Koeman’s new Oranje had a bland loss against England, an aggressive win against Portugal and now a tw0-faced draw against Slovakia.
Koeman will stick to his 5-3-2, with good reasons, and said before the two friendlies he wanted to use all the players, see them all in action.
He played a line up that I don’t think we’ll ever see again… A midfield of Propper, Van de Beek and Strootman doesn’t seem to work (which I thought already before the match), in particular if Propper is playing the defensive mid role.
Anyway, I don’t think it matter who played where.
The team didn’t function in the first half. The tasks were made clear, we can be sure of that. But the execution was not great. To say the least.
Quite simple, the aggression wasn’t there. The front-foot forward pressing lacked. The team was too stretched with the back 3 too deep and the two forwards too high, resulting in a too big a stretch of pitch to control for Van der Beek, Strootman and Propper. The latter would be stick with his backline, while early in the game Kevin Strootman wanted to push up and Van de Beek as a result drowning against Slovakia’s main man Hamsik.
As a result, we could never put pressure on the ball, we allowed the opponent all the time on the ball and they can surely play ball if they get time and space.
And on top of that, the team wasn’t helped too well with about 5 early deep forward passes simply not reaching the forwards, resulting in early loss of possession. “That is not how you get to play football,” is what Koeman would say about that, after the game.
And when individual players (De Vrij, Blind) lose focus as well, it gets hard to win games.
Nemeth was supposed to be De Vrij’s man (the Slovakia is tall and strong in the air) but he smartly escaped from the new Inter signing and looked for the smaller Daley Blind.
The latter didn’t pick the striker up quick enough, some coordination issues with the former Feyenoord centre back, and as a result Blind was too late and went into the aerial duel half-assed. The header was perfect. Zoet was without a hope: 1-0.
Slowly in the first half, Oranje started to become stronger with the ball circulation pace going up and the forwards Promes and Memphis making threatening runs.
It did result in chances (Van de Beek, free-kick Memphis, curler by Van Aanholt) but it would take till the second half for Koeman to see his style of football being played.
The NT coach took Van de Beek off and brought Ruud Vormer for his debut. The 30 year old Brugge playmaker did what Koeman wanted and somehow the message got through to the rest of the team.
Sad for Van de Beek who was excellent against Portugal, like Propper. That is football.
Koeman: “I wasn’t yelling or overly angry at half time. Just disappointed and I told them this. We needed to go back to the key tasks as we discussed them before the game and just do it.”
In the second half, the Oranje team pressed more aggressively, played more compact and in particular Propper played higher up the park, pulling the defence along.
A good move resulted in Promes’ equaliser – forward pass De Ligt, Memphis in between the lines, good dummy run Van Aanholt and good shot Promes). It seemed Slovakia was getting tired and Oranje should have scored at least two more.
There were chances alright! Vormer saw a ball flicked off the line, another 100% chance was hit straight at the goalie. Memphis had some chances, even Daley Blind partook in it, with a chance to make amends for his error.
Oranje had Slovakia in a tight grip in the second half, but as we lost the first half 1-0, we won the second with 0-1. Really, we should have put this game to rest.
Koeman: “I am not really too disappointed now. I saw a response in the second half. I also saw that the eleven on the pitch in the first half couldn’t fix it. That is useful information. I expected them to pick it up and I do hope they have learned from this experience. This is why we play friendlies. The first half: a lesson how we don’t want it to go!”
Ruud Vormer was the bright light in this friendly. The midfielder started his career under Van Gaal at AZ as a defensive mid. Aggressive but also a good passer. His only weakness, his lack of pace. He played here and there before going to Club Brugge. Feyenoord was his biggest club in Holland – under Koeman – but he was never able to push Clasie out of the team and left.
At Brugge, they put him on the creative playmaker spot and he never looked back.
Vormer: “What a season. We won the title, I got the golden boot and now this debut! But, I should have scored. I’m not a striker of course, but this ball should have gone in.” Sander Boschker is the oldest player ever to debut for Oranje, with 39 years old. The last 30-something player to make his debut was Ruben Schaken in 2012. It does seem Vormer can prepare to play some more in the orange jersey.
With Sneijder, De Jong, Van der Vaart, Van Persie all out of the picture, it’s good to have a more mature player in the squad. The balance in age needs to be there (Nigel de Jong said recently that he felt Hiddink let the older players go too early after 2014) and Vormer might well bring that.
All in all, not a great Oranje display but lots to hang on to. With Van Dijk coming into the squad, most likely a starting spot for Cillesen, we should be relatively solid, moving into the future. I also count Frenkie de Jong as a potential starter once he’s fit.
For Italy, we can expect a totally different line up. Most likely Vormer to start, with Wijnaldum in midfield. Babel in place of Promes. I do expect Memphis to start.
Van Dijk to replace Blind, Ake to replace Van Aanholt? Hateboer for Janmaat, definitely Cillesen of course. I guess we’ll see Vilhena, potentially Kongolo. Probably De Roon in the defensive mid role.
It’s all fun and games for now, the real deal is still a bit away.