Hi all, I am starting this post with a big request… As some or most of you know, the blog is undergoing some changes in terms of software and hosting and it has not been an easy ride, doing all this while the WC is on and the blog needs its uptime.
I know I have asked you this some times already and I am also experimenting with Mailchimp email shots to reach out. So it might be that I start to get annoying with this :-). If that is the case, my sincere apologies. This will hopefully be the last time I have to ask you guys this.
But… the cost for upgrading and re-loading to a new cloud host platform is costly and I really need some support from you guys (if you donated already in the last weeks, please ignore!). I was thinking, as we are with 1000s here, if everyone could do maybe $5 via paypal donation, I am guessing you won’t be missing out on too many things (one tequila shot??), while it means the world to me in making sure this blog will remain stable and alive.
So, I would like to ask you: please hit the donation/paypal button if you can and drop me $5, please…. It REALLY helps a lot!
On with the Oranje!!
Gary Lineker tweeted this after Holland – Chile: “For now, Arjen Robben is the best player of the World Cup.” Here is ten reasons why.
Lionel Messi may be the natural heir of Maradona but should there ever be one non Argentine who deserves this monniker it will be Arjen Robben, from Bedum. Like with Maradona, Robben’s dribbles start on his own half this World Cup. And he will keep on taking on opponents even if they jump on his back with three of them. His solos are made easily at the start of the game as in the final minutes of the game.
So here is one reason. Robben doesn’t play in a team with internationally experienced cracks like Neymar with Brazil, Rooney with England or Muller with the Germans. It is Robben who makes the difference with 5 players from the Dutch Eredivisie in his team. Should Holland win the World Cup, it’ll be like Ajax winning the Champions League. German reporter Milani says “Robben is more important than Muller for the Germans or Neymar for Brazil. The Germans also see Robben as the best player of the tournament, at this stage.”
And take also on board all the things they yelled at him in the past. Arjen Flop. The Man of Glas. The King of the Dive. In 2012, the whole supporter group of Bayern Munich booed him and his team mates called him “Aleinikov” ( Egotist, basically), meaning that he should pass the ball more often. His current performance will sooth his hurt soul. He will never mention revenge as a driving factor, but it will most likely play a part. Robben has an ego too. That makes him so strong.
Then there is Robben, enjoying himself in the game. He is literally liberated from playing on the flanks. That is a factor as well. People think Robben is a born winger. He is not. He used to play as playmaker in the youth. An actual number 10. But when he made his debut at FC Groningen his coach put him on the wing, to protect him a bit from the butcher central defenders. At Bayern, his only release from the right flank, is when he switches with Ribery to the left flank. In Oranje, he has total freedom. He can go where he wants and he pays it back with dividends. Bild Zeitung in Germany rated his performance against Chile with a 1. The highest possible and normally only for players who score a hattrick.
Mark van Bommel mentions the fifth reason why Arjen is the best. “Robben played at this level before, but the difference with Bayern or Real Madrid or Chelsea is that with those clubs he would get the ball in the final third. He would not have lots of space to dribble, pace up, taken on opponents and decide what to do: shoot or pass or cross. With this Oranje game plan, he has more space to make better decisions and to utilise his speed more. Sanchez of Chile is basically a similar player but he is only used in the final third of the pitch and there is simply less space to operate in.”
Reason six comes back to the playmaker role. Robben is the man who can score from a throughpass, but he can also give the throughpass… In the first phase of the Spain game, it was Robben who launched Sneijder into space with a perfect touch. This is also a skill Robben has.
Number seven: he is 30 years old. A bit older than Messi, Aguero, Muller, Hazard, Neymar and you name ‘m. He could have been on his way back. Marco van Basten had to retire already a year ago, when he was 30. And Robben history of injuries seemed to go in that direction, but this is where his personality shows. “At Bayern, I do a check up every week. Everything. Bones, muscles, blood, everything. No coincidences for me.” Arjen Robben grew into an iron man, a fitness wonder.
Winning the Champions League in 2013 was not the end of his career and hopefully not the high point either. It’s rather the start of a new era. As if he is capable of making another leap in his career. And enjoying thee game as if he is 14 years old again. Bert van Marwijk: “Some players will become somewhat satisfied after a big win. It’s as if they reached their goal and need time to find another motivation. With Robben, it’s the other way around. Whenever he achieves something, he wants more. A typical character trait of a winner.”
In three World Cup games, Robben has been the skipper three times (parts of the games, at least). The English Guardian praises him as the Man of the Tournament based on his charisma and leadership. “As a young player, he never looked like a skipper or leader. But now, it clicks. He is mature now and offers a mix of get-go, confidence and focus. This combination will make him the man of the tournament.”
And the tenth reason? Simple. Because he is Dutch. And if you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much. Arjen Robben, the best player of this World Cup! And most likely, the best on the planet.
Brazilian and Flamengo legend Zico with Sparta midfielder Van Gaal
While we swoon over our main man, it is good to see how other ex-top players praise Holland and are almost in line to enter the hotel and meet the lads. Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Viera, Fabio Cannavaro, Arsene Wenger, Zico… just a short list of icons who came and visited the Dutch players. Kees Jansma even said the Dutch team received a standing ovation from the international media when Van Persie and Van Gaal entered the press room, the other day.
Still, it is not all kudos and cheers. Top names like Willem van Hanegem, Frank de Boer and Jorge Valdano think Van Gaal is taking the 5-3-2 too far. Valdano: “I don’t see Van Gaal as a top coach. I see Menotti, Cruyff and Guardiola as top. Van Gaal has committed treason to the Dutch. Normally, the Dutch want the ball and do something special with it. This Oranje doesn’t seem to want the ball. A great coach has a vision and sticks to it and makes his team work with it. Cruyff would never negotiate his ideas and vision. I rather see a fool play adventurous football and lose than seeing a shrewd statistician like Van Gaal ruin the game.”
“But I am a fool too!”
De Boer and Van Hanegem didn’t use those terms, to be honest. Willem simply hopes Holland will do better in possession (which is what Van Gaal says too!) and De Boer sees this 5-3-2 as a new trend. And Ajax will have to learn to break this down. De Boer claims he knows how to do this, but refuses to discuss this in the media. “Because we will probably need to do this and I don’t want to make the opponent smarter than they are.”
Back in Rio, Louis van Gaal led the last training session before the Mexican Standoff. “And I realise that this actually might be the last one, because should we lose the game, we will not be doing any training anymore. Weird idea.” The session clearly showed Kuyt again as left back in the 5-3-2, as Martins Indi is still a question mark. The Feyenoord defender is free from pain but has had a little dip in his fitness as a result of his concussion. It seems that Gio Wijnaldum will again get the nod over De Guzman. And obviously, it is Jeremain Lens who will have to make way for captain Robin van Persie.
As it will be very humid in Fortaleza, the ref will have the option to allow an extra drink break of three minutes, when the temperature hits 32 degrees Celcius or more. This will be welcome for the Dutchies for sure.
Georginhio Wijnaldum is 23 years old. And therefore still considered young. The former Feyenoord midfielder made his debut for the club from Rotterdam at 16 years old! And has already played seven seasons at the highest level in Holland. Last season however, was not a great success as he was injured and sidelined for half of it. “Playing football after being away for so long is different. You value everything more. The little things. Being outside, playing football with your mates in the sunshine, the things you take for granted… I can totally enjoy that again. I feel like I’m 14 years old, really. When you become more experienced, it starts to become work. It’s more business like. But now, I have that old feeling back.” A highly annoying back injury kept Wijaldum from the pitch. And he had several set backs getting back in shape. When he finally made his return in PSV in March 2014, he never expected to be called up. “Mr Van Gaal said that the France squad would be his base line squad. That game was in March and I wasn’t part of it. But I guess I got a bit lucky, what with the injuries in midfield (Van der Vaart, Van Ginkel, Strootman) and the fact that some lads weren’t playing too much (Afellay, Maher). When I did get the call up for the prelim squad I made the vow to give everything I have to make the cut. And now I’m in and I will do all I can to play and be valuable for the team.”
Wijnaldum and De Vrij
Wijnaldum takes the role of Strootman. The connection man in midfield. The box to box runner. Not his typical role, as he played winger for Feyenoord and Jong Oranje and the number 10 role for PSV. “I can play diferent roles I suppose, but as I haven’t played a full season I am very fit now. I am probably amongst the fittest players. And I will do all I can to make it work.” He had good sub turns against Spain and Australia and got the nod over De Guzman vs Chile as the Swansea midfielder was not 100% fit. “We are doing fine as a unit. We performed better than many expected but we shouldn’t overdo it now. Some people think we will stroll to the finals. I think any of the last 16 nations will be able to win it. We simply need to work very hard and be smart and go from game to game.”