Only 2 days to go, gringos!!!
It is really taking me by surprise, this World Cup. I thought it always started in a weekend… Hahahaha!
Two more memory lane posts to make, my friends.
Here is 2006. What to say. It still makes me mad.
What a World Cup it was. Dick Advocaat and Willem van Hanegem were the duo coaches in 2004. The two buddies had a massive fall out over the Robben substitution agains the Czechs and Van Hanegem famously said “If he would ever try and sub our best player again, I will simply knock him out”….
We needed new blood. This is what JC thought and the KNVB followed his advice. Rijkaard did very well in 2000. Now it’s time for San Marco. JC sort of forgot to mention that until then, Marco had only coached Ajax 2 and was still to prove himself to be a good jockey (courtesy of Adriaanse). Mistake number 2 of the KNVB was to allow San Marco to assemble his own staff. Marco picked coach colleague of Ajax 2 John van ‘t Schip, Stanley Menzo and Rob Witschge. Rumour was, so they could play klaverjassen when the players rested…
Make no mistake, San Marco picked the right players alright. Some of them were still young(-ish) but not much different from the current squad. The names will make you drool now: Van der Sar. Gio van Bronckhorst. Tim de Cler. Joris Mathijsen. Mark van Bommel. Phillip Cocu. Wes Sneijder. Raf van der Vaart. Dirk Kuyt. Ruud van Nistelroo. Arjen Robben. Robin van Persie. Hmmmmmm……
Not that bad.
And this is a squad that could have had Clarence Seedorf and Roy Makaay as well, but Marco didn’t need them, he felt. Other notable players to be left out were Edgar Davids (Spurs), KLaas Jan Huntelaar (Ajax) Emmanuelson (Ajax) and Nigel de Jong (HSV).
Schaars and De Jong will travel to Germany as back ups, as Vqn Basten was left with five serious injuries after the Farewell Game against Hiddink’s Australia. The Socceroos were a bit too enthusiastic and Cocu, Van Bronckhorst, Sneijder, Van der Vaart and Jaliens all went to the World Cup not 100% fit. Schaars and De Jong weren’t needed though and were sent home.
The inexperienced Van Basten has a good eye for football. But was a bit weak in people management. He himself was a tad insecure and he foolishly didn’t bring a more experienced coach along. Gerard van der Lem? Wim Jansen? The options were all there. But Marco went it alone with his happy band of brothers and clashed with experiences and extraverted players like Van Bommel and Van Nistelrooy. PSV players… (JC and Van der Kuylen/Van Beveren comes to mind, in 1974).
The qualifications went very well. Marco played 4-3-3 and won 10 out of 12 games with his team.
Holland was in a strong group, with Argentina, Serbia/Montenegro and Ivory Coast. The Argentines had names like Crespo, Riquelme, Masscherano, Tevez and Messi while Ivory Coast had Drogba and Kalou.
Winning the first game (Serbia) was key, and Holland did. Thanks to a wonderful Robben goal on a Van Persie assist ( in case you forgot: a counter goal). Serbia maybe deserved a tad more but was unlucky. Van Persie played right winger and at times it looked like we played 4-5-1. Van Bommel was subbed for the more tactically astute and conservative Landzaat. Van Nistelrooy was also subbed early. Signs of things to come. Holland did play the dominant game, had 60% possession but Serbia had more corner kicks, more shots on goal and less fouls….
In our second game against Ivory Coast, Holland ruled in the first half, with a rocket goal by Robin van Persie and a quick second by Ruud van Gol. Ivory Coast fought themselves back into it, via Kone, but lacked the luck to get a draw: 2-1.
This time, Sneijder was subbed early in the game for Van Der Vaart and Ruud van Gol was taken out early yet again. Possession was 50-50 and Ivory Coast like Serbia had more corner kicks, more shots on target and less fouls than Oranje.
The last game was not that key anymore and dreaded Argentina was played with a number of yellow carded players being rested: 0-0.
Kuyt came for Robben as left winger, Sneijder and Van der Vaart both played and Van Basten fielded Jaliens, Boulahrouz and De Cler in defence. Babel, Landzaat and Maduro would get minutes in this game as well. In this game, we had a tad more possession and the most corner kicks, shots on targets and the most fouls…
Sadly, we didnt’ win it. As we would have not drawn Portugal as a result. Portugal beat us earlier in 2004 at the Euros and was too strong for Van Gaal’s Oranje in the 2002 qualifications.
Marco psyched the team out as much as possible to give it all that they could but in the run up to the game, it was a rift between Van Nistelrooy and Van Basten that would start a dramatic series of events. Marco told some reporter he was unhappy with Ruud’s positioning. Ruud confronted Marco with this lack of discretion (“Tell me first, next time!”). And Marco didn’t accept this insubordination and benched Ruud. This made other players in the squad (mostly Van Bommel) irrate and this whole event, one day before the knock out game vs Portugal, made the mood in the Oranje camp very edgy.
The psychology behind this, by the way, is interesting. Both Mark van Bommel and Ruud van Nistelrooy adored Marco as a player. Both had posters in their bedroom of the Ajax star and both were keen to work with him. They idolised him but they soon found out Marco is a man of flesh and blood, with his own character flaws. This didn’t go down too well. When they found out that Bassie was biased and emotional in his decision making (unfathomable like he was as a striker) they couldn’t cope with the situation and spat the dummy.
Ruud famously introduced a new characteristic in football. The “I like you factor”. Marco selects players on that basis (Landzaat over Seedorf, Maduro, Babel, Heitinga over Makaay, Davids and Bouma). If you are happy to be one of Marco’s disciples he is happy to work with you. If you have your own opinion, you are out.
Ruud would later add: “I had a clash with Marco, that is right, but we fixed it and he would become one of my fave coaches. The 2006 World Cup was a failure but we worked really well later on in 2008 and I still think he was one of the best and most entertaining trainer I practiced with.”
So, Marco battled with some players before the Portugal game and made an emotional decision: Ruud would not play. Dirk Kuyt would be the striker in his place. Portugal certainly did not have a shabby team with the likes of Figo, Deco, Coutinho, Maniche and C Ronaldo.
The game would infamously be known as the Battle of Nuremberg and since 2006, I haven’t seen it or the “highlights” since. Too hard. But I will see the highlights soon again, I suppose. Holland had 60% of the ball. We had 20 goal attempts vs 10 for Portugal. We have twice as much corner kicks. In terms of stats, we had two reds, like Portugal and 9 yellow cards. Portugal lost that battle as they only got 7 yellows.
Robben was tackled in the box and yellow carded for diving. This time, unjustly so. Cocu hit the post after a terrific attack. Kuyt choked alone in front of goal. Van Persie had a sitter and missed as he attempted an outside of the boot shot. But all in all, despite the antics of the Portuguese and the aggression of Holland, it was Mr Ivanov the Russian ref who really made it into a mess. He allowed the lunatics to take over the asylum and allowed this game to spin out of control. He took over the record of Spanish ref Nieto who only used 16 cards in 2002 versus 20 for Mr Ivanov. Mr Blatter later stated that Ivanov deserved a red card himself as well.
It was a disgraceful performance and Holland did not deserve to lose this game. But we did.
A later analysis of the game showed that the teams only played 52 minutes of actual football. Matchwinner Maniche: “I think most of the cards were over the top. It was a tough game, as one expects between two top nations in world football, but I don’t think it was ever really mean. The ref added oil to the fire with all these cards.”
Maniche is right. A further analyses says that the Portugal – Holland game had the least (!!!) fouls of all knock out games that World Cup. Only 25 fouls and apparently 16 yellow card type of fouls? Whereas in some of the other games there were up to 51 fouls counted and only six yellow cards…
It was one of those would’ve/could’ve games… What if we had a different ref. What if Marco wouldn’t have had that argument with Ruud and the man from ManU was our striker. What if Cocu or Robin would have scored? What if the ref would have spotted that foul on Robben in the box?
We started well. We had some good attacking moves on the flanks and Van Bommel has a distance strike that just missed the target. But in the 20st minute, we go wrong. Sneijder loses possession to C Ronaldo. Deco gets the ball, unmarked. He crosses to striker Pauleta and the striker bounces the ball back to incoming midfielder Maniche. Ooijer can’t stop him and Sar doesn’t have a chance. C Ronaldo would have to make way for Simao and since that goal Portugal controlled the game. In the second half, Holland has a man more due to a silly second yellow for Costinha. Cocu hits the bar and Portugal decides to stop Oranje from attacking. Until we lose Boulahrouz as a result of some Figo theatrics. Ten against ten and from the 70st miunute onwards, it becomes a battle.