It’s a weird game, that football! France played us off the pitch with dazzling football and got 4 past us. Next, versus minions Luxembourg they can’t score any of their chances.
It probably won’t matter. As our statisticians on the blog have demonstrated: it will be a huge challenge to do what Oranje needs to do: win and win big!
But there were two typical off-pitch issues that are illustrative for the state we are in.
First of: Goal Difference:
After the France game, the highly popular (but very populist) football program Voetbal Inside broke the news that the players of Oranje were not aware of the importance of goal-difference when losing in Paris to France. With 10 mins on the clock, it was 2-0. We should have been able to keep it at 2-o. Instead we conceded two more counter goals and our goal difference difference (is this English) deteriorated, while Sweden pumped theirs up last night.
If this is true (the players not aware), you can see immediately what our problem is. You’d expect the ample staff at the KNVB to whisper this into Advocaat’s ear. You’d expect Advocaat to respond with: “I know!”. And you’d expect Dick to inform the players before the match: “If we can win it, we will try and win it. But if we are losing, we need to make sure the margin stays limited. Because goal difference…” and then the full Oranje squad yelling at him: “Stop talking. We KNOW!”
But apparently they didn’t. Sums up the KNVB/Oranje situation in one hit.
Secondly: assistant coach filming in dressing room and posting it online:
Right after the game, Twitter shows a video clip of the Oranje squad post-match in the dressing room. The TV journalist shows the clip to Dick, who explodes. “This shouldn’t be online! We shouldn’t have anyone with cameras in the dressing room! How is this possible?” The tv guy said: “Eh, your assistant Ruud Gullit filmed it and posted it on Twitter!”. Dick: “Really? Wow… That is not what I need. I will have a stern conversation with Gullit about this!”
Pretty silly eh?
Against Bulgaria, we should have scored 5, based on the game. And not concede one single goal.
With all the positives we can rant about here (Blind, Vilhena, Propper, De Vrij), this really puts us further back. We now have to make up for 6 goals, while Sweden has to face Luxembourg still.
We’re in a dire situation people and it’s fricking sad!
Our line up against Bulgaria was a reasonable logical one. Sneijder is deemed not fit enough. Propper has exquisite technique, is a dynamic runner with the ball, all intelligence and can score. He doesn’t / didn’t show it enough last season at PSV and with Brighton, he might never be able to. But he played a perfect game vs Bulgaria. Vilhena showed himself vs France and deserved to be in the team.
But with Janssen and Robben and Hoedt lacking rhythm, we still were vulnerable, going into the game.
Scoring in the first five minutes was exactly what the doctor ordered. And should have pushed the team for more and increased the confidence. But we didn’t create enough in the remainder of the first half.
Even worse, we seemed to be lacking in ideas. Propper had some attempts to create an attack and Blind was industrious on the left, but players like Tete, Wijnaldum, Janssen and even Robben were not able to bring any flow to their game.
I think Wijnaldum had 5 stray passes/touches in the first 20 minutes alone. Tete seemed out of sorts. His tackle timing was off, his passing was sloppy and his forward runs started properly late in the first half.
Part of what Janssen did was good. He works hard. Check. He is a nuisance. Check. He fights for every yard and wants to be important. Check. But he also demonstrated a total lack of rhythm. He miscued his shots on goal (with his solid left). He needed many fouls to stay in the game. He complained and whined to the ref constantly. And off-side needs to be explained properly to him. At times it felt like every time he’d get the ball, he would find a way to strike at goal, even with options around him and even if it’s from 35 meters out. A typical striker who lacks confidence and rhythm and feels he needs to prove to the world he can still play.
Oranje won, but played sluggish. Stray passes, square passes, lack of movement (again) and lack of team understanding. All logical, if you consider the selection issues Danny Blind and now Advocaat have had. But it doesn’t bode well for flowing football and the creation of opportunities.
In the second half, Arjen Robben joined the Vincent Janssen-Lets-Try-and-Score-From-Every-Angle club and he was keen to force the issues personally. He got his goal and would give a sour post match interview, criticizing the team for not working harder to create more opportunities.
The goal Bulgaria scored from the set piece… Really?
Some positives… Promes was lively. Worked hard. Tried again and again on the flank. Seemed to have arguments with the ball at times, but probably due to trying too hard. His interplay with Janssen and Blind was pretty good though. Davy Propper impressed me again. His runs into space (two goals as a result), his first touch, this lad can really play and deserves a better team around him. Vilhena was industrious as ever. Without the ball, a key player. Lung, legs and drive. And make no mistake: he can play too. But he’s a bit young still and maybe a bit too hurried at times. But he has good technique and a thunderous long distance strike. He could well be our Kante moving forward.
Man of the Match, hands down for me, was Daley Blind. And despite his shortcomings, he will be a key player for Oranje moving forward for me. He made two goals. Like he did vs Spain at the WC2014.
The Ajax prodigal son has had a difficult start to his career. He was touted as the next big thing from an early age, coming through the Ajax Academy. Expectations were such, that when he made it into Ajax 1, the fans turned against him, as he does tend to play without any Ajax flair. No dribbles, no speed, no goals, no trickery. Just solid passing and positioning. He almost lost his spot at Ajax and was booed when Van Gaal selected him for the National Team. Up until the Spain opener in Brazil, people doubted him. After that match, he was a household name globally.
He went from strength to strength. At Man United, for 3 seasons he was one of the key players Van Gaal and Mourinho relied upon. This season, despite the question marks, he started every EPL game for the Mancunians.
At left back, the allrounder actually turned out to be Oranje’s playmaker. At. Left. Back!
His passing is forward whenever he can. Under pressure, without any time, he finds the right pass. His technique is exquisite but functional. No frills. And his left foot keeps on developing really well. Crosses, corner kicks. Mr Reliable.
What Blind does at the left, you’d want someone to do on the right (Tete? Veltman? Karsdorp?) and someone to do in the centre of the pitch. In the good old days, we have players who could pick the pass. Jansen, Van Hanegem, Cruyff, Krol, Rensenbrink, Haan in 1974. Muhren, Koeman, Vanenburg, Rijkaard, Wouters, Erwin Koeman in 1988. Davids, Seedorf, Ronald de Boer, Cocu, Frank de Boer in 1998. Sneijder, Gio van Bronckhorst, Van der Vaart, Van Bommel, Van Persie in 2010.
Going forward, whether it matters for this coming World Cup or not, I believe we need to work with a 4-1-4-1 system.
And I would consider Robben as the striker in some cases.
And in that system, I’d like to see a solid left back playing left back. Patrick van Aanholt, Jetro Willems or Erik Pieters. Players with body, defensive strength and good forward runs and crosses. Beats me why Pieters is constantly overlooked.
And I’d play Daley Blind in the Pirlo role. The 1 before defense. Not because of his defensive prowess, but because we need his vision and passing to come from the central position. With 4 midfielders like Klaassen/Vilhena/Wijnaldum/Fer/Van de Beek/Van Ginkel/Promes/Memphis we should have enough cocktails of running, passing, dribbling and speed.
The line up would change based on the availability and form of the players and the upcoming opponent.
But at this stage, the best build up player / playmaker we have today, is Daley Blind.
Advocaat (or his successor) will have to find a way to use the key strengths of his players to gel a system together which works best.
A last point: people seem to think that we need to play Total Football and attack like we used to “because the supporters demand this”. This is nonsense. Ask the supporters with match of the last 10 years is their favorite one and they will probably (80%+) will say: “Spain – Holland, WC 2014”. Case closed.