Where does Oranje stand?

Friends, we did what we had to do. We won all home matches in the group stage. And we didn’t expect anything less. Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia should be wins with any Dutch generation, really… Scoring 8 is good. Conceding 2 less so. All players fit, that is a good thing and yes, the 5-3-2 seems to be generally accepted now.

The Dutch experts/analysts are still not convinced. Where do we stand now? How good are we really?

The international media, however, seem to push Oranje to a favorite role. And I don’t think that is justified. Sure, Germany, Portugal, Spain, they’re not firing on all cylinders but you wouldn’t want them to, right? Just like with Oranje.

But can we reach a higher level, once we face them? Or even worse: France or Italy? Who knows?

I even doubt if Frank de Boer knows.

And then there are the fans on this blog, who mostly seem to be highly critical of Frank de Boer, Daley Blind and Memphis Depay ;-).

This North Macedonian game further showed why the international football world (players, fans, coaches and analysts) rate Daley Blind. If you saw the game and you still think he is only in the team because of his daddy (huh??), you should probably start supporting another sport.

Overall, the key thing every Dutch fan looked at in this last group game was: how good will Malen and Memphis (and Wijnaldum) gel, in comparison to playing with Weghorst?

The jury is out, as far as I’m concerned. Malen is a better player than Weghorst, he adds something fresh, and explosive to the team. He has depth and runs in behind and he has a daft tough too, as we saw with Oranje’s third goal. But, most importantly, he makes Memphis play better!

And if we want to achieve something here, we need Memphis to be in top form.

It was nice to see Gravenberch, but the young talent demonstrated that he’s not yet mature enough for a role in the starting eleven. In the first half, he was wandering a bit, not sure where to be, what to do. It did improve and he’ll be a top player for us.

Other than that, the other subs didn’t bring us much news. We saw Berghuis, keen to prove his worth, with sloppy moves and a couple of great passes and a top corner kick. The prolific right winger has a limited fee of 4 million euros and both Ajax and PSV are courting him. Gakpo got his debut and demonstrated his skill too in the last 10 minutes.

But what did North Macedonia teach us?

Well, the 5-3-2 might be a fine system but you do need to implement and execute it well. North Macedonia surprised Frank de Boer with a 4-2-3-1 system and their particular tactical move puzzled the Dutch eleven.

When building up, the Macedonians pushed Alioski way up, to keep Dumfries quiet, but Trajkovski would push up left next to Pandev. As De Boer is focused on man marking, not zonal, this resulted in a mess within Oranje. Normally, the player in the zone would pick up the wandering Elmas. Wijnaldum in this case and Frenkie would be available to pick up Trajkovski.

The situation above is how we did it, with man marking. Frenkie is completely out of position because Elmas is his man. There is a gap behind him, which forces De Vrij to move forward, far away from his comfort zone.

Another situation, in which Frenkie and De Vrij are lost in space. The number 62 of the world is capable of playing from under Oranje’s press. And by then, it is not even a surprise that Trajkovski is the man rattling the post next to Stekelenburg with a fine attempt.

Before the break. Oranje ends up in situations in which the distances between the lines are too great. The midfield was all open and bare as our players follow their man and are lured out of position. You can see, there are no holding mids to protect the back four. This will be noted with glee, by the scouts of the remaining nations.

On the other hand, Oranje is constantly threatening on the break. It seems to always find ways to hurt the opponent. And even when the pass and move positioning game breaks down, with Malen, Wijnaldum and Memphis, there is always the chance on a break. And this is how we come to our first goal. A ruthless Blind tackle, a pass through by Gravenberch and Malen on his moped to launch Memphis after two 1-2 combinations: 1-0.

Dumfries gets another chance, to become golden boot candidate, in the 29th minute. Alioski is playing left winger so Dumfries has acres of space. Malen’s ball is fine but the goalie ruins the party of the PSV boys.

After the break, De Boer opts for the 4-2-3-1 as well and brings Timber and Berghuis for De Vrij and Dumfries. This is what De Boer calls the “Italian way”.

In this set up, De Boer does what Koeman did: one penetrating full back and one conservative one.
Under Koeman, Dumfries was the penetrating one and Blind was sitting. In Frank de Boer’s version, it’s Van Aanholt with the penetration and Timber the one staying back.

Now it’s truly a man-to-man battle and North Macedonia can’t find any openings anymore, simply due to the difference in individual qualities. Not because we suddenly defend so well. Because our back line is still vulnerable. The only gain in this system: there is no confusion who marks who.

Before the tournament, Dutch fans and analysts feared that the 5-3-2 wouldn’t be attacking enough. It seems that this is not the real issue. The real problem with the 5-3-2 is the defensive structure. North Macedonia has pointed out that the bigger nations could really hurt us.



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  1. Jan: Great post! I found myself nodding along with virtually everything you said in terms of analysis of the tournament so far, and then you blew me away with your brilliant tactical review of the Macedonia game. I recognized the disorganization in the midfield as well although I focused more from an attacking standpoint. Your point about the man marking and the confusion among the players though was spot on and helped me really appreciate even more all the complexities in the system that were running, and the potential defensive weaknesses.

    It will certainly be interesting to see where we go from here, but I’m excited about the direction the team is heading at the moment

  2. Jan, Agree with JB. Excellent post.

    “Before the break. Oranje ends up in situations in which the distances between the lines are too great. The midfield was all open and bare as our players follow their man and are lured out of position. You can see, there are no holding mids to protect the back four. This will be noted with glee, by the scouts of the remaining nations.”

    This also happened several times against Ukraine. Seemed to me the cause was due to De Roon’s sliding to the right to cover behind Dumfries. Wijnaldum and Frenkie played a much less adventurous game against Austria, maybe to cover this. (Though it did happen at least once against Austria, and this may have been what triggered Van Basten’s comments about De ligt following the game.) It could be a real problem. But if they play a bigger team, Wijnaldum and Frenkie may play a little more conservatively and be more judicious in going forward to prevent this. Also it speaks as to why De Roon is preferable in the DM role.

  3. Didn’t read the article yet. Will do ASAP.

    I’d just like to point out we have a Dutch referee for the Spain – Slovakia game. Is that fair?
    Given how this game affects the Netherlands.
    Find that strange.
    But either way, the ref awards a cheap penalty to Spain and even with all of that, Morata can’t score. My word, what do these Spanish players need to do to score a goal?
    Again , 2 chances in front of goal , zero composure. Wow insane.
    Sweden doing what’s needed though. 1-0 up.

    Let’s see….

  4. My son’s prediction for today’s France – Belgium match. Both teams will spend the entire 90 minutes stationed in their own half playing the ball back and forth to each other like a big game of dodgeball 😀

    1. Hahahahahahahaha Slovakia
      Spain don’t want to score ?
      No worries. The gods will intervene and gift us one the most ridiculous own goals I’ve seen a very long time.

  5. I agree with Jan on who to retain. The team misses a really good holding midfielder, someone better than De Roon. But it’s what we have.

    On the other hand it is very normal to watch any match and see defensive mistakes or gaps that lead to an opponent chance. Most of the goals happen in that manner! And you will find such mistakes in any match even with the best teams Italy and France. At the end of the day it is not about not conceding a goal. It is about scoring more than your opponent. In the game of football, creating goal opportunities is key. And on this matter, Holland are doing very well. So you never know what can happen and let’s not underestimate the role of luck in all of this. Remember Casillas save on Robben ? At the end of the day it was not tactics or quality that mattered. It was that one inch between the ball and Casillas foot 🙂

      1. There are 2 possibilities left now for Third-placed teams
        qualify from groups (after grup E finish, before group F begin) :
        1. ABCD
        2. ACDF

        Both of them, we will face 3D.
        No 3F now

  6. well Sweden are not inspiring a lot of confidence it must be said. Poland playing much better. The Polish 2nd goal can come at any point. and they score… 6 long minutes…………………………….!

  7. Permutations where set in advance. So if A C D and F qualify as 3rd places, 1C will face 3D. So it is Czech now. Even if 3F does not qualify. It is Czech 100% now.

    1. There are 2 possibilities left now for Third-placed teams
      qualify from groups (after grup E finish, before group F begin) :
      1. ABCD
      2. ACDF

      Both of them, we will face 3D. Not 3F.

  8. Well I think we’ve been lucky. Czech in 2nd round and Wales or Denmark in QF. Not easy teams at all but could have been much worse. Suddenly a SF place is a possibility. And if we do arrive in final 4 it would have been a very successful tournament for Oranje and a good step for the WC.

    1. I meant it will build morale and convince team that they can be a strong force next year for the WC. Most of the team will remain intact and we just need to do a couple of changes.

  9. I havent watched any games of Czech. Only know of schick at Leverkusen and that guy from west Ham.Anyone would wanna throw some light on the team strengths and weakness.

  10. Yea they’re stronger than all three teams The Netherlands have faced so far. But they are not The Netherlands. The Dutch should be able to beat them. Should be able to beat Wales. And Denmark.
    Let’s see.

  11. This tournament could be so fun if there were any international managers with balls other than Mancini. Seeing the teams for Portugal v France and I just know it’s going to disappoint. Santos, Southgate, and Deschamps are all absolute cowards. Playing defensively is not good tactics when the strength of your team is attacking !!!

      1. Yes the return of De Bruyne, Witsel, and Hazard from injury really gave them a boost (as you’d expect). Tbh I don’t trust either teams old centrebacks. Both teams also aren’t really set up to counterattack but I suspect that’s what Belgium will have to do given Italy’s extra man in the midfield.

  12. From what I’ve seen I don’t think Czech are anything better than Ukraine or Austria. They scored 3 goals, 2 of which against Scotland and created very few chances in all 3 matches. I place them on same level of Austria / Ukraine. Wales or Denmark are a bit better than any of our group opponents.

  13. Portugal from the top of the group after 1-0 against France become the lowest in the group F after 2 goals from France … let see if they go home early

    1. Hungary almost win against Germany tonight. They played much better than the other third-placed teams, maybe some runner up… It’s a pity they was placed in group of death along with WC/Euro Champions.

  14. The way i see it is that the distance between teams in Euro is small. If the favorite does not perform well on the day, they will suffer, e.g France, Germany against Hungary, us against Ukraine. So we need to be sharp against both Czech and Denmark/Wales. There is no easy game at this Euro.

    In another way, we should also be able to beat those strong favorite, France, Belgium and Italy. We just need to be on top of our game for that day.

  15. If Netherlands can go to semifinal (and we can), then it’s should be against England or Germany.

    The other those strong favorite: France, Belgium and Italy (even Portugal or Spain or Croatia) are in the other group 🙂

  16. Czech are no better than Ukraine but just as Ukraine put us in a dangerous position they can too. Depay’s form is worrisome and i don’t think he will pick up but we should still be able to progress. Belgium vs Portugal will be epic. I see England vs Italy in the final.

    1. I agree.
      What I’m not going to do is give the Netherlands’ players and manager a pat on the back for doing the bare minimum basically. Beating the other teams of group C is supposed to be a given. Now, they got a favorable draw for the next match and the one after that if they progress, so they better take their good fortune, and raise the target and expectations of this campaign to reach the semi finals. Anything less would be a failure honestly and would mean they punched below their weight.
      In a way I’m unhappy we got this favorable draw. Now, FDB has no excuses really to fail. If he manages to lead the team to the semis, then anything can happen, we could win or lose, but good on him for this achievement, and we can all agree it’s a great foundation for next year.
      If he messes it up, then it’s just going to be a horrible situation. Everyone is gonna doubt his abilities as a coach, and some would even ask for his dismissal. Players will be affected. Some are happy, some aren’t etc… we’ll have forever debates about the system. A nightmare basically and the planning and preparations for the wc will surely get derailed, and we’d lose another generation with no silverware.

      Anyhow I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s see what happens on Sunday!

      1. Ramy;

        I get exactly how you were thinking, but I’m not a De Boer fan (at least as a manager), and so if he can’t get this group at least to the semi finals or beyond, then I don’t want him as WC manager!

  17. I am worried about the Czechs and their movement. They play at a very high technical level as a team and could leave our defense in disarray.

    De roon for me is yet to convince and I see him as someone who is there because we have no better. Koopmeiners should have been allowed some minutes to question that assumption.

    Totally agree with Jan. Our midfield is prone to been overwhelmed and a player like Koopmeiners is capable of periodically balancing that scale on the other end. De Roon offers no suçh.

    Memphis has to stop consistently losing the ball. He should forget the flicks and tricks, play simple and use his size to hold up better.

    Would love de vrijs back in the middle and de ligt on the right. De vrijs is a better organizer and passer and thus builds better from deep.

    Malen should partner Memphis because of his pace which would be a cause for concern for oppositions and relief for our midfield and defence. Weghorst is a work horse and has a nose for goal. Should find a way to get him involved in every game.

  18. I am happy with the draw. Czechs are a good opponent and it is not going to be very easy. I remember before the Euro-2020 many people here were questioning whether Oranje could win Ukraine or Austria. Now, I am hearing that getting 9 points was a given for Dutch. Nothing is given in the tournament of this level. Also, before we talk about us advancing to semi-finals, let’s first get through 1/4. Alessandro del Piero said that he expects very little from this Oranje. I hope our boys will prove him wrong. I think Oranje is progressing very well and I am optimistic that we will advance to 1/4 where we will face a winner of Wales-Denmark(not bad either). It is not going to be easy and Czechs are historically not very easy opponent for us but I think we have a little more quality than our Central European counterpart. Czechs like to play open and for this game Malen-Memphis duet will be appropriate than Memphis-Weghorst. Other than that no changes are needed, including De Roon.

  19. @Wilson. I do not think 2020-2021 was a dull season for AZ. We have proven that there is a new top three in NED and Feyenoord is no longer there and will not be in the near future. AZ was on par with PSV. If not rush decision to sack Slot, AZ would have made through EL group stage (very tought group). What else to expect from a team with 22 MM Euro budget?

  20. Must say we really got some luck this year

    Look at all the others even England seriously don’t wanna face Germany at this moment

    Hopefully we will not got any injuries and the team will get more improved . No choice in de boer we got to trust now

  21. Well there are no excuses now. Even with the shortcomings of this team, a SF place has now become a very legitimate target. With all due respect to Czech, Wales or Denmark, they don’t have world class players like De Ligt, De Jong, Memphis or Wijnaldum. Also Holland was one of the best 3 teams so far in terms of attacking, build up and passing accuracy. We have to improve on covering and defending, sure. But all teams (except maybe Italy) made several mistakes in one match or another.

  22. No joking , if we keep the focus and get the right starting 11 plus the right subs , with a bit of luck we should make it to the finals

    Yes Czech and Wales / Denmark are not piece of cakes not we should make it through them

    Even if we face Germany or England, we have beaten them before and I don’t think this German side is stronger than the one we faced previously . We have a good chance really this year !

    1. You sure! The macedonia goal against us was good and so was the non awarded penalty against Portugal in the 93rd minute yesterday. Referees have been OK but VAR sucks big time, it is insane disallowing goals because the attacker has a bigger shoe size than the defender.

  23. FDB has been good so far, can’t dispute the results even though we have had the big advantage of playing at home. Failing against Czech or Wales/Denmark (if we make it that far) should be considered a failure. FDB has been lucky but I hope he takes advantage of this somewhat favorable path. Anything short of this is a failure and he should get the boot. I do not think we can beat the current England team which I think won’t find it so hard against current Germany. I actually hate both.

    1. Serious ? Sorry no this England team has done nothing that impressed me

      They know it and they are Afraid of us . Never in the past few decades Oranje are scared of England. We play more attractive and we simply got more talented players than them .

      1. Yan, that’s exactly why I fear England. They always start fast a furious and never get through the finish line. This time not so much. They have not peaked yet (I hope they never will) and may get across the finish line this time around. They are also so lucky playing all games in Wembley if I am not mistaken.
        As per our records with them, it is more or less balanced. They gave us a drubbing in euro 96. From then on it’s been almost balanced. Last time we beat them 2-1 for Nations we had VVD available and were lucky not to lose when VAR intervened for a millimetrical offside for Lingard. As per talents, England has a ton more than NT this time. Look at their players, premier league teams have dominated european cups for years now.

    2. I do think that this English team is different than recent iterations, but I agree with Yan that they don’t completely have their act together either. They have a number of good young players, but as Ramy and I discussed in a different, they seem hesitant to let those players get involved and have freedom. Sancho has not yet featured, and Saka and Grealish only made appearances in the the final match, to great effect. Unless they are willing to unleash these young players, I doubt that England will progress very far.

      Germany faces a similar dilemma in transitioning from a prior generation to a new one. Are the older players (Kroos, Gundogan, Muller, etc.) still top level? Are the new players (Havertz, Werner, Gnabry, Goretzka) already up to the challenge? If the answer to both questions is yes, Germany could win it all. But they haven’t looked convincing except in the one match vs Portugal.

    3. I don’t think Czech, Wales or Denmark is a walk over. I also don’t think England/Germany is too strong for us. England scored two goals in the group stage and Germany tied against Hungary. The teams in this tournament are very tight in term of quality. We need to take each seriously and we might even win the whole thing.

  24. Come to think of it, we actually have a fairly nice mixture of youth and experience ourselves. Our batch of keepers seems solid. Amazingly even without Virgil, our backline has a lot of depth and versatility. Blind, Veltman, van Aanholt and de Vrij have lots of experience, both at club and international levels. Ake and Timber provide athleticism and versatility and Wijdal and de Ligt are still very young with lots of potential.

    I don’t really consider Dumfries a defender, but his contribution so far this tournament has been nothing short of massive!

    In midfield, Wijnaldum is now the veteran presence. He’s got almost 80 senior level caps and has won the Premier League and the Champions League with Liverpool and is on his way to PSG. Frenkie de Jong seems destined to be our next superstar and is already a regular at (an admittedly weakened) Barcelona. Klaassen remains a reliable option with lots of experience. Gravenberch and Koopmeiners are both young with great potential, and even the much maligned de Roon is fairly reliable and solid, though not spectacular.

    Up front, Memphis is our “stealth” superstar, who came into his prime during a down period for the national team, but is quite capable of producing world class levels of play (at least in spurts). Malen and Weghorst provide contrasting partnership options depending on our opponents, which lets us attack and challenge defenses in a variety of ways. Berghuis and Promes also have specific skill sets and alternative means of attacking that we can introduce at any given moment. And Gakpo is a potential rising star as well. It’s a shame about Luuk (and van de Beek before him). Although we haven’t been relying on him much to this point, he would be another veteran presence and a potential supersub at striker who could combine a lot of the talents of the other forwards.

    We could easily look back on this group as an unexpected perfect storm of youth, experience, talent and versatility that came together at just the right time!

  25. I’m back. Had to take a break during the dark ages. But things are looking up again; as long as we make it to the SF that is. Otherwise I’ll be very disappointed again and the dark ages aren’t over yet.

    If we play 4-2-3-1 we can play both Malen and Weghorst and build in defensive security. Van Marwijk’s way still worked best. For example:

    -Gravenberch—de Jong-
    v.Aanholt-Blind-de Ligt-Dumfries

    Or de Roon instead of Gravenberch against tougher opponents like England in the SF (in which case de Jong goes on the left and de Roon on the right). When the opponent gets tired Promes is an excellent choice to sub for Malen. When defending a lead you can sub in de Vrij for Weghorst or Malen. You can even play de Vrij LCB, move Blind to LB and take v.Aanholt out if you want to keep attacking.

    1. I like this line up but Malen never played from the right and Depay will definitely wonder all about. I think this line up can work, but with Wijnaldum on the Gravenberch spot, Memphis on #10, Malen at the left. I would play Blind as LB (conservative LB) and have De Vrij in there as we are not strong defensively. And I would play Berghuis on the right.

  26. Just learned that Wijnaldum has declared that he will wear a rainbow armband in protest against Hungary stance on LGTB issues and that the team will be ready to walk off the field if they get abuse. Now why would you want to do this stupid declaration of war to your hosts? 70000 of them. Regardless how you feel about this matter who the f are you to drag your team into a political issue and distract at such a critical moment in the tournament. Does he think 70000 humgarians give a sh!t if they walk off the field? I expected him to be much more intelligent. I hope this doesn’t hurt the team but we’re probably doomed. Czechs just got a gift and extra motivation too.

    1. @balkan Wearing armbands is okay….but walking off is absurd…Players should stay out of politics and religion and as they are entertainers. The motto should be EVERY LIFE MATTERS..NOT JUST BLACK OR WHITE OR BROWN or LGBT,..The sports stars,hollywood celebrities have sold their soul to evil..you cannot help it..Players should not act like clowns..

      1. No Emmanueal, armbands that display political messages are not right. Wijnaldum represents a country, it is not his team. Politics and social justice are a different profession. You’re a soccer player, an entertainer and are paid handsomely to kick a ball. Wanna fight social battles? Not on the soccer field, find your own platform or join Hollywood. You feel strong about politics then use platforms outside your profession. For all you know half your fans can lean in one direction the other half can lean on the opposite, why piss them off on the field? Idiot. I had so much respect for him.

        1. And the attention the team will get for his statement is not deserved by the young guys. It’s a lot of pressure already for an elimination game, you don’t need more of it. You should 100% focus on your mission. I mean, what is more important to you and your fans, get the pleasure of slapping your hosts on the face or winning the game and move on to the next round?! You’re on a freaking mission , you need to be laser focused. You hate Hungary for what it stands? Hold your nose for 90 mins, win the game and then thrash them in the media all you want.

        2. People are in stadium to watch football.We hardly see wat they wore on hand..Agree on that what you said it was an idiotic move by Gini…We are living in a proganda era..There is proganda behind all this..Hope you understand it much better than me..

  27. I’m not as concerned about the armband. Belgium played Russia in St. Petersburg. Hostile crowd already, and further ginned up when the Belgians took a knee. Didn’t affect them. The team must feel its important to do this. I respect that.

  28. I player that has really impressed me in this Euros is Renato Sanches. he was seen as wonderkid when he burst on the scene at benfica and there was high expectation of him after after his move from Benfica to Bayern. the moved back fired and he ended up at Lille. looking at his outings, he definitely is back in the fold again and will be subject to interest after the euros.

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