Louis van Gaal was always headstrong. And with that mentality he is working on his plan. A new Dutch team, going for gold next year at the World Cup. The coach had already told everyone who listened: Holland’s youth has the future.
Against the losing finalist of the last EC, Van Gaal picked the youngest team since 99 years. The average age being only 22 years and 361 days. Seven of the players starting against Italy are still eligible to go to the EC Israel this summer with Young Oranje.
And Oranje played fresh and gutsy football against Italy and scored the first goal via Lens. The lads forgot to score more goals and conceded a late goal, ending it in 1-1.
LVG was slightly disappointed in that equaliser but still walked through the Arena with his chest out. Eight players in his starting eleven are Eredivisie players and his team was better than a team full of Serie A stars. This gave him hope for the months to come.
The next qualification games are against Estonia and Romania and winning those two games will make all the difference in the quest to World Cup gold. “Again, I will pick the best players of the moment. Big names, small names… all the same to me.”
Bert van Marwijk held on to familiar faces and created consistency and stability. Van Gaal rewards players who develop well and play regularly. Less stringent. Only in the last months before the World Cup will he work on a fixed line up.
In the coming weeks, LVG will visit Sneijder, Stekelenburg and other experienced names. When players like Van der Vaart and Heitinga perform well, Van Gaal is happy to select them again. But they will do their utmost to get to that point. Reputations do not count.
Van Gaal: “We played well as a team. We played attractive and offensive and created chances. Sadly, we could convert them all and conceding late was a bummer. We simply didn’t respond well to them changing their system.”
Van Persie played like a captain (even if Strootman was wearing the band) and resembled a traffic agent, sometime around the 22nd minute of the first half. He’s waiting with the ball under his foot. Right back Janmaat comes storming on the flank and Van Persie shows him the way to run. In doing so, Janmaat takes along one of Van Persie’s opponents. He creates space for himself and instead of passing to the Feyenoord back, RVP takes on the other opponent. And passes the ball to playmaker Maher in the center of the pitch.
Kit sponsor Nike lauched the new away kit for Oranje with the slogan “the New Masters” but it’s Van Persie who bridges old and new against Italy.
If the inexperienced pups of Van Gaal are the new masters, then RVP is the Grand Master in this Dutch team. Not because he acts the dominant leader ( he doesn’t) but because of the total control in his game.
The combinations with Maher are clearly visible, as a fine combination of old and new. The AZ midfielder has instinctive feeling for space and time. Wherever the Man United star drifts off, the young playmaker arrives and vice versa. This results in a goal twice, almost. Van Persie seems to have a similar click with Maher as he has with Ibi Afellay.
Maher is constantly available and he has the legs to bridge between attack and defense in the turnaround. This is where he has added value over more static players like Sneijder and Van der Vaart. The playmaker spot is now broken open. For years, Sneijder and Van der Vaart monopolised it. That time is over.
This gives us a sunny perspective on our way to Brazil. How 19 year old Maher remained on his feet between Italian stars like De Rossi and Pirlo.
A week ago, his coveted transfer to PSV didn’t happen. But in nothing could we see any disappointment. In the second half, Maher is part of every attack of Oranje. The only disappointment for him, is that he wasn’t able to score a goal.
Stefan de Vrij is another name that played a remarkable game. The 21 year old concluded after the game that there are many different strikers in football. Last weekend he played against Willem II’s Joachim. This midweek, he played Balotelli. Super striker and mad genius. “On this level, strikers are so much better. Stronger, faster and they move differently.”
He came on as a sub twice and now finally had his starting berth. He played against renowned names as Balotelli, Gilardino and El Shaarawy but never really got in trouble until the late equaliser. “I think we didn’t do too shabby with this inexperienced line up, we can be satisfied.”
Coach Louis van Gaal was clear in his instructions to De Vrij and Martins Indi. “He told us to defend as we normally do, but he also instructed us to be adventurous in possession. Push forward, keep the pitch tight. We needed to play with space behind us, which is pretty daunting. Balotelli is strong and fast and Pirlo knows how to play a ball in….”
De Vrij was not surprised that they did so well. “No, not really. We know what we can do. We are confident players. This game was a test for us, sure, but we knew we could show the coach and the fans what we are capable of. When Italy switched to 4-2-4 we got in trouble a bit. They pushed up while our front four wanted to score the second goal. It was pretty obvious that one of us would score. Either we’d win it 2-0 or they’d come back to 1-1. But the overall feeling is a bit down with that equaliser. It’s always shit to concede in the last minute.”
The two center backs seem to be the central duo for Oranje’s future. Something Ronald Koeman doesn’t seem to see, as he still pushed Martins Indi to the left back spot and uses Mathijsen centrally, next to De Vrij. “Van Gaal has different options as left back, so he can do other things. I know Bruno since my 13th… We play together for a while. We know who to play together and compensate each other’s weaknesses. But I can play well with Joris Mathijsen too. Ronald Koeman has options and either way, I’m cool with it.”