal will use this game vs France as his last real opportunity to experiment. Partly due to the fact he has a long list to submit by May 7 (30 players) and partly due to the number of absentees. It looks like Van der Wiel and Clasie will get a chance to show themselves. This team manager is not that hard to please. Veltman, Klaassen and Cillesen, for instance, all were players of Young Ajax at the start of this season and are now part potentially, of the World Cup squad. If a youngster shows consistent form from now on, he could be in it.
Quincy Promes played for Go Ahead Eagles last season. The Twente forward is humble, still. “I am not counting on anything. It is going fast, but I don’t want to get lost in all this. I take it one step at a time.” Klaassen played Jupiler league last season, but for him it can’t go fast enough.
Kevin Strootman is still considered a youngster but he is about to play his 25th international game. He will be honoured with a bottle of champagne and a shield with inscription. Dirk Kuyt and Arjen Robben are also about to reach a milestone: 100 and 75 caps respectively.
Robin van Persie, still not sure if he will play, was happy to be interrogated during the press hour. He frowned and was quite stern whenever someone raised issues re: Man United. “We are here at Oranje now. And I wish to keep my comments limited to Oranje.” But when someone asked him about the squad and the newbies in it, he said he couldn’t comment on topics that are the team manager’s decisions… What he did say: “The Stade de France is sold out for this game. Quite astonishing. 80,000 people on the stands, which says something. It will be a real match, I think. France has a strong squad. They play well. I saw some of their games. Players like Evra, Giroud, Pogba, Cabaye are pretty good. I see them as a contender.”
Asked if he felt Oranje was one too…. “I think we need to be modest. We don’t really know where we stand. We have some changes in the squad, with some players out and some newbies coming in. The expectations in Holland are always sky high. Ever since the 1970s, that result and those performances are now the benchmark. I don’t think that is realistic.” Van Persie does not believe Oranje will lack confidence or ambition. “Oh no, we are going to Brazil to go for gold, for sure. But with us, at least 10 other nations. We simply do not know now where we stand. But I will say this: I am impressed with the quality of the youngsters. I saw Ajax – Barcelona and the way Klaassen was making sure that the Spanish couldn’t get to the ball in the dying minutes and how he played it tactically was pretty impressive. We have wonderful talents and if we can make it gel, we can do something spectacular. But we also need to be critical. Only then can we get better.”
Call me crazy, but I think we are going to give the French a beating. I think they will be cautious at home, playing in a low pace and our fresh legs and youthful enthusiasm will get them. I think we win 1-3, with a dazzling Boetius and a powerhouse Klaassen performance.
Sneijder directing traffic, Boetius and Klaassen making runs while the rest of the team keeps it tight.
What do you guys think?