Arjen Robben motivated to the T

Arjen Robben is injured. This is not news. And it will also not be the last time. But Robben is feeling good. He seems to be on top of things. The time of weird and unexplainable injuries is behind him. Robben is happy, in Munich and in the Dutch team.

He is happy to look back at his weird year behind him.

“I am often wondering which was the hardest blow: the missed penalty against Dortmund, the missed penalty in the CL finals or the drama that was our EK campaign. I took a number of blows full on the chin and they all hit home. It took quite some time to get over all this, but once the pre-season in Munich started I sort of had put it all in its place. Time to look ahead.”

Robben worked with Van Gaal at Bayern Munich and he worked with the coach in the beginning of his career when he was in Young Oranje. “Van Gaal is probably always the same Van Gaal. He is who he is. He has this distinct style. As a kid, I was super impressed with him. Now, it’s almost normal, but he definitely is one of the best ever.”

Robben thinks back at those days and realises he is now quickly becoming one of the old hands in Oranje. “Haha, yes.. I’m in Oranje nine seasons… That probably makes me a veteran, haha. It’s fun. When I was young, I was totally focused on me, me, me. When you are in the mid twenties, you become more aware of team tactics and now I guess I am seen as a potential leader. I am totally cool with that. All the players of my age are happy to be mentoring the young lads. It’s important that we do, as we are all the same team.”

Was the shift from the typical Bert van Marwijk squad to the refreshed group a big one?

“Well, it was a bit . But no problem really. It’s normal that with new lads, the so-called automatisms are gone and you need to communicate more but what can you say? All the youngsters have done really well in the first games and I think we are in great shape with these players.”

During the EC you had a fall out with Van Marwijk and you even yelled at him? Was the bottom reached?

“Huh? No… That story, that I yelled “Shut up!” to him? That is fabricated… He was instructing me to track back and I was yelling something back at him… But certainly not shut up… I had a good relationship with Bert. I wanted to perform with him, get results. But in sports, you sometime lose your head. He shouted at me, I shout back…it happens all the time. At the end of the game, it’s all forgotten. But the media wanted to have a go at this one. But the lipreaders had it all wrong.”

It’s interesting how the youngsters easily fit in while the more experienced players like Van der Vaart, Sneijder, De Jong and Kuyt seem to struggle to keep up? Van der Vaart injured, Sneijder not playing, you are injured now… Only Van Persie is killing it week in week out…

“Yes and Robin used to be the one who never had a full season free of injuries… I think if you look at someone’s career you will find periods where his body doesn’t cope and periods where you can do everything. Sneijder had a killer year in 2010…. But we will come back… Don’t worry. I love playing with Wesley behind me, of course. His passing, his vision… I have never seen anyone better.”

Do you see disadvantages in Van Gaal’s wish to play with only one defensive midfielder?

“Theoretically, you could become more exposed, but you don’t have to. I don’t believe in those “systems discussions”. We need to make sure that the right type of players play. If we can use a penetration midfielder with good lungs, that player can assist the defensive mid and he can assist the strikers. Someone like Strootman, or Fer or that new kid Van Ginkel.”

At the Euro, the space the team left in midfield was outrageous. And was the death for the team. No midfielder was able to cover that. How can you remedy that?

“Well, our intentions do not change with our system. We still want to play dominant, press up the park and play high paced. We can not allow that space like that appears. If it does, we are not executing it correctly. And we need to work on this.Compact play is key! We need to learn from the mistakes and make sure everyone understands what is required. And we now have to focus on regaining respect. From fans and media and from opponents.”

What was the most important lesson of the EK?

“I wish we could stop looking back. I think it looked worse than it was. If we would have scored three of the many goal opportunities we got against Denmark, the whole tournament would have been different. Football is a game of little details. A ball just a bit more to the right and it’s 1-0 for us. Etc etc… We had chances against Germany to make it 2-2 and we even started with 1-0 against Portugal. But it wasn’t to be.”

Arjen and wife Bernadien

Greg van der Wiel made some negative comments about the team spirit?

“He did so right after the Portugal game. That is something he shouldn’t have done. I won’t comment or react. I will keep my comments for internally. Our meeting right after the Euros with Van Gaal was good. We could say what we wanted. And it is supposed to be like that. You should be able to have a go at the coach or team members behind closed doors. As long as it’s not going against the groups process.”

Did you have specific method to let the disappointments slide off you?

“It was not the best summer holiday ever. But…it was a long one, thanks to our early exit of the EC, haha. But seriously, kids are the best distraction. When I look back on this in 10 years time, when I’ve retired, I’m sure I will hit myself in the head… We shouldn’t have let this EC go like this. All of us. The quality we have… This can never happen again!”

Arjen Robben and Kate Perry

It was a hefty season for you and when you played with Oranje against your club your own fans booed you? How hard was that for you?

“That was ok. That is how it works with fans. On my first practice day, the fans were warm and fine. I really enjoyed the support from Bayern’s management. It’s a warm club. And listen, no one really wanted that game. Everyone was a bit awkward about it.”

In Munich you play on the right, in Oranje suddenly you are back to the left wing. Surprised?

“I didn’t see it coming but it’s not a shock for me. Or a big deal. I can use my best leg for crossing and passing… Louis wants me to keep the field wide so I won’t be in a position to shoot on goal that often. I think it will work out fine. I’m sure I can keep changing position as Robin likes to drift a bit too. Variance is important and with our squad I’m sure we can keep surprising opponents.”

People think the right wing is not working out anymore as opponents tend to prepare well for your signature moves?

“I think that is not the case. Everyone knows what Rooney does… Or Van Persie, Messi or C Ronaldo. And still they do it. Because they are in form. I simply wasn’t good enough last year. I didn’t bring my normal level. I don’t think it is the position I’m in. The year before, every second ball I shot on goal was a goal. The last season, I couldn’t score from the spot. That was not the “fault” of my position. But simply me. The first season’s half was a drama. I had that horrible groin injury. It took me months to come back. But at the start of the EC I was topfit. But simply missed the super form. I was close, but not good enough. The ball on the post, against Denmark being a typical example of a couple of percentage points “off”….”

Arjen and Bastian Schweinsteiger (Pig-climber?)

And the reason being….?

“Simply not free in my head. I was working on getting fit and dealing with the injuries. I had stuff happening at Bayern… Some board members criticising me for being too egotistical. I started to think too much on the pitch. Allowed that stuff to get into my head. My strength is playing purely on intuition. Once I desert that, I become less threatening, less unique, more predictable…”

What have your learned from that period?

“I have talked about it with people close to me. I need to go back to my foundations. My fundamentals. I need to do what I’m good at. Playing with pleasure and it might sound weird, but I need to become more egotistical. Make my actions. Go for it. I still haven’t reached my top. There is still much upswing in me… I want to be the best I can be. That is still ahead of me.”

Robben being rolled up as a ball has become a funny image in many Photoshop attempts.

Here are a couple:

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  1. ‘you need to communicate more but what can you say?’
    No, you must ALWAYS communicate as much as possible.

    ‘That story, that I yelled “Shut up!” to him? That is fabricated…’
    No it isn’t. I have heard it with my own ears. Moron.

    ‘Yes and Robin used to be the one who never had a full season free of injuries…’
    Actually, that was YOU, glass-man! Shall we compare times spent on the injury table? Idiot.

    ‘I don’t believe in those “systems discussions”.’
    Arrogant twat. This is exactly the sort of problem that allows a team like Denmark to beat us.

    ‘I wish we could stop looking back.’
    Should have thought about that at the time, when you played like shit.

    ‘If we would have scored three of the many goal opportunities…’
    But you didn’t. So answer the damn question, or GTFO.

    ‘He did so right after the Portugal game. That is something he shouldn’t have done. I won’t comment or react.’
    You just DID comment, you clueless retard. Seriously, how does someone this stupid even make it through life.

    ‘I’m sure I can keep changing position as Robin likes to drift a bit too.’
    Amazing. After all this you STILL don’t get it. Listen to your manager, not the cuckoos in your miss-shaped head.

    ‘Everyone knows what Rooney does… Or Van Persie, Messi or C Ronaldo.’
    No they do not. That’s what sets those players apart from you. They are unpredictable. You are a Swiss watch by comparison. Christ on a stick, who the hell do you think you are? Not fit to lace Messi’s boots.

    ‘Some board members criticising me for being too egotistical.’
    Yeah. Wake the hell up. Pull that oval shaped head out of your arse and wake up. ‘Egotistical’ is comparing yourself to Messi and Ronaldo, or expressing that you think you can move around the pitch wherever you want, ignoring the tactical team set-up. Egotistical is telling the boss to shut up, and then lying about it.

    ‘it might sound weird, but I need to become more egotistical.’
    Oh dear f**k, there is no saving you. You are the perfect example of the very worst kind of footballer, and the sooner you disappear from my beloved Oranje national squad the better. You are a dangerous cancer. Football is played first with the head, then with the feet. No wonder you fail so often.

    1. I actually agree with Ding a Ling!

      That whole interview is a myriad swamp of contradiction and unbridled ego.
      For all the replies above, I see no-one has the stones (or even intelligence) to challenge any of Ding a Ling’s assertions. Yeah, you all jump on Ding-a-Ling, but you cannot jump on his accuracy. Classy! He just owned all your asses.

      Faraz, you’ve missed the point (as normal). Ding a Ling is clearly a fan. He even says so! Helps to read, buddy.

      TFC Ajax, the new Tiju. With every comment you make, you embarrass yourself ever further. As the saying goes, ‘sarcasm is the very lowest form of wit’ – especially when you have to say you’re being sarcastic, dude. LOL! Epic epic FA1L.

      DRB300, I find your comments quite suffocating sometimes. Your imperial advocation of ‘handling speed’ is classic positive reinforcement. I totally agree it’s important, but so are many other factors. Stop looking solely to support your own snooty theories, and write with some balance for once.

      Hahaha classic Dutch infighting! (…although most of you aren’t even Dutch! HAHAHAHAHA!)
      Don’t worry Ding a Ling. Freedom of opinion etc.
      I’ll stick up for ya! I admire Robben, but I have never been a fan either. That interview is almost too painful to read.

      After your astute and clinical dissection, Ding-a-Ling, I’d like to hear more from you. Though less of the condescending tone, please. The mouth-breathers here take it personally.

      1. Maybe you read a different post, all he did was call Robben a “Moron” “Twat” “Idiot” “Miss-shaped head” “Cancer” and a “Clueless Retard”. That’s how 10 year olds on a playground argue

        “That’s my ball”
        “No, you’re a retard”

        Great discussion

  2. Thanks for the post it’s great to hear what a star like Robben has to say.

    He’s had his bad moments but he has helped his teams win and at Bayern he is the big star. German fans can call him selfish and all they want but Robben has done more for the club than Ribery and others.

    I like the fact that he still has ambition for the future as I was scared those stories about him wanting to retire were true.

    He is well informed about Fer and Van Ginkel he seems to be keeping up with the Eredivisie 🙂

  3. originally posted by DRB 300 at the end of the last thread, but I think it’s important that people see it:

    “@ Demi:
    I maintain an open view and like to learn everyday something new. However something else is to just choosing another kind of balance on a midfield, not only as a battle plan, but also to play a kind of football that benefits the greater good. I think this is where the problem lies when you talk about “broaden the context of your thoughts”. You use failures in the past as an example or maybe even as prove that one needs more players that can influence the game in our favor by their physical presence. May I add that the Dutch side of 1974 had Neeskens, van Hanegem and also a player you hailed, Krol in the line up? I don’t agree that those players would have lost due to only trying to win by playing football or not being able to dish it out. I’m going to leave this video here:

    Then the blueprint of Greece in basketball. It’s only one blueprint. The beauty of football is that there are more roads that lead to victory. Building more enforcers into a squad is certainly a way to win (I will never say it won’t be successful), but not “the way” per se. The premise that lies under this blueprint and has you convinced of the necessity to follow the blueprint, is something I do not agree with. The premise is, that Netherlands is never able to compete with bigger country’s in quality player output that can maintain high level passing and have high technical skill.

    I actually agree with that for how things have evelved and currently are set up and carried out in youth development in general in the Netherlands. I’m going to post an interview with a Belgium NT youth coach. Belgium is a smaller country than the Netherlands and per capita Netherlands has even more members playing the sport. So double advantage there, yet notice the ambition. If you don’t speak Dutch, you might want to use Google translation with this one:



    14 november 2012

    De Belgische fans genieten momenteel van de kunstjes van Kompany, De Bruyne en Hazard, maar ook hun opvolgers doen het lang niet slecht. Maak kennis met de Belgische U17, de volgende gouden generatie.

    Dit is de beste generatie die België ooit heeft gekend.” Deze quote over de Belgische U17 is er een van Jan Boskamp, fan van het eerste uur. Als namen zoals Charly Musonda Jr, Zakaria Bakkali, Andreas Pereira of Mathias Bossaerts u nog niet bekend in de oren klinken, weet dan dat het niet lang meer zal duren voor deze jonge talenten echt furore zullen maken. In een groep met Letland (5-0), Litouwen (2-0) en Nederland (1-2 verloren) wisten onze Belgische U17 zich makkelijk te kwalificeren voor de tweede voorronde van het EK. Sport/Voetbalmagazine wil weten hoe de toekomst van het Belgische voetbal eruitziet en ging daarom even aan tafel zitten met Bob Browaeys.

    Browaeys is al sinds 1999 trainer van de Belgische U17 en werd dertien jaar geleden samen met Frans Masson door de KBVB aangezocht om de trainersopleiding te coördineren. In die dertien jaar heeft Browaeys heel wat talentvolle spelertjes de revue zien passeren. “Dat is waar, maar ik vergelijk verschillende generaties niet graag”, begint Browaeys. “Ik spreek trouwens liever van een lichting dan van een generatie. Het klopt dat er momenteel enkele veelbelovende talentjes zitten aan te komen, maar tussen hun 16 en 20 kan er nog heel veel gebeuren. Het is pas binnen vier of vijf jaar dat we echt zullen kunnen zeggen hoe sterk de huidige U17 wel zijn. En hoe goed ze ook zijn, het zal voor hen moeilijker zijn dan voor de vorige lichting om het tot bij de Rode Duivels te schoppen. Ik heb ook de generatie van ’87 met Moussa Dembélé, Jan Vertonghen, Dries Mertens, Kevin Mirallas, Steven Defour, Anthony Vanden Borre en Jonathan Legear onder mijn hoede gehad. Zij hadden het – gezien de relatieve zwakte van de A-ploeg toen – makkelijker om tot de A-ploeg door te stoten. Ik herinner me nog goed hoe we met de generatie van ’87 op een haar na het EK misten.”

    Zijn zulke grote toernooien wel het belangrijkst voor jeugdteams? Browaeys vindt van niet. “Als je moet kiezen tussen een nationaal jeugdelftal op een groot toernooi hebben of talentvolle spelers opleiden die later het verschil maken bij de Rode Duivels, wat kies je dan? Ik kies voor de tweede optie. Wat niet wegneemt dat het natuurlijk interessant is voor de ontwikkeling van de jongeren om zich eens met talentvolle spelers uit andere landen te meten.”

    Van stugge speler tot dribbelkont

    Daar waar we vroeger technisch tekortschoten in vergelijking met onze noorderburen, staken de spelers van de U17 er in hun clash met Nederland op technisch vlak duidelijk boven uit. Het waren de Nederlanders die het van hun organisatie en fysieke power moesten hebben, terwijl de jonge Duivels vooral individuele acties maakten. “De hedendaagse Belgische voetballer is er eentje met een ietwat uitdagende speelstijl”, weet Browaeys. “In de jaren negentig werd ons vaak een gebrek aan visie verweten – en dat was ook terecht. Begin 2000 zijn we met z’n allen rond de tafel gaan zitten en ontwikkelden we het zogenaamde Vision 2000 waarin de doelen per jeugdcategorie duidelijk omschreven werden. De opdracht is bij elke categorie wel dezelfde: de actie durven maken. De allerjongsten leren dat in een-tegen-eenspelletjes en in een latere fase gaat dat van twee tegen twee over vijf tegen vijf tot ze uiteindelijk weten hoe ze elf tegen elf moeten spelen. Zo dwing je spelers al op jonge leeftijd om een keuze te maken tussen zelf dribbelen, passen of op doel besluiten.”

    “Mijn uitgangspunt is dat je de bal vaak moet raken om je op technisch vlak te ontwikkelen”, legt Browaeys uit. “Honderd procent balbezit houden is het – onbereikbare – doel. Als een speler de dribbel aangaat en uiteindelijk de bal toch afspeelt omdat hij geen andere oplossing meer ziet, vind ik dat niet erg. Het juiste evenwicht tussen dribbelen en passen kan hij later nog vinden. Ik vind een individuele actie maken in ieder geval geen teken van egoïsme. Wel integendeel: je probeert beslissend te zijn voor de ploeg wanneer je een actie maakt. Ik zal dan ook nooit tegen mijn spelers zeggen dat ze moeten passen in plaats van dribbelen. Ze moeten zich in de eerste plaats ontwikkelen. Het contrast met het verleden kan niet groter zijn. In de jaren negentig was het bijna verboden om individuele acties te maken. Tegenwoordig moedigen we dat net aan.”

    Straatvoetbal als voorbeeld

    “Het huidige opleidingsmodel is niet gebaseerd op een bestaand model, wel op de ideologie dat een kind in de eerste plaats moet houden van dribbelen en scoren en dat het daarvoor dan ook over de nodige technische vaardigheden moet beschikken. In Engeland zeggen ze dat voetbal a dribbling and shooting game is. Die basis proberen we de kinderen dan ook in de eerste twee jaar van de opleiding mee te geven. Samen leren spelen met ploegmaats komt pas later aan bod. Musonda Junior kijkt nooit nog naar de bal terwijl hij dribbelt. Net zoals Enzo Scifo destijds. Dat kan uiteraard alleen maar als je zo vaardig bent in het dribbelen dat het je geen moeite kost. Zodra je dat kunt, heb je meer tijd om rond te kijken, te zien waar je ploegmaats staan en waar de ruimte ligt. Als je een kind altijd dwingt om de bal meteen in te spelen, heeft hij zelf minder vaak de bal en ontneem je hem eigenlijk een soort persoonlijke ontwikkeling. Dribbelen is iets wat je op jonge leeftijd moet leren. Als je alleen maar goed bent in passes geven, schiet je later gegarandeerd tekort in het internationale voetbal.

    Straatvoetbal speelt een belangrijke rol in de visie van de voetbalbond. Het is onder meer daardoor dat we in onze nationale jeugdreeksen zo veel jongeren van allochtone origine terugvinden. Het belangrijkste is dat kinderen tussen vijf en acht vooral creativiteit ontwikkelen en zelf oplossingen weten te bedenken. Een speler zoals Bakkali is zo creatief geworden door dag in dag uit met dat balletje bezig te zijn. Hij is gewoon ongelukkig als hij geen bal aan zijn voet heeft. Soms zie ik hem zelfs in de lobby van het hotel voetballen.”

    Groeien in het buitenland?

    Eden Hazard werd opgeleid bij Lille terwijl Jan Vertonghen en Thomas Vermaelen al op jonge leeftijd naar Ajax vertrokken. De keuze voor het buitenland wordt steeds vroeger en makkelijker gemaakt. Bij de U17 zijn er vijf spelers die in het buitenland spelen, waarvan drie in Engeland: Musonda Jr (Chelsea), Mathias Bossaerts (Man. City) en Andreas Pereira (Man. United).

    “Een opleiding bij een buitenlandse club is volgens mij nochtans niet noodzakelijk om het later te maken”, zegt Browaeys. “De Belgische jeugdcompetities zijn echt wel van hoog niveau. Vanaf de U11 spelen de eliteclubs onder elkaar. Dat kan in het buitenland vaak niet omdat de afstanden daar te groot zijn. Er wordt in België steeds beter gewerkt met de jeugd. Wat jeugdtrainers en inhoud van de opleiding betreft, zitten we in de top vijf van Europa. Op vlak van infrastructuur en aantal medewerkers is er evenwel nog werk aan de winkel. Als je het vergelijkt met het geld dat er in de A-ploeg wordt gepompt, wordt de jeugd nog al te vaak te zwak bedeeld. Onze jeugdtrainers krijgen ook zelden een degelijk salaris. Daarom zie je het vaak gebeuren dat een goede jeugdcoach na een paar jaar een eersteprovincialer gaat trainen – niet omdat hij dat liever doet, maar omdat hij daar wel betaald wordt. Als je dan weet dat jeugdtrainers in Nederland en Engeland vaak fulltime in dienst zijn… Maar ik blijf zeggen dat je als jonge voetballer niet naar het buitenland hoeft te trekken. Kijk naar Kevin De Bruyne en Axel Witsel, die zich in de Jupiler Pro League perfect hebben weten te ontwikkelen tot ze klaar waren voor een stap naar een grote competitie. De Belgische competitie is sowieso voor de meeste talentvolle spelers een tussenstap. Hoe beter we onze jeugdopleiding maken, hoe minder spelers ik op jonge leeftijd naar het buitenland zie vertrekken. Clubs zoals Racing Genk, waar jongeren ten volle hun kans krijgen, zijn in die optiek ook belangrijk voor het Belgisch voetbal. Ook bij Anderlecht worden jonge talentjes steeds vaker in de ploeg gedropt. Dat kan alleen maar een extra reden zijn om toch wat langer in België te blijven.”

    Het moge duidelijk zijn dat het succes van de Rode Duivels de buitenlandse scouts naar ons kleine Belgenlandje lokt. En die scouts kijken hier hun ogen uit. “De buitenlandse clubs zijn dol op Belgische spelers. Het succes van de Rode Duivels zit daar uiteraard voor veel tussen. We mogen evenwel niet vergeten dat we hier in een vijver van amper 400.000 aangesloten voetballertjes vissen. In vergelijking met het miljoen spelers waaruit Nederland kan putten, blijft dat een relatief kleine vijver.”

    De kleine Belgen

    “We hebben er bij de KBVB voor gekozen om ook met de zogenaamde laat-volwassenen te werken”, zegt Browaeys. “Spelers van wie je ziet dat ze wel talent hebben, maar die op lichamelijk vlak pas heel laat volwassen worden. Dat zijn vaak jongens die zelfs in hun club niet aan spelen toekomen. Die jongens proberen we te combineren met jongens die wel al volgroeid zijn om zo tot een interessante mix te komen. De bedoeling is dat we die kleinere spelers zo niet verliezen en we ze bij de U19 kunnen zien doorgroeien naar een basisplaats. Dries Mertens is een voorbeeld van zo’n laat-volwassene. Mertens kwam zowel bij Anderlecht als bij Gent niet aan spelen toe, terwijl ik hem toen al technisch superieur en vooral ook heel intelligent vond. Men verweet me vroeger dat ik hem bleef oproepen. Sommigen noemden me zelfs ‘de lilliputtercoach’.”

    Bij de huidige generatie U17-spelers zijn er veel kleine jongens die barsten van het talent. “Dat klopt, maar het blijft moeilijk om in te schatten wie het nu wel en wie het net niet gaat maken. Dat hangt van zo veel verschillende zaken af. Welke club kies je? Tref je daar een trainer die in jou gelooft? Blijf je professioneel genoeg of trap je in de val van de verleiding? Als je Mario Balotelli begint te imiteren en liever in de discotheek zit dan op het voetbalveld staat, wordt het moeilijk om door te breken. Ik heb al zo veel talentvolle spelers gezien die het dan uiteindelijk toch niet gemaakt hebben. Toch blijf ik optimistisch wat de toekomst betreft. Met de spelers die we nu ter beschikking hebben, zouden we voor de komende vijf tot acht jaar goed moeten zitten. Maar we moeten ook de volgende fase al voorbereiden zodat we ook in 2020 over een talentvolle lichting beschikken.”

    Dutch football education has taken the German/Belgium road of the past, while those nations have taken the Dutch road in reaction of their poor football, footballers and football results. Spain is a prime example of a country having taken the Dutch road. Barca is more or less a club adopting Cruyff’s philosophy . Guardiola: “Cruyff has build the Sixtene Chapel, Rijkaard renovated it and I am keeping it into good shape”. Who can deny that Spain would never have won 3 straight international tournaments without the Barca players and their passing game? Xavi and Iniesta where clutch, as the others where too. How about that being a blueprint for success? By the way, Barca currently also try to get more and more players from Catalonia into the first team, population 5 million. Belgium have 4/10th of our member resources and also less money. Look at the rise of Belgium football recently. They went 10 years without qualifying, but a decade ago they chanced their vision and look at the awesome player output at the moment. In player market value they have pretty much surpasses Netherlands this year looking at the NT and you look at what is next for them in a few years time:

    * Adnan Januzaj (United)
    * Charly Musonda (Chelsea)
    * Zakaria Bakkali (PSV)

    Not 1 but 3 of the biggest talents of Europe are all Belgium players. Belgium in a few years time will be a WC favorite as these players can be nicely phased in soon with the already talented group that exists today. It will deliver a nice mix of experience and youthful gusto. Yet, they are a small country.

    My point is that the Netherlands has gone the wrong way (also pointed out by this Belgium youth coach) into player development by maintaining a point of view that players needed to be physically stronger and play more disciplined. What has that done for us? Where is the new Sneijder? Where is the new Robben? Hell, where is even the new VDV?

    Luckely Cruyff saw the problem and intervened at Ajax. Ajax have taken a sharp U turn and started to take a radically different approach. Throwing out Judo practices (they had Judo practices every week at Ajax) and focus on position games and personal technique again. Funny enough, there was a club in the Netherlands that started doing this all years ago: Feyenoord. Funny enough, that is what Jan’s article was about and all the talents it started to produce recently. At this rate they are on their way to have a full first team that is produced by their academy

    The line of thinking of building in more enforcers into a team is close to what would have brought Dutch football to the abyss, if it where not for Feyenoord and Ajax taking a different road. Jordy Clasie was inches away from being kicked out of the academy, where it not for a youth coach having a different philosophy on matters sticking up for him. Luckily, that line of thinking has now gained more power at the academy.

    The Dutch national team is the flagship of Dutch football. Kids watch it and imitate it. The Dutch coaches watch it and copy it, when successful. If not in professional football, then in amateur football, the backbone of Dutch football. If success is linked with more physical game play, those demands shift also to the youth development. That’s exactly the road Belgium, Germany and Spain have moved away from. Denmark has moved away from that as well under Olsen by the way and who are the most talented players at Ajax at the moment? Eriksen, Fischer, Andersen, Boilsesen? Hell even Schöne looks better often than Siem de Jong.

    This physical road is damaging Dutch football on all levels, not in the least case in the result department, especially long term. There is no NT in the world more consistent than Spain and they rely heavily on technique and passing. Also on stamina by the way, when it comes to quick pressing in case of losing the ball, but not on physique in the traditional sense. Ajax won 13 or 14 straight games last season at the end. How about that for results. It was FC Twente and their physical, running midfield that bombed out of CL spots and almost even the Europa league spots, on top of failing at the moment as well. Real and Dortmund are probably one of the best teams in the world (especially in counter situation, but also general football), but when Ajax was faced with City they won and drew against them. Who would have thought? They ended third in the group above City, the champs of the EPL.

    You need balance in a team in the way that you need controllers, dynamic players and players of vision, but all players must have an excellent technique, handling speed and passing ability IMO. I have good reasons to be fanatic with my focus on these quality’s. They are also quality’s why many people around the world have fallen in love with Dutch football. One only has to look at the image of Bergkamp at the top left of this website to realize football is fulfilling more needs than winning alone, for otherwise an iconic picture from an half final or final would have taken the place for one from a quarter final where Bergkamp scored a great goal with his first touch and close control.

    Sneijder embodies technique, handling speed and vision. Greece basketball is no blueprint for me (I don’t think Netherlands should copy anything coming from Greece, including the way they manage their economy), but this player is the blueprint. He is what was close to being lost and I want kids and trainers to be exposed as long as possible to this example. Especially when he was responsible for the record number of key passes in a Euro game ever: 10 vs Denmark. How RVP is not able to perform a simple first touch on Wesley’s passing in the box and put it in, I do not know.

    Where do I draw the line where his defensive fragility becomes too costly? I have not yet seen a game where this was the case. At the Euro for me (but we disagree here) it was cowardly defending by Heitinga and Mathijsen that did not dare to cover through properly vs Germany. I clearly remember a clip selected by a Dutch pundit where Sneijder was pressing and was outplayed -> he expected Heitinga to pick up the man with the ball, but when turning around he discovered that the coward had been walking back close to his buddy Mathijsen. Sneijder was betrayed in that moment. To maintain these kind of players that simply play to their quality’s (play the most awesome football on the planet) you will need defenders that cover through all the time. Keep the lines short to each other as well. We now have defenders that can do that as BMI and de Vrij posses speed to maintain a higher line. Sneijder can press, but does not have the engine to run up and down and he shouldn’t, as he is no work footballer. Sneijder is a player with most football quality in our team. So much, that RVP is in awe and starts messing up a first touch a 5 year old can pull off (Denmark game). Sneijder is currently the captain and with him Dutch NT is the best NT in qualification. Only Russia has the same amount of point as the Netherlands, but Netherlands beats Russia in goal difference. So Netherlands is best in Europe with Sneijder as first captain.

    In my opinion I take a very broad view. I take into account the example Dutch NT has for Dutch football in general and youth development. I see people advocating realism as people giving in on instant gratification. Idealism (or you might call it ambition) and the fruits it’s produces take longer but taste sweeter and also set up a machinery that keeps going, adding one win after the other against harder and better opponents each year it is nurtured more. Relying on football ability rather than physicality creates far more consistent result. I’m not talking about winning 1 tournament in my lifetime again, I’m talking about multiple ones and being amazed by the football in the process as well. Ajax won and drew against the EPL champs and had more ball possession and simply outplayed City for moments in the game, with less good players. It’s very much real and very much a result as are their 2 recent titles. There always was idealism in Dutch football. It was this idealism that got a small country to produce the kind of players it did and with excellent players you get excellent results. Running was the method of evolving human species on the savanna to catch animals for evening diner. Animals where faster, but could not go on for 50 kilometers. Humans could and eventually could catch the deadly tired animal. I would like Dutch football to be evolved from this model and don’t want to outrun my opponent and catch them. I want to “out football” them with marvelous intricate passing and vision. A player like Sneijder embodies that for me.

    Sorry for this long writing, but I felt compelled to explain where I am coming from and why I will never see Sneijder as a problem. In practice all these words mean that my tolerance for his defensive fragility is much bigger than yours, as I think he serves the greater good, as well as I think he gives hands and feet to the vision Netherlands must follow towards it’s future. On top of that, I see him as important for the sheer quality injection he gives the NT, to simply win it’s next games in qualification. Sneijder can create magic and I want more of that, not less.


  4. Thank you Jan for the article.

    “Sneijder had a killer year in 2010…. But we will come back…”
    I hope so but I am also afraid that they peaked in 2010 and all downhill from here. They are still important and contribute but I hope some of the young players step up more to carry the load, BMI, Strootman…I still worry about Sneijder’s fitness. I have no doubt about his skill or vision or creativity.

    I don’t know about having more enforcers, perhaps what you mean is to bring a physical toughness. Spain wins the last 3 majors for playing what Cruyff build, but they have some toughness and physical players, Pique, Ramos, Xabi Alonso are those come to my minds that they play physically and a bit dirty. Up front they have artists who play good football but also divers (Iniesta and co). Even when Brazil won in the past, they have some physical presence in the midfield and also divers (Rivaldo…). If I interpret this wrong then forgive me.
    I agree that to win the Cup we need a balance team. Some will be creative players, some will be role players, and all need to play as one unit. Belgium team looks good, but so far it is only potential. They will need to qualify for the WC first and see how much damage they can bring. I still do not see them can go as far as their 80’s (Euro final, WC 4th place), but they have many good young players.

  5. Hi Guys, I didn’t see the DRB300 post that was posted in duplicate here as well, so I replied to the original one. But that thread is getting long, so here is a copy and paste of the reply:

    Hi DRB300,

    would like to start my reply with clearing a misunderstanding:

    “The premise is, that Netherlands is never able to compete with bigger country’s in quality player output that can maintain high level passing and have high technical skill. ”

    No. I am sorry if it came out wrong in my writings or it was simply misunderstood. I never meant that. Nederland can compete in quality football and in fact it can surpass giants like Brazil in it. This is not the point, I am not arguing that at all. The point I am trying to make is even if we surpass the others in quality of soccer, they will still find a way to squeeze a title out of our hands if we don’t have the enforcers that I am asking for.

    Greece of 1987 did not win because they were physical. Basketball quality-wise they were up to par with Yugoslavia and Soviet Union. Simply their players did not let Webb style refereeing to squeeze the title out of their hands. Their two best players -basketballwise best players- were also the physical enforcers who did not let the circumstances/luck/refereeing interfere with fate 🙂
    Gallis/Giannakis (you can google/wiki them) were two superb players – two of the best ever in European basketball, If I had to make an analogy it was Krol/Haan1978 quality wise. But Giannakis like Strootman would breath down your neck the entire game, would professionally hustle/press the opponent playmakers till their lungs burst.

    The road to the World Cup is very long. Lots of things can happen, especially if you don’t have the same protection that Brazil/Spain/Barca have. They get all the grey area decisions. They have Webbs available. We don’t. All I am saying, the bottom line, is that building footballling ability up to par with Spain will not result in a WK victory unless other factors are taken care of. You need the personalities made of granite to make it to the top if you are not one of the big countries/markets. Excellent footballing is a given. But you need more than that.

    I hope that in a general sense my point should be more clear now. And then, let me pass to individual lesser points but nonetheless very interesting and pertinent.
    The 1974 team had only one player that fits my profile. Van Hanegem. Krol was too green/boyish then. Neeskens clearly does not fit what I have in mind but him and the video you offered “dishing it out”, is simply a good opportunity for me to show you what I mean and what I do not mean (nice and entertaining video by the way, I have posted in the past to respond to others claiming we didn’t play rough in 1974).

    Ok, the video and Neeskens in particular are a display of being thuggish, reactive, unprofessional and immature. Simply an attempt to prove that you can be tough too. But this is not what we want and this is not what I am asking. I am not asking for stupid hard tackles and retaliations like the Neeskens red with Czeck in 76. That is dumb.

    Here is an illustration of what I want:

    2:57 to 3:15. Rene VDK charges, Haan charges, Poortvliet tackles and gets up like he is made of rubber, at the end R VDK scores swarmed by Germans. See, there are no punches, elbows , hair pulling or spitting. But there is commanding presence, very professional with aim at a footballing result. Night and day between that and the 74 brawl (very entertaining though).

    Another illustration of what type of play I am advocating for, and easier to relate since we both watched the game at the same time, is the recent WK qualifier with Turkey. The Turks came in to play physical, look how that SOB puts his elbow on Janmaat’s throat and the scum referee does *nothing* about it.. ridiculous, isn’t it if it was Barca he would yellow on the spot? But then Stroot did two professional assaults, hunt two Turks down like dogs and took the ball back. Exactly what I want. No ankle breaking/spitting/elbowing but commanding physical presence to enforce the team who actually plays the better football. I want to break their spirit, not their legs 🙂

    Players who fit my profile are Van Hanegem from 1974, Krol/Haan and to a lesser extend Rene VDK and Poortvliet from 1978, F De Boer from the 98/200 squads and of course Bommel/De Jong (and to a lesser extend Mathijsen/Kuyt) from the 2010 squad. And Steks/VDS from all the doelman. Most of them were great footballers too.

    Idealism. Nothing wrong with it but also nothing wrong with results coming in. Physicality is not the only means to a result. Physicality is a complement to footballing ability, it completes the picture. And being commanding/physical and leader like Frank De Boer does not mean that you do not know football. But at the same time soccer is a very comprehensive game. And there is nothing wrong with a comprehensive approach. Leadership is an excellent and very useful skill just like handling speed. I do not see one as lesser than the other, I see both of them as equally useful and required in a good balanced team. I don’t think players like FDB or Krol are bad examples for young footballers. Football or any other sport should not just build some technical skill. It is much more than that in my opinion. A soccer game is a micro-world with all the complications of the real world.
    I think you have taken the necessity for physicality as a blanket statement, as a need to be applied to every young player. That is not what I am advocating. You don’t need 11 physical players in the team. If that is the direction taken in the youth academies then it is wrong.

    But there is a difference between what is going on and what I am advocating. And they way you put physical it does not address another important dimension of what I am talking about. Leadership. The ability to recognize situations before they happen and address them. The ability to marshal the resources back after some bad result or a bad moment or the opponent taking the lead.
    “You need balance in a team in the way that you need controllers, dynamic players and players of vision, but all players must have an excellent technique, handling speed and passing ability IMO.”

    You will never have a team with 11 Ruud Krol. That is not balance, that is utopia. Some players will have better footballing skills and some others better stamina/physicality/leadership. Not everyone will have Sneijder’s control and not everyone will have Strootman’s leadership and stamina. If you are saying more of the first and less of the latter then that is ok with me. And you don’t need that many leaders. It is like having too many chefs in the kitchen. Two will do, and one on the bench as a backup. You do not need to teach boxing or judo to every Dutch kid to accomplish having some good leadership in the Elftal. I think a smart young academy trainer will have an eye for whom belongs to the Sneijder club and who belongs to the Strootman camp and develop them accordingly. Teaching judo is hilarious for a soccer academy but at the same time applying the same methods to different personalities is also wrong.

    But if you want only Sneijders then we will never achieve a WK trophy. Overall I perceive your opinion expressing a lot the Cruyff ideals that we should play beautifully, and even if we lose, they will remember us for the pretty game. I am truly sorry but I cannot subscribe to the theory of losing as being an ok thing with me.

    “I don’t think Netherlands should copy anything coming from Greece, including the way they manage their economy” LOL – yes economy and soccer sucks. But basketball is a whole different sport.

    Both Greece and the former Yugoslavia were the two “little” monsters who dominated and still dominate European and even World Basketball. Two tiny countries who consistently outplay/ed competition from giants like Russia/USA. They are pretty good at it but if you don’t want to check it out, ok 🙂

    Dank u wel voor de links en de info, ik spreek Nederlands niet zo slecht … en Nederenglish 🙂

    tot ziens,


  6. Robben has been my favorite player since 2004. Before that it was Patrick Kluivert.

    Thing is – he’s one of those players that would make you pay attention to the game – dazzle you with a dribble – impress you with a cross or a through pass. I think he’s closer to Messi than Ronaldo. His dribbling in 2004-2006 was very unique and always made me wonder how does he keep control of the ball?

    Get well soon Arjen! You’re the crown jewel of Oranje!!

  7. LVG from
    “It might not be entirely realistic, but our goal is to make it to the semi-finals at the World Cup. That’s definitely not impossible. We can be the best team at the World Cup if we stick together. We might not have the best players, but we can go far if we act as a unit.
    We’re a very well-organised team when our opponents have the ball. However, we still have room for improvement in other areas.”
    Semi final is not good enough for me, but I understand that we need to improve many areas as Oranje is not yet at elite level. Hopefully we can make to the final and peak in the final. So far no crazy LVG yet, we are still good.

  8. I read LVG’s quote to mean, the goal is to reach the semi-finals, and then anything can happen…he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would get to the semi’s and then say “well, whether we win or lose today, I’m satisfied…”

  9. Yah our “goal” was to reach just the semis of the last world cup as well. Honestly though I think semis is very fair. This team is definitely not a world beating team right now. The fact that some people here want to have almost the entire defense and midfield made up of eredivisie players shows that we are a cut below right now.

  10. Jan,

    Is there any particular reason why you plagiarise other writers’ works and post them here without any mention of the original authors?
    Just curious!

    If you are going to copy/paste/translate verbatim someone else’s hard efforts, you MUST at least acknowledge them.

    If I see this sort of behaviour again, I will be reporting each instance to the relevant originator.

    Also, 10 DOLLARS for a beer? What the hell sort of beer is that? In fact, what the fuck drugs are you currently smoking?? I wouldn’t pay you 10 dollars to steal someone’s work!
    30 Dollars for a ‘huge beer’?? Hahaha! Joker!
    Yeah, good luck with that.

    1. Looks like someone just learn about plagiarism in grade school. I love how he shows up here threatening and cursing yet somehow trying to make Jan look like the bad guy.

    2. This is a blog, its a method of writing down your opinion, it would be the same as you going and telling your friends with speech about this interview, which I can assure you, you do not need to reference.

    3. Hey dude,

      I have said it many times on the site that I “borrow” from the AD website and Dutch magazines. You are right, I always am too slack with mentioning sources. I sometimes make good (I think) by mentioning them all again.

      I don’t hide the fact that I recycle.

      10 dollars in Australia buys you 2,5 beers. Would you only want to give me 1??

      I am not forcing you to donate. Whatever mate,


  11. @ Demi,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond Demi, appreciated.

    “No. I am sorry if it came out wrong in my writings or it was simply misunderstood.”

    Oke starting over. The point seems to be that the big country’s getting all the 50/50 situations (or even more than that) whistled their way and the only way to compensate for this unfair treatment is to have players in the team that have a controlled, but nevertheless “over my dead body mentality”. I hope I now have understood correctly.

    There is also a premise to that claim one has to agree on first, of course. That in fact the big country’s do get beneficial treatment at the cost of smaller country’s all the time by the ref’s.

    I believe it has been researched in EPL that the home team gets better calls than the away team. In international football an example could be that South Korea got pretty good calls vs Italy and especially Spain at the WC 2002. Big football country’s that still feel robbed at such an event. Netherlands did get a pretty easy call vs Italy for the second penalty given in their match against them at Euro 2000. Against the Czech there was another pretty easy one. I don’t say there was no pulling, I say there is pulling shirts all the time and then all of the sudden we get them in our favor.

    Another big factor IMO is the tendency of competitions to allow less and less physical play. Spain is a prime example. In la Liga you get very easily a yellow cards, however they are also more relaxed with the repercussions of accumulating yellow cards IIRC. Below this post I will put a link with all the Spanish referees and the average number per game and total number of yellow/red cards they gave this running season. To compare with other competitions you can click the “change competitions” field up to the right of the page and it will bring you to similar numbers for other competitions. There is clearly a movement in Europe where refs are starting to whistle for more and more. I clearly remembered a show broadcasted halfway last season in the Netherlands where they equated the number of red cards with the same point in time the previous season and it had doubled almost! So a trend is also visible in the Netherlands. Football is becoming more and more a vehicle for anti racism, for promoting respect, for promoting collaboration between people and for cultural exchange. FIFA and UEFA want to make football more and more a “force for good” to simply make more money (I have little reason to think these people actually do it for other reasons then that).

    The point of all this is, that the tolerance levels for tackles will go down. The referees from top competitions are the same that will whistle the top games in international football. The trend is that players that have ball possession will be rewarded increasingly more over teams that use their physical presence. Against Brazil for example I did not really experienced that calls did go their way all the time (though them being a big country). Robben went to the ground quite often while making an action and also got the most calls than any player on the field. The second Melo suffered from a moment of madness and stupidity he was send off. What Melo did is childish stuff compared to the posted Youtube video where Brazil and Netherlands had a go at each other in 1974. Yet he was send off and most people in 1974 stayed on the pitch (actually also in that game a Brazilian player was send off, not a player from the small country of the Netherlands). Less and less is tolerated and the competitions and educations adapting to this new norm are the ones benefiting from it. Spain certainly benefits from it

    When Netherlands adopts to this growing intolerance (starting in Eredivisie) it can easily counter any advantage a big country would get vs us. When we start to build in more enforcers into the team the shift in foul assessment by referees in these times could actually increasingly start to bite us, as things that one can call “fair but hard” from past times, could become foul’s in the here and now. Actually look back at the video you posted around 2:59/3:00. Today I see many ref’s whistling for that first charge when the ankle of the German is hit. That whole sequence would then not have taken place (though it looks indeed infectious from a spirit point of view). Just to make a point about the current atmosphere we are living in and how it rewards the man with the ball.

    By the way, Italy under Sachi and Prandelli are also changing Italian National Team football culture from a defensive to an offensive one. Modern refereeing rewards it so much these days that even the defensive Italians start to change their ways.

    “Idealism. Nothing wrong with it but also nothing wrong with results coming in.”

    This here. There is a very strong conviction in the mind of people, where winning is linked to physical play and “over my dead body” mentality and where losing beautifully is linked with high level passing and technical players. Cultivating high level passing was at the center of van Gaal’s team in 1995. A CL winning team who won one game after the other. It was a machine. If everybody had stayed, they would have won another 2 at least IMO. I read van Gaal’s biography and loved the part where he spoke about the nurturing of this high level passing culture at Ajax. The best in the world at that time. The Dutch teams, though physical able (as we could see) where hailed for their passing and technical ability first and foremost. Dutch club teams have the highest win ratio of CL finals of all European country’s. The sample of WC finals we played and lost is way too small, to draw the conclusion some have started to make, that another type of football needs to be played, or that different kind of footballers need to be raised to win those finals. IMO we were not missing something, we only were not fanatic enough in the road we had taken. Barca and Spain only made more extreme choices once taken the path we had started to travel. They looked at the referees and build a reward system to support more technical passing side’s and punish the physical playing teams. Barca was not happy with over 50 or 60% ball possession, they wanted over 70%. They did not want ball possession at the back, they wanted it higher up the pitch. They did not want to do piggy in the middle as a great extra training exercise, they saw it as their main training exercise or even as their religion. Ask Xavi. One can focus on the fact that Netherlands has lost 3 WC finals, or one can focus for a second on the fact that England and Spain so far only have played 1 final ever. France only 2. Huge football country’s. Both France and England could only win it at home and Netherlands has never organized a WC. Netherlands have played more WC finals than England and Spain combined. Played host 2 times (Germany and Argentina) and arguably the best NT in history (Spain), so that can result in 3 losses. Especially if you consider the German NT of 1974 is also seen as their best generation ever. Give Netherlands 1 time a Germany 2002 in a final and I am sure things look differently. We actually did beat “Germany 2002” pretty short before that tournament started, with 1-3 IIRC

    A good example of idealism being also all about winning is the current Ajax having 2 titles under their belt already. IMO the quality of many players is still low. Yet, they are able to outplay City and almost won back to back against the EPL champs. Last season they went on a 13 or 14 game winning streak. Recently they played PSV off the park. Once you have installed this passing culture and have players automated to always go for the football solution, you can actually win against superior players as they see far less of the ball then when they normally would. On top of that, you set up a machinery that wins all the time. You get much more consistent results with this kind of football. They won 2 titles back to back and where was FC Twente’s team consisting of running miracles? A professional can recharge physically every 64 hours after a game (Adriaanse always said this), but it remains a question if they are able to do it mentally. It was researched by Raymond Verheijen recently that teams that played during the week in Europe lost substantial amount of points as a result of that during the weekend games. IMO, If you play the game on emotion, on “leaving everything on the field”, on character, you are more vulnerable IMO in a tournament. If you want to reach the final you have to play many games in a short amount of time. If you play on technique and just let the ball flow from one foot to the other then you can play much more energy conservative than other teams. Back to Ajax. Siem de Jong has low handling speed, but I read recently that Frank de Boer got him in the middle of a square and passed the ball to him from outside of it and simultaneously called out a color. Then Siem had to make sure to get the ball accurately and fast to the target representing the color somewhere around him. All aimed to get even the low handling speed players to a level that makes the system tick. Of course you will always have good players in this regard and less good players, but you must get everybody to a level that makes the ball continue to flow fast and move every month with little step to a higher passing culture. It was good enough to outplay City at home, not good enough against Madrid at home and first half in their away game against them. Damn sure that with a player like Anita things would have turned out differently.

    There is a rule in any kind of field where people want to reach a high level of excellence and it is that people must make 10.000 hours to become an expert in a certain area. From playing violin to playing football. If you start playing the game from 5 years on, it’s not even that much. However in football there is IMO now a problem. However good your personal technique may be, however hard you can walk or however good your stamina can be, the teams specializing towards the passing game have an advantage. Look back at the World Cup for clubs Barca vs Santos. Look at Neymar chasing shadows and playing to his weakness an barely getting to play to his strength, doing his trickery. Funnily enough, he actually did get a chance to score, but as he saw so little of the ball, he messed up, as he was never allowed to get into the game well (another way of braking the spirit of the opponent by the way).

    Spain is not letting go. They have raised the bar. We have arrived at a higher level of football in this era and I feel that it asks us, what our response is. They have Thiago, Fabregas, Martinez, Busquets and many more excellent passers lined up to take over. More are coming soon. Iniesta can still play for quite some time as well. They also have a football institution (Barca) that is financially strong enough to keep all players together and continue to nurture the passing game and pour out these kind of players. This won’t stop. Every time they play a team, it’s more a game of cat an mouse and holding Spain off. I’m not settling for that. Back to the 10.000 hours. This specialization forces country’s to make choices how to use training hours for what kind of training exercises. Building complete players in today’s world means they will become mediocre in everything at best if that means starting including Judo in the education. Maybe you heard of the linesman beaten to death in the Netherlands this week, but those kids were given kick box lessons to become physical tougher. If you spend 2 hours learning Judo a week, that’s like 80 hours a year (let’s say they do it 40 weeks of 52) and that is 800 hours in 10 years. That eats from the position games IMO. The winning path is to put all those hours into installing a world class passing game and for that, certain quality’s are more important than others. That’s why I hammer on handling speed, first touch, decision making etc. everything to bring down the time between receiving and releasing the ball and being comfortable with it, turning out of nasty situations. One player bringing the speed down all the time or even messing up his passing and the effectiveness of the battle plan goes down almost exponentially, not linear.

    About the leadership quality. I think some leaders stand up and some are nurtured. Nurturing leadership IMO is best done by giving the kids from a young age on the responsibility to plan and organize a training day for their peers, every month or so. This is not happening enough or not at all. I think temperament that is also often sold as leadership (Roy Keane) is pretty fixed, meaning some people have it and others don’t. I am under the impression Ferguson specially selects players on this quality (I presume this is also a coach you like then). That’s also why Strootman is linked to United all the time. However, where do things start to bite each other? IMO when Strootman starts to mess up every short pass on midfield as he did against Hungary. He becomes a problem to generate flow and proper speed in the game, especially when we start to play better teams. For you, it maybe starts to bite when you see Sneijder not tracking back properly as this gives oxygen to the spirit of the opponent. However I want players that can let the ball flow easily from one foot to the other, can build up properly and give magic passes and this is maybe close to what I mean by that:

    Football. Also notice how little runs in the final third by other people drag opponents out of position giving space for the eventual goal. Edgar Davids possessed both worlds probably (was a metal man, but also a skillful player) and when I saw Strootman coming from Sparta I thought he would become more complete, a better passer, but so far I am disappointed in how he evolved and how low his actual handling speed is. He was very good against FC Twente, but also notice how he was slow in his decision making 1 time and Fer simply took the ball from him and could have easily scored a goal. Though he was voted as player of the week in Eredivisie for that game I fear for his ability to play the game much faster. He is just taking too much time on the ball instead of quick receiving and releasing. He does not suffer enough from this in Eredivisie. He is getting away with it. Clasie is better in this department IMO and that’s why I was a fan of him from the start. Clasie now has to make the next step, but I am dead sure that Van Gaal saw this too in the player for otherwise he would never have risked his career by playing Clasie in the huge opening game against the Turks. Clasie was already better against Hungary especially second half where the speed of his free kick taking (quick thinking) resulted in an easy goal. He dipped recently for club, but I am sure he will be coming back in form in the near future. With Vilhena next to him it already looks better at times.

    Head and shoulders above these two players in ball possession is still Sneijder though. When I saw Clasie’s passing and then Sneijder in the Hungary game (mind you, Sneijder was extremely sloppy in his passing that game), there was such difference in overall slickness in his movement and ball control, that I was a bit shocked to be honest. Clasie looked even rigid and stiff compared to Sneijder at times.

    “But if you want only Sneijders then we will never achieve a WK trophy. Overall I perceive your opinion expressing a lot the Cruyff ideals that we should play beautifully, and even if we lose, they will remember us for the pretty game. I am truly sorry but I cannot subscribe to the theory of losing as being an ok thing with me.”

    I like to remind you that it was Sneijder that got us past Brazil and many other opponents. In fact Kuyt and Huntelaar got a big chance at the end vs Brazil, but choked. Smaller minds. For Sneijder, Brazil was a team he could take out, others where impressed by that team. Notice how Juan made a corner from a ball that he could easily control or make a throw in from. Yet he gave away a corner and Netherlands would score the 2-1 from that corner vs Brazil. Juan was afraid of Robben. Those two players, Sneijder and Robben where the ones having the believe, spirit and ability to get us to the WC final. Sneijder has been an awesome leader and it was him again at the Euro producing the record number of key passes in Euro history. If you win vs Denmark, everything changes. You don’t have to win with 2 goals difference vs Portugal. Our whole starting point for the two other games is different when the first game was won, a game where Sneijder offered chances on a silver plate. Both the Hunter and RVP messed up to finish. Especially RVP. As for the Cruyff reference, I keep repeating that once you set things up properly, it gives you much more consistent results. Spain is the most consistent NT maybe ever. It all starts with youth education, but it is also about the senior NT feeding back to that youth development, creating the demand for a certain kind of skillful footballer.

    I think what all these words mean in future debates, is that we have a different quality’s hierarchy. It’s not being blind to one or another’s point, or not valuing certain quality’s (and sure it would be best to have “best of both worlds” players), but just another way of ordering them up the ladder and in my case how much difference it makes having a player that is able to quickly advance the play from the defensive third up to the attacking third as a midfielder. Therefor I want to see that quality manifested in as many players as possible as they generate synergy combined. I actually think that Ajax with Anita would have advanced from the CL group or in any case would have had almost equal points with the number 2 of the group. They could have won Dortmund away and City away. Poulsen was not bad all the time, but is just a player that does not fit the system due to lacking handling speed and applying proper pressure at times. He is also too slow in case certain situations need to be corrected and counter teams get out.


    PS I became curious when you mentioned Frank de Boer 1998-2000 as an example. Do you have a certain game in mind?

      1. This was a great insight for me, DRB, thank you.

        You’re correct: Spanish refs give almost twice as many cards as Dutch refs. That’s bound to have a big cultural and professional impact on football — and it’s a stat that I haven’t seen addressed before.

        Real food for thought.

      2. Just clicked up Argentina… where there are lots of yellow cards… and a formidable culture of violence and corruption around the game.

        Meanwhile in Sweden, cards are few and far between.

        FWIW. 😉

    1. Thank you DRB300. I enjoy your comments because you always back up your claims with evidence and facts from your broad knowledge. You make the debate finally become a debate. And thank you to Demi as well.

  12. Van persie get MOTM from today again, with a Goal and Assist for Roney GOal. he was great again.

    Providing the perfect foil for Rooney, Van Persie is unplayable when he fancies it, and today was one of those games. He took his goal coolly which set the tone for the afternoon, while the magical run during his assist for Rooney’s finish showed why Sir Alex felt it necessary to bring him to Old Trafford in the summer.

  13. @ Faraz: I’m not sure what you would call the formation of MU. I think it is almost 4-4-2 with Van Persie and Rooney keep interchanging. They have wingers with Young, Nani or Valencia. If Oranje is to play like that, we need another player like Van Persie or Rooney, someone that can holds the ball, pass or score. I do not think Hunter, Dost or LD Jong those type of players.

    1. @hien u r right about is one of my favorite team..i follow them regularly.
      Ferguson always prefers hardwork.Rooney is a player works his arse of in every match.Pretty killed too.Hunter’s work rate is poor,kuyt has work rate but skills are poor.dost is somewhat ok.but Seim de jong is the closest to that, he is better skilled than kuyt and works like a machine.then we need wingers who has speed,skills and work rate.Roben has everything ,but at time he doesnt track back ,but he does track back in important games.Afaleey is an arrogant prick with usless dribbles.Narsignh will be pocketed against a standard full back.lenz is not that good too.The real talents are Memphis depay, and adam maher and ola John,may be Urby would do better than Afaleey,kuyt,lenz and narsingh if he played as winger.urby has awesome workrate too.i forgot to tell u one thing ,sneijder is also capable of playing rooney’s role may be in a better way..but i doubt his workrate.he doesnt work like rooney.i think LVG must kick out some players like afaleey,Narsingh,kuyt,huntlaar,luuk dejong,these players may be good but clearly dooesnt fit for a balanced team.the chances should be given to Memphis Depay,Urby(as winger),Adam maher,Ola john and Bas dost.may be seim dejong..

  14. Inter Lose again:))))). they don’t have anything to show to Lazio without Sneijder. they have 3 lose in few of one months, just in SeriaA. maybe they need something?!!

  15. @Tiju: Those players still contribute to winning, one way or the other so I would not discard them yet. With LVG, I think changes will come slowly. It looks like he introduce one or two new players the most. Urby and Adam Maher were called up a few times but not much play time. Dost has a bit more play time. Depay needs to prove more. Ola John is the one that I think LVG should give a chance.

    On the another topic, I think Oranje should follow its own football model (not Spain, Germany, France, Italy or England). Their leagues are bigger, bigger player pools to select,…I think Cruyff is trying to make Ajax like Barca, not sure how successful it will be, but he and co are trying, same with Feyenoord group. I hope we can be competitive in Europe League again (although I read that Platini is thinking of getting rid of Europa League, just one big expanded Champion League). I do not have knowledge like Jan, Demi or DRB300 or many of you with more detailed analysis.

  16. when i see the Manu matches i feel that no one in that team has the same leavel of inteligence of RVP.may be scholes would fit the bill.Rooney may be..i dont know.i doubt.when i see the current crop of players i feel sad i mean about Narsingh,Lenz,schaken,Elia,Afaleey these guys simply lack the intelligence of RVP,wesly,vaart,Roben,kuyt,Bommel,heitinga,Joris.this is a very very serious issue to WIN a WC or EC.i have never been a fan of kuyt,bommel but i never had to question their intellignce and vision.
    my point is Spain had a plethora of intelligent players with footballing skils thats why they won 3 major trophies.Closest rival were Germany and dutch.both also had plethora of intelligent players but they were inferrior to spain in terms of skills.thats why they end up in nothing and spain won it.
    Let us look in to intelligent players with skills,who are ready to bleed for victory and are at 5 players short to that your final comepet with spain,germany,arjentna,brazil and even italy and portugal.

  17. Faraz, I am here and I told you it was not a done deal. It will be pretty tight until close to the end. But I feel that Ajax has the upper hand because unlike the other clubs they have the best direction in terms of leadership. With Babel, Serero and Sigthorson back after the winter break, we should be even better.

  18. Ajax was a bit unconcetrated last night. 2 early goals made them lazy. In second half Willem was way better with more pressing and energy. If they had more luck they could beat Ajax. Seems FDB need to work on mental strength.
    But good sign is Ajax can always find a way to the goal even when they play badly. With Eriksen and SDJ their corner kicks are dangerous. =)

  19. Kelvin, I agree that Ajax was not especially sharp as they relaxed after the 2-0 lead but I disagree that Willem II was better than Ajax in the second half. From the 60th minute until the goal there was sustained pressure and that’s when Ajax finally went into second gear, a weak second gear I recognize but a gear that allowed them to win nonetheless. Contrast that with the games against Heracles, Utrecht, ADO, Feyenoord and Heerenveen and you can see the difference. We lost so many studid points while the team was in the groups stage of the CL and now you can see more confidence and renewed belief. I think that beating Man City and making it out of such a difficult group gave the team a necessary confidence boost. We will see if that is sufficient to carry them through the season.

  20. Hi DRB300,

    As usual a very interesting and well thought post from you and many topics to discuss. I will try to present my thoughts on all issues brought forward but I will order my responses as follows:

    1. Main point
    2. Go quickly over points that we completely agree on
    3. Discuss topics further where there are alternative points of view

    “the only way to compensate for this unfair treatment is to have players in the team that have a controlled, but nevertheless “over my dead body mentality”. I hope I now have understood correctly”

    Sure, this is one of the qualities that I am looking for but not the only one. There are other important qualities that I would like to see in a player that I consider leader. At least I would like to see:

    Positional awareness during the game, in other words ability to read the game and predict soccer situations.

    Situational awareness, ability to read the greater circumstances of a game and instruct/guide the rest of the team accordingly.

    The ability to read the game is very important for both defensive and offensive purposes. When the opponent attacks you don’t just follow the ball, you look one step ahead, you predict where the final pass might go and you close the path to that pass. One very nice example was when Mathijsen in the first half of the WK final stepped ahead of David Villa (at least once or perhaps even twice) and stopped the ball before it reached DV – he did not play physically by shadowing DV’s every move. In order to do that, you cannot just do it by foot speed. You have to read the intention and position yourself accordingly before it happens. I was a little surprised that Joris was also capable of plays like that but he did pretty well. In fact he was awesome in the final, he erased DV without even getting close to getting a yellow. Offensive reading of the game can be done in many ways, passing long balls to the offense (Van Bommel to Van Persie in the opening minutes of the EK 2012 game against Germany) or the beautiful way of Strootman’s positioning during corners at the WK2014 qualification game against Turkey.

    Situational awareness is when the leader understands the big picture that surrounds a game. That could be adverse refereeing, a bad day by key players, bad luck or nasty intentions by the opponents or a combination of these factors. Strootman showed incredible awareness and just unfathomable maturity for his age in the way he smothered Turkey in the first half of the qualification game. The Turks knew that we are on the ropes and they came to aggressively knock us down. Kevin had a different opinion. In two perfectly clear “assaults” that can pass muster by even the strictest referee, he broke their mental backbone and showed them that the game is played in Nederland and this is the Oranje ! (Does it sound like “This is Sparta” ?, yes but it was done with zero violence – a brilliant play by a young man with incredible situational awareness and at same time abiding fully by all rules)

    These are the 3 main characteristics that I want to see from a player that I can call leader. Over my dead body tenacity/grit, ability to read the game, and situational awareness. A player who ticks all these three boxes, IMO, does not need to have the ball handling speed of Clasie in order to qualify for the NT and be a basic building block for success.

    Nederland is not just a soccer talent producing machine but at the same time I have noticed it is one of the few countries, if not the only one, that produces a good supply of leaders like the ones I described. Argentina had one Maradona, nobody before him and nobody afterwards, France had just Zidane, nobody before and nobody after. Having soccer players who tick all of my three boxes is relatively rare (understood that Maradona and Zidane tick more than these three). For our small size we do produce a good amount of players who are or can be like that with further development. I don’t see why this type of weapon cannot be used appropriately. Others would kill for such a relatively steady production of leading characters.

    “Dutch football education has taken the German/Belgium road of the past, while those nations have taken the Dutch road in reaction of their poor football, footballers and football results. Spain is a prime example of a country having taken the Dutch road.”

    Let’s try now to take a brief look at Spain and Germany and analyze a few factors in their success or not success.

    Spain and ball handling speed. Sure Spain has invested a lot in developing their own talent and teaching them football and ball handling speed (fast tiki-taka). But is this the main factor behind their apparent success? No, in my opinion. Spain has always been famous for speed. Sure, they have perfected the tiki-taka now but they were never slow brutes. In fact, I think their huge improvement in the physical and “over my dead body mentality” is a huge factor in their success and that has been greatly overlooked. As much as I hate to admit it, they do have two players who tick off all three of my leadership boxes. Puyol and Casillas. And two more that tick at least two out of three, Pique and Ramos. These four form a super solid defensive foundation that allows the Iniestas to play their tiki-taka without worrying what goes on behind them. This particular Spain has proven that when push comes to shove, they can clearly shove. Spain never had this kind of leadership in the field. In fact they were considered soft or something else that starts with “p”. In the last world cup they overcame a tough situation in their group and a very hard game against Paraguay in the quarter final. In fact against Paraguay showed “over my next body” mentality that has been very uncharacteristic of them in the past.

    Germany and youth development. Here is what I consider to be an example to avoid when adopting new ways. Germany has played some nice games in the past 6 years but mostly against average+ opponents. They have not been able not only to win any titles but not even perform well in crucial games. Either the grit of Italy in 2006 and 2012 or the possession play of Spain in 2010 has shut them out from finals. In a funny way, I could even characterize them the new “Spain of the past”. Nice plays, but not in crucial games and some admiration that they play good although they do not win titles. Do they have any players that could be considered leaders? No in my opinion. They have lost some of their mentality of the past. Sure they have developed some good players, I like their soccer but the sauce is missing from the recipe and the results are not coming. Three semis and one final in the last 6 years is not exactly a small statistical sample. This is clearly a strategy of finding a few trees but missing the forest. Do we really want that?

    I will borrow from Hien’s post to summarize my analysis on this broad point “On another topic, I think Oranje should follow its own football model (not Spain, Germany, France, Italy or England).”

    Couldn’t agree more. We have and we will have several players who have the athleticism and the brains that can bring results and play some good soccer at the same time.

    Let’s now briefly review points that we are in complete agreement.

    “Another big factor IMO is the tendency of competitions to allow less and less physical play. Spain is a prime example”

    Agreed. Since around 2000, and progressively getting worse, rules and regulations are enforced to the max. Not only in Spanish league but everywhere else, and not in just soccer but also in society/laws – at least in the United States (soon jaywalking will become a felony LOL). Social joking aside, I am not advocating hard tackles or dirty play or anything that is against the rules. What I am advocating is compliant to any conceivable refereeing enforcement. There is always a clean way to prove leadership and “over my dead body” mentality.

    “Building complete players in today’s world means they will become mediocre in everything at best if that means starting including Judo in the education. Maybe you heard of the linesman beaten to death in the Netherlands this week, but those kids were given kick box lessons to become physical tougher.”

    Judo training and kickboxing have nothing to do with soccer and they shouldn’t be taught at soccer academies. Kids should be trained towards becoming better soccer players (handling speed but also tactics, vision, etc). I don’t think Ruud Krol ever got these types of lessons, as far as I know he was an avid biker to build stamina. Violence and leadership are not synonyms, far from it. But I do not recall advocating anything such.

    “One player bringing the speed down all the time or even messing up his passing and the effectiveness of the battle plan goes down almost exponentially, not linear. “

    I think every player of the NT should have a level of ball passing speed that is acceptable, but at the same time I do not expect all of them to be at the same level. I personally find Stroot’s level acceptable.

    “Once you have installed this passing culture and have players automated to always go for the football solution, you can actually win against superior players as they see far less of the ball then when they normally would. On top of that, you set up a machinery that wins all the time. A professional can recharge physically every 64 hours after a game (Adriaanse always said this), but it remains a question if they are able to do it mentally. It was researched by Raymond Verheijen recently that teams that played during the week in Europe lost substantial amount of points as a result of that during the weekend games”

    A moving ball covers distance at much faster speed and with less energy expenditure than any human being. A perfectly fit athlete might follow the ball for a while but eventually will get tired. A speeding ball always wins, if not immediately then for sure with time. This is just physics and who would argue with that. But physics can be applied in other ways too. Correct positioning and closing corridors has a similar effect. It takes a couple of milliseconds of proactive movement to beat a particular situation. When Ruud Krol would stop balls from reaching their target he would move a few milliseconds (or less than a second) before everyone else. That allows a smart player to compensate for pure athleticism and speed. Now if you can combine athleticism and vision (Krol) you can be a one man defense line in the past or a multiplying factor today. I will later post a links with examples of Krol positioning, I am avoiding posting too many links at once for reasons you have mentioned before.

    “In international football an example could be that South Korea got pretty good calls vs Italy and especially Spain at the WC 2002. Big football country’s that still feel robbed at such an event”

    Argentina is not exactly a big and powerful country but they could dress the referee in the WK1978 final in their uniform and it would still be fine. Korea was a “lesser” Argentina, they had a decent team and they were hosting. So what is the point? The point is very simple. It is all relative. “Big” does not mean just supersized in land mass or people. A host of the WK is always “big” as long as they have a competitive team. If South Africa had a better team they would also look “big”. Brazilians complained very vocally about their treatment in the game against us. What was the complain? That they were not treated with “priority” LOL. See? The game was played 50-50 and the “big cat” threw a fit. They are clearly positioning for “priority treatment” during the next world cup.

    As a side point I would consider it dishonorable to wait for Nederland to be a WK host in order to get priority treatment and push our way to the trophy. That is unacceptable.

    “PS I became curious when you mentioned Frank de Boer 1998-2000 as an example. Do you have a certain game in mind?”

    FDB was a character bigger than the game itself. He manifested leadership in almost every game he played. When you look back at the defense line and you see FDB, you feel safe. He was also a crucial factor in the Oranje bench during the WK2010 campaign. I feel his absence was another reason that resulted in the EK2012 fiasco. Favorite moment? The same moment that you mentioned before pointing to the Bergkamp picture on this web site. We both like the same thing, very often. You focused on the finish, I focused on the service – FDB served, Dennis finished it. BTW, this is so similar to the Krol-Rensenbrink moment at the 90th minute of the WK1978. Only difference aside from the result is that Rob was at much worse position. It is funny how everything circles and then comes together.

    And after the points that we are in agreement lets go over a few points with alternative points of view – will try to order them from least to most important.

    “Cultivating high level passing was at the center of van Gaal’s team in 1995. A CL winning team who won one game after the other. It was a machine.”

    I am not in favor of introducing direct comparisons between clubs and NTs. Not that they are not valid but I believe the dynamics are different when NTs play. Clubs are a lot more focused on the money but a NT game also includes national pride. I am not saying they are completely different but many factors are. I know a lot of people, including myself, who will not really sit down and watch carefully a game where a team’s jersey is full of ads and prints unrelated to soccer. Or I might watch it just for fun, to draw some conclusions but will not take it too seriously.

    Let’s see now a counter example between tactics used by both club and NTs with different results. Barca wins everything playing tiki-taka and so does Spain (mostly based on Barca players), so far. But Ajax won everything in the early 70s, was a winning machine that everyone was scared of, provided the backbone for the Dutch NT but then the Dutch NT results were not as successful. A method that has been used at the club level, consistently and for relatively long periods of time does not always result at the exact same outcome at the NT level. Barca/Spain point to one direction but Ajax/Oranje point to another.

    “Barca was not happy with over 50 or 60% ball possession, they wanted over 70%”

    Spain too. They love 70% possession. And they get it against teams that park the bus like Switzerland and teams that have lost their winning edge in crucial games like Germany. Statistics are built over a long streak of games. For example a NT can play 10-15 games a year but ¾ of these games will be against a lesser opponent at least when we are talking about the top 10 NTs. If Spain plays 10 opponents per year then 6-7 of them are good targets for building a statistic that says “Spain has possession 70% during the game”. Americans say there are lies, damn lies and statistics ☺
    But let’s examine a counter example. The passing machine of Spain achieved a 55%-45% possession advantage against the Oranje in the WK final – 90 mins regular time. If we exclude the first ten minutes when they came out swinging hard, the possession was probably 50%-50% for 90% of the regular time. But in this case they were not playing against Switzerland. They did as many back passes as we accuse our defenders of making. Their winning/footballing machine was stopped for good and if it was not Webb to slow us down with yellows the result could have been different. I would have not been surprised if we had level or beat them in the possession game if Webb was not wearing the Spanish jersey underneath his uniform from the 2nd half and onwards. I understand that there are many different opinions and points of view, Barca/Spain can be called a footballing machine but Burt Van Marwijk had also build a machine of his own. And Bert’s machine was working like a clockwork orange ☺ Bert’s machine did not follow or copied or mimic the Spanish way but he did just as good visually and in terms of results/success.

    “For you, it maybe starts to bite when you see Sneijder not tracking back properly as this gives oxygen to the spirit of the opponent”

    I think my overall position about Wes has been misunderstood. I like him probably as much as you do. I truly admire him. And Van Persie as well. They are both the crown jewels of our offense. His passes are out of this world as well, the two that he served Robben in the final, the one he served to Strootman in that awesome goal against Finland EK2012 qualification just to mentioned a couple. I have two specific issues with Wes though:

    a. He does not seem to be as interesting in soccer as he was before Yolanthe. This can be fixed with the right motivation or simply with time. Eventually he will get bored and perhaps realize that a WK title is more important than … you know what. Or maybe he will join paths with Murinho again and he will wake up.

    b. The main footballing issue I have with Wes is very specific. Lots of people are asking strongly to play the Dutch 4-3-3. IMO, Wes’ current condition does not make him a good candidate for playing in that system as one of the middle 3. I want Wes in the team of course, who doesn’t? But I feel he needs someone(s) to back him up thus we end up playing 4-2-3-1.

    We are dealing with a serious dilemma and it is not easy to be solved, otherwise there are coaches much smarter and more knowledgeable than both me and you and they would have solved it already. If you play classic Dutch 4-3-3 then Van Persie starts playing in a position a lot more natural for him but Wes leaves holes due to lack of stamina (4-3-3 is brutal for the middle 3). If you play 4-2-3-1 then Wes gets the backup he needs but Van Persie gets the shorter end of the stick. The question has never been if Wes should play or if he deserves to play. He is our star and so is RVP. Both should play in every game. The question is what is the best system to fit both of them in.

    “IMO when Strootman starts to mess up every short pass on midfield as he did against Hungary. He becomes a problem to generate flow and proper speed in the game, especially when we start to play better teams.”

    Strootman’s performance has not been that great against Hungary and even against Romania. But let’s examine how much that matters. The WK2014 qualification campaign started with the most difficult opponent, at least on paper, and under the worst possible psychological circumstances. Who was the top player and a decisive factor in pushing the Turks back, excellent positioning and dangerous at corners and hammering the final nail to the Turkish coffin? Now, he didn’t continue to play like that in the next qualification games but the hardest part was already a done deal. How much of a superhuman Strootman did we really need against Hungary? A tournament consists of several games and every game consists of moments. It is just so happens that some moments determine the fate of an entire tournament and in some cases -to go a little further- the fate of an entire footballing generation. A loser can turn to be a winner and a winner can turn to a loser in just seconds. Some moments weigh more than the 90 mins of a game and that is never captured in statistics. Would I like to see Strootman like he played against Turkey in every game? Sure. But I already know that I am asking too much. And it is not necessary. The leadership that I have in mind does not have to be applied 24/7. It has to be applied at those crucial moments that determine the fate of an entire tournament. Another excellent example is the Stekelenburg save against Kaka. That moment determined the entire tournament for Brazil and for the Oranje. In a second the fates of two nations were swapped. A sure goal, a 2-0 lead and a certain victory became a shameful defeat for Brazil. Steks jumped like a Siberian Tiger and brought the ball back from hell. That is a perfect example where a moment determines the result of an entire tournament. Steks did the unbelievable, then we start believing more in ourselves and the victory and the opponents start wondering if “God” is not with them that day. Now, is Steks as consistent as VDS. No. Steks does make a lot of small mistakes. But do I care? No. He did his job in some of the most unbelievable streak of saves ever made by a doelman. The two against Slovakia, the Kaka against, and the Ramos and the Fabregas in the final. He even got Iniesta’s shot but the ball was too strong and bent his hand. But then again he committed a silly penalty against Slovakia and he conceded a silly goal against Uruguay (second Uru goal) but in both cases the game was practically over. Statistically that works against him but we all know the truth, don’t we? There is not a single human being on the planet that could have saved Kaka’s shot. And it is that block that put us back in the world soccer superpower map. Sure Sneijder was awesome in finishing the job in the second half. But the Dutch newspapers did not call Wes Onsterfelijke (immortal) they called Steks that. And Uit-Stekelenburg as well (I presume from uitstekende/excellent). Steks was declared the man of the match. Not to take away anything from Wes’ accomplishments in that game and in general but without that out of this world streak of saves in the WK2010 we would have gone nowhere.

    “This here. There is a very strong conviction in the mind of people, where winning is linked to physical play and “over my dead body” mentality and where losing beautifully is linked with high level passing and technical players.”

    Not really. High level passing and technical players combined with leaders is what I would like to see. This is what I think a more comprehensive approach that can deal with many situations and I mean either footballing or non-footballing factors. If you have several weapons available then you should be using all of them to your advantage. Different circumstances call for different approaches.

    Using the WK2010 tournament as an example, I do not expect and I do not want to see seven physical games before we win the trophy. This is pure utopia, it is never going to happen. Greece did it once but that was a one off and ugly (and not aWK). I am not counting on that and I do not want to see that either. Out of the seven games, I expect one or two to come down to who wants it more. The other five will be dealt with pure footballing. Denmark, Japan, Slovakia, Uruguay, etc do not need a Strootman to hunt them down and erase them. In the game against Brazil Kuyt did an awesome physical job erasing Maicon (that was his primary job by the way, not to score goals – would be nice if he did but then we would be asking way too much for that game) and of course Steks. So, after six games we made it to the final without too much physicality in between. Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? If you need to get physical and give all you have to beat the Danmarks of soccer perhaps you should be playing another sport. We made it to the WK2010 final with mostly footballing, didn’t we? And we gave that extra physicality and everything we have on the table against Spain and in some ways we beat them, didn’t we? The couldn’t play their possession game, the were back-passing as much as we did, etc. Puyol didn’t even come close to make fun of our defense in corners like he did with Germany. He was locked in with handcuffs. Seemed like if scores a header then his marker would have to commit hara-kiri at MuseumPlein. In fact it was Joris who almost nailed a Puyol style header in. The whole team looked solid. And in many instances the Spaniards held back and started their own back-passing. Football is still a man’s game and on the way to the WK trophy it will come time to separate the men from the boys. Even in the watered down version of Platini’s vision of soccer the “who wants it more” will always come forward in at least one or perhaps two of the games leading to the World Title. And then you will need Mark and Kevin for these few moments that make the big difference. And a Steks as well.

    Closing, I have to tell you that I have really enjoyed this exchange of opinions. I found it very beneficial – I had to write down my thoughts, analyze and organize all the different subjects. I hope my re-ordering of the responses to your writings does not bother you. There are many approaches to solutions for every problem and in real life it is very often that conclusions are drawn post-mortem ☺ Lots of folks believed Germany will make it to the final in EK2012 and they can beat Spain. I won that round of predictions, I am still sure that 9 times out of 10 Spain will beat Germany. But a new WK is coming and there are so many questions to be answered. And then there will be another Euro in 2016. Will Brazil’s enormous pull in FIFA sway the scales in 2014? Will Spain continue their dominance? Will tiki-taka be countered more effectively by following the last player to make a move rather than following the ball? We will see about all that!



    1. Good post Demi. A lot of great points, I am only going to touch on the ones that I disagree with or really want to touch on for other reasons (that comes across as one sided but otherwise it all becomes too long):

      [“But is this the main factor behind their apparent success? No, in my opinion.”]

      We disagree sharply here. I think it was the systematization and elevation of passing and pressing that brought Spain to their 3 titles.

      [“These four form a super solid defensive foundation that allows the Iniestas to play their tiki-taka without worrying what goes on behind them.”]

      I think it goes both ways. With Xavi and Iniesta in front of them, they are not running from one emergency to another as they can hold on to possession a lot and they won’t have to deal with a lot of unexpected ball losses that gets them caught out of position. Many goals happen as a result from a quick turn over situation with a ball loss in midfield. That’s rare for iniesta and Xavi. Possession based football is as much as a defensive system as it is an offensive one.

      [“Spain never had this kind of leadership in the field”]

      Hierro IIRC and let’s not forget that Spain’s nickname is/was La Furia Roja. Before their technical ability became famous it was another characteristic that made them get the nickname.

      [“Do they have any players that could be considered leaders? No in my opinion”]

      Dortmund was also chanceless in CL previous year, now they became first in the toughest group in recent history. All talents are still young and are developing experience & backbone.

      [“Three semis and one final in the last 6 years is not exactly a small statistical sample”]

      It’s not but 2 of those losses were against arguably the best NT in history and losing against Italy is normal for German NT in competitive games. That is not a thing from this generation only, it’s a German tradition from multiple generations.

      [“I will borrow from Hien’s post to summarize my analysis on this broad point “On another topic, I think Oranje should follow its own football model (not Spain, Germany, France, Italy or England).””]

      Authenticity vs raised levels of executing the same game plan. When somebody sets higher standards in your way of playing and thinking, does that qualify as another model, or is that a sign to step up your game? Has their execution of a model become so good, that we don’t recognize ourselves anymore in it? That would be pretty telling about the state we are in.

      [“But I do not recall advocating anything such.”]

      You did not, but people that focus on this issue will look at how they can enhance and train this quality in kids as is happening in the Netherlands. Roy Keane from United was a boxer in his kids life. Verbeek is an amateur champ in boxing and also takes his team to the ring so now and then. Before AC Milan played a club world cup final in Tokyo some years ago, they went to a K1 kickboxing final for inspiration. Many trainers and people believe that to nurture an “over my dead body mentality” , fighting spirit and coming back after taking “punches” in games or life in general, is done best to look at actual fighting sports or participate in it. I can see their point, but I am questioning if we are not losing our profile with that and even losing the long term battle in player development. This worries me.

      [“I personally find Stroot’s level acceptable.”]

      If I see Strootman I see a missed opportunity for having a perfect player. His long ball distribution is pretty damn good and he also has vision. I just think that his short passing and handling speed are not up to standards. I hope that when he moves to United, that the speed of EPL will force to act faster and maybe also improve some in the short passing dimension.

      [“I will later post a links with examples of Krol positioning”]

      Would still love to see.

      [“who will not really sit down and watch carefully a game where a team’s jersey is full of ads and prints unrelated to soccer”]

      The Dutch Jersey is made in a way that the Nike logo jumps out and coming summer the Dutch NT will play some Asian country’s for money. FIFA and their WC, UEFA and their Euro are all about money as well. When a group of attractive Dutch ladies were in the stadium at the WC in South Africa, wearing Bavaria shirts, they were put into prison as FIFA had a contract with Heiniken. A story where money took away the fun from a funny action. It became creepy for me when it turned out that the German lady that had a tear rolling over her cheek was not crying as a result of being behind 2-0 vs the Italians, but was a clip from her during the German anthem. They copy pasted that clip after the score to enhance emotion for the viewers behind their TV and sell the product football in a better way in the end to make more money. Who cares about the true sequence o events or even the truth if they can make a few extra bucks? Well FIFA does not in any case.

      [“Barca/Spain point to one direction but Ajax/Oranje point to another.”]

      I disagree with this point. Netherlands came out of nowhere for many around the world, but club results were preceding the NT results. Feijenoord and Ajax winning the “CL” preceded reaching the WC final. Defining “results” by winning the whole tournament is probably not compensating for many factors, like luck, different opponents one can meet in a final and playing host. It raises the bar too high to say both point to a different direction. Netherlands was never a big factor on a WC (we would have to look back at the Olympics) and to reach the final was a result. For me it does not point to another direction. I actually think that there are many parallels and sadly it does not predict a good future for Dutch NT as playing together at club level can mean an advantage and we won’t get that soon with Eredivisie being a feeder competition for EPL/Bundesliga/Serie A/La Liga and now even Russia and Portugal. One only has to look at the last Euro to see there where 2 NT’s who form the back bone of 3 very successful club teams in Barca/Madrid and Juventus. It can also boomerang of course of club problems escalate during a tournament like in 1996 for Dutch NT, however that had to do with payment issues between young and old players at Ajax.

      [“Spain too. They love 70% possession. And they get it against teams that park the bus like Switzerland and teams that have lost their winning edge in crucial games like Germany.”]

      But these numbers show great skill nevertheless. The comment was aimed to raise the point that the ambition levels in the possession game and the skill levels in the execution of it, have been raised. Looking at the fact Spain’s new generation also looks very gifted and the fact that Barca unlike Ajax do have the financial resources to hold on to their biggest talents, combined with the fact they try to raise a lot of Catalans who still play for Spain and I think this level is just the the new level to deal with. It asks from us if we want to settle for it or raise our own level?

      Van Gaal always wanted “51% or more” ball possession, now we see higher ambition level not only being pulled off, but institutionalized.

      [“Bert’s machine did not follow or copied or mimic the Spanish way but he did just as good visually and in terms of results/success.”]

      Bert did say all the time he admired Barca and tried to learn from them. Van Gaal at the start of his tenure also showed Barca video’s to the players to make them understand what he wants from his players. I don’t see it as an attack on authenticity to admit to these things as I think it is a kick under our butt to get out of our comfort zone. The bar is set higher and it asks us what our answer is.

      [“He does not seem to be as interesting in soccer as he was before Yolanthe.”]

      Sneijder was injured when Netherlands had to play Andorra at home. Was not in the selection, yet he took the plain and joined the boys. Like a true captain. I think that showed great commitment for Orange. He also sends every newly selected player a sms and makes him comfortable in the new group.

      [“Wes’ current condition does not make him a good candidate for playing in that system as one of the middle 3.”]

      Wesley directly behind RVP has proven to be disastrous. Sneijder cuts RVP’s ability and quality manifestation in half if not more than that even. If Wesley is played from midfield at the left, RVP can start to drop a bit more if he wants. It remains sub optimal. I see the defensive issue and I agree with this point. However I am still of the opinion that Sneijder is not clueless in the pressing department. He won’t do vertical running up and down the field, but if he is backed up by a specific player like Anita or Clasie (Anita has better stamina though) then Netherlands can recuperate the ball quickly and with the help of Sneijder. Both Anita and Clasie can read both the moments to press in an excellent way. Eriksen from Ajax is not defensive wonder also, yet with Anita behind him Ajax went on a 14 game winning streak. The second thing that is important is center defenders that dare to cover through. Not 1 striker for 2 CB’s all the time, but picking the next guy in every opportunity they can. Heitinga and Mathijsen became cowards and then a guy like Sneijder is also more easily exposed.

      One more thing. Funnily enough I feel that when Sneijder gets off the field, the new generation will lose a lot of confidence. Sneijder has seen it all and is still the best player. They admire him and under his umbrella they also dare to believe they can win from many opponents.

      [“Who was the top player and a decisive factor in pushing the Turks back, excellent positioning and dangerous at corners and hammering the final nail to the Turkish coffin?”]

      Well the way you phrase the question, I feel you don’t do justice to a player like Arjen Robben. Players like Arjen Robben for all their offensive ability are not only a great attacking weapon, they are also a great defensive weapon. Defenses don’t dare to do many brave stuff as they know they will get caught on the break. Robben was abusing Altintop on the left wing and the Turkish coach even made a tactical change to compensate for Robben. Robben made the Turks weaker before the game even started.

      I also think Strootman was really bad against Andorra. probably his worst game. I think Strootman’s value increases the stronger the opposition is, just like Nigel de Jong. Nigel’s best game for AC Milan was against Juventus. He was also the best against Russia in 2008 and also the best against Germany in 2012. Nigel handle’s himself against tough opponents. They don’t fall over. Having said that I am interested to enhance the ball flow between players higher up the pitch and am frustrated by players messing up many short passes (Strootman) or only use the option to pass it back and initiate defensive third ball circulation (Nigel).

      [“He even got Iniesta’s shot but the ball was too strong and bent his hand.”]

      I think quite some keepers would have had the ball from Iniesta. I really felt a bit let down by him. Stek is great with balls in the far left or right, but weak with balls close to his body. He also messed up against Cahill in the England friendly. Same thing. Ball close to his body. The Kaka save was quite magical for the eye, but he himself did not rate it as one of his greatest or most difficult saves.

      [“But the Dutch newspapers did not call Wes Onsterfelijke (immortal) they called Steks that.”]

      I rewatched some highlights from that Brazil game again and what struck me is how Stek looked very insecure during some of the corners. We got away with that, but I think I am not going to agree with you or many Dutch newspapers for that matter. Stek was good, but for me Sneijder was the man. They (he and Robben) made Brazil afraid and I think that Dunga recently even said that despite they were 1-0 ahead they had a feeling they would lose nevertheless and how he admired the team being build so well around Sneijder. Not sure about that quote but something along those lines (heard it from Jack van Gelder). Stek’s save on Kaka was very good but of all people, he himself was very underwhelmed by it. If you re watch it, it’s not an impossible save because it comes to Stek’s natural build. He is long, has long hands and the technicality of the save is something keepers train a lot on (that circle motion). For example van der Sar’s save against the Czech at Euro 2000 first game where the ball goes inside post and hits the other is a counter natural save and he had to make a counter natural movement. Far less spectacular, but probably harder to pull off. Yet many won’t remember. However I don’t want to deconstruct a beautiful memory as for me it was also a special moment I will always remember. Stek did a great job.

      [“If you have several weapons available then you should be using all of them to your advantage”]

      I just think that to execute a great passing game you need as many good ones as you can get as this quality creates synergy with the more players that can pull it off. High handling speed is clutch. In this system I opt faster towards players being able to pull this off at the cost of players possessing other quality’s, except not marveling in this aspect, then someone like you. I think that the increased quality levels of the possession game we see in Spain, but now also in Germany, Mexico and Japan are the result of more fanatic choices towards passing and players able to pass. I think Netherlands needs to address this increased level of the passing game. For me it all is a clear increase of football levels as football is a real world sport now.

      [” I won that round of predictions,”]

      I will do my own prediction. Ola John. I think this is a player you will dislike as soon as he starts playing for the Dutch NT, as he shows the exact opposite behavior from the video you posted where Netherlands scores a goal vs West-Germany due to playing on the edge. He even gets to me with his apathetic behavior after losing the ball 🙂

      Cheers and thank you for this great read.

      1. Well, I know it’s a dangerous proposition… but if you read you might learn something from these guys. They’re pretty smart.

        But more pictures might help, eh? 😉

  21. sup dudes, haven’t had much time, January transfer window coming up

    Kevin Strootman on the way to AC milan according to (no links cause it doesn’t go through when i post them)

    Wesley Sneijder to Anzhi in russia? I don’t like it, but seems to be where he’s headed.

    Ricky Van Wolfswinkel on the way to tottenham

    Douglas has fulham and newcastle possibly?

    Maarten Stekelenburg is wanted by Fulham

    Stefan De Vrij has chelsea and liverpool rumoured to be interested due to issues with contract, I have no idea what’s going on with that.

  22. I like to read about Dutch football (national team, club, players) so no matter how long, but it will take time.
    I’m with Faraz on Sneijder to Anzi. It’d be bad choice. AC MIlan is not playing well. Perhaps they need someone to replace De Jong although I thought Milan wanted Strootman before. Stek to Fulham? Did Van Der Sar play for Fulham after unsuccessful stint in Italy? Is Stek following VDS’s route (and perhaps ends up with MU)? I do not think either MU goalkeeper is good and Stek is better than both of them (but they are younger). Ricky and Douglas to Premier League? Perhaps they need more exposure so they can catch LVG attention for national team?

  23. Damaging report on our boys at Euro 12 – Basically states most of them were not fit enough. I tend to agree – didnt see much of a conquering midfield nor people running continuously (like Kuyt). BvM denies everything – I am sure Jan has an inside story there…..

  24. Here is the right blog if you wants to find out about this particular topic. You realize much its almost challenging to argue with you (not too I actually would want…HaHa). You certainly put a new spin and rewrite on a topic that is been written about for a long time. Great stuff, merely great!

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