Oh the irony… Gary Lineker once defined football as a game “between two teams of eleven and at the end of the game, Germany wins…”. Last night, Lineker tweeted: “Who ever said that doesn’t know a thing about football”…
We can immensely enjoy the result vs the Germans and we are clearly not alone. The English can always appreciate a good German thumping.
And what a hammer blow it was. Because let’s be honest: we didn’t deserve it. Germany played well. Didn’t have a big game 4 days ago. Played at home. Nothing to play for, but their coach and their reputation. Low fielding a number of highly talented youngsters and they took the game by the neck.
Good goals, good attacks, lots of movement and the right tactics.
The Germans populated the midfield. In their 3-4-3, Holland had trouble taking on their midfield and was second best on all levels. The only thing worse than Oranje was the pitch. Terrible surface, not doing us many favours.
But we got the draw in the end, and we won the Division A, a group where criticasters believed we had no right to be in. And would never be able to top. While only 5 months ago documentaries were produced to show how terrible the state of football was in The Netherlands and how every expert (bar some) proclaimed how Holland needed to go to Germany or France and learn from their ways of working. Because we lost our edge and didn’t know what we were doing…
And very untypical for the Dutch, we now got the wind in our back and where everything turned against us under Hiddink/Blind, under this coach, everything seems to fall in its place. The Germans could have scored 3 more but failed. And we were able to grab the point we needed in German fashion right at the death.
Euphoria and joy, after 94 minutes.
But pointing fingers, screaming and gesticulating after 20 minutes. Ronald Koeman sees how badly his team started. Lethargic. Slow. Lack of communication. Wijnaldum picks up the signs from the desperate coach and receives instructions. He brings the messages to his team mate, but not much improves. In the first 20 minutes, we concede two goals, only have 40% possession and did not have a single opportunity to put Neuer to work.
Stats that do remind us of the Hiddink/Blind era. Koeman had to go for Plan B. Which was Luuk de Jong as target man and Virgil van Dijk as his partner striker.
That tactics was handed to Koeman, on a little note. “I didn’t come up with this. Apparently my assistants Kees van Wonderen and Dwight Lodeweges were talking in the first half how to force a beakthrough. They gave me this during the second half and we went for it.”
The comeback does fit the trajectory Oranje is in, under the new coach. He’s pragmatic, he can switch systems, created a good vibe between the players and he makes his own luck.
Germany starts with an aggressive tactics. Three forwards, playing close together, with two wingbacks playing high up. And one v one at the back. The four midfielders had the better of the Dutch midfield and in particular De Roon on the right hand side was constantly forced to decide: do I press high and take on Kroos or support Tete and allow Kroos space to penetrate? He did both and in in each scenario was Germany able to score. The central defenders weren’t capable to press up, as the third forward would have a free run into space. In the second half, partly due to injuries (Dilrosun and Babel), Koeman switched it with pushing Frenkie back as centre back and using a 3-4-3 to mirror Germany.
Promes scored Holland’s first from a central position. “The coach told us in the half time break, if we don’t concede anymore and score 2-1, we will go and make it 2-2. He was right.”
Promes played as Steven Bergwijn was injured (ankle) and wasn’t in the selection. Dumfries wasn’t 100% either so Koeman decided to switch the pair. Tete, considered a better defender than Dumfries, was brought in, in particular to take care of Sane. The Olympique Lyon defender had a bad night as Sane showed Low why he always needs to play.
The Man City player demonstrated his quality with the 2-0, when he slipped away from De Ligt and got a lucky deflection to score 2-0. Holland really didn’t have a lot to say. The only opportunity we had, was a header by Sule on a Blind cross, which cleared the bar.
In the second half, Germany kept on going where they left off. Wijnaldum played an invisible match and was subbed for the energetic Vilhena. Holland started to play a bit more ballsy and with Luuk de Jong for the unfortunate Dilrosun, there was a swagger coming into the team. The Frenkie de Jong block tackle on Sane’s attempt, followed by an excellent shot by Memphis on the German goal gave us a snippet of what was to come. In the 86th minute , Holland was patiently trying to find an opening when Luuk de Jong laid off to De Roon who passed into Promes. The Sevilla man used the body of Hummels as a shield to curve the ball into the corner: 2-1.
The final minutes were electric. Koeman pushed Van Dijk forward next to De Jong and it was the energy and belief of Vilhena, who played well as a sub, which kept the ball alive. He took it off Kroos’ foot, dribbled close to the corner flag to whip it in with his powerful left. Kimmich got a nothing header flick on the ball, making it a tad harder for Virgil, but like Marco van Basten, he volleyed the ball brilliantly out of reach of Neuer: 2-2.
And so: Holland wins this Group 1, and will go to Portugal next summer, with Portugal, England and Switzerland.
Not a fantastic performance, but an exhilarating battle all the same. Van Dijk was the hero, but we did see more good performances. I thought Blind was important, with his composure on the ball and his experience in the final minutes of the game. Frenkie didn’t shine as per usual, but again demonstrated guile and elegance. De Roon for me was one of the key man in the team. Totally understandable why he’s on the pitch, but I do think he’ll have to battle for a spot with Davy Propper.
Promes, Memphis, Babel, they were ok. Worked for the team, were threatening. Wijnaldum and Tete appeared to have a bit of an off day, while Vilhena and Luuk de Jong both had a great turn in the team, lifting the energy and belief.
Add Dilrosun, Danjuma, Van de Beek, Rosario, Bergwijn, De Vrij, Ake, Janmaat, Van Aanholt, Propper, Klaassen, Berghuis, Kluivert and there is quite a solid squad in the making.
We can have closure this year, knowing that despite missing the World Cup, Dutch football is back at the top. We have it all to play for with a very young and talented team and a pragmatic coach who taught us what winning is again. And who made us remember how fun it is, to win.
Now lets win that Nations League next year, as the money the KNVB makes at that tournament can be put to good use, to help clubs with artificial pitches in Holland to throw these out and go back to grass again. How it is supposed to be.