Only nine days to go people!!! It is getting scary. I have to make the Fantasy World Cup League for us and have two more World Cups to cover here, for our Memory Lane trip…. But the news is coming fast and furious!
Everytime it’s the same story. A couple of weeks before the big tournament starts, Van Hanegem and Cruyff are asked about their opinion. And the two Oracles of Dutch football always have great soundbites… So Van Gaal will have to now allow these two (Waldorf and Statler) looking over his shoulder and commenting on all his moves. As if I wasn’t enough :-).
We’ll see what they have to say in a bit. First: jersey numbers. They’re out. And it’s official: Blind will play with 5 (and therefor take the left back spot, is my wild guess) and De Guzman will be the starter in midfield with 6. Robin wears 9, Robben 11 and Sneijder 10.
Now, back to JC and De Kromme.
Cruyff: “I miss a player like Davy Klaassen. If you want to play 5-3-2 and move up to 3-5-2, it means you need smart players with a brain for timing and positioning. Klaassen has that in spades.”
Van Hanegem: “It is good to see Sneijder is back in top shape. But I am annoyed with that baseball cap. You can’t see his eyes when he’s being interviewed and that is wrong. Someone needs to tell him to lose the cap!”
Which teams will end in the top 4.
Cruyff: “Argentina. Never did a European nation win in South America. With players who can play really good football but also players who can numb their mind and tirelessly focus on that one element: win and bring out the best of yourself.”
Van Hanegem: “Argentina will be very keen to perform and with Messi and Di Maria they have two very good players. I won’t say Messi saved himself for the World Cup but I’m sure it has crossed his mind a number of times this season.
The Argentine defence is solid and if Messi can bring his top form, he might be forever heralded as the greatest ever, what winning the World Cup in Brazil!”
Cruyff: “But Brazil has so many great players…”
Van Hanegem: “Brazil… I did have my doubts until I saw that crush Spain in the Confederations Cup…”
Cruyff: “So aggressive….”
Van Hanegem: “But in a good way! Driven. Hungry. With that “don’t fuck with us!” mentality. That was what they resonated. And they didn’t seem to be worried with pressure. Everywhere they play, they feel pressure…”
Cruyff: “They know how to deal with that pressure…”
Van Hanegem: “I sometimes feel they played with the brakes on a bit, the Brazilian players in their club competitions…. Because they know they have to win this. They are the stone cold favorites.”
Van Hanegem: “I doubt them. I normally would say yes, Spain, but they haven’t been to dominant. I think they are losing it.”
Cruyff: “But they have great players, still. Midfielders mainly. This is the problem they have in England too. They all have foreigners as strikers. Benzema, C Ronaldo, Bale and in Barcelona it’s Neymar, Messi and Sanchez… They quickly grabbed Diego Costa. Smart.”
Van Hanegem: “I think that is a top player. But Llorente of Juventus is no slouch either. And they do have some other physically strong players…yes, Spain is on my list.”
Cruyff: “And again Germany, of course.”
Van Hanegem: “If you see their squad with quality… Gotze, Reus, Muller, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Neuer….”
Cruyff: “Germans are always a threat. And with the introduction of more foreign coaches like Van Gaal and Guardiola, they will only get better.”
Van Hanegem: “You just know that Germany will be up there again.”
Cruyff: “Outsiders… I don’t see Holland as such, we are a bit too young. We have quality but lack experience. And that draw….”
Van Hanegem: “I would mention Belgium before Oranje. They have so many great players. France too by the way. I think we should cheer them if they survive the group.”
Cruyff: “It will be extremely tough.”
Van Hanegem: “The first game is versus Spain. The first game of the world champions, is always a tough one. The pressure is extra big. So yeah, we might be able to get something against them.”
Oranje might get passed the group stages but is not planning on winning the beauty prize. Results first. Van Persie: “It wasn’t sparkling. We need to find the balance still.” The times of the beautiful game seem behind us. Van Gaal decides to play a less attractive and more realistic game. Which is: stop as much as possible and play all balls on the three upfront! Van Persie: “Our goal versus Ghana was a good example of this. We created three good chances in this way, but we missed the opportunity to pick the right moment as we could have broken more. It is still a bit too sloppy.”
The players realise that it will be a tough battle for our team and the rock in midfield Nigel de Jong is quite useful in those games: “I think we did well. We could have been 2-0 or 3-0 up by half time. If we did score, I don’t think anyone would have complained. This team needs a bit more time, but the potential is certainly there.”
We just had the Oranje press conference and here are some soundbites:
“Jon De Guzman had to leave the training this morning. He felt something in his left hamstring. I won’t take chances. Against Wales, we have sufficient replacements at the moment. I won’t make any rash decisions and we’ll see tomorrow what happens.”
“I might use a 4-4-2 against Wales.If Wales comes at us with one striker, it is useless to play 3 defenders. I will move one player up (Daley Blind). This is easy. He played in midfield for Ajax and Bruno played left back for Feyenoord. This is how I defined my squad.”
Louis gets bit antsy when the media complain about the narrow win against Ghana. “Oh dear, we only won 1-0?? Did you see how the other big countries done? We won 1-0 but it could have been 3-0. Germany plays 2-2 against Cameroon. Italy can’t win. And Spain wins against the number 8 of South America.”
“I am not sure if we are ready in time. We are making great progress but time will tell if we are ready for Spain and Chile and Australia. I do hope so. But like I said, we do pretty good if you take the friendly results as a benchmark. Wesley Sneijder played well today on training. He is playing really in midfield now.”
Mark van Bommel will be celebrated before the Wales game. He played 79 times for Oranje and Van Gaal (the coach who drove him out of Munich) was the coach back in 2000 to give Van Bommel his first cap.
Van Gaal talks about the number 10 position: “I can play Robben as 10, but I want his depth and speed upfront and Sneijder is a better passer of the game. But I have to look at fitness and how well a player plays within the system. I need to make sure Robin doesn’t need to work too hard. I saw him chasing the left and right defender against Ghana. He was doing too much. The wide defenders of our team need to manage those two.”
Van Gaal also claims that four players in the squad have not reached their full fitness yet. “I won’t mention names but we have four players who need to make a step up. The medical tests show this. Full fitness is needed if you want to play like I want to play. The games against Romania and Hungary were good examples.”
Sneijder is probably not one of those players. Chest out, chin up, the Galatasaray midfielder has managed to get to full fitness thanks to the help of K1 fighter Saki. The kickbox start trained for months with Wesley. “I contacted him. I met him once and he was a nice guy and very fit. I started working out with him. I also played and trained for Gala of course which also helped. But Saki is a Gala supporter and I needed some improvement in explosivity and footwork. I need to be faster and lighter. We did two to three sessions per week, in the evening. And I worked on a special program for the KNVB as well. My body mass index is now better than it was in 2010!”
Yolanthe explained his routine. “Gets up early. Takes his healthy breakfast and trains and trains. And he sleeps two hours in the afternoon. He started this as a kid and still does it. And I cook healthy and light. Lots of beef, fish and raw vegetables. And when take cream on my strawberries or chips on the sofa, he refuses. He is very serious.”
Sneijder was not too happy with the performance vs Ghana but is hopeful: “It was still a bit new and we needed to check too much…. and suddenly it clicked but then other things went wrong. Little things. We need to iron those out and we will. Once we do that, you’ll see it will look much better suddenly.”