Tag: Depay

Van Gaal focuses on Turkey

Today was the presser pre-Turkey. The fact that Gakpo and Nathan Ake had to leave the trainings camp. Gakpo due to injury, Ake for ‘personal reasons’.

Van Gaal was disappointed, as “we don’t have a lot of wingers in the first place”. Gakpo would probably have played against Turkey. Van Gaal didn’t want to make the Turkey coach smarter, but he did say that Daley Blind returns into the team.

Memphis Depay was Van Gaal’s colleague representing the Dutch, explaining how playing against a compact shaped opponent works. Less space, lots of physical challenges. But Memphis demonstrated his usual swagger and confidence in his response: “We are confident, we know what we need to do. We will get our chances.”

Van Gaal furthermore lauded the Turkish coach, for his smart and his ability to turn the Turkish egos into the team. Van Gaal expects a counter-attacking Turkey and will analyse the way Turkey find their space moving forward.

Furthermore, Van Gaal expressed his belief that the Turkey match is not “a finals” but it is a key game for us. We play at home, and should have that extra to make a difference against Turkey. Van Gaal thinks the Turkey match will be the toughest match for the Dutch.

The question how Van Gaal and Depay were able to mend their relationship was answered in a balanced way by Memphis. “I think I was a different player and a different human being back then. We didn’t have a lot of success together but that doesn’t mean there was a lot of drama. That was magnified by the media.” Van Gaal added: “I can’t say it better than him. I recognised his talent when he was 20 years old and took him to the World Cup. I also took him with me to Manchester United, but that didn’t work too well. But that was partly also the team. I positioned Memphis on the #10 position! Not as winger. I think he, as an intuitive player, is at his best on that position, like he plays with us. As a false striker. The team couldn’t carry him and when I placed him as left winger, he started to get blockages. And my analysis, he didn’t have the orientation qualities he has now. He had trouble with the activities around him, to scan it fast enough. Now, he has developed and he is now as good as I knew he would be. He has unbelievable qualities.”

“Team work is super important. That was the case for Memphis at Man United but also for instance, Berghuis and Dumfries. By playing Dumfries, Berghuis will be able to play better. When I play Klaassen as a box to box player, this will help Memphis.”

Speaking of Memphis: he always cops a lot of criticism. Is it his rapping? His fashion style? His tattoos, or his swagger? No matter, because he just scored goal #29 and 30, getting close to the top 10 of top scorers in Orange. And only one player was younger than Memphis in that top 10.

After the Norway game: “I expected more from myself. I wasn’t able to make a difference, but I do need that ball quicker. I only have half a second of freedom and that is when the ball needs to be played in. Otherwise I have a big defender on my heels and I can’t turn that easily.”

Against Montenegro, this worked better. Although Memphis did start as a striker, but was everywhere on the pitch, except for…the striker position. That was the area where Klaassen and Wijnaldum ended up. The partnership between Gakpo and Memphis is developing rapidly and they both were involved in several goals. The penalty kick Memphis converted is his sixth and he now only had Koeman (8), Van Persie (7) and Neeskens (7) ahead of him. More coming, I’m sure.

Memphis played 70 internationals and was involved in 53 goals. That is superb. Only eleven Oranje platers scored more than 30 goals. Memphis is part of that list now. Only Kluivert was younger than Memphis. Kluivert did need less games though, as did Huntelaar and Bergkamp.

Faas Wilkes in the late ’50s needed 33 matches. Cruyff only 38. Of the modern era, Huntelaar needed 48 matches. Record holder Robin van Persie need 69 matches, just one less than Memphis.

It seems clear that Memphis will topple Van Persie and grab the record. He’s only 27 years old, so should he score 5 goals per season and has another 5 years on the clock, he’ll add 25 goals to his tally, reaching 55 goals for his country. Robin van Persie has 50 goals from 102 matches.

In terms of assists, Memphis is the #5 on the all time assist list behind Sneijder, Robben, Van der Vaart and Bergkamp and #6 on the combined list behind Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder, Bergkamp, Huntelaar. Great company to be in.

I think it is time for all of us to realise that Memphis Depay is becoming another Oranje legend, in the same way Cruyff, Van Hanegem, Neeskens, Gullit, Van Basten, Bergkamp, Van der Vaart, Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder are Oranje legends…

This is my line up (well, the line up I think Van Gaal will use) for the Turkey game.
I expect a 3-0 win (again) with Berghuis, Memphis and Bergwijn to score.

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Tense Oranje finds flow

As per usual, the expectations of the Dutch fans were high. We all want to cheer away the Czech and recent Norwegian blues, while clearly the Covid-restrictions also add to the level of expecations of the crowd. While the race fanatics get to enjoy the first F1 race in Zandvoort with idol Verstappen in 36 years or so on Sunday, the football crowd was desperate to cheer the Oranje players again.

Three matches in 7 days, a new coaching staff, differences in fitness levels and hardly any preparation time. That is what was on the table and like in Norway, Oranje started the match slow, deliberate, a bit cautious and lacking a bit of confidence too, maybe?

Van Gaal had been outspoken in his criticism of the team in the Norway game and will have used that criticism to push a couple of the key players in his plans (Memphis, Gakpo, Berghuis). Van Gaal also had to deal with some forced changes, as Van Dijk’s fitness levels (and hand injury) stopped him from playing, just like Daley Blind was ruled out due to suspension.

So two new players in the back four. Nathan Ake the logical choice at LCB and Malacia the logical choice for LB. The Feyenoord talent did make his debut but Van Gaal opted for De Ligt as LCB next to De Vrij.

Van Gaal decided to give Berghuis another chance (as the coach – like me- analysed that it was Timber who impeded Berghuis in playing his best football), this time with Dumfries behind him. Gakpo started again on the left with Memphis in the centre.

The first 20 minutes or so were dramatic, so much so that I feared for another debacle. Berghuis tripping over the ball, Wijnaldum invisible, Memphis wasteful, and hardly any zip or pace on the ball. The only players seemingly escaping that slow start were De Vrij, Frenkie de Jong and Klaassen.

It was the Ajax midfielder’s header on the cross bar that changed things, and got some confidence and some oomph in the team. Van Gaal needed to get vocal making sure Berghuis and Gakpo would not drop too deep and it was up to vice-captain Memphis to make the difference with his incredible work rate.

So after 20 minutes of slowly passing the ball square, Oranje found its spring in its step, and the answer was: Memphis and his runs.

Like Norway, Montenegro tried to keep the field compact with a 4-5-1 when Oranje had the ball. An easy defensive tactics, but usually not something teams can sustain over 90 minutes. Van Gaal knew his team needed to be patient and play the opponent dizzy over a longer period. A bit like handball: defenders around the circle and the attackers passing the ball around to find a gap.

Memphis played the perfect #9 role, by coming into midfield when possible to become an extra midfielder and to make runs in behind, stretching the opponent. He wouldn’t get great service in the first half, but his movement created space for Klaassen, Frenkie and Gakpo.

Look at this moment here (see above). Frenkie has possession and Montenegro moves into their shape. Memphis darts away, deep, and stretches the opponent. Both central defenders have to react.

You can see below how that opened up spaces in the midfield and via Malacia, the ball does end up with Memphis who plays in Gakpo, who in turn see Klaassen using the space created by Depay, who binds three opponents!

This is the task Frenkie, Wijnaldum and Memphis have against these types of opponents. It’s important to pull the opponent in, as these three will be seen as the danger men in orange, but by their movement, others will get more freedom.

Klaassen and Wijnaldum both switch up their play, from ball in feet to ball deep in behind. Van Gaal was adamant about this: “Find the right timing for your sprints!”. Below two situations, where he comes deep first, pulls a midfielder out of position. Then he moves deeper and forces the defenders to choose.

In the second photo, you can see Berghuis again launching Wijnaldum in the half space, which resulted in a goal against Norway. This time, Gakpo gets an opportunity to shoot.

These moments are typical for the attacking play we need. Runs in behind by the big players, to create space for themselves or for their mates. Look at the first goal here.

Memphis starts his run in midfield and gets the through pass from Gakpo. Klaassen has forced the defence back so the Barca striker is never off side. Gakpo’s pass is perfect and Memphis has the skill to trick the defender: penalty! And Memphis then gives a master class in penalty-taking.

The 2-0 was also the creation of the three attackers. Both Berghuis and Gakpo are instructed to stay wide and stretch the opponent. Memphis lures the right back by being active in the half space. De Jong uses his short passes to suffocate the space and allow room for Gakpo. That results in an attempt on goal by Berghuis, which gets blocked, and in the rebound a great goal by Memphis, who can’t stop scoring it seems.

The third goal also started with Memphis. Gakpo and Berghuis keep their width, Wijnaldum makes his run into the box and after some short passing, Memphis finds Berghuis, who finds skipper Gini with a nifty little through-ball and the 3-0 was there.

The more Montenegro got tired (and the more stalwarts they lost), the more space for Oranje. Look at the 4-0. It’s Memphis and Malacia who now dominate that space on the left and Gakpo makes his way to the striker position. Malacia got his assist, Gakpo demonstrating his glorious kicking technique and it’s 4-0.

Earlier in the second half, Malacia almost also had an assist for Montenegro. It ended well though for the debutant, who saw experienced De Vrij do the same almost, allowing Bijlow to claim the headlines with his highly composed control of that situation. Don’t go to ground, just wait what the player wants to do and deal with it.

The 4-0 was a symbolic goal. It showed the class of this new Oranje. Leader Memphis working his butt off, youngster Malacia and Gakpo with quick feet and a high work rate of all involved.

This is the Oranje Van Gaal wants to see: build up patiently, use the width of the park, and have a high intensity off the ball with lots of runs and movement.

This seems to be the right step up to that next game (Turkey). All that went well can be improved upon, while all we gave away were the result of lazy defending. Something Van Gaal will most definitely stamp out of this squad.

Wijnaldum: “We needed this. The Euro exit is still fresh and we couldn’t really dazzle versus Norway, so the pressure was on. We had to do it tonight and after a slow start, we managed to do it.”

Van Gaal: “I don’t like standing at the touchline to yell commands to my players. I believe you haven’t done your job if you need to do this all the time. But I did step up to instruct Gakpo and Berghuis to push up more, stay wide and high and allow space for others to use. I think that went well. Our first 20 minutes were abysmal, but our last 70 minutes were pretty good.”

My player ratings:

Justin Bijlow – 7.5

Calm and collected. Bijlow’s distribution was fine and when he was needed he did what he had to do. Plays with the swagger of a 28 year old. I think we have our new goalie for the next 10 years.

Tyrell Malacia – 7

Played as if he has been playing in the NT for years. Needing too many fouls in the beginning, but smart in his positioning and using his low centre of gravity in any aerial duels. Showed his quick feet and more than decent cross and worked tirelessly. Good for him to get an assist. He will battle it out with Wijndal and maybe Jetro Willems on the left.

Mathijs de Ligt – 6

Strong enough and good enough, but showing some rust in his passing and did time wrong a number of times, almost repeating his clumsy defending versus the Czechs at one point. But he did play in a role that he doesn’t prefer, and the future is obviously his.

Stefan de Vrij – 6

Played strong, was focused and alert. Tried to dribble in and support midfield where possible but also had a weak moment at the back with a short back pass putting Bijlow into trouble.

Denzel Dumfries – 6,5

Played great for a player who just had Covid and hasn’t played since the Euros. Defensively tricked once, in the first 20 minutes, otherwise a solid performance, although would be wise to play more simple and cross the ball in when he can. Got his usual chance at the far post again but needed a bigger shoe size.

Davy Klaassen – 7

Played to his strength and thanks to Memphis runs in behind, he was able to use his typical qualities more than against Norway. He did have a header on the bar and some close moments in the box but no cigar. A fine performance.

Frenkie de Jong – 7.5

Constantly prowling and hunting and scouting for openings. Strong on the ball, and in my view the player who added some oomph and pace to the game when after 20 minutes or so it was clear that the way Oranje was going was not going to cut it.

Gini Wijnaldum – 7

Added the runs to his game, made dirty yards and connected well with Berghuis on the right flank this time. Got his usual goal and was subbed by Van Gaal to keep him fresh for Turkey.

Cody Gakpo – 7.5

Cody needed some coaching initially re: his positioning but grew into the game and demonstrated his class at various times, whether it’s crossing, dribbling, pass and move or finishing. A glorious goal for him and boy did he enjoy it.

Memphis Depay – 8

Memphis led the line, Memphis gave the right example. He overcame a weak start and pushed himself to glory in this game. His penalty was a masterpiece and the Barca striker ran more than 11 kilometers for the team. Smart passing, some nice trickery for the fans and even an on-pitch selfie with a young fan. A mature performance.

Steven Berghuis – 7

Berghuis too needed some attention from the coach and after a horrid start grew into the game. He will always play his own game: passing with risk, trying to find the opening. I still feel he plays with the handbrake on as he had a couple of options to shoot himself. He created the Wijnaldum goal with a nifty flick and was involved in many attacks.

Steven Bergwijn – 7

Usually, a sub who has 20 minutes or so to play will not be able to impress much but Bergwijn had some amazing runs and great footwork (and a panna) to show the coach he truly is back. An amazing all round athlete, who can most likely play in the Memphis role, if need be.

Louis van Gaal – 7

Louis did what he needed to do. Logical tactics, logical player choices, logical substitutions.

It seems this will be Van Gaal’s system of choice, until he has more time to really work on the 5-3-2 or 3-4-3 system.

Wide wingers, a false #9, a dynamic runner on #10 and creative but ball-sure midfielders. He is right, we don’t have many wingers, but when you have Bergwijn, Malen, Gakpo, Berghuis, El Ghazi and Danjuma, you’re not in bad shape.

Memphis, Malen and Bergwijn can play the false 9. Luuk de Jong and Weghorst can act as pinch hitters when needed.

The dynamic #10 (as opposed to the playmaker #10 such as Bruno Fernandez) is also available in Klaassen, Van de Beek, Van Ginkel and Til, while Frenkie, Koopmeiners, Gravenberch and Propper can play in the creative deep playmaker role.

Tell my your thoughts!

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Memphis: special in every sense….

In 2015, Memphis (21) won the title in Holland, got the golden boot as top scorer and became the most expensive player PSV ever sold. At the same time, he struggled with his image at Oranje and Man United. A look back in seven parts, about misunderstandings and prejudice. “Just give him space to be unique and all will work out…”.

The Title – The Pact of Eindhoven

The championship party of PSV Eindhoven was in extra time, in the bar of the PSV Eindhoven stadium “De Verlenging”. Moist was dripping from the walls and everybody was chanting and dancing . Celebrating the 22nd title in the history of PSV. And a special title, as it took them seven years to win it back from Ajax, AZ and Twente. The DJ starts another tune and technical director Marcel Brands walks over to Memphis and says: “How ‘bout it? Will you performing a couple of raps for us or what?”. Memphis’ eyes widen up and he says: “Can I? Are you sure?”. Brands, six months later: “And there I was. Rapping with Memphis and one of his mates whom he’d brought along, doing some sort of rap…”.

Memphis Depay in action for PSV Eindhoven

A beautiful piece of symbolism. Brands explains. “When I started as TD for PSV, first thing I did was check the talent pool in the youth. There were some good talents, but one lad jumped out of the crowd. Amazing skills. But…also a rebel. Difficult kid. When he was 16 years old, he signed his first contract with us and the thing that struck me was his mature attitude. And his clothes. He looked impeccable. Now, I have a soft spot for fashion, so we had this bond. People told me he was difficult, but he isn’t. He is more impatient. He wants everything fast faster fastest. We had Dries Mertens as left winger and he played really well for us, so Memphis had to bide his time and bite his tongue at times. Because Memphis thought he was simply better than Mertens. And in that time, we had to put our foot on the brakes. He started to drift, his focus went from football to other things. Like any teenager would have.  He became part of a hip hop group from Rotterdam and before you knew it, videos came online on YouTube. Fred Rutten, the coach back then, took Memphis aside and told him to quit those activities, as they might be used against him. Typical for Memphis, he immediately ceased those activities. The first time he rapped in public since that period, was at that title party in the PSV stadium.”

Memphis was living on cloud 9. It all went his way. He had made an impression at the World Cup in Brazil and seemed ready for a move. Brands: “He didn’t have firm offers, but I was contacted by basically every big club in Europe. I wanted to keep him one more year. I felt it was doable. Because Memphis has a tremendous sense of responsbility. He wants to be the leader. We sketched this scenario for him, in which he would lead us to the title. I was able, luckily, to keep Wijnaldum on board for us and that decision helped Memphis to say he’d stay as well. They were both on a mission. Wanted to win the title for PSV and wanted to accomplish something before they’d go abroad. And so it happened…”

Memphis Depay

Memphis signed his contract pre World Cup so Brands was able to keep interested clubs at bay, post World Cup. Tottenham Hotspur came with a firm offer, but Memphis declined. Just like when PSG came in the winter break with a big bag of money. He made a deal with Brands and he would keep his word. Brands: “Memphis came to me and said “Did you hear about PSG’s offer? That is a shitload of money, yes?” And I replied: “Yes it is, but I’m gping to say no to the offer.” Memphis nodded and walked out. He never asked me about it again. That is Memphis too, loyal to the core. And I will never forget his words when he signed that contract. He said “I’ll win the title with PSV and I want to win the top scorer title.” I remember thinking, that that would be hard for winger, but he was really convinced he’d do it. He even asked for a bonus if he’d score the most goals and I denied him that. I said “If you get that bonus you might be playing for Memphis, instead of PSV”. I winked at him and he accepted.”


The young left winger was grateful to his team for all they did. He was co-organiser of the title party and bought baseball caps for all involved, with their initials on it. He also paid for the champagne. General Manager Gerbrands: “I was not happy that Memphis took a seat in the festivities committee. I thought that might be too much of a distraction for him, but I learned Memphis can compartimentalise really well. He is the kind of guy that can take on different roles aside from football. Clarence Seedorf had that too.”

A remarkable kid. Grew up in Moordrecht, under the smoke of Rotterdam. Played for Sparta until his 12th. Raised by a single mum, not having a lot of means. He didn’t want to meet or know his biological dad and didn’t receive much love from his step dad, more abuse and tyranny. Memphis developed an allergie versus authority and needed a mental coach to transcend his anger into motivation. Gerbrands: “As a club, we are proud of Memphis, but he should basically be proud of himself. He did it all himself.”

memphis young

The Transfer – more valuable than Ruud van Nistelrooy

The Biggest Transfer in the History of PSV Eindhoven is the easiest one Marcel Brands ever had to do. Marcel Brands: “The choice was Memphis’. We had a fixed price for him and whatever he picked was fine with us, as long as we got that price.” Paris St Germain reached an agreement with PSV. When Man United surpassed this offer with added bonusses and a % share when Memphis is sold on, the Eindhoven club is happy to talk. In 2001, Ruud van Nistelrooy went to Man United for 30 mio euros. Memphis’ deal might rake in 43 mio euros in total for PSV. The amount is dazzling even for Brands. “I won’t discuss amounts with you but we had tagged him for an amount between 20 and 30 million. After a strong season, we were hoping for 30 mio. The amount he went for was beyond expectation. But the big end of town doesn’t care about a couple of million more or less. If they want him, they are willing to go a step further. And they did.”

Memphis Depay Welcome Press Conference at Manchester United

Memphis picks his dream club. The money in Paris was very good too but Depay prefers the EPL. Liverpool is also in the picture. Memphis even meets with Brendan Rogers at the John Lennon Airport but when Sturridge got injured Rogers needed to fix that issue first (and signed Benteke). Memphis’ agent Kees Ploegsma jr calls Man United and says “he’ll sign for PSV unless you come to the party”. He is flown to Old Trafford to meet with management and apparently established himself as “cocky” when Louis van Gaal started to talk about Memphis’ short comings, the left winger said “if you feel this way, why are we talking here about a transfer?”… There is no proof this actually happened, but people who know Depay claim that this does sound like him.

At that stage, Memphis has a good relationship with PSG’s technical director but he wanted the confidence of his future coach. And he got that from Van Gaal. By then, he is the biggest summer signing for the Mancunians and Van Gaal said this at the announcement: “Memphis is one of the greatest prospects of his generation. And on top of that, he is very confident. I can use him as striker, as left winger and as left midfield player.”  Depay, when presented: “I am here to win trophies and to help Man United win trophies. I can help the team. I can score goals and I am sure I can do this in the EPL as well. My dream came true. Man United is the biggest club of the world and I am allowed to play here.”

The former Sparta youngster has a reputation of being difficult, but he is a true professional. Marcel Brands: “He would always be the last on the training pitch. We really needed to order him in. And it is that, with his talent, that got him where he is now. He lives for the sport and he is very mature. When he was a youth player, he already enlisted a nutrition expert. He is only focused on becoming faster, stronger and better. At Sporting Lisbon, you can see pics of C Ronaldo on the wall, to show the newer generations what you can achieve if you work hard. Memphis is basically our example for the youth.”

Self confidence – cockiness & the Number 7


In 2003, C Ronaldo moved to Old Trafford and his skills were not long a secret with the emerging Youtube clips going around the internet. When Memphis signs, the number of views of “Memphis Skills’ clips skyrocket. Memphis is a sensation before he even kicks a ball and the expectations mount up. These go ballistic when LVG hands him the number 7 jersey, made famous by George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and that kid from Madeira. A sacred jersey, which has its own weight. Too heavy for the likes of Michael Owen, Angel di Maria and Antonia Valencia. Memphis isn’t bothered. “Yes, it carries special significance, I realise that and I am aware of the history of the jersey number. But I don’t see it as a problem, for me it is a challenge. General manager Toon Gerbrands is not surprised Memphis reached for the shirt. “The current generation, they are different. He is a child of these times. He thinks in levels, like in gaming. They think in levels. Sparta youth is level 1. PSV was level 2. He jumped up to level 4 now at Man United. Typical Memphis to jump a level up. In their way of thinking, you don’t die, you simply go back a level if you can’t make it. But typical for him to want that extra challenge of the #7 jersey.”

The Break Through – Club Brugge

Ruud Vormer, ex AZ and ex Feyenoord, currently playmaker of Club Brugge. “I warned my team mates. I know what he can do. He can be very dangerous. The way he played and scored those two goals, it doesn’t surprise me one bit.”


On Tuesday evening August 18, Memphis has Old Trafford at his feet. Two goals and one assist. He led Man United into the Champions League. The goals are superb, the first one he plugged out of the air, controls it and finishes. The second one is from a bigger distance, leaving the goalie without a chance. In the dying minutes, he allows Fellaini to score the third. The Brugge players look at each other and Vormer’s eyes say “I told you so”. Tuur Dierckx: “What can you do against such a player?” Memphis was timely with his performance. In one hit, he made the club the money they spent on him. Van Gaal: “I want to kiss Memphis now. Scoring two of those goals and an assist…that makes you a hero around here.” Memphis himself is not happy. He missed a big opportunity on a hattrick. Van Gaal: “That is Memphis, typically. Never satisfied. He constantly wants to improve. I am happy for him. He is impatient and I told him he has to bide his time. It will come. I will be hard for him to go on like this. He is only 21 years old and only played in PSV 1 for two seasons. But it’s clear to everyone what he has in his locker.”

The English media like to exaggerate. When it is disappointing, they kill you in the headlines. When it’s good, they proclaim you king. The King of Old Trafford, was one headline, The Best Thing from Memphis since Elvis was another. In the away game in Brugge, Memphis is also hard to contain. Man Unitied wins, with a Memphis assist. Ruud Vormer: “We were even lucky that Memphis wasn’t that good tonight.”

Criticism – The Dutch National Team

Oranje is prepping for the away game vs Kazachstan in October 2015. They train on an artificial pitch at Sparta Rotterdam, as Kazachstan uses that too. Danny Blind is focusing on his last opportunity to qualify for the Euros, but Turkey will have to drop points. The coach can’t handle much more setbacks, as the Hiddink reign in the campaign offered up too much stress already. The players play an 11 v 11 match, before they pack up to go to the airport, for the eight hour flight. Memphis is through on goal. The most likely pass is to play in Van Persie who is free and unmarked. It would be a certain goal. But Memphis sees another solution: a backheel to the left back Riedewald. The young Ajax players shoots high over the bar. Van Persie is dumbfounded. Van Persie starts debating Memphis’ decision. The discussion continues over dinner. And when the former Man U star has more than enough of it, he asks Depay whether he thinks he is a big player now? To which Memphis responds: “I don’t know, do big players play for Fenerbahce?”. Blind decides to bud in and asks Van Persie: “Are you at your antics again?”


This marks the end of Van Persie’s position. The all time goal scorer for Oranje expected to play vs Kazachstan but finds himself back on the bench. But Memphis is presented with a notice as well: both players are not selected for the friendlies vs Wales and Germany. Memphis is not 100% fit, but Blind claims he wouldn’t have selected him anyway. A week later, he does call up Depay due to too many injuries. Blind: “His immense qualities means he is the future of Oranje. But, in football, other aspects count as well. You need to be a team player and Memphis fails to do so at times. I had a talk with him, I told him that all the eyes are on him now. He’s a big Man U player, making lots of money and with lots of media attention. As a result, everyone will watch him. It is ok to be different if you perform on the pitch. But once you start to disappoint, all these elements will work against you.”

RVP Memphis

Kees Jansma was Oranje’s press chef in Brazil during the World Cup 2014 and he witnessed Memphis coming to the fore in his sub turns. He was surprised to hear about the bust up with Van Persie. “Hmmm, this is not the Memphis I worked with in Brazil. He was exemplary. We had three pillars that allowed Memphis and others to shine: 1) the focus on a good team performance, 2) Louis van Gaal and 3) Sneijder, Robben and Van Persie. The hierachy was clear. These three showed Memphis what was expected. They worked their asses off. And they took him on too. Whenever he would become complacent or wanted to play with frills, they were right onto him. Whenever Memphis was practicing the C Ronaldo free kick, the three of them would sit and watch and whenever he missed, they’d yell: “Keep on practicing Memphis, keep on practicing!”. And he didn’t mind, he could chuckle about it. But now I see a different Memphis. I see a young player with lots of stress.”

The Set Back – Benched

In his first months at Man United, Memphis is very popular. He demonstrates his qualities in the pre-season games and makes an impression in the tournament with Barcelona, PSG, Chelsea, Benfica and Fiorentina. He starts in the Man U line up at the season start and one and a half months later he scores his first in the EPL: the winner versus Sunderland. His jersey is sold most globally, behind the jersets of one Lionel Messi and one C Ronaldo. But when autumn arrives, he loses his credit. Against Liverpool, Van Gaal takes him off in the break and is furious. He wonders if Memphis forgot which colour jersey his team mates are wearing. The tabloids smell blood. The Sun announces that Memphis won’t start against Everton. They also serve up the statistic that he is the EPL signing with the most loss of possession. The Sun then prints that some people within Man United are fed up with his antics and behaviour. PSV technical director Marcel Brands: “That might be the case. When you win games for the club, anything goes. When you don’t play well, people start to get annoyed over every little thing. But I have faith in him. He has weathered tougher storms and he will come out stronger, I’m sure.”

Memphis bench

Fred Rutten, former Schalke and Feyenoord coach, follows the player whom he gave his debut at PSV. “I can see he his going through a tough time. But, I also see moments where I think “Ah! There he is again!”. It’s logical though, right? Last season, him and Wijnaldum were the big boys in the Eredivisie, and they need time. In England, you play an Ajax-PSV every week. Bergkamp and Jonk struggled in their first season at Inter too, and Van Persie needed time to settle at Arsenal. Or take Eden Hazard? Amazing last season, anonymous now. This is what I see with Memphis as well. Give him time. Next season he could well be the best player in the EPL.”

Generation Gap – The Hat

PSV has another party in their bar De Verlenging. They just reached the knock out stages of the CL, at the expense of Manchester United. Memphis will play Europa League now, while he left PSV to go and win the Champions League. Oh irony… But they don’t chuckle in Eindhoven: “We want the best for Memphis. He made the right choice.”

memphis panflute

The bond between the former goal scorer and the general manager Gerbrands is still strong. They don’t get all the humdrum around Depay, in Eindhoven. When he makes his entrance with Oranje wearing a cool Indiana Jones style hat, it becomes the talking point of the nation. Co Adriaanse said he looked like a Peruvian pan flute player. Or some other time, Depay enters the frame wearing a Michael Jackson style outfit. The nation is upset: Memphis had zero goals and zero assists in the failing qualification campaign, but has the balls to wear Hollywood outfits?? Gerbrands: “Unbelievable… They feel Memphis should wear mourning clothing or something? It’s clear that people who say these things don’t “get” this generation…” Gerbrands has made an effort to understand the current youth. As players like Wijnaldum, El Ghazi, Elia and Willems also like to dress and act outrageously. Gerbrands: “I once asked one of our players about his tattoos… And he showed me all of them and told me the stories behind them. I can tell you, I was moved. This kid had gone through a lot with his family and everytime he had overcome something he added a tattoo. It’s culture. You hear gripping stories from some kids and if tattoos help them to face that history, what is wrong with it?”

Nederlands elftal verzamelt

Toon Gebrands talks about the core values of PSV. “We have simple values, simple rules. Old fashioned, common sense stuff. And we make every player pledge to uphold these values. That is all we ask. Second “agrreement” we have is: you stick to the laws of top sport. And these are all explained to them, etc. What any player subsequently does with his clothing, tattoos, hats… that is their thing. It’s interesting, the football sports is the first “industry” to feel the effects of this generation. There is no other industry where a 20 year old can reach the top at that age. I think the corporate world has something coming towards them, because this generation will have their own views. I can see more and more young talent saying “I don’t want this life, or career, I want to travel for two years, see ya laters…”.

At PSV, Memphis once came to training on a quad mobile. In Eindhoven, they are not really surprised. Or that he asks people to pose with him infront of a sponsor billboard. Or that he goes to a nightclub with a golden bit in his mouth. In Eindhoven, they are used to Memphis flying in his personal nutrition advisor and personal tattoo artist. Years ago, when he signed his first contract, he told everyone that one day he would own the penthouse across from where he lived. Everyone laoughed and giggled. But he owns it now. And he spends his holidays with Romelo Lukaku and Paul Pogba and places pics of the occasion on instagram. Pogba, he met via French team mate Isimat Mirin and Lukaku was one of his opponents in a youth international game vs Belgium. They got to chat and became buddies.

memphis pogba

Toon Gerbrands, PSV general manager, actually lives int the building with Depay’s penthouse. “So strange, I saw him suddenly in the lobby and in the elevator. My apartment is large, 120 square meters, big enough for me. His penthouse is 340 square meters big. One time I saw him with sunglasses and hood and not dressed in his formidable style. I said “Memphis, what’s wrong?”. He said “I just need a quick grocery run and don’t have much time. If people recognise me they want my autograph and I don’t want to let them down, so I go like this.” And I said: “Memphis, people will understand if you tell them?”. And he said: “No, last time I received two letters how I am arrogant… I don’t like those.”

This is the paradox of life for young legs. It’s not just Memphis, it’s a whole group of young stars, who are owned by the fans, the sponsors, the media. They receive a lot, but also have to give a lot back. Everything they do, buy, say, touch will be world news in seconds. It is not easy to deal with that. Gerbrands: “”But Memphis will never forget his roots. When he had his last training session, we had 100s of kids waiting for him. He would tell the press officer to inform the kids he’d be out in 15 minutes, and then he’d patiently sign each and every kid an autograph.


When Memphis wears his infamous hat on his way to Oranje, the Dutch media ridiculed him. At PSV they chuckled and said “ha! the old Memphis is back!”. Technical Director Marcel Brands: “Last season we had an early practice match vs Waregem. The club costumes weren’t ready yet so everyone came in their own clothes. Memphis was dressed impeccable. I said “Whoa Memphis, are you getting married after the game?”. Memphis just winked and smiled. He likes that kinda thing. And it sums up who he is. He wants to look good, he wants to stand out, he wants to better himself. I say: give him room and all will come good with him.”

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Congratulations to Phillip Cocu!

I have never been a PSV fan. And I have shared it many times here. But… I do like and have liked many of their players… What is not to like… Romario, Wim Kieft, Willy van der Kuylen, Luc Nilis… Awesome players. And I am a big Phillip Cocu fan. From creative left winger to midfielder and leader. I liked him at PSV and admired him in his 6  years at Barca and all his games in Oranje.

It seemed he would be a good coach. Good mentality. Tactical intelligence. Great skill. Gentleman personality.

He decided to go through the phase of coaching youth team after youth team, while also assisting Bert van Marwijk with Oranje. He started his career at PSV with a young squad and started that season (last year) with tremendously sexy football. Attractive, attacking, fast, many goals… But somehow suddenly that team choked. And Phillip got pressure and flak. And when he asked Hiddink for council, the media ate him up claiming he was vulnerable and weak. In the meantime, he also battled with cancer while just been gone through divorce.


Not too happy times but Phillip turned it around. He was able to use a couple of new players coming in (Guardado, Luuk de Jong) and could count on the strength of two players who just starred at the World Cup Brazil, Depay and Wijnaldum. On top of that Adam Maher, the prodigal son, started to develop himself and find a spot in the team.

So this season, it all clicked. They started the season in winning form and kept on going. I don’t think they ever played as good as last season but they never played as bad as in the second half of last season. Consistent. Smart. Focused. With Wijnaldum in a leadership role and Depay as the miracle man and Willems as provider and Guardado guarding the balance.

Ajax simply was not good enough. Consistent in grinding out results, but not good enough.

Feyenoord started with 4 or 5 new players and lost points in the start of the season and lacked PSV’s consistency, although they probably played better football on the highs. But lacking scoring power a la Pelle, they could never challenge Ajax or PSV.

So after 5 years of drought, the trophy returns to Eindhoven.

On starting his career with AZ Alkmaar….

Cocu: “I got my first break as a first team player at AZ under Hugo Hovenkamp. He was stand in care taker manager when Eijkenbroek was ill and he used me. I was 18 years old. I had had three stints on the bench before that. The clock was ticking agewise. The club didn’t want to use me in the first team as they would have to pay a significant sum to my amateur clubs where I started. So they pressed Hugo to not use me for another couple of months. But Hugo said “nope, forget it, results come first” and he put me in. That was a whole thing, back then. I was very inconsistent back then, but AZ played first division so no one noticed hahaha. I could play 20 minutes great football and then I would invisible for 30 minutes… But I was driven, wanted to learn and had talent. I was already playing for regional rep teams and by then Young Orange came into view for me as well. We wanted to go to the Olympics in Barcelona but were beaten by Australia in the play offs. Ned Zelic scored the winner for them late. Was a disappointment, I remember. We had a tremendous generation. Taument, Ronald de Boer, Arthur Numan, Marc Overmars, but no Games for us….”

rijkaard cocu

On his Vitesse spell…

“Roda JC wanted to sign me but I wasn’t impressed with their story. My parents wanted me to finish high school in case football didn’t work out. Roda wasn’t too supportive of this. It didn’t feel good to me. And as I was good at studying, I decided to do some more school work. At the end of my first year as a starter, Vitesse came. I lived in that area before with my family and it felt like home a bit. I wanted to study marketing and combine it with football but the uni didn’t cooperate! In this day and age, that would be unheard of. When I came to Vitesse, they just finished fourth! Was a top team, with Van den Brom, Laamers, Eijer, Latuheru, Sturing and Bos. In my first week I broke my leg. That was rough. But it allowed me to work on my foundations. Bert Jacobs was the coach. He was an amazing coach. He was a pretty weird sort of guy, but a great coach. We would kill for him, you know. And it was all about football with him. When Jacobs left and Herbert Neumann came, he put me in midfield. That was a big one.  I think I could have had a good career as a left winger too, but never as good as a midfielder. Neumann was a good coach too by the way, but a bit more German discipline. As a midfielder, you cannot be inconsistent. You have to take care of the balance in the team and that helped me a lot as a player.”

cocu young psv

On his step up to PSV.

“I was 24 when I left for PSV. I had 5 years at Vitesse. Ajax wanted me earlier on but Vitesse asked a lot for me. I signed a new deal with a limited fee for a transfer. When PSV came, I was ready to go. Vitesse chairman Aalbers gave me a blank check to sign, but I didn’t do it. I wanted to play top flite football and Vitesse was not making that final step. Today, players of 24 make the step abroad but I was born in Eindhoven, my family is from Eindhoven. I love PSV, the club values, the atmosphere.  I still have that bond with Vitesse as well. That is important for me. I won my first trophy with PSV in 1997. That moment, I can still feel. A tremendous orgasm of joy and release. I have made that trip on the flat trailer a number of times now. It’s special. What a team we had: Wim Jonk, Ronaldo, Luc Nilis, Jaap Stam. We actually didn’t even win that much. Just one cup and one title.  But Ajax had a pretty good generation too, so… it was good times.”

ronaldo cocu no logo

Playing with Ronaldo:

“He is definitely the best player I have ever played with. There is no category for that lad. He came to PSV 17 years old and simply scored 30 goals in his first season. I recently saw this compilation of him, he was unbelievable. Really passionate about football. He and I spent a lot of time together. We were good mates. He enjoyed going out for a drink or spending some time socially. The pressure he had to endure at a young age. And every couple of years he’d go to another club, bigger and better, and he never succumbed under the pressure. A phenomenon..”

On missing a penalty against Brazil, WC1998…

“That has haunted me for quite a while. I am telling you…missing like this… that is really bad. I suffered from these sorts of situations much longer than I enjoyed winning something. This was after 120 minutes of top football against Brazil and I was done for. I was empty. I didn’t strike it hard enough, really. It could have gone a bit more in the corner too. Simply not good enough. This was my favorite tournament. The Euro2000 was good too, but this one… Everything clicked. We were staying outside of Monaco. The vibe was so good. So different to the 1996 Euros. We started with 0-0 against Belgium and we lost Pat Kluivert in that match. The pressure was on for the South Korea game and we won 5-0. Here I score the first and Edje Davids is almost tearing my jersey off my back, hahahaha. All that passion and drive. I love that.”

cocu 98 penalty

On friendships in football:

“The football world is a bit shallow. Someimes one or two friendships is all you have left. Weird. But the pace is constantly high. Lots of games with the club and then the international games with the country. Whenever you have time off you want to spend it with real mates or family. I still hang with my old buddies from school. I value that. Going out for a bite to eat. They know me for who I am, not because I’m a cool football player. I do have real friendships in football, by the way. Frank de Boer and I are very close. We met at Oranje and played together in Barcelona and became close. We would go on holidays together and play foot-volley tournaments together. We are both extremely fanatical about winning. But he is a real mate.”


On playing against the best of the best:

“This is against Zidane. Man, what a gifted player. One of the best ever. Very elegant and skillful. On this pic I am captain of Barcelona. I was and still am so proud of that. I also skippered Holland. Also something I was very proud of. I played six seasons in Spain. Barcelona is as warm as PSV. A real family oriented club. I still go back to watch a game every now and then. I was there recently to see Barca play Real Madrid. The people always treat me very warmly and respectfully. I have gone through highs and lows in Spain, but at a certain point we had an amazing team…. Kluivert, Figo, Rivaldo, Ronald de Boer, Luis Enrique… ”

cocu ronaldinho

On his exit from Barcelona:

“My last season was the first one of Frank Rijkaard and Ronaldinho. I rate Ronaldinho very high. Up there with Ronaldo. The joy was back in the dressing room…. A news period of successes. I was not going to be part of it. My contract ended. I was allowed to stay but the club was not doing well financially. I had already sacrificed earlier on with a new deal and as the skipper I felt the respect of that last offer was lacking…. Sure, you try to be there in good and bad times and as the skipper I played my part but this particular offer didn’t show a lot of respect. I am quite principled in that sense. And when PSV called, I got excited. They wanted to do something at Champions League level. I had a good feeling about it.”

cocu maldini

On the second journey with PSV:

“For years, PSV wasn’t able to get that break in Europe. That quest was exciting for me. The way Hiddink embraced me and made me co-responsible for this was something I enjoyed. I try to use that approach myself now too, to make the players accountable. Not everyone is sensitive to this, there is always that, but a lot of them are. My first year back was great. We lost in the semi finals against AC Milan but we should have gone on to the finals. We were better over two games, but we let ourselves down. But, we won the title, the cup and got semi finals CL… Not that bad. More experienced players can be crucial in that process and this is why I am also keen to work with players with similar bagage. They can give the team that crucial last push.” (Jan: Schaars was one of the players in this category for PSV but he was injured most of the season).

cocu psv bommel

On his final game for PSV:

“A crazy end to a crazy season. We won the title on the last day on goal difference and it was me scoring that final goal. This is probably the most emotional moment of my football career.  I knew I would quit so it made it extra special. My sons are all football players. The middle one plays in the Vitesse youth, the others are at the local amateur club. I love watching them play and watch like a dad, not as a coach. They have good coaches and I want to enjoy them as their father. Obviously, they come and watch PSV play when we play at home.”

philipcocu_al. jpg

On resurfacing at Al-Jazira Club….

“Crazy. I was retired. And a week into my holiday I freaked out. I was invited to play in Munich for the farewell of Roy Makaay and Scholl and while I was there, Al Jazira was in a trainings camp there. And Rob Janssen, my manager, spoke with them and they made him an offer. One more year, in another culture… Quite an adventure. And quite a good pay-check. I decided to do it. In my first game, I scored with an overhead kick so my entrance was quite good, hahaha. During the season I did realise I was actually really getting over it a bit. And that was it. We won the Europa League of the Arab nations. Good fun. But that was it. I played Jaap Stam’s farewell game too that summer and enjoyed being in the dressing room with the lads. I missed that.”

cocu farewell

On life as a retired football player:

“I never saw myself as a coach, like Frank did. He knew as a player he’d go into coaching. I did want to get that diploma but it was Van Marwijk who called me to assist him, with Frank, at Oranje. I loved it. I knew it was ideal to do this in combination with my studies. And being amongst the lads, on the pitch, always a ball around…was great. The South Africa World Cup was amazing! I started to work at PSV and took over when Rutten was sacked. We actually won the Cup and that is my first trophy as a coach. They all matter. I’m really happy that PSV saw me as a good coach, and just like with my football career, I do wish to achieve the highest possible.”

cocu bvm

Cocu did suffer some setbacks in his recent years. He divorced from his wife and the mother of his three kids after she appeared to have an affair for years. He also was diagnosed with a tumor in his back, which was taken out last year.


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Preview Holland – Mexico: Nachos time!

Couldn’t resist. Plus, it’s my superstition that I have to do this.

So, a short one!

The biggest topic in the run up to this match is the weather. And it might well be a key topic, as the humidity in the North of Brazil is pretty hectic.

As Andrea Pirlo said, there are two World Cups being played in Brazil, one in the North and one in the South. Sadly, we’ll have to deal with it, versus Mexico.

The good thing is that although Mexicans are used to this weather, that most Mexican players play in Europe and will have to get used to the humidity as well.

Van Gaal hopes that the ref will use his privilege to pause for drink breaks as the game will most likely be influenced by these circumstances.

I believe the quality of the bench will determine the end result. And with players like Depay, Lens and Clasie, we should be in pretty good shape :-). Between you and me, I rather not see Huntelaar, as it would mean that we are behind and need to bring our pinchhitter.

Mexico, to me, is a scary opponent, as they sort of combine all what Spain, Chile and Australia have but then combined. They lack the big names Spain has, for sure, but they can play like Chile (and Spain) and have the physical presence of Australia.

I think though, that position by position we are better. Our four big guns (RVP, Robben, Wes and Nigel) are better than any of their players and the rest of our team is not necessarily weaker. The difference lies in the coach, for me.

They have quite a good coach, we have a brilliant coach ( a twat of a man, but a superb coach!).

And that will make the difference, to me!

That, plus the quality we can bring from the bench. I expect another key role in this game for Depay, but I am also disappointed with Fer’s injury. He could have been key yet again. But with Clasie and Huntelaar present as well, we do have options.


Anyway, a short post this time around. Not much to add.

I hope you all enjoy and may I say thanks here to all the punters here who were able to help me out with my request. I hope I can count on most of you out there to get this blog to the World Cup finals as well :-).

I do believe in a 3-0 win, with an early first half goal by none other than Robben and two late goals in the second half, with Sneijder getting on the score board and Wijnaldum scoring as well!

fer lvg

Funny close of this post: at the press conference, Leroy Fer was asked if he could play in the quarter finals. And dead pan, the former Feyenoord man answered: “I am not sure. I only know the coach wants me fit for the finals. He told me he wants to come onto the pitch in the second half as a sub and score the winner with my head.”

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Oranje enjoying the Chile victory…

After Spanish tapas, Australian prawns on the barbie and some hot chilli it’s now time to focus on nachos and guacamole.

Who knows what will be in store for us after that? Bratwurst? Belgium chips with beer? Argentinian steak? Bring it on! The Clockwork Orange is hungry and wants more!

We can have long debates about which opponent would be better for us, from Brazil to Croatia to Mexico but by now, you know my theory: you want to be the best in the world, then it doesn’t matter. Same with weather and humidity. Sure, Mexicans are more used to it and one has to adjust to the circumstances. But leave it to Louis. He won’t make the same mistakes as Advocaat did in 1994.

But it will be a physical challenge. Mexico plays in 6th gear all the time and it will be pretty hot. Gaston Taument was part of the 1994 squad in Florida and remembers it well. “It was extremely hot. I will never forget that. It was way too hot to play the football we wanted to play. It’s as if your lungs are empty and you lack physical strength. At some stage you stop sweating. You’re simply empty. I remember that we were more focused on the water bottles than the ball.” Former Oranje 1974 central defender Wim Rijsbergen had to deal with this a lot too. He played for New York Cosmos and visited places like Florida and Oklahoma and coached in Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Chile. “It can be extreme. It’s a matter of getting used to. This is a disadvantage for Holland, as Mexico will not need to adjust.”

WijnaldumGio Wijnaldum control

So Mexico.

A big opponent. I have always been an admirer. Football is HUGE in Mexico and they’ve always had positively focused teams. This Mexican team is well balanced. They can play football Chile-style but have the muscle and strength of Argentina. They also have European experience which always helps in big games, with players like Ochoa, Marquez, Rodriguez and Moreno. The defence of Mexico is their weakness though. Experienced defenders, but slow defenders. With  compact playing Holland, players like Robben, Van Persie and maybe Depay will have opportunities penetrating to the channel.

We played Mexico six times, in total. And Holland won three times, versus Mexico two. We played them only once at a World Cup, in 1998. Under Hiddink, Holland took a 2-0 lead but lost the lead late in the second half and ended the game 2-2. This Mexico has trouble scoring (only 4 in 3 games) and they conceded one. However, Mexico was denied two pure goals vs Cameroon and should have been awarded a penalty for hand ball vs Croatia. Mexico will play without midfielder Vazquez who received his second yellow against Croatia.

cocu mexicoPhillip Cocu scoring vs Mexico in 1998

As you know, Van Gaal won’t be able to play Fer as the goal scorer against Chile has a hamstring injury which will leave him sidelined for at least two games. Martins Indi is fit again and ready for Mexico, although chances are Van Gaal will use Kuyt again versus Mexico.

Wesley Sneijder will join Kuyt in midfield to work his ass off for the two forwards. The little spielmacher was the big man in 2010 but seems to have a supporting role this time around. “I don’t care. I am happy to be of service. I want to win that cup and if I do by running a marathon for Robin and Robben, great! I am in.” It’s a bit strange to watch, Wesley Sneijder playing like a dynamic midfielder, chasing down opponents and running more than anyone else. “I hear the media and the analysts think it is strange. I don’t mind. It is clear for me. This system requires me to play this way an I want to be part of it. I have not become this fit for no reason, hahaha.” Against Spain, Wes had two assists, against Australia and Chile, he was more a workhorse. Sneijder denies that this type of game goes at the expense of his specific qualities. “I wouldn’t say that. We simply have less possession but that is ok. There is less opportunity to shine, but it is not about me. I think we would have been flying home now if we would have tried to attack like crazy. If you judge me on my goals and assists, I’m not playing too good. But the coach is happy and the team does well. This tactics works. We played really well against Chile, which is one of the best teams in my eyes. If we play a tad better in possession, we will beat anyone. Four years ago, we didn’t play amazingly well, but we almost won the cup! I am very positive about this team. Much more than ever. A month ago, no one gave us any chance. And now people consider us to be one of the favourites. And now the knock out stages have begun, I think we will get more opportunities to play.”

robben sneijderThe 2010 man with the 2014 man

Robin van Persie is keen to make everyone aware that playing well in the group stage doesn’t mean that much. “I vividly remember 2008. We impressed with wins over Italy and France. And the so-called B-team beat Romania. And then we got beaten by Russia.” When Sneijder is asked about the reason this happened (Was it the switch to the B-team? Was it Boulahrouz’s private drama? Was it Hiddink’s tactics?). “I don’t know. But I do know that the win over Italy and France lost all its glory in those 120 minutes. So now we have 9 points and 10 goals but we don’t have a thing, really. If we lose against Mexico, we are a footnote.”

Louis van Gaal allowed his players a day off again. Some players enjoyed the beach, such as Leroy Fer, while Nigel de Jong and KlaasJan Huntelaar did a city tour. Sneijder, Van Persie, Van Gaal and Robben went to this open air swimming pool and played some tennis and water volley ball. Memphis Depay had a stroll on the boulevard.

ferLeroy Fer and fiancee

veltman vrijJoel Veltman spending some private time in Rio

Wijnaldum makes time for an interview. The PSV midfielder doesn’t understand the criticism from his home country. “Most nations and media are positive about our effective way of playing. We might not be playing wonderful, dazzling football but I don’t think it’s possible to play that type of football and win the World Cup. Italy 1982, Argentina 1986, Spain 2010…. It was all business like and effective. In 1982, Brazil had the most beautiful game and in 1998 it was Holland. But winning and playing beautiful doesn’t always match. We might not be very dominant but boy, we can play some great football, even with this system. That second goal against Chile was a beauty, wasn’t it? And the first wasn’t shabby either. First Memphis rocket, then a corner, a great cross and a superb header. What is not to like?” The Feyenoord developed player has learned to put the results first. “In the youth, it’s all about ball skills and playing attractive. But it’s about winning now. We have had so many compliments over the years about our quality play, but we never won the World Cup! We think it is time we do. And this team does not have the quality and experience yet to do so with very dominant football. So we do it this way. We are a fighting machine. A bit like Atletico Madrid. They were seen as a fighting team for a while until people realised they actually play really good football too. We want to win now. But we will always try to find good solutions. Players like Robben, Van Persie, Depay…they can’t play ugly even if they wanted to.”

The AD newspaper asked to former Oranje players how they view this Oranje. Stylist Ronald de Boer and midfield breaker Mark van Bommel. Because the whole nation is keen to know where this ends, as Van Gaal designed a perfect strategy for the material he has. But we are also Dutch. Adventurers and guardians of the beautiful game. We became big with attacking football and aim for perfection. And there is no nation that debates the quality of football as much as the Dutch. Ronald de Boer is a typical disciple of beautiful football. What does he think of this new 5-3-2 system. “It hurts my eyes. I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel right. Long balls into space hoping Robben will catch it. It’s all so unsettled and uncomposed at the moment. Kuyt, De Jong but also Sneijder…they are not at ease in possession. I don’t get it. Ron Vlaar, he is not a born build up player. But defensively he is doing great, don’t get me wrong. But he doesn’t need to blindly kick every ball forward?”

kuyt drinksKuyt demonstrating the need to drink

Mark van Bommel was in the engine room in 2010 and his father in law introduced a more business-like style of football. “Still, I see changes. I do believe we were pushing up a bit more and in possession we’d play with three strikers. We tried to press forward. This team is more a counter attacking team. But don’t get me wrong. I understand why Van Gaal does it. With these young players, you need to build in some safety. And it is of no use to go to a World Cup every four years and be kicked out at the group stages. These boys are there now, they want to get far. But it is counter football alright. When we lose possession, we go back into our defence stance. If Robben is out of the game, we lose 60% of our threats. And of course, we all want to play beautiful football but if you don’t have it, you need to do something to make you at least win. Football is not the same as 40 years ago or even 20 years ago.”

Ronald de Boer agrees. “Listen, I coached an amateur team once at the Copa Amsterdam tournament. We had to play Ajax A1. A strong team. And I switched to 5-3-2 and we won. Ajax didn’t know how to break it down. If you play it well, it is very hard to beat.” So the question remains: can you win the World Cup playing this type of football? Both Van Bommel and De Boer say “YES!”. And once that has happened, no one will complain.

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One down, nine to go: Oranje – Ecuador 1 -1

It is easy to be disappointed after a 1-1 but I personally think this is not bad news. Because IF Veltman would have blocked that through pass and if RVP scored on Van Aanholt’s pass and if Van Aanholt scored himself as well and maybe even Van Persie in the first half when Depay was through (and in an alternative parallel universe he would have passed it square to RVP) we would have won 4-0 and the whole country would be ecstatic. And not just the whole country: also Van Gaal would become very arrogant.

I want Oranje to draw and lose all their friendlies. That will put the pressure on Louis. And that will help :-).

Based on the highlights, I wasn’t too disappointed, personally. I mean sure: it’s not Spain or Chile. Or Brazil or Germany.

But we weren’t Oranje either, without Robben and Sneijder.


I think we will improve. Kongolo and Van Aanholt will have dealt with their initial nerves. Veltman, De Vrij and BMI will be sharp. Clasie will feel good after his pass and both Blind and Clasie will be told in strong terms by the staff that sometimes you need to be tough and dirty in midfield and not try to fix everything in football solutions. Sometimes you need to block an opponent or tackle.

We didn’t see the best of Kongolo and Verhaegh but that will surely change.

We saw what kind of balls Depay is growing and we know RVP can still score super goals.

All in all, we didn’t do badly for a team that has been working hard for a week, almost consisted solely of Eredivisie players plus an RVP lacking some rhythm.

This team will surely improve! Lens might lose his spot now and depending on how Sneijder fairs, he might lose his spot too.
Memphis Depay is knocking on the door as the trump card and Robben could play on Sneijder’s / Wijnaldum’s spot.

Van Gaal felt we had the upper hand: “We could have won this. We didn’t play really bad but the key was that we didn’t manage to find the free man quick enough. But the opportunities to do so were there. Some players failed to see them. This needs to improve. But for a first 5-3-2 execution I am not unhappy. This is the way forward for me. I like winning. I think this system with these players will work best for us.”

He continued: “Do you realise that Janmaat had the most crosses for us in the qualifications? More than Robben and Lens? So I think the system using the full backs as attacking players has proven itself. Not just for us, but also many other teams.”

janmaat hurt

Kongolo after his debut: “I am not happy. I am very critical of myself always and I know I didn’t play great. It wasn’t bad either, but I had a number of sloppy passes and that is simply not on! When I was subbed during half time I was unhappy but Mr Van Gaal said something funny: “I subbed Janmaat on his debut too and he is now a firm solid player for Oranje”, hahaha. I was nervous in the beginning, I have to say. The first minutes I couldn’t hear anything but I settled down nicely after a while.”

Darryl Janmaat was subbed after a hit on his ankle. It looked like a sprain. “It was very painful. But I don’t think it will last, really. Nothing broken or torn. We’ll see how it mends but it was a dirty tackle and I am happy that it was merely painful.”

Overall, I think we didn’t do too badly. The team was still a bit under pressure from the intensive practice days. They played with only 7 days on the clock in terms of practice in the 5-3-2. Young Kongolo started a bit nervous and there is still some tweaking to do here and there and last but not least we do still miss some big guns from Turkey, Italy and Germany.

I hope we will play three lousy friendlies and have a cracker of a world cup campaign as opposed to three awesome friendlies and a shit World Cup.

I believe we need Nigel De Jong for Daley Blind and Robben for Wijnaldum and we might be on our way to something good.

I personally also hope Krul will get the nod over Cillesen (whom didn’t impress in the way he attacked the ball when we conceded) and I also hope Fer will get a chance on Clasie’s position.

Holland will need a player with a killer pass though and it it isn’t Sneijder or Van der Vaart, it will have to be Clasie. He has the goods and needs to launch our forwards. Nigel won’t be the man to do so, so all hinges on how Van Gaal plays the midfield. The forwards are fine (RVP, Hunter, Depay, Lens) and the defence will not improve tremendously anymore in the coming weeks. Midfield has the key. We might even consider a 5-4-1 for all I care….

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First Oranje practice sessions – Van Ginkel called up

While I am laughing my arse off watching Louis van Gaal being interviewed by the English media, I am writing this. The first session of training for the PrePreLim squad and the reporters from Blighty gathered around the Oracle. The question: “So obviously you know about Man United, you played against them…” and Louis says “Now that is a stupid question”. Hahahaha, may the games begin! In all honesty, that clip alone would be enough for me – if I were the Man United decision maker – to pick another coach, hahahahaha.

Anyway, as Louis said “I am now Oranje manager and I will focus on my job here now” I will leave all that alone.

Now it’s 33 Days to Go to the World Cup and we are none the wiser!

LVG practice

“Don’t talk back to me or I will have you spend the afternoon in that corner facing the wall!!”

This week Louis started his first sessions with the players who 1) could make the cut, 2) are no longer involved in official games in their competion and 3) some filler players from Young Oranje to make the right numbers.

Remarkable names like Castaignos and Locadia are not that remarkable as they can be seen as the Young Oranje contingent. The same can be said for Terrence Kongolo but the in form Feyenoord defender played too well, has too much talent and too versatile to overlook. I wouldn’t be surprised if LVG used the tall defender as Strootman replacement in midfield….

Another potential replacement for midfield was on the list as well. Chelsea player Marco van Ginkel The first and only player coming in from another competition amongst the Eredivisie players. Without a doubt Louis has checked with the Annoying One what the status of our popular midfielder is and based on the response requested for Mourinho to release the former Vitesse man for Oranje.

Interesting… I am not surprised if Afellay gets a go as well.

luc zoet

“Castaignos, Zoet (l) and Martins Indi (r) didn’t want to play spin the bottle.”

So there are three practice sessions and on May 13, the future Man U coach will announce the preliminary 30 player squad. On June 2, he has to announce the definitive list and that list of 23 needs to come from the 30 in the prelim. Oranje has a training camp in Lagos Portugal for a week in May and will play two friendlies after that, versus Ghana and Wales. Oranje plays Equador on May 17 in Amsterdam by the way.

Terence Kongolo was nervous to meet Van Gaal and went to the first Oranje camp with team mate Jean Paul Boetius. His career goes really fast. “I noticed this in particular when I drove up to the hotel with all those media people waiting. It was intense. Feyenoord is big but this is humungous.” After the session the talented defender said “Mr Van Gaal is very direct but I don’t mind that. I really enjoyed myself and will do what I can to to stay with the group. I hope Mr Van Gaal is going to need me in Brazil and if he does, I will be ready.”

Before any World Cup, Johan Cruyff will be asked about Oranje. The Oracle this time wanted to spend some time on his relationship with Louis van Gaal. “People think we have this whole thing going on, as if I don’t like him or he doesn’t like me. That is not it. I do not have any issue with Van Gaal. He is a good coach. But, our football vision is totally different. That is all. Literally, totally different. People say “but you both play 4-3-3 and want to attack”. Yes, that is the only similarity. We need too much time for me to explain but I’m talking about specific roles and tasks, about positioning, about pace. In Van Gaal’s way of playing, the midfielder will open up to the build up from the defence with his back to the
opponent’s goal. That is 90% of what happens and then 90% of those times, the ball goes back to the goalie or to the full back. In my tactics, the central defender is a player who moves into midfield to become a midfielder with his face towards the opponent’s goal. I would use individual class to play fast paced pass and move football. Van Gaal is more a handbal type coach. With players wide, strictly on the byline and a more rigid approach.”


“Kongolo demonstrating how Louis van Gaal dances in the clubs”

Joel Veltman (Ajax) and Stefan de Vrij (Feyenoord) seem to be tight buddies already. In tv interview Veltman gave a hint re: the tactics Van Gaal will try out. “He will play with more defenders. The 5-3-2, but with the emphasis on attack. We want to see the ball the most and this is a way of creating dominance. The principles will remain the same.” Stefan de Vrij: “Mr Van Gaal wants us to think, to use our brain as a tool and make rational choices in the games. He is working on that on specific situations and makes us pick the right decisions and offer up solutions. He is very clear in his instructions and that is always wonderful to work with.”

Luc Castaignos is used to working with great players and coaches. He was part of the Feyenoord squad, worked with Sneijder and Milito at Inter Milan and is now the main man at Twente. But working with Van Gaal is a level higher even… “Everything needs to be perfect. That is something… Everything you do needs to be good. Van Gaal demands a lot. I never expected this and was quite surprised. This experience is wonderful. I noticed it immediately, we had this practice where I had to use my left foot and I was instinctively going to my right all the time… But there is no time for those sort of moves at this level.” Castaignos had a tough season. “I had some ups and downs. I played ok but missed a lot of sitters. But still I did well if you look at the stats. But I do realise I got lucky to be invited. Mr Van Gaal was cool. He said “Enjoy yourself and show me what you got” hahaha. I do know I have many names in front of me, potentially, such as Van Persie and Huntelaar… But I am allowed to dream, right?”


Van Ginkel’s nightmare might be finally over now

Louis van Gaal is working behind closed doors for a spell but will open up the practice to the public on the last days of the trainings camp in Holland.

On June 3, Oranje trains in Alkmaar in the AZ stadium and on May 30 in De Kuip in Rotterdam.


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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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Brave PSV reaps kudos but not the result

PSV has won five competitive games in a row and has garnered quite some excitement. And what’s not to like: fan fave Cocu at the helm and exciting young talents like Willems, Wijnaldum, Depay, Maher, Rekik and Bruma in the squad, to name a few.

The football PSV has demonstrated in the first weeks of this season has been pretty good. Fast paced, intelligent, domineering, attacking.

The style of football we haven’t seen PSV play in a long time (have to go back to Nilis / Nistelrooy days) and with Ajax the club to beat and Feyenoord in a dip, it’s a great prospect to have PSV-Milan on the roster.

A prestigious game between two big names in Europe. Both clubs won the Europa Cup before and only 8 years ago they faced each other in the CL semi finals.

The prize of this tie is a ticket into the CL and therefore access to lots of euros. Euros both PSV and Milan can use.

And what an experience it would be for Cocu’s babies, if they could make it. And wouldn’t LVG be happy with this lot playing at least 6 massive games this season.

But…. playing nicely and being attractive for the fans is one thing. Winning a football game is another. It sometimes feels that good football and winning don’t go hand in hand. PSV started their game great. As one expected. Cocu willl have instructed his lads in Barca fashion: have fun, be ballsy, take the game to them. There is nothing to lose, really. The onus is on Milan.


And in the first minutes, PSV did exactly that. Matavz, Depay, Wijnaldum, Maher, they all had a go, with Maher impressing in particular with a half volley blocked, another distance strike stopped and a rocket on the cross bar after a little dribble.

But by then, Milan had already pounced successfully. A Depay mistake tracking back, three defenders ball watching and El Shaarawy was able to head the ball in, unmarked.

By half time, I think PSV deserved to be equal with Milan.

There is a lot of good things to say about PSV, but at the same time, PSV is definitely not there yet. At times Willems looked like watching the ball. He should be charged a ticket price for that. The back four are talented but not yet the killers they need to be. Schaars impressed yet again in midfield and will add international caps to his tally without a doubt. Schaars is disciplined, has vision, and passes balls with tremendous pace into the feet of his forwards.

Depay and Wijnaldum need to improve in their decision making. Both players are very skilled with their feet, but not good enough with their head. Maher seems to have it all but drifts in and out of the game too much. Needs to be more demanding and show more leadership. Maher needs to learn a bit from Sneijder in that respect. He might be a bit too friendly.

In the second half, funnily enough, the lacklustre Milan of the first half changed into a more dynamic team. And when they did, it was PSV who scored. A distance strike with swerve from Bruma was too hot to handle and Matavz was on hand to head in the equaliser. Deservedly so.

PSV does get some more opportunities, like Milan in honesty. El Shaarawy with a missed chance and Jozefzoon – coming on for Park – and Rekik missing good chances.

All in all, a great open game. Lots of box to box action. Lots of mistakes and lots of testosterone.

One player to single out for me is Brenet. Not super in defence, but a good mentality, working hard, not starstruck at all but a wonderful prospect indeed.

In the last 5 minutes, we saw some chances for Jozefzoon for PSV and Polley for Milan. Jozefzoon didn’t get a shot off as he mishandled the ball, while the Milan sub did get a shooting opp. That, I suppose, is the difference between PSV and Milan.

And despite the result and the fact that PSV has been caught napping a number of times (corner kicks Phillip!!!), the fans in Eindhoven have something to look out for this season. And they better hurry too, as I can’t see players like Rekik, Maher, Depay and Willems play in Eindhoven very long.

wijnaldum AC

Mark van Bommel assisted Dutch TV in analysing the game. The former PSV and Milan man was highly critical on his ex-mates and felt the youngsters were a little bit too playful. Where Urby Emanuelson was highly positive about PSV and predicted a huge future for the team and players, Van Bommel was cranky. “AC Milan was better. Much more goal focused. PSV played good but they made too many sloppy mistakes in the final third. It was too playful for me. Too much gallery play and little flicks and backheels. Against Milan for a CL ticket, you need to be totally professional and focused on the result.” The TV anchor was taken aback by Bommel’s criticism. The retired midfielder added: “Listen, of course PSV is young and inexperienced but this level of play doesn’t need frivolity. It requires more than that.” His former coach and father in law, Bert van Marwijk was in the tv studio and a little bit defensive: “I think Mark is disappointed with the result. Someone who is used to play at top level would say things like he says, but all in all, PSV can be proud, I think.”

Memphis Depay had a shitty feeling as he was at fault with Milan’s first goal. “I took too much time. I remember considering to just hit the ball away or go back to the goalie, but he was in my back and gave me a push and was away. When I looked up, it was 0-1. I was pretty pissed off and happy we at least got a goal back.”

Coach Cocu was positive about his lads. “Our first 25 minutes were very good. We created pressure and opportunities. You do hope to score at least once then. And it’s known that a club like Milan, with top players, only need one little mistake to pounce. They have that quality. They don’t need to play well. But we recovered well. We played a good second half and got our goal back. We have another game to play next week. We are not without chances.”

Stijn Schaars ended the game with mixed feelings. “We played really well, at times. And to do so against a European top team is quite something. And funny, the first time we didn’t look good, they score. That is what they can do. But, we only conceded one and we scored one. They won’t play for the 0-0 next week and we will get chances with our players. I think our belief in getting into the CL has only increased. We’ll make it into a match.”

Here is the highlights of the 2005 CL semi finals. The home game.

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