Stars aligning for Oranje?

For many days, the overall view was that poor Oranje was having to slug it out with Portugal or even Germany in the first knock-out game. But it seems the football gods are with us… Even better, our march to the finals will actually be not that dreadful, considering Belgium, France and Italy – generally seen as the three favorites – are in the other leg of the draw.

It remains to be seen whether this is a good thing though. Traditionally, Oranje does well vs stronger teams. Remember the group of death(s) in 2006 and 2008? We obliterated the competition (well…) and got in trouble the next knock-out stage. Oranje now also play well versus teams that consider themselves stronger. Once an opponent parks the bus, we will find it tougher to break them down.

But, the stars in the sky might have aligned, it also seems the stars on the pitch have. The vibe in the squad is very good, players who tend to be a bit narcy when they are not the dominant player appear to remain calm ( Berghuis, Koopmeiners) and Frank de Boer is demonstrating day in day out in his interviews and press conferences that he grew as a coach. He’s likeable, he jokes, he laughs and analyses with clarity.

Malen and Memphis have produced some nice interaction. Add the quality, movement and silky touch of Wijnaldum and there is our holy trinity. Frenkie and Gini have a good understanding, as do Stefan de Vrij and Mathijs de Ligt. These two actually became firm friends in Italy and spend a lot of time, with the families together.

The PSV contingent (Malen, Dumfries, Gakpo, Memphis) work well together, as do the AZ and Ajax team mates. Berghuis might well feel at home with the Ajax lads…

I am loath to be too positive and chirpy, but I can see that with the right focus and the right line up / system, Oranje can indeed power forward.

it was quite eventful for Oranje, this past week. The group win was great, Memphis’ signature under a Barca contract clearly gave the mercurial forward a boost, but the loss of Luuk de Jong, who had to exit the camp with a nasty knee injury, means Plan B doesn’t exist anymore. And it also automatically means that Wout Weghorst will be relegated to the pinch hitter role.

Another player we will need firing on all cylinders is Frenkie of course. The player with the most successful dribbles in the Euros until now.

Playmaker, play accelerator, conductor, dreh-und-angelpunkt, we have had so many names already for the midfielder. His passing is usually mentioned as his key strength and this is indeed a highly important aspect of the game. But another aspect might need a bit more spotlight: the dribble. No one dribbles more and better than the Arkel born lad. asked Antoine Griezmann in 2019 which player was the toughest opponent for him and he immediately said: “Ajax’ De Jong! I tried to put him under pressure in the Nations League games with France and it was impossible, I never succeeded. He’s so slick, he just slips past you as if you’re not there.” Not much later, they became team mates.

Four players had 17 dribbles in this Euros, so far. Our Frenkie, Denmark’s Maehle, Switzerland’s Embolo and France’ Mbappe. Frenkie had 13 successful ones, compared to 8 by the others.

This is here is key moment. Holland is under pressure from Austria. Weghorst passes to Wijnaldum, who gets two opponents on his toes. Gini dribbles quickly to the side line, knowing that loss of possession is less dangerous there. De Jong gives him an option, on the side line and he has four Austrians putting pressure on. Sabitzer in front of him, Laimer and Hinteregger are lurking close while Schlager joins in as well. Most player would pass the ball backwards to Dumfries or De Vrij. But that would not solve the problem. We would still be locked in and under pressure. This is a typical ideal pressure moment for Austria.

Frenkie oozes confidence on the ball. He doesn’t panic and the four Austrians are hesitating. De Jong sees the hesitation and decides to use it. He sprints through the pressure with the ball in close control and it fits like a glove. Not only does he alleviate  the pressure, he turns defence into attack as he turns the situation in a 6 v 4 situation, what with Daley Blind and Pat van Aanholt immediately breaking out too, joining Frenkie, Weghorst, Memphis and Wijnaldum in attack. This move ends with a failed pass from Van Aanholt to Weghorst.

Another typical moment, also demonstrating the partnership in midfield. Holding mid Marten de Roon has the ball and almost stands still. Wijnaldum drops back and offers an option, leaving a gap in front of the Austrian defence. De Roon points to it, even, and Frenkie runs into that space and receives the ball.

He looks over his shoulder and sees that Laimer is too slow to react, so now Frenkie knows he can turn the player and get into a 1 v 1 situation on the edge of the box. He passes to Memphis whose shot is blocked. Another example where the obvious option would have been to pass the ball back.

The third example is in the North Macedonia match. Obviously, the pressure was off and Oranje was further helped by the offensive tactics of North Macedonia. Their pressure play resulted in space for us. Here is an example.

De Ligt has the ball and is pressured by Elmas. The ball goes to Daley Blind and Pandev is putting pressure on him. De Jong offers Blind an option, and while the ball is traveling, he looks over his shoulder, twice. Once right, once left. Before he has the ball, he knows the Macedonian defence is not pushing forward. He turns, he accelerates and he releases Van Aanholt. Wijnaldum could have done better from that Van Aanholt cross.

This type of play by De Jong makes it hard for opponents to press. A hesitation or a slow reaction and he is off and away. De Jong’s dribbles are as lethal as his passing. He can create something out of nothing. He doesn’t have a lot of assists or goals to his name. His forte is the pre-assist. His accelerations offer space and time to his team mates.

De Jong’s qualities are hard to express in statistics, although Opta Sports was able to somewhat approach it with their carries-stat. This demonstrates the ability to see a gap and the skills to carry the ball forward into that gap. The number of meters you carry the ball with your feet, basically. It’s not a surprise that the wingbacks score hight in this category as they usually have the flank at their disposal, where it is less busy. Carrying the ball forward through the spine is tough. There simply isn’t much space. De Jong is a maestro. He showed it at Ajax, now at Barca and at Oranje. Only Mateo Kovacic and the Spanish Barca colleague Pedri are able to show similar stats. But they tend to carry the ball backwards a lot too.

When Opta filters the stats in terms of carries forward, than Frenkie is the only midfielder amongst defenders.

The most important thing is, that Frenkie is completely convinced of his own playing style.

His response to a comment after the Real Madrid away game in 2019 says it all. Ajax won 1-4 but Frenkie had a difficult moment vs Benzema, when he tried to take on the French striker just outside his own box and lost the ball to the predator. This resulted in a big chance for Madrid.

Sports commentator Van Gelder: “I have a strong heart, but can you please never do that again?”

Frenkie: “No, I disagree. I think I need to do this again, but do it better. I made a good turn, but when I wanted to accelerate I got cramp in my legs and had to try and keep the ball…”

I think I need to do this again but better…. That is his mindset and that is why he can be of great value in the knock-out games. This mix of uninhibitedness and precision is exactly what we need. This puts the fear into our opponents, the knowledge that one little mistake can mean Oranje is thundering forward. De Jong’s dribbles give Oranje time and space, it also gives us a signature style of play.

Bookmark and Share


  1. Press-resistant midfielders like Frenkie are absolutely me favourite type of player to watch. I think playing with someone like Busquets has surely helped him. I always thought he would develop into a ball playing 6 in the mold of Busquets, Fernandinho, and Alcantara but I’m actually quite pleased he’s turned into more of an 8/box-to-box player. Ideally we would have a defensive midfielder who could advance the ball when Frenkie is up the pitch but I think the CBs, in particular, Daley Blind have done a great job of making up for this deficiency with their strong vertical passing.

    Gini has shown today why he is the perfect choice for captain. Anyone who is ignorant enough to criticize him for this is an idiot plain and simple. Some things are bigger than football!

    1. Why cannot he go to politics and shows his anger??in a better way..So he can contribute in “”BIGGER THINGS”””.””AVOID LOWER FOOTBALL””Racism exists and he has the backing of whole nation ,he can a show the middle finger and move on…He lives a luxurious life when you have so much privilege these kind of drama arises..The lebron James syndrome..

    2. Very classy of you to call you fellow bloggers names. This is a soccer forum and not human rights or politics. Nothing in football is bigger than football. This blog too, but I will let Jan speak to that. You’ll probably be happy that GW gives Hungary the middle finger and turns into a political voice even if we lose the game. It’s all about politics and good feelings right? We can’t enjoy any sports or arts without mixing it with BS.

      1. The fact that you think the acceptance of people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community or not shouting racist insults at black players is “politics” rather than basic human rights tells me everything I need to know about you. Even going so far as to calling standing up for this BS.

        I will have no further words with you – no need to deal with people who are clearly stuck in the past. Peace and Love.

  2. I agree that this is obviously a blog about football, and that we need to show respect to each other. Politics can certainly be very divisive, but at the end of the day, most people have the same hope for good and believe in many of the same things. They just prioritize the importance of certain things differently.

    We all come here based on our love of Dutch football. We are united in that love, but outside of that we likely have very diverse interests, personalities, beliefs and backgrounds. I found out the the other day that another blogger here is from Azerbaijan. My mother’s family is from Armenia. In other areas of life, we might potentially be adversaries. But here, we are allies.

    My hope is that this can remain a great site where we come to discuss God’s gift to modern football — Oranje — and we can learn from and respect each other. I learn so much from Jan’s analysis and other’s comments and contributions every time I come here, and I would hate for political disagreements to affect people’s willingness to participate and share their views, even Wilson and Emmanuel :).

    And I’m by no means a purely middle of the road or apolitical person myself. I have strong views on many matters, and quite of few of my friends and work colleagues have diametrically opposed views. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t still be friends and learn from each other. And so I hope that we can all take a similar perspective here and continue to enjoy this great site!

  3. And on Jan’s article, again wonderful, particularly the quote to van Gelder. Frenkie is and has been tremendous for us, to the extent I compared him to Beckenbauer in an earlier post.

    His dribbling, passing, and movement have all been superb. Sometimes he takes risks and tries things that don’t come off, but more often than not they do.

    I look forward to watching him grow and develop and become the centerpiece of our team for years to come!

  4. Yes, I am very excited about Eiting’s move. His knee injuries have seriously impacted his career. But an analysis of the player will tell you, that he is the natural successor to Daley Blind: awesome left foot, great vision, lacking speed… I can see a role for him in Oranje in the future…

    1. Jan, his injuries were too insurmountable for him to get a starting position with Ajax so how do you expect he will become a regular for Holland? He is the kind of player who is so fragile that I anticipate a very difficult career as he has already experienced unfortunately for him.

  5. Guys, I am not sure who is commenting on who exactly, above. Someone said something about someone here? Were there comments deleted possibly?

    I think football needs to be main topic here. As you will know from earlier comments and debates, I have put a flag up into the site, for curse words. Words like fukc, prikc, cnut, dikc etc will be picked up by the site and your comment will be placed in a queue for me to approve. So try to avoid those words.

    People like Van Basten or De Boer or Blind are not cnuts. They maybe ego trippers, bad coaches or ugly, but not cnuts.

    I also don’t accept racial slurs or people constantly calling each other out with derogatory names.

    I don’t mind a bit of politics or humanism on this site. We are all humans and we are all part of society, in one way or another.

    Feel free to vent your opinion about Wijnaldum and his views. I mean, at the end of the day, this is the internet: no one fukcing cares, really.

    Debating on the internet is like girls fighting each other with their handbags. I mean, you may be right and win the debate, but you still fight with your handbag… Own that!

    Gini made his comments a year ago, when the racism topic was trending massively in Holland. He said he would walk off the pitch. Yes. But he retracted this comment in the presser this week. He’s now skipper of Oranje and he realises that walking off will only help the racist supporters as Oranje would probably lose the match.

    Everything you see or hear around you, is a reflection of the current collective consciousness. We feel separated from one another. This is why we have racism. It’s fear.

    Football actually hinges on similar feelings. It’s us v them. It’s Ajax v Feyenoord. Holland v Germany. Nationalistic feelings will come forward. I personally am very tolerant. I have friends who are muslim, jew, German, gay and even friends who despise football.

    But, when a Dutch player ends up scoring in the CL finals, I feel pride. Even if he plays for Real Madrid (a club I don’t like). I am also sensitive to that tribal mind.

    Accept what is. Change what you can. Start with yourself. As that white pop star famously sang: Start with the man in the mirror

    1. Jan, not sure what you mean when you say Gini said this a year ago. He declared this yesterday and was featured on The Guardian and other soccer sites. He was very strong about it and sounded more like a social warrior than the captain of the Dutch soccer NT. Most surprisingly after basically declaring war to Hungary he said he would talk to his team about walking off the field which shows that this was all his opinion and not the team’s. How stupid is that? That’s suicide. This guy is supposed to be made of steel instead he turns into a snowflake right before this critical game.
      I know you’re trying to keep a distance so the debate doesn’t deteriorate but at least don’t try to spare GW by saying he made it a year ago. I am surprised how little attention you’re showing to this at a time when you think that the stars are aligning for orange. Maybe that was the case until Wijnaldum decided to turn into a social warrior.

      1. Balkan, I think Jan is right about all this. Instead of nitpicking and digging up what GW said, I believe it will be a great idea to move it along and leave the past in the past. Trying to prove right and wrong is usually not the best way forward. Peace.

  6. Czech struggled to cope with speed and quick movements and interplays of England. I would think Malen should be preferred over Weghorst for this match as he offered pace and movement.
    Rest of team should be same, incl. De Roon, though not elegant, but can keep things simple at the middle.

    1. Agree and on the other hand their strength lies in ariel combat and this is why Ake should start as well.

      England did open them up with speed but the czech looked dangerous during crosses from the flanks, set pieces and corners.

  7. Agree; Czech Republic will be a difficult game. Tough to break down if they are massed in defense. Wilson is right, though, England did open them up with speed, and for that reason I’d prefer Malen to Weghorst. One thing that stood out for me against North Macedonia was that with Depay, Malen, De Jong, Wijnaldum, Dumfries, the NT is very dangerous on the counter.

  8. Damsgaard has been a revelation for Denmark! He brings such skill and energy. If we face the Danes, he’s going to be a challenge for our back line…

  9. Denmark beat Wales 4-0.

    They were dominant and played as if they knew they were going to win. Denmark totally nullified the threat of Wales and almost won every battle in the centerfield.

    How can we think it’s a failure for FDB if we are not going into SF facing this?

    If we think this is an easy way, those guys will overpowered Netherlands to reach Semifinal.

  10. Italy looks much more disciplined in possession than we did against Austria, but they haven’t broken through yet. I think we definitely benefitted from a more open match vs Austria after winning an early penalty. That said, Italy looks good, but not overpowering so far (about 40 min in)… You couldn’t tell that from the US coverage though, who make them out to be flawless.

  11. Austria is putting in work defensively, but they’ve been susceptible to attacks from Italy both when sitting back and when playing high. The delayed offside calls have got to be fairly maddening though. One was particularly bad.

    Austria will likely be happy with the status of things at halftime (0-0). I would have expected this to be a fairly easy challenge for Italy.

  12. Austria with probably their best opportunity so far with a free kick at the top of the box, but Alaba puts just over. Italy meanwhile continues to get behind the Austrian backline and create dangerous chances. They really seem to thrive whenever they get to counter.

    In comparison to our match vs Austria, we had 14 shot attempts during the full match, 3 on target and 4 blocked. Italy has 15 shot attempts so far (60 minutes in), 2 on target and 7 blocked. The real difference so far is at the other end, however. Austria had 8 attempts, 1 on target vs us. Austria has 3 shot attempts vs Italy, none on target.

  13. Whatever the outcome here, the lessons Oranje needs to take away from this match are (1) don’t underestimate any opponent, and (2) work hard to get that first goal, because the longer you go without scoring, the more belief builds in your opponent and the more pressure you ultimately face.

  14. At the moment, the Austrians appear to be wearing the Italians down. They’ve been sloppy in the recent minutes and less patient. We’re in the 80th minute and Austria hasn’t made a substitution yet. Maybe fitness will win the day.

    You would expect the Italians’ quality to ultimately prevail, but Austria seems to be gaining in confidence and their attempts on goal have dramatically increased in this half…

  15. The talent though to be able to bring in Chiesa at this point as a replacement. Austria defending desperately.

    The referee has allowed a lot of nicking and grappling, but the energy seems to be with the Austrians at this point. Can they survive another 5 minutes to extra time?

  16. Now the walking, heads dropping, cramping and weakened kicks are showing up on the Austrian side. Just a few minutes left.

    The Austrian bench is not nearly as strong as the Italians’. We’ll see what their plan is. Schopf on for Baumgartlinger

  17. Italians remain on a razor’s edge with the onside / offside distinction. You get the sense they’re going to get the benefit of the doubt sooner or later…

  18. Now a free kick whistled just outside the box despite Jorginho’s swan simulation into the penalty area. This may be the last chance of regular time…

    And Austria clears it. Just a few seconds left… And on to extra time!

      1. In transfer news sidney Van Hooijdonk (21), son of Pierre van Hooijdonk is on his way to Bologna in serie A pending medical. He burst on the scene in eerste divisie for NAC Breda last season and scored 15 goals. They also narrowly missed out on promotion to eredividie after losing to NEC in the playoff final. I was following him last season and he is a talented striker. Package deal and has all the attrubutes of hus father or even better with his speed.

        Jong Orange can be a good start for him if he can punch his way in serie A.

  19. In transfer news sidney Van Hooijdonk (21), son of Pierre van Hooijdonk is on his way to Bologna in serie A pending medical. He burst on the scene in eerste divisie for NAC Breda last season and scored 15 goals. They also narrowly missed out on promotion to eredividie after losing to NEC in the playoff final. I was following him last season and he is a talented striker. Package deal and has all the attrubutes of hus father or even better with his speed.

    Jong Orange can be a good start for him if he can punch his way in serie A.

    1. A whole of clubs are also circling Danjuma as well. Wolfburg,Lyon,West Ham,Lille, Leicester. Just speculation atm. Thing could materialize after euros. He is a player in demand though.

      1. I checking every day now , Danjuma

        I personally hope he can go yo Wolfsburg which may be a better place for him comparing the English premier league

Join the Conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.