You know you did something right when even national team manager Ronald Koeman says that it was an exceptional performance. I think it’s fair to say Holland played one of the best games in many years.
It clicked. It’s all working out. The mix of experience and youthful exuberance, the seasoned and shrewd Babel, the focused Cillesen, mercurial Memphis, disciplined Blind and the ridiculously talented De Jong and De Ligt… Working under a no-nonsense pragmatic coach as Ronald Koeman with warrior Van Dijk as his lieutenant… Simply perfection.
If it wasn’t for Lloris, we could have won 5-0. And how good is it, to not only beat France, but to also have Germany relegated at the same time… Ah, the sweet smell of revenge.
Koeman was quite cautious after the 3-0 beating of Germany. “It was good but not the whole game. We had good spells and lesser spells. We are improving but I want to see more of the good and less of the not-so-good.” This time, after becoming the first nation to beat the newly crowned Champions of the World, he couldn’t hide his enthusiasm and praised his team. “I can not fault them on anything. We played a perfect game and every single player was playing great. I am very happy and proud and we have definitely turned a corner. We can develop into a great team with a bright future.”
Koeman can indeed be proud of what the team achieved:
- We are the reason Germany got relegated
- Oranje will stay in this Division A
- Oranje is certain of being in Pot 1 for Euro qualifiers
- Oranje is the first team to beat World Champions France
- A big jump in the FIFA ranking
- A draw vs Germany means Holland will be in the Nations League
- The end of a series of defeats vs France
The win in Rotterdam means it’s the 15th game in a row won in De Kuip. In the last 15 matches played in the Johan Cruyff Arena, Oranje lost 7 matches. In 2018, Memphis was involved in half of all the goals Oranje scored. Including his stats for Lyon, Depay was involved in 41 goals (23 scored, 18 assisted) in 52 matches.
Hugo Lloris needed 9 saves against Holland, the highest level of saves for France since 2008.
The Dutch media praised the performance. The terms “magnificent” and “reborn” and “master class” were used to describe what Holland achieved. “As if Oranje drank from the well of confidence. But apart from the execution, this team also oozes warmth and sympathy. This is a team with class, who bonded as friends, this is finally a real team. This might well be the biggest difference compared to the post 2014 Oranje teams we saw being humiliated. It was balanced, disciplined, focused, but also with balls. And France? They played like Iceland plays. But without the passion. The World Champs didn’t dazzle us with quality in Russia and has further slipped into apathy.”
De Telegraaf mentions the only weak point of Oranje: “They could and should have scored more. This is something to work on. Otherwise the victory was sensational. With a world class performance by Memphis. Everytime Depay was played in, the French panicked. He had continuously two markers close to him, but it didn’t stop him.” The normally modest and puritan Trouw wrote that Koeman has transformed a weak performing collective of players into a team, playing with their brains, their qualities and with passion and purpose. “This was a good night in the natural home of Oranje: De Kuip.”
De Volkskrant: “And coming Tuesday, Holland can beat Germany again and win this Group. Who would have predicted this 3 months ago? Not only did we beat and relegate Germany, we also beat the world champions with a last second Panenka by Memphis.”
The international media picked up on the performance as well. The French papers speak of a the ruthless Orange Lion tearing the French cock to pieces. The French federation president admitted that France had deservedly been beaten by a better opponent. “Holland was better on every level this time around. Pure class.”
Skysports: “A rampant Holland didn’t give France a chance, with man of the match performances by Frenkie de Jong, Memphis Depay and Denzel Dumfries.”
Marca in Spain: “In the Dutch football temple, Holland hadn’t lost for 15 matches and this 16th match was a victory as well. No one took notice of Holland anymore, but there are some young tulips coming up and they shine more bright than ever. Holland played France completely drunk.”
El Mundo Deportivo was focused on Frenkie de Jong: “De Jong is a modern playmaker, he can dribble, he can pass and is always on the move. Uncharacteristically for a playmaker, he is also happy to tackle and put in a shift for the team.”
France coach Deschamps was quite clear: “We didn’t have any claim on anything today. We were deservedly beaten by a better Holland, It’s not an excuse that we missed players. We should have competed more, even with the players who were fit to play. Holland simply wanted it more.”
So how did we do it?
Koeman found a way for Oranje to dominate, without committing too many players forward allowing the French to counter attack. Deschamps will have thought: Holland at home, they want to win, they want to attack and we’ll pick ‘m off.
The French trap usually consists of 3 controlling midfielders, 2 fast wide forwards (Mbappe, Griezmann) and a strong target man upfront (Giroud). Not unlike PSV’s tactics.
Koeman’s preparation was all about the balance between having enough players around the ball to control the game, while having enough players back to stop the counter. In his pre-match talk he told the players this will probably be “the most difficult match, so far!”.
The French set up. Four defenders, a bank of 3 controlling midfielders, Mbappe and Griezmann in front of these guys and Giroud up top
Koeman’s mantra: always have three players in the last line of defence. The build up will be done by Blind, De Roon, De Jong, Van Dijk or De Ligt. Out of these 5, there always needs to be 3 together at the back. Denzel Dumfries strength is all about bombing forward on the flank, allowing Bergwijn to come inside to assist either Memphis or the midfield.
Babel on the left would remain on the flank, as Blind is less of a forward bulldozering full back, but whenever Blind would move forward, and he would do so with gusto at times, Babel would also move inside, to stop their counter should we lose possession.
Even if only Giroud was up front, with Mbappe and Griezmann tucking back in to support midfield, Oranje would never play naive and keep 3 players with Giroud to protect the space.
On our own half, always three man behind the ball. This time with Frenkie as the first build up go-to guy.
Once Oranje brings the ball well into the French half, would be the moment when Holland would allow two defenders with Giroud but keep two controlling mids close to the centre backs (usually De Roon and De Jong, with Wijnaldum further forward).
This time, it’s De Roon as the third “central defender” with De Jong roaming in between the lines.
This way, the Dutch would crowd the midfield enough to stop counters from happening, while the tactical smarts of De Roon and De Jong would protect the space.
Before the half time break, this tactics did results in a chess match, a tactical game of sorts, less entertaining than the Dutch usually like it. With Koeman, it’s results before entertainment.
After Holland scored, Deschamps makes some changes to go from the 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 and it’s then when Oranje is capable of playing in between their lines and create havoc.
This time, Blind also drops deep to offer an option, as he realises De Roon could dribble into midfield. Notice Dumfries positioning higher up the park.
Once Oranje loses possession they pressure high to win the ball back and if that fails, Babel and Bergwijn – the oldest Soldier of Orange and one of the youngest ones – fall back into a wide full back role to guard the space. Highly disciplined and tactically astute. A good example of how far Dutch football has gone. Babel resurrected his career with aplomb and Bergwijn is already playing at an astonishing mature level.
An early chance! Notice how 5 Oranje players are in front of the ball, with only Van Dijk and De Ligt in defence, and De Jong and de Roon protecting those two. Blind is moving into the French half. This is where Koeman allowed the Dutch to take risks.
Ronald Koeman deserves praise for ending the naivety that so characterised Dutch football recently. He knows, that in today’s game, it’s the turn around that is key. It’s loss of possession, individual errors and dead ball situations that will be key. And this match also showed that playing with patience, with tactical discipline and organisation can lead to an entertaining match.
A great view on Oranje’s movement when losing possession. Both full backs (Blind and Dumfries) came inside to put pressure on the French axis (with Blind challenging for the ball. Babel is playing left full back, while our centre backs go into position to sniff out the forward pass.