Sluggish Oranje win over African champs

After the WC draw, people felt this was going to be easy. Even last week, some football pundits felt Senegal would be a walk-over. A bit arrogant maybe? I don’t think the players and coaches felt the same.

Senegal – even sans Mane – is a strong nation. This is the champion of Africa. This is not Equador or Greece or Finland. This is a team full of top players, who make their living in England, France or Italy.

Add to that the stress of playing your first World Cup match and it’s not without reason that Oranje didn’t play amazingly well. I even think it is better to grow into the tournament, then it is to start phenomenally well. I remember 2008 and 2006, two times we were in the Group of Death, only to be eliminated in the first knock-out stages.

There are many aspects we can complain about. Is Janssen the ideal replacement for Memphis, over – say – Danjuma? Is the choice for De Ligt over Timber the right one? Should Berghuis play next to Frenkie or Koopmeiners?

I think we’ll see changes in the course of the tournament, but for now I think Van Gaal’s choices are reasonable.

De Ligt was put in the team to counter the height threat of Senegal. They do have quite a number of strong, tall headers of the ball. This is why De Ligt was in the team and on that aspect, he delivered.

But he was quite weak in other situations. Too physical and weak in build up too. He seems to think that defending means wrestling, while Nathan Ake demonstrated that you can defend in a different way. Patient, on your feet, focus on the ball and keep it simple. Ake was one of the best last night, I believe. I expect Timber back in the team soon.

De Ligt plays more on the left side of the centre for Bayern and was pushed in a right back role vs Senegal in Van Gaal’s set up. Not a role he really is comfortable in.

Noppert is another surprise starter of course and we can only guess why Van Gaal and Hoek selected him as the #1 goalie. It seemed very risky, but Noppert did well. He stopped a couple of shots you expect him to stop and had one great save, low in the corner in the 85th minute. His build up play with his feet was risky in the first half, giving the ball away eventually, but his long kick in the 98th minute did allow three subs to combine for the 2-0. Headed on by Koopmeiners, run and shot by Memphis and typically, Klaassen who made the run to help out and pick up the pieces for 2-0.

Would any other midfielder have made that run? Taylor? Berghuis? Koopmeiners? I wonder.

Overall, no one stood out. Frenkie played a good first half, but was wasteful in the second half, trying to keep on playing like he does at Barca, but Senegal had a good tactical solution constantly closing the space with two players whenever Frenkie started to make a run.

Frenkie would be instrumental in the 1-0 of course, with a very “sensitive” cross with his right, offering Gakpo a goal. Normally, it’s Gakpo crossing the ball like this to Luuk de Jong, at PSV.

But Frenkie, despite his loss of possession, intended to play like he normally does. This can not be said of Bergwijn and Van Dijk, particularly. Bergwijn seems to be out of form and Van Dijk’s long passing and build up play was meagre, to say the least. He can be of more importance.

Janssen was not overly great but had some great touches. He was the one to flick Gakpo into the box in the first half, allowing a square pass which Bergwijn could have finished if the pass was better.

There was some more of these Janssen lay-offs, one that allowed Berghuis a shot on goal, which sailed over the bar.

Berghuis played a more controlling role and did well off the ball. He did have some good moves and passes, one was a potential assist on Frenkie, who for some reason didn’t want to finish on goal, but wanted to chop the ball to his right foot. Wasteful. But we do want more from Berghuis.

Daley Blind played ok. No big issues to report. He played with discipline and helped out in attack and he had a role to play in the 1-0, keeping the field wide and offering a option to Memphis and Frenkie, before he assisted the first goal.

Denzel Dumfries too played his usual game. Marauding runs, tough in the duels but his delivery again was left wanting. He had too many crossing options that ended up as waste, at one time hitting the defender in front of him. He will always be good value in the team, but his pure football skills are limited and I think Frimpong might eclipse him in the years to come.

Virgil was solid in defence, but as mentioned: I want him to be more regal in the build up. I see Virgil, I see Beckenbauer, but only in charisma. Not yet in his playing style. I want to see him up the level a bit.

Gakpo was important for the team and has some excellent moves, but there were too many stages in the game where he was invisible. He needs to be more dominant in the #10 role. That is the difference with his role at PSV from the wing. As a #10 you need to demand the ball and find the spots and spaces. The fact he only had 7 passes in the first half tells you the story. Great goal for him of course, but needs to up his game. When Memphis came on, Gakpo played from the right and made a crucial run into the box, when he noticed Dumfries and Klaassen were the focus of the defenders and he was the free man.

Because Senegal used two defending mids, Gakpo couldn’t be found in the centre of the park so he decided to look for space on the wings.

The main story should also be the subs. Koopmeiners made a statement when he came on and might well start the next game. He showed his work rate, his smarts, his leadership and had the pre-assist for the 2-0. When Memphis came on you couldn’t tell he hadn’t played for 2,5 months. He was a threat, he was confident in his touches, he was clearly enjoying being on a football pitch again and had an assist and a pre-assist this game. Klaassen, well, what can you say. The least popular Oranje player maybe, and probably also the least skilled player, but his nose for the position is just amazing. He is always right there where the ball drops.

A word on Senegal, they do seem to be a hard to beat side, with threats going forward. I can see them finish second in the group and potentially make life hard for other higher ranked nations.

Their coach Aliou Cisse, changed his tactics dramatically to counter the Dutch threat. Where he usually defends in a 4-4-2 (two blocks of 4) he now used Gueye as a higher playing holding mid. Why you say? Frenkie is the answer. They decided to block the centre axis of the pitch and not use their full backs too high up. So this opened up the space for Daley and Denzel to be utilised but we didn’t manage to get these two going. The Timber speciality, dribbling into midfield to lure a midfielder or forward to bite, didn’t happen because…. Timber didn’t play. Van Dijk and De Ligt didn’t do this well enough.

In the second half, Van Gaal uses Berghuis higher up the pitch, next to Gakpo and the result is two teams who cancel each other out.

One of the key players without the ball in this situation was Vincent Janssen who managed to break up the passing line to Diallo, who usually is important in Senegal’s build up, but in this match more than half of his passes ended up with an orange jersey. This is the result of the work of Janssen. I’m sure people here will criticise the Antwerp striker but he served his purpose.

For a first WC match, we should be happy. We got the point. We didn’t give a lot away. We suffered no big injuries, so the mood will be good in the Oranje camp. Qatar and Equador should not give us much trouble and if LVG is capable to get this team to play better, we will prove to be that Dark Horse we love to be.

Marten de Roon scored as well, by the way. After the game.


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    1. Nah, he usually plays with risk, and this is why Van Gaal wants him in the team. His game without the ball was pretty good too. Don’t give up on him too soon 🙂

  1. first game of any tournament is always going to be edgy and cautious; never expect to see champagne football and any team just want to win. Good thing is we won and never concede. This will give a lot of confidence to the players. The shackles are off, and now for Ecuador and Qatar.
    I would expect the team to grow into the tournament. For now, let’s all be happy.

  2. I am happy about result,but we played too bad We cannot beat the favorites with these kind of scoring capability..
    My points
    1- You played with Janssen,Berghuis and Blind and dumfires on wings still beat Senegal who is strong wont get these kind of luck all the could have end up in draw.So dont rely on luck all the time.
    2–Deligt is a ticking time Bomb for redcard,Botman would have been a better choice than him.
    3-Berjwin is form out or is this is his best for NT at higher stage??
    4-Dropping Brobbey for Janssen might hurt us later
    5-Dropping Malen for Weghorst has cut down out creative attacking threat in knockouts..
    6-blind was good defensively but he lacks the pace to catch up the passes..this cuts down any threat form left.
    7-Dumfries has poor crosses ,He has a hard feet which restricts him playing fluid football..loosing possession etc
    8-Noppert does nt concede cheap goals,What a GK,your debting on WC and playing against the Best african team..i still feel Cillessen or tim krul would have conceded against Senegal with same shots..
    Time for Frimpong,Malacia,Lang,koopmeiners and klassen to step in take spots from Dumfries,Blind,Janssen and Berghuis…Then timber for De ligt..

    1. I totally agree Timber for De Ligt (and I think Jan made a good point that Van Gaal opted for De Ligt against Senegal due to the physicality of the opponent)

      The only other change I make for Ecuador on Friday is Depay for Janssen – I think Bergwijn will benefit having Depay on the field. No need to overhaul so much in the 2nd game. With a win Friday, then consider (and that may need to be strongly considered) experiment against Qatar, otherwise status quo to build continuity for the elimination round.

      And after today’s Saudi Arabia result, the road to the semis may have gotten a bit easier

  3. I think what we saw in the first half was not reflective of poor players or poor tactics. It was nerves. Great players like Virgil and Frenkie were just not settled and we’re making stupid mistakes. To go into your first World Cup game after less than a week in camp and only a few days in the host country, this seems understandable to me. That excuse shouldn’t exist beyond today, especially following a win.

    I actually thought Janssen was better than most of these comments have reflected. He showed that he had a skill set (hold-up play and back-to-goal) that doesn’t exist in many of our other attackers that have more flair. Against the right opponent, that could be helpful but I think he’d need a couple of other creative players around him to make that work.

    I feel bad for de Ligt. It’s like he’s so far in his own head that he just can’t relax and play the game. He’s a real danger to the team if he’s playing like this. But I understand his selection for today— if a guy as big and strong as him is getting knocked off the ball, Timber would have been tossed around like a rag doll. But for most games, I would prefer Timber, as that gives us three footballers across the back.

  4. Spot on as always Jan. I think its always more about me expecting a certain level of quality that isnt reasonable.
    I think deLigt will have to go, at least in the right-back position. Im very happy with these 3 points, and theres lots of players who can play better than they did last night.

    1. A win is always good and Oranje managed to get one in the most unorthodox way. It was not pleasing to the eye nor did it need to be that bad.

      Nerves, first game jitters and other benign excuses have been made for this performance whilst other glaring factors have been ignored for reasons best known to observers. Here is how I see it.

      LVG got it wrong with team selection and created an unwarranted pressure on players especially in the defence.

      De ligt have always had a panicky demeanor about him. Couple that with the fact that his anticipation and first step defensively have always been wanting, not to mention that he has been a substitute for most of the qualifying campaign, his inclusion was a mistake. Jan in justifying his inclusion suggested that he was started because of his grit and height. Have we ever heard of de Vrij or are we just going to go with the flavors of the month in de ligt/Timber?

      Playing Berghuis deep or even further was never going to work. I have said it a million times and will say it again; you can’t squeeze water out of stone. I have never seen a single player given so many chances to come into his own and still fail to meet the mark. How markedly different the midfield got with the introduction of Koop.

      A lot of people are crying down Janseen but I thought his performance was decent given that he had to work with his back on goal. His hold up was not bad and he battled hard cutting out passing lanes and generally being physical resulting in him winning one or two promising free kicks. Lvg selected him and I don’t feel cheated knowing his(Jansen’s) capabilities.

      Bergwin’s form is a worry for me. He is a strong dynamic player but sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. I feel he needs a kick in the rear and coming off the bench in a game or two could work wonders for him. He is a diesel engine and a good crank is all he needs. Danjuma would have provided that. Alas..

      Noppert absolved himself and I am pleased with his performance. Jan said something that struck me about our goalie situation. Whoever gets selected amongst our three stoppers would either end up in Madrid or an absolute disaster(I paraphrase)

      What a needless spot to put your team in the dawn of the biggest tournament in the world.

      Conversely, LVG might just end up the one from 2014 or the coach that failed to make a world Cup with one of best crop of Oranje players for being too clever.

  5. Most overrated Team got A@##s whooped…Jja ja ja…Out played by saudi…Casual seasonal dimwits thought Arjetina is about to bring the cup…unbeaten 36….

  6. I’ve gone back-and-forth a little bit about our performance after hearing others’ more positive comments, but I’m still left feeling underwhelmed by our performance. I think the 2-0 result really flatters us, particularly when I remember that we didn’t register a shot on target until the 80th minute period. Was Senegal such a fierce attacking side that we needed to devote so many resources to defending, if that’s even what people think happened? My conclusion again was that there was no cohesion in the midfield and the spacing of the midfielders created a situation that was not going to allow us to maintain possession or control the game. In my view, there was no reason to play this way against Senegal. Maybe LVG has some long-term plan for facing top competition in the tournament and he wants to get the players used to playing a certain way at the outset? That’s really the only plausible explanation for why he would play this way, even with our more limited talent. My hope is that Gakpo, Memphis and Frenkie will be encouraged by this initial performance and that the other players will recognize the need to step up. As Saudi Arabia just showed, anyone can beat anyone in this tournament, and so we need to make the most of the opportunity we have!

  7. Watching Denmark play against Tunisia so far, I am reminded of the way I’d like to see us play. Brisk movement of the ball within the team as they advance up the field. Lots of movement and energy off the ball to provide support and quick passing opportunities. Free-flowing creative movement in attack with the ball played to whomever is in the best position rather than based on who they are. Cohesive movement of the players in attack and defense. Consistent spacing and pressure of the opponent when out of possession. Lots of goal scoring opportunities. Fun to watch! Perhaps it’s more enjoyable for me when I see the players intuitively making the same decisions that I would expect them to make and to have success doing so.

    Now all that said, they are still at 0-0 at the half, and Tunisia has had a number of golden opportunities to score. Far too many in fact! But Denmark is controlling the flow of the game in a 3-5-2 against another relatively decent African side and so the scenario is very similar to our first match.

    Overall, Denmark certainly has a few talented players but is not normally considered a threat to win international tournaments. But if they can play a quality style with limited resources and talent, surely we can too!

    P.S., now of course after praising the Danes so effusively, in the second half they will completely suck, lose 0-3, and I will be thoroughly embarrassed 😉

  8. Argentina had already peaked by winning 36 matches. It was only a matter of time that it was going to end. My thinking was that the law of averages will catch up with them and their form would dip in knockouts. To my surprise it has happened against a very physical saudi arabia. Argentina defence was found wanting when saudi attacked. So going forward they have to face mexico and poland, the latter with their golden generation. Its not going to be easy for Argentina. The lesson for Orange in this is continue to defend well as in the last game and dont underestimate any team.

    1. They were over rated,Diving experts from past to present..Bribed 1978 Wc,,scored gaol with hand..We have a culture developed in kerala that if every one likes Messi/aRJENTINA wE SHOULD like them as opinion of their own..everyu 4 years 1 month world cup then Euro and Copa america…thats all for casuals here..i was rooting for saudi i almost had orgasm when they won..

  9. Heard that Timber and Depay will start for De ligt and would be nice to if Depay comes from bench as we need him in knockouts. start with
    Berjwin needs rest and deserve benching,he will come back with venom if he gets dropped..

    1. @ Emmanual – What a fun line up that would be! My predictions of van gaal will be much more conservative. Dumfries will start for frimpong, Gakpo at 10, Depay and bergwijn up top.

    1. Although I’d like him to be wrong, I don’t know that he really is, particularly on the attacking side. Sneijder, Robben and RVP were all pretty close to over the hill in 2014, and they were still way better than anybody we have on our front line today. In fact, if all three of them came out of retirement now in their late 30s, I don’t know that I would mind seeing them out there in this tournament. There is a monumental gulf in attacking quality between the 2014 team and now, although the rest of the 2014 squad was pretty shaky in comparison to today’s side.

  10. Sneijder is not making himself very popular. He tends to overestimate himself. Some examples: he was interviewed by Ajax for the technical director job after Overmars left. Ajax didn’t continue the conversations. Sneijder then started to talk Ajax’ dirty laundry in a tv program he is a regular guest in.

    Then Cillesen, when he was passed over by LVG, Sneijder added salt in his wound by telling everyone what a nasty personality Cillesen has and how he behaved during the WC2014.

    Then he proudly announced he was going to work on Ihattaren, making sure he understands what it means to be a pro footballer and he’d go with Mo to Juve to support him.

    Two weeks later, Sneijder publically drops Ihattaren and starts to give insight info about this.

    There are certain things you keep to yourself and for a player to paint a negative picture of a team mate based on a story of 8 years ago is petty.

    There is a code and Sneijder thinks he is above that.

    LVG said recently: this is the best squad I ever worked with.

    Interviewer: better than 2014?

    LVG: YES.

    This is what Sneijder doesn’t like so he starts his vindictive talks on tv.

  11. Oops I just read that the police of Utrecht have arrested Mo Ihattaren for some serious threatning stuff he has done, allegedly. Doesn’t look good for the lad. He thinks he can emulate the great Maradona but without the football career part of it all. Straight into gangsterland, cocaine, guns and crime, it seems…. WOW

  12. Sneijder may be an a.hole or backstabber but he is not wrong when comparing quality btw 2014 and 2022. Night and day in midfield and attack. If I were to pick btw Sneijder and FDJ I would pick Sneijder without hesitation. FDJ has won nothing and not proven much. Yes, talented and probably best player in this team but hasn’t won much yet. If this team makes it to the semis then we can talk again. Sneijder participated in and led 2 WC teams that went past semifinals. A player like Berghuis wouldn’t be even a waterboy in the 2010 or 2014 teams. In fact majority of this team would be reserves at best to those teams.
    But we won the 1st game against Africa champions (sans their talismanic player) and this is all that matters. One game at a time. There are glaring holes in the team and some players who undeservedly took the place of better players but we’re past that now. Nest stop Ecuador who didn’t really convince in their first game and will aim to get a good result against NT to avoid a tricky 3rd game.
    Seeing England and France level of talent (not counting Spain, Germany, Croatia, Brazil etc) it makes you realize that winning this WC is a pipe dream.

  13. Favorites like Argentina and even England were not convincing. Argentina lost to a tactical coach Rene havard with defensively strong players. England despite win were found weak in defense and goal keeper. So it wil be difficult to say anything with certainty. Every team will be tested. Germany with weak defense and strikers will aldo face difficulty.Spain will also struggle.

  14. Sneijder: “I have not seen anyone who could give the decisive pass, at the right time, with the right speed. Those opportunities were there. With the team of the 2010 World Cup, we would have led 3-0 at halftime.” (VI)

    Great player. Give him his due as an NT performer. So many big goals in 2010, and twice sent Robben through in the Finals with superb passes. By 2014, seemed like he was past it, but he responded to Van Gaal’s demand that get in shape, and played with alot more defensive responsibility than he’d likely ever had, and scored the wonderful goal late against Mexico.

    But his comment that the 2010 team would have been ahead 3-0 at halftime? Well, the 2010 team didn’t exactly race away from Denmark, Japan, Cameroon or Slovakia, did they?

  15. Good call on 2010.
    Sneijder is now a tv personality, and to be successful at that you need to say things that are spectacular to draw attention to yourself. He was a great player, but that’s in the past.

  16. Vs Uruguay

    I said this in eariler posts how vs physical team before players with cutting edge were decisive and probably this is the context to which it is all about. This is certainly not a feature in the team and again looking from the Senegal game perspective.

    You can say that in 2010 they couldnt ran away with the game at HT but then it’s a hypothetical comparison of what he saw in the game and relating it to what they could have done.

    what you guys have failed to mention is how fluent their attacking threat was compared to what you are seeing now. Creating opportunities, free kicks threats, attacking pros, close misses before eventually scoring. I think it is within that scope that he is taking about.If I recall from the Senegal game, well if not for mendys gift, this game would have ended in a draw. Apart from that the only other clear opportunity that fell was to that of frenkie which he made a mess of.

  17. It’s amazing how much depth France have. They probably are the worst injury stricken side coming in the tournament but still they look impressive.after benzema’s injury I had penciled them out but after watching them vs Australia, the injuries could be blessing for the younger talented guys to showcase their talents and fill in the big shoes.

    aurélien tchouaméni, this guy is the next progba in the making and now I see why Real Madrid paid big to sign him. Deschamps also took the risk by pairing upamecano and Konate the former Leipzig duo at CB which turned out to be success. saliba, varane,kounde who all were extensively used in the qualifiers were on the bench.

    Mbappe as mentioned looks hungry as always and Giroud, he equalled Thierry Henry record for highest scorer and who only got selected after benzema got injured.

  18. Everyone in here says we look poor. Yet we look better than most of the supposed favorites. Germany just lost to Japan. Argentina lost to Saudis. Croatia and Denmark tied their weak opponents.

    We beat a strong Senegal team 2-0. People need to stop complaining!!!

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