The Dutch overly cricital analysts said it before the game: “If we really need to lose sleep over an away game against Latvia, than we have sunk really deep…”. And obviously they are correct… Holland needs to play all finals now, to secure enough points to reach the Euros. For the current #3 in the World, that is actually quite disappointing.
But, at least we are still in it. Guus could breath relaxed after the game, as I am 100% convinced he would have been fired with any other result.
The team did what it had to do. Put pressure on. Create opportunities. Win. The Latvians played pretty solid actually. Their positioning was excellent and their will and desire was present too. Paired with a Dutch team as opponent which wasn’t able to fire on all cylinders. Depay on the left was very active and involved in the first half, as was Wesley Sneijder. But Luciano Narsingh and Klaas Jan Huntelaar, in contrast, were sub par. Huntelaar did not get an inch in the box and didn’t get good service while Narsingh simply seems to lack form (or quality). He is particularly strong when he can explore space and against Latvia away, obviously there is not a lot of space to be found. This is where Promes or even Berghuis would have been a better option.
The pairing of Sneijder and Blind in a 4-2-4 set up worked fairly well although Clasie with his fast passing and vision would have added a dimension to the game, I’m sure. Depay could have scored a couple in the first half (should have even?) and that would have opened the door to a strong victory for sure. But lack of sharpness, and a good goalie prevented a bigger loss for Latvia.
It was one moment of briliance from sub Wijnaldum that sealed the fate of the Latvians. A good turn, a Kluivert style toe poke and Oranje was 0-1 up. Another good moment of Blind finding space (!) for Narsingh and the winger did the only thing right in his game. Hopefully the goal will help him shrug off his burden. Interestingly enough, Narsingh jumped into the arms of his rival Promes while Wijnaldum sought assistant coach Van Nistelrooy who had instructed Wijnaldum where to look for space and how to time his run. Van Nistelrooy had told the PSV midfielder that he would be the one scoring the crucial goal. Four minutes later, he did.
And so Oranje did what it had to do.
Having said that, the 67 year ol sly fox will probably make way for Danny Blind, this summer already.
Lucky Gus seems to have lost his touch. There are grave concerns within the KNVB while the players also shared their confusions in small circles about some of his decisions and communications.
Now, I think Guus deserves a respectful farewell as I don’t think there is more work for him after this. And he has had a sensational career. Quite good as a playmaker but not good enough for the big guns. He played for PSV for 1 season but preferred to be a big fish in a little pond. He coaches PSV to the European top and since that feat he has done really well for himself, coaching all over the world, with a mixed bag of success.
The team manager’s stint for Oranje from 1994 to 1998 was a highlight for sure. Rising like a Phoenix to the semi finals in France after the 1996 ashes with Davids as co-star.
But this time around, Guus thought he could do it half-arsed. He figured that with 1) the top 3 progressing to the Euros and 2) a mix of talent and experience he would be able to bring the Dutch School back into existence while winging it a bit. Well, he made a mistake. For starters: the World Cup as per usual left a negative inheritance for Oranje’s Euro qualifications’ start. This seems to happen always. Players are either tired (the young ones), overly extended (the older ones) or maybe a bit complacent (the rest).
So a series of mistakes, lack of desire and absence of big star names resulted in a horrific start of the series and all through this first year, Hiddink was vague and somewhat mentally absent during press conferences. Deer in the headlights comes to mind. He wasn’t consistent and his communication was questionable. After the second loss against Iceland, the KNVB general manager immediately pulled the power card which probably didn’t help in the relationship department with Guus who normally would refuse to deal with minions like Oostveen.
And if you are in a rut, things don’t go your way. The many missed opportunities against the Czechs and Iceland, the Janmaat mistake, the defensive uncertainties, the Robben injury, it all seemed to be a logical result of the Law of Attraction.
He is not longer the fearless leader. Her accepted too much and was too weak in his communications and directions. He has been changing and shifting players. De Jong in center midfield… Two months ago, he called him “my captain in midfield” and now De Jong wasn’t even needed. Clasie gets the nod. But suddenly Clasie is sacrificed for Blind. Van Persie and Huntelaar cannot play together against strong opponents. Fine. But which of the two will need to go? I think Huntelaar will know that it will most likely be him. So the Schalke striker is playing less for the team but more for himself. Janmaat in, Van der Wiel out. Van der Wiel in, Janmaat out. When the US came to play a friendly, Hiddink said quite resolutely he wouldn’t play Sneijder (who just arrived from Turkey) but the little playmaker wants to break van der Sar’s record and convinced Hiddink to allow him to come on as a sub. Or the game against Mexico. Hiddink had said Robben would be used only for half the game. But Robben enjoyed himself and decided to stay on the pitch. These are all not too smart things to do for a coach.
Obviously, there is no guarantee that Danny Blind will fix this all. But at least the players highly respect him for his craftmanship. And it seemed in the run up to the Latvia game that this decision was already made. The 53 year old ex Ajax coach was coaching dominantly at the practice sessions while Hiddink kept his distance. During the game, Blind also made a passionate and driven impression, coaching actively, while during the first matches, he sat next to Hiddink, somewhat apathically. But it is his big ambition to coach this team, and he decided to not join Van Gaal at Man United after the World Cup for this reason.
Despite the lack of satisfaction concerning Hiddink’s performance, the KNVB will most likely not sack the seasoned coach. The former Real Madrid coach will probably step into a mentoring role or advising role which will lead to Blind taking the reigns and most likely a new assistant coach being added to the mix at Oranje.
And while Hiddink immediately went on holidays, Blind and the KNVB will get together to find a modus to give the former success coach the ending he deserves. It will be a busy summer in Zeist, but also for a lot of the Oranje internationals. Some of whom are not yet certain where their next home will be. Depay is home and hosed at Man United. Huntelaar will remain at Schalke 04. Usually, Janmaat, De Vrij, Martins Indi and Blind will not move away (although De Vrij might be snatched up as he had a tremendous year with Lazio). But Jetro Willems has signalled he is ready for a next step. “If a good club in a big competition comes, I might be tempted.” There is rumour that Paris St Germain might be that club.
Van der Wiel is most likely on his way to AC Milan. The Italian behemoth is looking at re-establishing themselves and hope to get Zlatan back to the fashion capital. Jordy Clasie is ready to move away from Feyenoord and both AS Roma and Southampton seem to be the most likely candidates for him. Sneijder has a solid contract in Istanbul, where he makes 6 Mio euros per season and lives like a movie star in a penthouse overlooking the Bosporus. He will play CL next season and any board member at Galatasaray suggesting to sell the midfielder might want to hire some bodyguards. But… it’s football. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is tempted to play in the EPL for once. Liverpool could be a candidate. Wijnaldum is another player whose name is on many scouting lists. He had a good World Cup and this last goal will definitely help his status. I think Narsingh will be happy to stay at PSV, but Promes and Lens are both in demand. Lens would love to join Advocaat at Sunderland while Promes might have different clubs to choose from. Robin van Persie is a question mark. The 31 year old is probably too old to make a big transfer although AC Milan and Juventus are mentioned through the grapevine as well. In an interview recently he said that his family’s needs will be very important in his next step. And from more recent quips it seems that the Man United striker might stay at Old Trafford and battle for his position.
Steven Berghuis is almost certainly on his way from AZ to PSV which might bring more pressure on Narsingh, as Jozefzoon is also an option for Phillip Cocu on the right flank. Leroy Fer got relegated with QPR but is too expensive for the Championship and might be on his way, finally, to Everton. Karim Rekik might either be loaned by Man City to a club in France or Italy or he will be sold to PSV. Ron Vlaar is at the point in his career that any offer from a big club will be appreciated… The veteran defender is injury prone and will not yield a return from an onsell, so it is questionable whether a big name club will actually come for him. This is different for Virgil van Dijk at Celtic who actually has the clubs to pick from. Sunderland, Arsenal, Southampton… which ever it will be, it seems Van Dijk will play EPL football next season and will aim for a spot in the orange jersey.
Lastly, it seems the keepers carrousel will commence soon too, with De Gea moving to Real Madrid and Cillesen being touted as a potential successor. Interestingly enough, people close to Van Gaal say it is a nonsense story.
Sorry guys I could not find a decent video of highlights….