Tag: Bruma

Big Move for Nathan Ake

Nathan Ake deserves to be a symbol. In The Netherlands, there has been a lot of criticism on players who left Holland before they made a name for themselves in the first team of their club, and signed for big money clubs abroad… Royston Drenthe, Karim Rekik, Ebicilio, Nazarite, Jeffrey Bruma, we have seen it with so many players who end up being ignored, being loaned out, losing momentum and ending up with mid tier clubs in Greece or warming the bench at Wolfsburg or decided to go back to the amateurs in Holland…

Nathan Ake is the big exception to the rule. He too left Holland when he was 15 years old. The skipper of the Netherlands rep team that made a name for themselves (with some of the players mentioned above) and was considered Feyenoord’s next big thing.

But Chelsea swooped in and sign the introverted Ake for the future… The best thing for Nathan, was the fact that he was with Chelsea for 3 seasons at least, before he turned 21 making him a home grown player, in England. That will have helped his transfer tremendously, as any club needs to have 8 home grown players in their squad.

Last summer, Guardiola was eyeing Ake already, but the transfer didn’t happen, for different reasons. This season, City has been struggling defensively and needed to get some fresh blood in quick. And City was also limited due to the number of home grown players needed in their squad. Ake was the ideal candidate.

Ake is not just a good fit due to his “English status”, but also because he fits like a glove in Pep’s tactical plans.

He’s not the tallest (180 cm) but he’s a great header of the ball (timing and powerful jumps), both defensively and offensively. He has great feel for space and positioning. He’s very good on the ball and finds footballing solutions easily. He’s quick and has the balls to defend high up the pitch, with space behind him.

A good example below of what Ake can do. In the away match vs Man United, there is pressure on the ball but a confident and composed Nathan Ake dribbles his way to safety.

Recognising when it’s a good moment to push forward is a key strength for players in Guardiola’s teams. John Stones is hailed for this quality, but his defensive work is highly criticised. Those qualities are better balanced out with Ake. See below.



On top of that, Bournemouth got relegated, meaning that the club will most likely be happy to off load Ake for a good price. Bournemouth’s former coach – and the man who signed Ake – can fully understand Pep’s crush: “Nathan is a symbol of consistency. He has performed really well for us over a long period of time. And not just on the pitch, he is just a top notch professional. He can play on different positions. We have seen him play left full back, defensive mid and centre back. He needed to get used to it a bit, but he’s really brilliant in that role.”

Ake is seen as one of the best CBs in the EPL but in the Dutch NT, he’s fourth choice, behind Van Dijk, De Vrij and De Ligt. Potentially also because Ake never played Eredivisie football and isn’t that well known in Holland. He started with ADO Den Haag, where Feyenoord picked him up really early on. He never made the first team but enjoyed playing in a team with his mates and a move to England wasn’t part of the plan. Chelsea came and Nathan said no. His dad changed his mind, by saying: “If you wanted to study somewhere, and Harvard accepts you, you’d take it! You learn a lot and should you fail you can always go to a lesser school.” Nathan decided to go and check it out and loved it.

He won’t be able to get a starting birth though, but he did develop well in London, playing with the likes of Terry and Lampard. Frank Arnesen is Chelsea’s TD and loves for the youngster to move to the first team squad, but Mourinho is the Chelsea coach and he is not the guy to help young talents. He’s about winning, like most coaches in the EPL. Ake still enjoyed working with Mourinho: ” I liked him a lot. I worked with him for two years and he can really touch you, motivate you. You’ll go to war for him, and he demands 100% every training again. He wants to see that fighting spirit. At that age, it was really important for me to work with him and experience that.”

Later, Ake was less positive about Mourinho, claiming he was dropped by Mourinho after having had a good spell of starting berths under Benitez. “At one point he humiliated me in training, when I made a mistake. He threw his pad on the ground and yelled: “do you want me to buy a real defender for 50 million euros”. He dropped me from the squad and left me broken. I never understood why, as I was voted young player of the year and had some good games for Chelsea.”

Chelsea’s Rafael Benitez, Nathan Ake during a training session at the Cobham Training Ground on 15th March 2013 in Cobham, England. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Chelsea agrees to do a loan deal with Watford for Ake and here he gets the first heads being turned. He plays left back, he scores important goals and keeps Watford in the EPL and reaches the semi finals of the FA Cup with Watford. When Chelsea wants to loan him out again in the next season, Ake prefers to go to Bournemouth. “I played against them a couple of times and they play good football. Pass and move, careful build up… Their coach Eddie Howe wanted me and I felt like he had a plan with me. He initially wanted me to play defensive mid, as I played there under Benitez at Chelsea for a bit. But the manager already told me he also saw a centre back in me.” Ake impresses in the role and becomes a key player. When he returns to Chelsea, it is because new coach Antonio Conte really wants him back. But Conte doesn’t use Ake that much and he has to watch the FA Cup finals from the stands, while he was in the team in the semi finals against Spurs to deal with Harry Kane. Successfully. When Bournemouth returns to Chelsea to get Ake permanently, the The Hague born mini Gullit jumps to the opportunity. Chelsea sells him for 20 mio euros and negotiates a buy-back clause for 40 million euros.

After a couple of good seasons, Bournemouth ends up being too small to withstand the onslaught from more ambitious clubs, and gets relegated.

Nathan’s rise to the top has gone via a long(er) and winding road, but he does prove that you can reach the summit when you leave the Netherlands so young. It’s a matter of working hard and keeping your head down and prove it week in week out.

At the NT, Ake has the bad luck that he has De Ligt and Van Dijk in front of him, same as Stefan de Vrij. The former Feyenoord defender was voted the best defender in the Serie A recently. What a feat for a lad from Rotterdam.

Ake, the silent power, the unsung hero, might well be Oranje’s secret weapon at next year’s Euros. He keeps on surprising people and seems to be making his way into one of the best footballing teams of the world.

Some Statistics:

Of all the defenders in the EPL today younger than 25, he only has to allow Luke Shaw and Hector Bellerin above him. The 11 times capped Ake played 146 EPL matches

Ake is not a safety before anything player, but his passing accuracy is 87.6%. Only 14 defenders with more than 1000 minutes of EPL football do it better than him.

Ake is only 180 cm tall but scored 6 headers this season in the EPL. Only 12 EPL defenders headed the ball more, defensively.

With Ake, Bournemouth won 29.5% of their games. Without him, it’s a lowly 12,5%.

Ake was taken on successfully in a one v one situation only nine times. Kurt Zouma (Chelsea) and Virgil van Dijk are the only two defenders whom experienced this less times (7 times only).

Like Virgil, Nathan hardly goes to ground. When he did do this, he won the ball 21 times out of 31 attempts.

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Stars missing the WC: Stefan de Vrij

Around this time, there is always talk about great players who won’t be at the tournament. In this case, the likes of Frabegas, Sane, Nainggolan and others come to mind, but we will focus on the Dutch stars missing out.

The first one in the series, is Stefan de Vrij. Probably our best player with the least media exposure.

Here’s a guy who scored at a World Cup, played four seasons in the top of Italy (as a defender) and who was (is?) on many a wishlist for big clubs all across Europe.

He would be “the least likely to succeed” in Feyenoord’s year book if Feyenoord would have a year book…

While the 26 year old gets his top transfer this summer (5 seasons at Inter Milan), our memories go back to 2011, when the anger, despair and frustration seaps from the Feyenoord stands on to the pitch, where a young De Vrij makes his way to the tunnel in tears. Feyenoord loses at home 0-1 vs De Graafschap and is 14th in the Eredivisie. In a period where the club from Rotterdam gets beating after beating, it’s players like Wijnaldum, Fer and Castaignos who symbolise the hope in Rotterdam. But Stefan de Vrij is the ugly duckling. Always needing to swim upstream but drowning on that January night.

De Vrij, born ten kilometers from Rotterdam in Ouderkerk aan den IJssel (basically “Old Church on the river IJssel”). A little village. Where indeed the church rules. On Sunday, the shops are closed, no football club is in action and where Stefan de Vrij grew up a shy lad.

He makes his way to Feyenoord’s youth system. All the experts have seen it. There is a right footed defender now at Feyenoord, who will most likely make it to the first team, make it into the Dutch team and is set for greatness. But they’re not talking about De Vrij, but about the six months younger lad Jeffrey Bruma, signed from Excelsior Bruma is a city kid. Bit mouth, and always ready to win an argument with a fight. A big contrast with the village kid from Ouderkerk: shy and down to Earth.

It’s hard for Stefan. Young Jeffrey is invited to play in the older teams, in place of De Vrij. Bruma is also picked for the different rep teams of their age group, and De Vrij is not. In 2006, Chelsea shows up, with a bag of money and promises.

A young De Vrij in his typical Dutch little village….

Feyenoord is not happy, but for De Vrij, this is good news. But, he still isn’t the go to player for the central defenders role. Feyenoord also has Karim Rekik. He’s also younger than Stefan but has the personality of a leader and draws most of the attention. Luckily for De Vrij, also the attention from Manchester City. So Rekik leaves too and it’s the decisions made by others that will influence Stefan’s career. Still he is a question mark.

Feyenoord protects its big talents with early contracts. The fact that De Vrij gets his first contract when he turns 17 years old is a typical sign. Only months later, he makes his debut in the first team.

In 2014, Lazio Roma pays millions for the defender and at that time, it seems very logical. He played 150 matches for Feyenoord, played 20+ international games, won a bronze World Cup medal, but that De Vrij would become one of Europe’s top defenders…no one could know….

And Stefan now, the cosmopolitan defender in Rome, next stop Milan

In Stefan’s career, it seems the decisions by others were key for him. There were not a lot of coaches who recognised his qualities and said: right! He’s my man! Look at De Vrij’s debut season under Mario Been in 2009.

De Vrij is brought into the squad as the last player that summer. And he would finish the season as starting player. Because right back Dani Fernandez gets a serious injury. His replacement Kelvin Leerdam, gets a serious injury. His replacement Bandjar…you guessed it…gets injured. Been doesn’t get more money to sign another right back, so De Vrij gets the job.

Mario Been uses De Vrij as right back and is quite clear in the media and press conferences, that this is an emergency move. Been also states that if Bruma wouldn’t have gone to Chelsea, he would have had the spot.

De Vrij doesn’t impress as right back. But the criticism is mild, as expectations about him were never high and everyone at Feyenoord knows it’s not his spot.

He does get a chance to play centrally. For the away game vs PSV Eindhoven, Ron Vlaar is injured, so De Vrij gets the spot. Feyenoord loses that match 10-0. The biggest defeat ever and the beginning of the end for Mario Been. The match at home vs De Graafschap is the real low for De Vrij. Feyenoord falls to the 14th spot and De Vrij is crying his heart out in the dressing room. Been made a public call to his management to free up funds for defensive reinforcements. The answer is: No!

Mario Been now: “He was a very quiet and sweet lad. And he struggled against really tough strikers and quick and agile wingers. He’s not a born athlete, he is not a quick mover but when he played centrally, you could see him improve. Centrally, his build up pass and positioning became apparent as strengths. Stefan does see situations earlier than others. That is his strength. And Vlaar was a great mentor for him, he learned a lot from Ron.”

De Vrij started to work on himself, more and more. So much so that Koeman took his captains band, when he found out Stefan was in the gym without the consent of the Feyenoord medical staff. He kept on searching to better himself and develop, mentally, physically, mentally. He studied Neurolinguistic programming for instance, to focus better and even worked with renowned guru Wim Hof, the Iceman, to learn about the health benefits of ice-baths and breating techniques. And to this day, he analysis every match he plays via FaceTime with the tactical analysis company Your Tactical Analyst.

No more Mr Nice Guy

De Vrij as the symbol of a club, almost dead. In every aspect. In a sports-sense and financially. But also the symbol of the resurrection. Ronald Koeman comes and he uses De Vrij centrally, first next to mentor Vlaar and later next to Joris Mathijsen. Koeman gives him the #3 jersey and gives him confidence. In the 2013/14 season, he plays centrally with his mate Bruno Martins Indi, a lad he played with in all his youth teams and a close friend.

Feyenoord is back at the top, and finishes just 4 points behind Ajax. De Vrij plays a strong World Cup under Van Gaal and bang: his move to Rome is there.

And now, after 4 seasons there, he will make his next step in a career propulsed forward by coincidence and circumstance. De Vrij’s character and personality pulled him through. He didn’t get swimming lessons, or training wheels, he was just pushed in and told to fake it until he made it. And he made it.

And it was Feyenoord’s bad spell that create this top defender. In any other club, De Vrij would have been replaced. Feyenoord had to use him and grew, because he was allowed to fail. He learned and developed as a result of all his mistakes.

And this made him a top defender. He’s not the strongest, not the quickest, but he reads the game ever so well, and is strong positionally. And he is able to place the ball on your necktie over 50 yards. He’s hardly ever in panic and never got a red card in his career.

This season, he also was the most scoring defender in the Serie A and was #3 in the list of top ball retainers, behind Torreira and his new colleague at Inter Skriniar.

There might be a lesson to be learned from his career trajectory. Let’s see how El Ghazi, Adam Maher, Bazoer and others go in the years to come…

That goal!

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Oranje on record run vs Luxembourg

The Dutch need the three points against Luxembourg. Period. All the other story angles are fluff. There is a record to be had as well though. Oranje has won 9 times in a row from Cyprus and Hungary before and can do the same with Luxembourg now. We played each other 16 times in history. With 13 wins for the Orange Lions.  Twice, the Dukes won. In 1963 Luxembourg beat Holland in De Kuip, 0-1. The last victory they had over us. The last two games we played against them though, we only scored once in every game too. In the 2008 Euros qualifications, under Van Basten, we won at home thanks to a Mathijsen goal and in the home game, it was Danny Koevermans who got us the goal and famously, Edwin van der Sar even played for time in the home game, to get the needed win across the line.

Koevermans pre lux

Luxembourg is seen as a football minion but they managed to be despicable in this WC series. They lost against Bulgaria in injury time, only lost 1-0 at home vs Sweden and got the draw vs Belarus! Former Willem II and RKC Waalwijk striker Joachim already has 3 goals to his name.

Jeffrey Bruma remembers the name, vaguely. Different than Griezmann, Gameiro, or Berg and Guidetti. But still a danger. Is Bruma capable of keeping his concentration vs Luxembourg: “Well, this away game will be different than the France or Belgium fixtures of course. Now it’s us who need to make the play. But we’re still Oranje. We are obliged to beat Luxembourg and we will!”.

The Belgium press was clear, after the Holland – Belgium derby. If Belgium could get two players in their team from Holland, they’d pick Van Dijk and Bruma to replace their modest players at the back, Kabasele (Watford) and Ciman (Montreal Impact).

v dijk bruma pre lux

Van Dijk and Bruma turn into a fine pairing at the back. “Well, if Stefan de Vrij is fit, it will still be a battle for a spot,” says Bruma. “But I did play every game under this coach. But I believe in competition. We need to fight for our spot, and I want to make it hard for the team manager.”

The former Chelsea prospect has 24 caps now, but his debut was already back in 2010. Finally, he believes he can be a mainstay. “I came from far. I had to miss a couple of tournaments. Even with Young Oranje. But I will always fight to come back. Same with Wolfsburg. I had a weak start but competed and battled and I’m back at level. I know that mentality is the key.”

Bruma played 11 internationals with Van Dijk at his side and is comfortable. “We do have a good click, on and off the pitch. He’s in the EPL, I’m in the Bundesliga. We both are up against top strikers every week. Luxembourg might be a minion, but watch it. They do have players who are with Schalke 04, Gent, Olympique Lyon, Metz… The time that these guys couldn’t play is over. Joachim is not an amateur. But even without Janssen and Lens and Schaars… we’ve got Robben back. And when Robben is on the pitch, you feel more confident. And the opponent knows what time it is, you know what I mean. They’ll always fear him. He alone can decide matches.”

nl pre lux

Joel Veltman and Marten de Roon

Lens would most likely not have played against Luxembourg. Which is why the Fener winger opted to go for a full match vs Belgium, despite not being 100% fit after a hamstring scare. And after  1 hour of play, the former PSV man got injured again. With the Turkish club furious for the risk Danny Blind took on him. There’s even talk that Blind ignored Dick Advocaat’s wishes to get back at him for leaving Blind high and dry as assistant coach, when he chose the money over loyalty. Danny Blind: “I heard these accusations too and it’s rubbish. I spoke to Dick and he told me Lens had an old knee irritation from his Sunderland days. I told him I wanted to use Lens vs Belgium and not against Luxembourg, and Dick was like “fine”.”

lens pre lux

Arjen Robben is happy to play against Luxembourg. It’s almost exactly one year since his last cap for Oranje. Robben: “I recently heard I have missed almost as many games due to injury as I have played. Incredible. But I’m happy to be fit and hope to stay fit for a long time. Every time I get injured I have to dig deep to come back, but when I do return, it feels like I’ve never been away.” The Bayern star shows confidence with his feet and lips: “It’s not about winning vs Luxembourg for me. It’s about winning with lots of goals. It will help us to create more confidence and moral support from the fans. It was painful to see so many empty spots in the Arena vs Belgium. We need to do better and against Luxembourg we can not allow them to breath even. Grab ‘m by the throat and keep on working them.” When asked if a 10-0 was possible, Robben laughed. “Well, those days are over. Not because we are not capable but the football dwarfs are not that easy to beat anymore. The gap between top and second tier is getting smaller and smaller.”

What does remain a big difference between top and second tier is the quality of the pitches. The Luxembourg pitch was used for a rugby match mere days ago and looks like a potato field. Robben: “We knew this and went a day early to check it out. We’ll be fine.”

virgil pre lux

Danny Blind: “We know the pitch isn’t great, but that will never be an excuse. You simply adapt. You can’t keep on wishing things to be different. It is how it is and we deal with it. We like a pitch that allows for nice passing play, but if it’s not like that, we can’t hide behind that. We’ll deal with it.”

Daley Blind will most likely play his 41st cap for Oranje and will join his dad Danny on the list of most capped internationals. Danny Blind made his Oranje debut against Luxembourg, interestingly enough. Other players to make their debut against the minions are Clarence Seedorf and Pierre van Hooijdonk. Marvin Zeegelaar could well be another one. For Sneijder, there is also a nice record up for grabs. Two actually. He played 125 caps for Oranje and is on his way to beat record international Van der Sar (with 130 caps). Should Wes score against Luxembourg, this would be the 25th nation he will score against. Only Huntelaar and Van Persie are ahead of him on this list.

blind 2 prelux

In the final presser before the game, Bind said he’d return to 4-3-3 for the Luxembourg game. “They will let us have the ball. We will dominate and attack and we’ll do so with three offensive midfielders.” The coach hasn’t released the line up but it seems that Dost will play for Janssen, Robben for Lens and Ramselaar will make his full debut in place of Schaars. It’s also highly likely that the weak Veltman will be replaced by Joshua Brenet, who is a much more attacking option on the flank.

Should Holland win vs Luxembourg (oooh… exciting!) it will jump to the 2nd spot in the group. Blind: “It was disappointing that Sweden couldn’t hold on to the 1-1.  We would have had a good view on the lead in the group. But, whatever France does, we simply need to win our games. And we’re all very aware.”

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Dutch clubs in Europe

And it only takes a week for two of our young, cool clubs to be relieved of their European dreams. No CL for PSV, no EL for Feyenoord (or Vitesse, or Utrecht).

What a drama.  Feyenoord started well against the Russians in a steaming De Kuip but missing a penalty is never a good thing to do. Too many individual mistakes. Not enough forward thrust. Not enough killer instinct. End of story.

Ronald Koeman: “We lost against ourselves, really. We did everything right in the first half. We pressured forward, we scored and created 5 opportunities. But they came back due to personal mistakes and that second goal took the confidence out of the team. This was very unnecessary.” Apart from losing the game, Feyenoord also lost Clasie with a hamstring injury.

Feyenoord not good enough. Utrecht and Vitesse: not good enough. AZ might have a somewhat friendlier draw than Feyenoord but still…probably…not…good enough.

So, we need to make do with Ajax. In the CL. An Ajax WITHOUT Eriksen and most likely Alderweireld, who is linked to Atletico Madrid and Liverpool. Ajax is checking if Van Ginkel is available for a loan deal, what with Willian coming in, but for now, Chelsea said no.

Last season, they were facing the champions of England, Spain and Germany. “It can’t get that bad this year,” everyone said. So now they get Barca, Milan and Celtic. And sure, it’s not that bad. I do believe 6 points are a must against Celtic and maybe they can grab two against Milan. Who knows how they’ll finish up. They will at least bag the millions tv-money all by themselves now PSV is out.

cocu ac milan

PSV might not have gotten the victory (and the CL ticket), as was to be expected, really. But PSV definitely received and deservedly so, the compliments for trying hard.

The young team ( 23 years on average WITH Park and Schaars, 20 years without these two oldies) played with gusto, flair and panache in the San Siro. With the first chance even for Tim Matavz.

But it didn’t take long for Kevin Boateng to find space in the centre, with the former Portsmouth forward drifting between Wijnaldum and Rekik and pulling the trigger early. The PSV goalie Zoet was probably expected to block that but he simply wasn’t quick enough.

PSV kept on playing and Milan allowed PSV the ball. And slowly PSV gained some confidence, knowing that a 2-2 or a win would be enough. And there is enough football in PSV to go for a goal or two. Maher understood this in the 20st minute, taking a ball on the half volley and forcing a stop from Abbiati.

In the 31st minute, great chance for Milan, with a low pulled back cross from the left and an El Shaarawy hit on the bar.
The start of the second half was great for PSV with a 100% chance for Wijnaldum. Instead of being smart about it, the former Feyenoord man went for power and Abbiati blocked it nicely.

but it was Balotelli who found he net in the early stages of the 2nd half.

And it has to be said…. AC Milan looked more lethal, more mature and superior, but they did allow PSV the ball a lot and the youngsters from Eindhoven tried to take the game to them. The final pass or the final cross failed them though. And it has to be said, some players failed to step up.

Specifically Adam Maher and Memphis Depay, in my book, should have brought more. Maher had some great moments, but he needs to be more dominating, in my book. He does drift in and out. Depay however seems to light at this level. Physically and in terms of decision making. He is a great talent, for sure. But his time has not come yet. Park and Matavz played decent. So did Wijnaldum. Schaars worked his arse off but simply does not have the class of a Sneijder or Clasie. It’s a bit too predictable.

The most impressive players for me where – despite the goals conceded – Rekik, Bruma, Willems. Fearless. Focused. And sure, playing those top forwards (Boateng. Balotelli, El Shaarawy) you do make mistakes and you will give chances away. But I was impressed with these guys.

Jeroen Zoet? I am not convinced. Talented for sure. But not the man to win games for you (yet). A bit too…..sweet? (Zoet is Dutch for sweet, hahaha). I can’t see how Tyton is not better at the moment.


Nigel de Jong was nice to his fellow countryman. The best Dutch player on the pitch: “I really need to compliment PSV. They play with heart and soul. And they’re talented. But it’s too early for them. If they can keep the lads together for a bit, their time will come.” Asked about his future in Oranje, he said: “Sure! I’d love to wear the jersey again. But for now, after this long injury, I need to focus on my club. If I do well for Milan, the rest will probably follow.”

Stijn Schaars: “We are too light for this. Milan showed us that. We just didn’t have enough. With 1-0 down, there was nothing really troubling us, as we had to score anyway. We had the 1-1 opportunity and we missed. The game would have been different as a result.  They got one 10 minutes later, and score. Almost from the same spot. That is the story, I guess.

This game and this opponent came to early for PSV. Sadly or maybe not sadly, the can now concentrate on the domestic league.

And in Amsterdam they secretly cheer, as all the CL tv income will now go to Ajax….

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Bruma and Rekik: new Oranje center backs?

New PSV trainer Phillip Cocu talks as the Barca or Ajax coach. “Play dominant football, forward pressure and take the initiative.” He needed different center backs in his team to play this way. Jeffrey Bruma (21) and Karim Rekik (18) have settled in nicely. Bruma was bought from Chelsea (but the London club negotiated the right of first refusal) and Rekik is on loan from Man City. They are young. Very young. But very confident: “It’s not about age, but about quality.”

It seems as if all the new players have settled in nicely at PSV?

Bruma: “I think so. The people here at PSV have done an awesome job. The lads that were here helped us a lot too. It makes all the difference.”
Rekik: “The fun thing is, most lads I know from the youth games with Feyenoord. And Gini Wijnaldum played higher than me at Feyenoord of course but we knew each other. Some lads, I have known for years and are good mates, like Depay, Willems and Brenet. That made it easier for me to settle in.”
Bruma: “Same for me. I played with Zoet, Maher, Narsingh, Locadia and Wijnaldum in the Oranje selections and with Schaars I played too, in the big Oranje and I also know Cocu and Faber from those days. And Karim and I know each other for years too.”


Rekik: “I played for years with Kyle Ebicilio, who is now at FC Twente. He is a very good mate. And he is Jeffrey’s cousin. Our families know each other really well and we even went on holidays together. I remember you left for Chelsea that particular summer.”
Bruma: “It’s quite special to be playing with Karim now, thinking about that particular summer. We couldn’t have made that up back then, hahaha.”
Rekik: “We do share the same management (Rodger Linse) and through them I heard pretty early on that PSV wanted us both.”

There is quite some good football in your families…

Bruma: “My dad was a good athlete. A long distance runner. My mum played different sports. Fabian Wilnis is my uncle, who played for NAC and Ipswich Town. My brother Marciano played for Sparta, Barnsley and Lech Poznan. He is now my manager. And Kyle Ebicilio is my cousin. We all love sports.”
Rekik: “My little brother Omar, 11 years old, plays for Man City as well. He is regarded to be one of the biggest talents they have. He is in the elite group, for whom special arrangements for school are made. They attend this very expensive school and the club pays for it all. I’m so proud of him. I think we have the talent from my dad. He played pro football in Tunesia. My dad didn’t have long career as a knee injury made him stop. He studied hard instead and came to Holland to pursue a career. But from the day we could walk, he was always playing football with us.”

Karim Rekik got introduced to the Islam via his dad, but his little brother inspired him to practice the faith. “Our dad leaves us free in this, but my kid brother got interested in it and we went and checked this mosque out and it did something to me. I do it my way though. I don’t get involved in ramadan as I don’t believe I can combine it with my football. But I do it on days off. I do pray 5 times a day and on Friday’s I go to the mosque. And I want to visit Mekka one day.

rekik signs psv

You both went to England when you were 16 years old. And now you are playing for PSV. Criticasters will say: see, you made a bad decision.

Bruma: “I don’t think you can make general comments like that. Every player is different. I totally believe I made the right decision. I have played and trained with some of the best in the game. I have played in England and Germany and I’m only 21 years old.”

But you could have played in the Feyenoord first team for 4 seasons?

Bruma: “Yeah but who knows. You don’t know this for sure.”
Rekik: “It’s really not relevant to talk about this, is it? It is all “I could have or should have…” You make a decision and you go with it. I think I have not made a bad decision.”

And the money?

Rekik: “I have not made my decision to leave for Man City on the basis of money. I could actually go to different clubs, one Italian club in particular, was offering me much more. My first contract with Man City was an apprentice contract. I was paid 570 euro per month and they gave us a rental house. I now have a real contract of course, but you do have to earn that.”
Bruma: “I did it for the challenge. I wanted to know if I was going to be good enough for Chelsea. I have not been paid to well either, in the beginning. After two years in London, I played 10 games in Chelsea 1. I played Champions League. I am proud of that.”

Is it hard to leave a top club?

Bruma: “For sure. Every day you become better, when you train with the likes of Terry and Lampard. When you play with only top players, you are lifted up and get into this flow. If players like Terry, or Kompany in Karim’s case, help you and guide you, you feel special. It does something….”

Man City has a lot of faith in Rekik. The youngster will be scouted every match. “I know they will come and watch me play all the time. This is how they work. They prepare reports and keep track. There is a whole department for this. And they do evaluations periodically. I like it. It is clear that they take me and the others seriously.

But young players in England do not have any say in where they play, right?

Bruma: “Wrong. I have played on loan at Leicester and HSV Hamburg and this has always been after consultation with me. Chelsea wouldn’t force a player.”
Rekik: “Same here. Everytime I got loaned out, it was either because I took the initiative or because we both decided it was best. PSV is my third club. I played eight games for Portsmouth and later on I went to Blackburn Rovers.”

How did the PSV deal go?

Rekik: “Manager Marcel Brands first checked with Rodger Linse whether I would be interested. Rodger talked to my parents and and me. I was very happy to give it a go. So Rodger talked to Man City we all felt it was a good move for me. I spoke to Nigel de Jong about it too. He has become a dear friend and I talk to him a lot about these things. He’s my mentor. And he thought it would be very good for me.”

And you decided to leave Chelsea, Jeffrey?

Bruma: “Well, there was a new deal for me, at Chelsea. They didn’t want to see me go and I could be part of the squad now. But I wouldn’t be playing a lot. I would be a player for the future and I would get time in the Carling Cup or something…. I did think about it but I decided I am beyond a player for the future. I am a player for now. I am young, fit and I have learned a lot at Chelsea and HSV. I want to play every week. I had more options, but PSV was the right club for me.”

bruma lampard

Lampard opposed to the tongue


But it didn’t work out really well at Hamburger SV?

Bruma: “I played a lot in my first season. It was a season of ups and downs, I have to say. We played relegation football almost. Very challenging. The second season, I became victim of a new policy at HSV. They wanted to use players with long-term contracts. The coach even told me I was his preferred option for center back, but the board wanted to use players who would be loyal to the club. I did understand their point, but it was disappointing for me of course. They wanted to sign me and make me one of their own, but they couldn’t get it together, financially. I still played 20 games last season. I wasn’t used to playing under that kind of pressure, to be honest. Relegation football… Also, HSV has never been relegated so playing with that potential outcome put extra pressure on. It was not easy.”

So returning to Chelsea was not what you were looking out for?

Bruma: “No, I didn’t want spend time on the bench there, with all due respect. I didn’t want to be in a situation where Chelsea would again loan me out to a relegation candidate. I wanted to take my career in my own hands.”

Jeffrey Bruma and Christianity: the former Chelsea man – son of a Dutch father and a Suriname mother – is a very religious young man. It was key in his upbringing and still is a factor. “I can go to church once a week again, in Rotterdam. I missed that a bit. In England and Germany I prayed with my mum and we watched services on telly or we read the Bible together. It’s a very cool congretation. Lots of music and singing. It takes 2,5 hours and then the cooks prepare food. It relaxes me. The older I get, the more important my faith becomes. My mum took me when I was young, but now I can determine myself whether I embrace it or not. And I do….

The Eredivisie has become a popular destination for young players. Look at Ajax, Feyenoord, AZ, Twente… Age is not a factor, it seems.

Rekik: “The meetings I had with PSV management were key for me. Marcel Brands and Phillip Cocu gave me a very warm feeling. I was on holiday in Holland and Cocu dropped in and we talked about me, my style of play, my career and his analysis of me told me he had really spent time on me. He gave me tremendous confidence and it was clear that he really wanted me in his team. I could also go to another club in England and a club in Spain. But I did want to play in the Eredivisie. I believe in Cocu as coach and the football played in Holland is befitting of my style.”
Bruma: “For me, it was important to play in Holland. Young players get more chances here. And the play is more open. Like Karim says, Brands and Cocu knew everything about me and my background. I did my homework too and when I learned about the signings and the ambitions here, I didn’t need much time to decide.”

You are both young, but play with the confidence of experienced players.

Rekik: “I hear that comment already a long time. I have always been skipper of teams and I always here that I resonate authority and confidence. And I worked on that with a vengeance. When I first played at City, I thought I couldn’t play football anymore. Every ball was taken away from me. I lost every challenge. And a loose ball, man…you’d see Kompany running towards me and I would simply pull back. I needed to work out. Get stronger. I got this personal program and started to work in the gym, to gain strength.”

What does Cocu, your coach, expect from you?

Rekik: “He wants us to be fearless. In defensive sense and in offensive sense. He wants the team to dominate, to control the pitch and the ball. We can do this.”
Bruma: “He wants us to play our own game. Karim and I have a click together, that always helps. I trust Karim, so I can take a bit more initiative and vice versa. He basically wins all his duels, did you see that?”
Rekik: “And when Jeff commits to a duel, I back him up. We are both pretty content with how we are doing and that is not something I easily am.”

You are relatively inexperienced, but you both ooze confidence.

Rekik: “There is no need to be anxious or nervous on the ball. You have to have faith in your skills. We both always were confident on the ball, which doesn’t mean we never make a stupid mistake, hahaha.”

Jeffrey Bruma’s transfer to PSV was a bit delayed due to alleged heart issues. “I wasn’t surprised,” Bruma says. “I have a thick heart muscle. What they call a sports heart. Chelsea knew this too, they found out when I was 16 years old. It is not a problem. PSV knew this too. For my medical though, they wanted to use the same doctor I have consulted for years in London and the good man was on a summer break, hence the delay. If he wasn’t away, it would have been settled on that same day and no one would have cared.”

Has England changed you or are you still typical Dutch defenders: good in build up, trying to take initiative?

Rekik: “That will always be part of our game of course. But the time in England has taught us to be killers too. As a defender, your first task is to defend.”
Bruma: “True. My development at Feyenoord as a defender was great, but always aimed at ball possession. In England I have learned what it is to battle. Practice in England and Germany were normally tougher than the games. Flying tackles like razorblades man.”
Rekik: “Coach Cocu demands this from us on practice too. He wants to see 100% commitment.”
Bruma: “He always says “being a nice guy won’t win you titles”….

bruma signs PSV

The football world is taking notice of this PSV. With lots of scouts on the stands, as a result.

Bruma: “Cool. But, we played only 4 or 5 games. Too early to pass judgement. We should not think we are “there”. Because then it will go south really quickly.”
Rekik: “We do notice the response from the crowd. That always helps us improve too. So there is that interaction.”

You were the youngest PSV ever in the Zulte Waregem games.

Rekik: “It’s pretty cool to be part of that. Some people believe young people can’t be consistent. I don’t buy it.”

Jeffrey, Chelsea has negotiated a buy back option for 5 Mio Euros. Does that go through your mind?

Bruma: “I know they demanded that. But it’s not a topic for me.”

Karim, how is that for you?

Rekik: “I am now focusing on PSV. My deal with Man City is till 2017. They have faith in me, but this season it’s all PSV for me. As a player in a top club you need to live day by day. I don’t want to think about next season.”

What are your personal goals?

Bruma: “I want to play as many games as possible and play well. The coach wants me to take charge and lead. And that is what I want to do. I want to win silverware. We want to have a serious go at the title.”
Rekik: “Me too.”
Bruma: “And stay realistic. Keep our feet firmly on the ground.”

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Dutch football, when the dust (almost) settles….

The Dutch competition is on its way and most other competitions have followed suit.

Oranje will commence it’s qualifications journey soon and there is more than enough talking points.

We’ll do this one quick and dirty. And get on with more Oranje related articles after this one.

But the European adventures of our Dutch teams prompt some comments.

For starters, PSV seems unlucky to have drawn AC Milan. Any lesser opponent and the frivolous Cocu team might have had a real chance. They still do, of course. 1-1 is not that bad a starting position for the away game, but I think Milan will have learned their lesson and PSV will be brushed aside in the San Siro.

I might have to eat my words in 5 days and I’d be happy to :-).

Feyenoord, in the meantime, really looks in trouble. The consummate pro that is Ronald Koeman has no clue how to handle these situations and seems the first to criticise his players via the media, where the players are not allowed to make any comments in the press. The rules clearly don’t apply to Koeman. It is really key for Koeman to get this right, real fast. The season for Feyenoord (and indirectly Oranje) might depend on his ability to pull his team together.

ricky scores

Ricky scores everywhere….


Ajax doesn’t have any real issues. Yet. The CL is not starting till later for them and there is no real competition in the Eredivisie for them, bar PSV.

And I personally believe Eriksen and Alderweireld will leave the club which will not make Ajax any stronger (bar the bank account).

Gertjan Verbeek is doing well with AZ. He had a good draw of course, compared to Feyenoord, but his new team (Maher and Altidore left, which is a big thing) has done really well already. I expect some firework from AZ this season.

Internationally, some of our players are out with injury (Hunter, Strootman, Narsingh, De Guzman, Janmaat), and others are not in the picture due to lack of form and/or rhythm ( Fer, Sneijder, De Jong, Ola John).

Van Gaal likes to work with youngsters, players he can ‘control’. He added Rekik and Bruma to the squad based on their good work in the first matches for PSV. Stijn Schaars is back too and so are Clasie and Van Wolfswinkel. Clasie’s return is remarkable as the youngster had an abyssmal start with Feyenoord but Fer/De Guzman/Strootman/De Jong not in the picture has everything to do with that.

Wesley Sneijder again not selected is quite logical. Sneijder had only one competitive game with Gala, and although he played well, it is clearly not enough for Van Gaal. And it would be a bit silly to invite him back in after one good performance.

As was stated on the blog earlier, Van Ginkel could have chosen to play for Ajax, and he would have had 3 matches under his belt, instead of the 2 x 8 minutes he has now. For now, LVG seems to accept this, but once Strootman and Fer are back in the picture, the former Vitesse man will be in trouble if he doesn’t add some minutes fast.


This coming weekend, some more exciting fixtures…

Fulham vs Arsenal… how will Stekelenburg hold up…

Hull – Norwich….Ricky Wolf and Leroy Fer

Newcastle – West Ham….. Krul and Anita

Aston Villa – Liverpool…. Vlaar

Blackpool – Reading…. Fan fave Roy Drenthe 🙂

Verona – AC Milan…. Urby and Nigel

Bayern vs Nurnberg…. Robben

Hertha vs Hamburg…. Rafa van der Vaart

Tottenham vs Swansea…Vorm, De Guzman

Augsburg vs Stuttgart….Verhaegh

Feyenoord vs NAC…. BMI, Clasie, De Vrij

Ajax vs Heerenveen….(De Boer vs Van Basten)

ManU vs Chelsea….. RVP, MVG

13 x 90 minutes of football…. not bad….

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Young PSV impresses!

Not a title I have used before, for sure :-). I have used it for Ajax, for Feyenoord, probably for AZ, never for PSV.

Because they never really were young in Eindhoven and because for years they focused on players from Bulgaria, Canada, Sweden and Brazil.

I never liked PSV much, as you know. The Philips Sport Vereniging. The name says it. An outlet for a big consumer brand. Money talks in Eindhoven and so does not taking risks. Never invested properly in youth, always ready to snatch talents away from other clubs. The move from Gullit from Feyenoord to PSV in 1985 bothered me much, I remember. They won the Europa Cup 1 with players poached from Ajax. I never liked them.

They always seem to go for the obvious, risk-free coach choice and their football system was always 4-4-2.

I am biased of course. Because that same PSV also gave us Romario, Ronaldo, Luc Nilis and allowed us to enjoy Gullit, Koeman and co. a bit longer. Without PSV today, who knows where Wijnaldum, Schaars, Rekik, Bruma and Maher would be…. I should stop thinking that Wijnaldum might still have been with Feyenoord. He probably would be in Moscow or Leverkusen or Mallorca or some other place where I wouldn’t be able to see him…

So, as of today, PSV has raised its profile in my world. Because they make it possible for us all (incl Van Gaal!) to enjoy Schaars, Bruma, Rekik, Wijnaldum, Maher, Depay, Willems and co on a weekly basis.

And because they finally have the courage to not go for a coach they know and like (Hiddink, Rutten, Advocaat) but to go for a young turk who hasn’t proven himself at the highest level yet but who has the pedigree as a player, the trust of the players and the charisma amongst the people.

Phillip Cocu is from the same stock as Frank de Boer, John van de Brom and Gio van Bronckhorst. Cocu immediately went for a proper 4-3-3. And he handed the captains band to 23 year old Gio Wijnaldum. Young Jeroen Zoet seems to be the first goalie, before Tyton.

Hail Phillip Cocu.



And with this very young team, Cocu started the third qualifications round for the CL and they impressed mightily against Zulte Waregem: 2-0 (although 6-0 would have been a better reflection).

Cocu’s team had an average age of 21 years in this game. And 23 year old Wijnaldum is now one of the seniors. The fans were keen to see how their heroes would do without fan faves Mertens, Bommel and Strootman. Zakaria Bakkali, 17 years old, didn’t need long to establish himself in the hearts of the supporters. Within 2 minutes, the Belgium super talent hit the post. And in the first 60 minutes, his dribbles and speed appeared to much for his countrymen. In the last phase of the game, the tank was empty. Another remarkable player for PSV was 21 year old Bruma. The former Feyenoord defender showed that he brings grit and power to the team and his build up qualities shone through. Before the break, PSV had at least 5 golden opportunities, partly due to good play, partly due to Zulte’s defensive shenanigans. Wijnaldum rattled the woodwork twice.

It was Memphis Depay, that other prodigy, who broke the deadlock after an hour with a power hit from 35 yards. Sub Jurgen Locadia scored the second later in the second half.

matavz wijnal

Bruma: “This was a good night for us and for the fans. No one knew where we stood and we didn’t even know. But it’s too early to cheer. We still need to play for it. 2-0 is a tough result. We could have done better, but such is life. We need to approach the return as if it’s a 0-0 result on the board. We need to play for it.”


Coach Cocu had enjoyed himself: “I was impressed with certain spells but I also saw aspects we need to improve. We could and should have scored earlier I suppose, as we still have to be cautious in the return. Zulte is able to create opportunities and we can not become complacent.”

Line up PSV: Zoet; Brenet, Bruma, Rekik and Willems; Wijnaldum, Maher and Schaars; Bakkali, Matavz and Depay.


maher psv

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Oranje and WorldCup 2014: one year to go

And here we are. Louis van Gaal had his Asia trip to check on the big boys and to allow some wannabees in, while Cor Pot had the top talents at his disposal to win some silverware.

With the dust settled, the Confederations Cup in full flow and the rest on their way to beaches, mountains, exotic cities or the training field (Sneijder), lets check the State of the Orange Union.

There is a list (in Louis’ head) with names of players of whom LVG thinks he will take them… This is of course, unless something remarkable happens (injury, dramatic loss of form or conflict at club).

At the top of that list is the current Captain, one Robin van Persie. He will lead us all into the final year leading up to the World Cup. Arjen Robben, vice captain, is close behind him. In the form he currently is, he is likely to win the Golden Ball at the end of the year… Or whatever the name. Kevin Strootman and Jeremain Lens (both still PSV but probably not for long) will be on that list too. Lens going to Kiev might be a gutsy move for him, in view of Brazil 2014, but maybe not. Russia has the future, they say…

I think Vorm and Vermeer might be certainties too, with Stekelenburg and Krul battling for the third spot. Stekelenburg to Fulham is a good move for him. Once Krul returns from injury, he might be taking Vermeer’s spot again, as the EPL is simply a stronger competition than the Dutch one.

Darryl Janmaat is way ahead of the rest of the pack on the RB position while Daley Blind has been doing really well on the LB spot. Ricardo van Rhijn will be a good alternative for Janmaat, but he might be surprised by the development of Gregory van der Wiel.

On the left hand side, Jetro Willems and Erik Pieters will both be vying for the spot behind Blind although I do give Van Aanholt a chance to make it, if he keeps on developing as he has, this season.

Pieters could well be a central defender option, depending on his coming season.

In defence, it seems Martins Indi and De Vrij are the key players for Van Gaal. For now… I wouldn’t be surprised if we would find another player suddenly coming in the frame for De Vrij. I was not totally convinced those last games for Feyenoord and I was not totally impressed with him in Israel. He has strong point, but he is slow and a bit clumsy in the one-on-one. Simply a bit too slow and lanky it seems.

I like De Vrij, don’t get me wrong but Bruma at PSV is a terrific prospect for me. I rate Bruma as a real candidate. Vlaar can most likely be the other player who can get his ticket, provided he will perform well this coming season. And then there is John Heitinga. He has been solid for a long spell in Oranje and has lost his standing in the last year or so. He is planning to move to the Eredivisie to make sure he can have a real go at making the squad.

Joris Mathijsen will not make the list, in my view.


Sneijeer Heit

In midfield, it seems Jonathan de Guzman made an impression. But he is leaving Laudrup and Swansea and his season might be quite different yet again. Who knows…

There are a couple of no’s, in my book. Like I said, Joris is probably not going to be there. I expect Nigel de Jong to be on the list of no-goers too. He is injured, as is Afellay, Boetius, Tim Krul and Luciano Narsingh. I believe Afellay and Narsigh, when fit, would be assets to the squad but the question is whether both will be able to reach their top form again.

Van Gaal has some options to choose from beyond De Guzman. Again, the Canadian born will have to prove his worth still this coming season in Spain, but lets assume he will succeed. Strootman, Fer, Clasie, Van Ginkel can all play that role, although Strootman will be the second midfielder, normally. The box-to-box man. With Fer and Van Ginkel as stand-in. Clasie would be the ideal stand-in for De Guzman.

As playmaker, I expect LVG to pick between Sneijder, Siem de Jong, Van der Vaart and Maher. Van Gaal thinks De Jong and Van der Vaart are more alike, as they play as second striker, while Sneijder and Maher are more similar as they play more like midfielders.

This suggests that LVG will pick between Siem and Raf and between Wes and Adam.

I personally think that is foolish. If both Wesley and Maher are in top shape and good form, you want them both. Sneijder is maybe only relevant as playmaker, but Maher can take any role in midfield and is versatile and also good coming from the bench.

Siem de Jong is a question mark. He is good at Ajax’ level, but can he make the step up. Also, he seems to play in the same pace all the time and lacks speed.

Speaking of which, Rafael van der Vaart is a question mark because he might not be able to perform consistently at the top level. His physical body doesn’t seem to want to do what his astute football mind wants…

Huntelaar will most likely be the RVP stand in as central striker and it is to be hoped that Ola John performs well the coming season so we can play with a real left winger with tremendous potential. Ruben Schaken has been used as a right winger, with success, but he is not really top notch Oranje material in my mind.

Derk Boerrigter has not impressed this season as a potential Robben stand-in on the right. Schaken is ahead of him but Wijnaldum might have something to say about this. Under Cocu at PSV, he might live up. At the same time, with Toivonen likely to move away, Cocu might play the ex Feyenoord prospect as playmaker.

Van Gaal has added two key aspects to his infamous TIPS system: orientation and conduct.

With orientation, Louis means: how does a player deal with a lot of space around him or behind him? This would apply to a central defender for instance. With a midfielder it’s more, does the midfielder see the runner on his blind side and can he pass the ball on intuition? Conduct is more: what does a player do when faced with a setback? An own goal. A horrendous mistake? Or a referee who is not that good? Or an aggressive opponent? Or how does a player respond when the team needs to fight back into the game? And obviously, how does a player respond when he is benched….

Van Gaal will also have a surprise or two, I’m sure. To give one example: Clasie was benched by Cor Pot, but the little Feyenoord midfielder is a typical Van Gaal player. A lad who sees the game quick and is able to accelerate the game (like Sneijder can). Just like Van Gaal is a fan of Siem de Jong, whose most important strength, according to LVG, is orientation. De Jong feels where space is, feels where the ball will come and is able to be right in time. A quality he shares with players like Jari Litmanen, Gareth Bale and Hernandez.

He might not have the creativity that Maher and Sneijder have, but he has the ability to enter the box at the exact right time to finish a cross or a pass.

I am hoping on the next 23:


Van Aanholt
De Vrij
Martins Indi
Van Rhijn

De Guzman

Van Persie
Van der Vaart (or any other wildcard player)

And in case of emergency, I’m sure Kluivert still knows how to hit a ball :-).

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Focus on: Young Oranje, preparing for European Title

Young Oranje wants the European Title. Full Stop. And with the group of talents at Cor Pot’s disposal you can understand the optimism.

Today, Pot announced his final 23. Jeffrey Bruma (HSV), Jetro Willems (PSV) and Danny Hoesen (Ajax) are the biggest victims of Cor Pot’s decision making while Feyenoord allrounder Kelvin Leerdam can be seen as a surprise.

Jeffrey Bruma, on PSV’s hot list for next season, hardly played at Hamburg SV and lost out against Utrecht talent Mike van der Hoorn, who is also on Louis van Gaal’s shortlist for the Big Oranje.

Jetro Willems already played an EC for the Big Oranje but fell in the hierarchy at young Oranje behind Daley Blind and Patrick van Aanholt. The latter, Chelsea loanie to Vitesse, seemed to get sidetracked in his career but he fought himself back into the limelight this season.

Danny Hoesen, former Fulham player and scoring prolifically for Ajax as a sub, simply has too much competition and not enough playing rhythm. Cor Pot has ample choice. Lerin Duarte, ex Sparta and now Heracles, will be given a couple of weeks with the squad to prove himself. The mainstay midfielder of Young Oranje was injured for a spell, and out of loyalty, Pot gives him a break.

This Friday, Young Oranje will play Young Australia.

It seems that Pot already knows who he will play upfront. Georginhio Wijnaldum is the right winger, Luuk de Jong the central striker and Ola John will most likely be the left winger for the tournament. With Luciano Narsingh and JP Boetius injured, it seems these three will lead the line. Yanic Wildschut (VVV) will have to await his chances. Both Memphis Depay (PSV) and FLorian Jozefzoon (RKC, ex-Ajax) have had a strong competition finish, something Cor Pot certainly noticed.

Gio Wijnaldum’s step brother Rajiv Van La Parra (Heerenveen) will most likely be the victim of this situation.

Kelvin Leerdam is the only player without real playing rhythm. The Feyenoord player played his last full game for Feyenoord in October 2012, when he had a fall out over contractual matters. He played six minutes against Vitesse last month. Pot will select him as he has no real alternatives for the right back position, behind Ricardo van Rhijn.

Young Oranje will start with a training camp in Dorwerth. On Friday, May 24 Young Oranje will play a friendly against Young Australia in Emmen.

The EC Squad:

Patrick van Aanholt (Vitesse), Marco Bizot (FC Groningen), Daley Blind (Ajax), Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord), Memphis Depay (PSV), Leroy Fer (FC Twente), Marco van Ginkel (Vitesse), Mike van der Hoorn (FC Utrecht), Ola John (Benfica), Luuk de Jong (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Florian Jozefzoon (RKC Waalwijk), Kelvin Leerdam (Feyenoord), Jürgen Locadia (PSV), Adam Maher (AZ), Nick Marsman (Go Ahead Eagles), Bruno Martins Indi (Feyenoord), Bram Nuytinck (Anderlecht), Ricardo van Rhijn (Ajax), Kevin Strootman (PSV), Tonny Trindade de Vilhena (Feyenoord), Stefan de Vrij (Feyenoord), Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV), Jeroen Zoet (RKC Waalwijk).

Leroy Fer is the record international of this group. The Twente midfielder made his debut in 2009 and now has played 27 times in the talent team. With Mark van Bommel and Roy Makaay, he has the fourth spot in the list of most capped Young Oranje players ever. Arnold Bruggink ( Twente, PSV) with 31, Daniel de Ridder ( Ajax) with 30 and Niels Oude Kamphuis ( Twente and Schalke) are ahead of him.

Marco van Ginkel’s name is mentioned a lot in the transfer articles and musings. The Vitesse midfielder is aware of the carrousel. “So, Eriksen and De Jong need to leave Ajax, and then De Boer wants Maher and me? That is what I read. Which is all fine and dandy, but it’s not something I really want to deal with right now. I am focusing on the EC. Whatever happens with my contract is for later. I still have a two year deal in Arnhem and my biggest aim was to play European football. We will do so with Vitesse too, so I am not fussed. Now I’ll take a break and then we want to win that European title.”

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Under21s qualify for European Championships

While the big boys are preparing for the clash against Romania, it’s the Under21s who lead the way. The double fixture against Slovenia the last serious hurdle for their qualification for the EC next summer in Israel.

This weekend, Young Orange won the away game in Slovenia with 0-2, courtesy of two goals by Vitesse player Marco van Ginkel. The Cocu-like midfielder gets himself seriously on the radar for scouts of bigger clubs, although he’s happy to remain at Vitesse and witness the Arnhem team making its way back to the top with big names like Wilfred Bony, Theo Janssen and coach Fred Rutten.

Oranje won the difficult home game with 2-0 as well. Coach Cor Pot expected this game, played at the Sparta Castle, to be more difficult than the away game. “Slovenia plays reactive football and that works best when they play away. We need to be totally concentrated.”

But Holland did what it needed to do and won thanks to two second half goals by Georginhio Wijnaldum and Luuk de Jong.

Oranje didn’t start well and Feyenoord allrounder Kelvin Leerdam suffered a lot of possession loss, while central defenders Bruma and Nuytinck were too loose in their marking. Jeroen Zoet, the PSV goalie, had to act a couple of times and Oranje couldn’t find it’s attacking mojo.

Striker Luuk de Jong was too isolated and Wijnaldum and Cabral’s attempts to force something failed.

Wijnaldum celebrates the 1-0

Pot made some changes in the half time. Maher moved to defensive mid, Wijnaldum moved to the playmaker’s role and Wildschut came on to replace Wijnaldum on the wing. Former Feyenoord holding mid Ricky van Haaren had to make way. This worked. Wijnaldum launched Cabral on the wing. De Jong was able to play his cross back to Wijnaldum who could score the 1-0. Ten minutes later, the game was played.

Wildschut was impeded in the box and Luuk de Jong scored from the spot.

Oranje won the youth EC in 2007, in Holland, but wasn’t able to reach the final tournament since.

Under21 coach Cor Pot, who started his career as youth coach at the famous academies of Sparta and Ajax, is a seasoned football man. Played for Sparta, MVV, Haarlem and Excelsior in his active career and worked at Feyenoord, NAC, Dynamo Dresden and most recently with Advocaat at Zenit St Petersburg as assistant manager.

Cor Pot: “This is a relief. This was not a great game. Or better, it was pretty weak… We had too many players playing with tension and stress in their bodies. We knew in the first half that a Slovenian goal was always an option, as they are a pretty good side. After the break we started to play better and we did the business.”

Pot saw his changes work out. “We needed more football from the back. Better build up. Van Haaren played ok, but Maher offers a lot more on that spot. With Wijnaldum on 10, we could still keep pressure on their defence.”

Luuk de Jong was a happy trooper. “It’s great that we reached this. Everyone really wanted to go, it’s a main objective for all of us. Most of us were there when we failed to qualify two years back and we needed to fix that. We want to shine at the EC.”

Ex-Feyenoord and current Twente winger Cabral slips away

He supported Pot’s words. The game was not great. “I don’t think it was nerves though. I think it was more that we all wanted to show how good we can be. We were sloppy. Too hasty in the build up. And when you lose possession, they can lash out. I think we did well in the second half.”

Bruno Martins Indi and Jordy Clasie were not part of this game, but Martins Indi feels part of the journey. “I really want to go to Israel too. This a one tournament I haven’t played yet. And having made the step up to the big team is sensational of course, but I still would relish this EC.”

Ricardo van Rhijn, Luciano Narsingh and even Kevin Strootman can still play for Oranje Under 21. Although Van Gaal will take the senior team on a trip to China and Indonesia, he has already pledged to allow Cor Pot the strongest possible side to take to Israel.

With the team we can field in Israel, we wouldn’t even do too badly at the big tournaments, I reckon…

We will keep on following these lads…

Cor Pot is happy

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