Tag: Holland

Prelim Squad announced for Oranje

Almost a month to go and we’re starting to leave the club competitions behind us.

You will have seen the squad selection by now? I don’t think too many surprises.

For some, the absence of Bizot was a surprise, as he was called up for the last international games. He was most likely part of the prelim squad, if not for some domestic family issues. Marco decided to forfeit the Euros as his family circumstances have not been resolved and he prefers to be with the family during the summer.

The list of injured players ( Hartman, Wieffer, Lang) might become longer with question marks for Marten de Roon, Frenkie de Jong, Memphis Depay and Zirkzee, while Luuk de Jong definitely retired from the NT.

Calvin Stengs, Thijs Dallinga and Steven Berghuis will have had idle hope and should something happen to Malen or Bergwijn or Xavi Simons, these three might still get a look in.

If Frenkie and Memphis can join the squad, I do believe we’ll be in good shape.

We simply need our key players to be in form and Koeman to pick a logical starting eleven for the games at the Euros.

I mean, our goalkeepers are fine. Our central defenders are top. Maatsen and Ake can cover the left side, even Blind might be able to play against opponents parking the bus. Frimpong and Dumfries will cover the right with Geertruida also on hand.

Our midfield options are pretty good, with Veerman, Schouten, Reijnders and Koopmeiners and when fit, we can expect some fire upfront from Malen, Gakpo, Simons and Brobbey.

As mentioned, we need Koeman to make the right decisions and allow the players to play to their strengths.

It may sound simplistic, but we need two teams: 1 that can dominate possession against the minions and 1 that can play on the transition when playing the strong countries who themselves want to dominate.

I will suggest three at the back in both scenarios and I would personally use Bijlow as first goalie.

My two teams:

 

 

Tell me your fave line up in the comments….

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Ajax’ nightmare season

In typical Dutch form, people will immediately say: “Who is to blame?”. The answer is not very straightforward. Lets first look at the problem.

Ajax was having a decent run in the past seasons. Frank de Boer did ever so well winning titles and turning the poor Ajax into a cash rich club, with some amazing outgoing transfers putting some fat on the bone. Peter Bosz came in and turned De Boer’s boring Ajax into a free-flowing attacking machine, but Bosz ended his 1 season spell with Ajax when Van der Sar refused to work with Bosz on a reshuffling of the backroom staff.

Marc Overmars was acting as technical director, but mainly with a focus on contracts and signing and selling players. The Ajax Technical Triangle was supposed to take care of the football (De Boer, Bergkamp, Ouaali).

The two friends, Dirty Marc and “I haven’t seen anything untoward” Van der Sar

Overmars was kept out of the decision to block Bosz’ plans and allowed Bergkamp his spot in the sun.

Bosz left and not much later, Dennis Bergkamp – Bosz antagonist – also had to leave.

But Bergkamp was fully in control when he was at Ajax and ushered in Marcel Keizer as the replacement for Bosz. Not a bad decision, mind you. Keizer was successful as a coach on the second tier level at Cambuur and as a real Ajax man (his uncle was Piet Keizer), he also coached Ajax 2 and impressed with that team (which had the likes of Van de Beek, De Ligt, Frenkie and Appie Nouri).

Keizer is also a close friend of Bergkamp, so the two set out to lead Ajax. The Nouri situation – the brilliant ballplayer had heart failure in a friendly in the pre-season and due to the late response, he survived the ordeal but that is about it….the poor lad is confined to his bed for the rest of his life – made matters tough for the young coach and the whole team or even club suffered through trauma that season.

Overmars decided to take the reins back from Bergkamp and organised a coup, in which both Keizer and Bergkamp had to make way. Keizer was on title course and would later impress in the Portuguese competition and in the sandpit. Bergkamp never pursued his career elsewhere and became a bit of a football recluse.

Now Overmars was in charge and he quickly lured his friend Erik ten Hag away from FC Utrecht. Ten Hag had had success with Overmars’ first love Go Ahead Eagles and Mark had always planned to get Ten Hag to Amsterdam.

The duo was quite successful, as we know. Overmars dealing with transfers and contracts, Ten Hag dealing with the first team and the results and Van der Sar safely away from the front, dealing with the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the sponsors, the board of directors and any other non-football topic.

At that time, Danny Blind was the football man in the Board and he would be an intrinsic part of Overmars little cabal.

And boy, what was Overmars good at his job. And how horrible did he behave when it wasn’t about football.

Overmars telling inappropriate jokes to Sar?

Despite being married to a former Miss Universe (or Miss Holland, not sure), he couldn’t resist using his powerful position at Ajax to bother and hassle the young ladies working at the social media/marketing department of Ajax. And it went further than texting them invites for dinner. The diminutive former winger enjoyed taking pictures of his …less diminutive mini-me and sent them to the ladies in question, who apparently were to scared to report him to the general manager. One key reason: the general manager (yes Edwin van der Sar) knew this was happening and was part of the sexist cabal at Ajax, enjoying inappropriate humor.

Van der Sar protected his powerful friend but when the news broke in the media, it was clear that the former Arsenal and Barca man had to leave.

So, many things had gone wrong already by that time. But Van der Sar took it a bit further. Instead of trying to replace Overmars with a heavyweight – but with manners – he decided to give newcomer Huntelaar and scout Hamstra the joint role of technical director (not in name though).

Oops. Exposed. But a bit too much exposed.

And obviously, both were too lightweight, inexperienced and unconnected to step into Overmars boots. And what people do forget: he is a very good negotiator. He made money playing football and but multiplied his money by dealing in property and classic cars. Huntelaar and Hamstra are definitely people with expertise and added value but they’re no Overmars.

And it showed, this season. Lisandro Martinez left for Man United. Bassey was brought in. Gravenberch left for Bayern, Austrian midfielder Grillisch is his replacement. And so on.

I believe Sar never replaced Overmars, because he hoped (planned?) to get the speedy ex-winger back after a couple of months of “distance from the club”. But it didn’t happen. And when Alfred Schreuder, assisted by his agent, started to “help” Ajax to more new signings, things turned for the worst.

Ocampos was on the wishlist and Ajax would have signed him for 30+ million euros, if the Board of Directors hadn’t intervened. They forced Ajax to take him on a loan basis. And less than 6 months later, the winger was sent back to Spain as he was never able to convince anyone in Amsterdam.

Ocampos failure

But it went further downhill, as Schreuder lost the dressing room due to several bad decisions. His treatment of Daley Blind (who left after the World Cup), his decision to protect Tadic and never sub him, his decision to not use newcomer Wijndal but try Blind, Bassey and Rensch on that spot, the list goes on.

Daley Blind’s exit had another consequence for the club: highly rated Danny Blind – sounding board for coaches and technical management – could not continue his director’s role what with Daley being pushed out unceremoniously. And again, it appeared that Van der Sar and the Board did not have a shadow list waiting in the drawer.

They didn’t have one for Overmars. Not for Danny Blind and when stalwarts like Michael Reiziger and Academy director Said Ouaali announced their exits too, it was quite clear things are a bit fishy in Amsterdam.

John Heitinga was pushed forward when Schreuder was sacked. Much like his old team mate Van Nistelrooy at PSV, Heitinga planned to build up his career with care and consideration. The former Everton defender managed Ajax 2 and was about to start as Schreuder’s assistant but was propelled into the hot seat immediately.

So now, Ajax is re-building. They were able to get former midfielder Jan van Halst in as new football director in the board of directors. They installed Heitinga for this season, with Dwight Lodeweges as he new assistant and they finally signed a technical director – Sven Mislintat –  to replace Overmars, who seems to be enjoying his time at FC Antwerp, with Mark van Bommel. I personally believe Mislintat could well be the right choice, as he has quite a strong resume and clearly adores Ajax.

So, in conclusion, I think its fair to say that after the mismatch of Bosz-Bergkamp-Overmars-Van der Sar, the combination of Ten Hag-Overmars (without Sar) worked amazingly well. There is no need for me to list the achievements of Ten Hag at Ajax.

But when Overmars had to take his leave, Van der Sar needed more than 12 months (!) to replace him. Imagine that, your key guy in the organisation. And it’s not like Van der Sar was ambushed by the dick-pics, he knew about it. So his lack of taking action resulted in a head coach (Schreuder) who was drowning from day 1. And in hindsight, Schreuder also didn’t do himself many favours with his headstrong attitude within the club.

Heitinga with new technical director Sven Mislintat

The combi Ten Hag – Overmars was replaced by Schreuder-Huntelaar-Hamstra and that combination had no chance!

Ajax’ terrible season – in my view – is another nudge of the keepers gloves of Van der Sar. His list of failings is becoming very long.

And if things turn really sour for Ajax this coming weekend – away versus in form Twente – they might end up playing conference league football next season.

The only bonus: last year, when Van der Sar was asked about having to play in the conference league potentially in the future, his answer was: I will not be with the club when that happens. And the fans will now clutch that claim to their chest. The only silver lining in case Ajax finishes 4th this season.

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Naive Oranje humiliated in France

The number of times I had to write “boys v men” on this blog in the past decade is simply not funny anymore. Rafael van der Vaart compared our game v France with youth football.

This virus plagued Oranje got hammered by a lethal France and only have themselves to blame. Debutant Geertruida and youngster Xavi Simons are two of the players who scored a decent rating. Most of the others disappointed gravely in an avalanche of errors.

When Daley Blind is the cause for the only positive aspect of this game, you know we’re in trouble. Daley got his 100th cap for Oranje and joins the Oranje elite (behind Sneijder, Van der Sar, De Boer, Van der Vaart, Van Bronckhorst, Kuyt, Van Persie and Cocu and just in front of Robben).

In the 21st minute, when we’re trailing 3-0 against Les Blues, the stats tell the story: Holland has close to 70% possession of the ball. France has 3 shots on goal. Holland has 4 shots on goal. France has 3 goals. Oranje zero, nada, zilch.

We dominated the ball but France scored the goals. Deschamps gets the game he dreamed of, with The Netherlands gifting Coman, Kolo Muani and Mbappe all options to counter attack with their speed.

Koeman’s line up surprised a bit. Berghuis as winger/midfielder was a surprise to me, I expected Xavi Simons there. And I expected Malen, with his speed as well. I hoped for Wieffer but he wasn’t 100%, so Koeman decided against him and picked Taylor. Gravenberch was added to the squad late, after Veerman had to depart due to the gastro virus, but Taylor had more games at Ajax. De Roon was an obvious choice. But to play Geertruida and Timber “against type” was another surprise.

Oranje’s 70% possession didn’t do much for us. Why, because the French coach had a good idea which Dutch player to allow the ball. Griezmann covers Taylor (like he used to do on Frenkie) and De Roon is the man in midfield allowed to build up. Not his strength.

Another remarkable aspect: Koeman wants his full backs to remain wide and hugging the line. Ake on the left and Timber on the right usually play more inside as full backs (like Malacia at Man U and Geertruida at Feyenoord). Playing so wide means that the centre backs Geertruida and Van Dijk have difficulties reaching the wide man and regularly only see De Roon as their outlet. Again, not the man where you want the build up to start.

And this happened under Koeman I as well: the moment De Roon is played in, the French midfielders pounce hoping for a mistake. And this is exactly what happens in the first 90 seconds when Holland is patiently kicking the ball around.

The ball is on the right flank. Taylor omits to look over his shoulder, he only sees the ball. He is played in and is totally obliviousto Griezmann making a go for the ball. He passes square to De Roon who is hijacked by Rabiot and two passes later it’s 1-0. Also check the video to see how Taylor jogs back instead of busting a lung to mark Griezmann who ended up scoring their first goal.

The second goal is also the result of an error. It’s Cillesen this time who should be able to just collect the ball from a free kick from the right. But the NEC goalie misjudges the ball and the leather bounces from his arm onto the oncoming Upamecano: 2-0. An error yes, but at least one that you can sympathise with. A number of attackers and defenders were jumping in front of Cillesen, obstructing his views. A mistake like this is easily made. But … not nice to be 2-0 down after 9 minutes.

The free kick, from where this goal came, was the result of another positional error by the team. As you can see below.

Van Dijk is trying to play the offside- Liverpool style. But Timber and Geertruida have other ideas, probably due to the speed of MBappe and Coman. The pass is good, towards Coman and Geertruida makes the foul.

This miscommunication is typical for a team that doesn’t show any unity in thinking and doing. The players are too busy with their own individual role and don’t seem to see the bigger picture.

The third goal is after we see a variant used by Koeman in his first period, with a holding mid (normally Frenkie) dropping deep next to the central defenders to start the build up. This used to work, with powerhouse Dumfries high up the right channel. With Timber, it’s less logical. The Ajax central defender is best in the axis of the field. Why Koeman switched Geertruida and Timber is anyone’s guess.

This is just before the goal. Geertruida carries the ball. De Roon takes Timber’s spot. No one in midfield is open, so Geertruida is looking for Timber who is free. But the pass lacks pace, Hernandez read it well and sprints full swing to intercept the ball. In terms of numbers, this should not be a problem, as we have De Roon, Geertruida, Van Dijk and Ake in the defensive organisation while Taylor is also behind the ball. But still we get in trouble, as the players are not ideally positioned and Taylor does not coach his team mates like for instance De Roon or De Jong do in Oranje, or Kokcu at Feyenoord. So no one puts pressure on Tchouameni, the task of Wijnaldum. And when MBappe is at full speed, it’s De Roon who needs to track back, not something he does well. De Roon also lacks the speed needed. Muani lets the ball run and Mbappe gobbles it up: 3-0.

Koeman then switches Timber and Geertruida back to their usual positions and brings Weghorst for the disappointing Taylor, to spice things up a bit. It’s a bit too little too late, as France knows the match is won and they do take their foot off the gas. Therefore, it’s hard to judge the eleven that play the remainder of the game for us.

The game ends with another amateuristic error: a risky pass forward by Van Dijk, miscontrol by Memphis and he seems to pay the perfect assist to his friend MBappe who scores a superb 4-0.

Memphis missing a late penalty for Oranje is typical for the teams performance, on a night when everything we do fails.

Holland doesn’t have the calibre players that France have. As the saying goes: the better team will win against the better individuals. Sadly, Holland also doesn’t have the better team…

 

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King Kenny finds his balance

Kenneth Tete came into Ajax 1 at a young age. What is good, comes quick they say in Holland. And Ajax has the tendency of using their talented players from a young age (Cruyff, Van Basten, Bergkamp, Van der Vaart). But for any of those, there are also Riedenwalds, Bazoers and El Ghazis, who take a longer road to success (if any).

He made a name for himself as a young and un-Ajax like player: no frills, no circus skills but dogged defensive work. I remember a typical game of Tete (at Olympique Lyonnais) against Neymar of PSG. “Keep looking at the ball and take it from him.” He didn’t display the attacking prowess of his rivals (Karsdorp, Veltman, Janmaat) and was considered a top defender but lacking in the attacking department.

This season, at Fulham, he made his way back to the EPL with a debut match vs Liverpool. An assist on his striker Mitrovic displayed a Kenny Tete who had developed into a rebel rousing wingback.

And it didn’t stop there. The 27 year old had assists versus Spurs, Nottingham Forest and Southampton and is one of the first on the Fulham team sheet.

“i want to be a modern full back. I worked hard to get there. I was always the only real defender at Ajax and it gave me a status, if you like. They didn’t have many players like me, until Tagliafico came along. At Lyon, under Bosz, I was forced to add more to the attack as Bosz wants his teams to defend and attack as a unit. My move to Fulham made that even more important. In England, the game is also way more physical so I had to work even harder, both on my physical strength and on my football skills. I could have had more than four assists. I mean, you’re depending on the guy who gets the ball to score. If they would have scored, I would have had more assists.”

In this heat map, you can see how Tete indeed covers the whole flank, but also assists his central defenders where needed.

More and more forwards realise they’ll have a tough day in the office, versus Tete. He played new Chelsea signing Mudryk from the pitch. “I tell you, I never heard of this guy before. But I did hear he cost Chelsea 100 million euros. So then I thought, hmmm, he’s probably pretty good and that motivates me even more!” Mudryk didn’t get any thing going against King Kenny and remained in the dressing room at half time.

“My first big encounter against a super star was my game against Neymar. I was super nervous, but I decided: just do what you normally do but stay 100% focused and don’t start to think “oh my , I am facing Neymar”. And ever since that match, I feel secure and confident. And yes, when a guy like Mudryk gets hooked, it feels good but at the same time: at Chelsea they’ll put another top player opposite you and you have to go again. You know, Sterling or Mount or Havertz, they’re all top players.”

Tete ended the match vs Chelsea with the Man of the Match trophy.

Football players are never “safe”. Coaches want at least two players for any spot so Tete got competition from a new signing, Swiss international Mbabu. The talented defender hasn’t had a peak, so far. Tete: “I used to overthink things, you know. What if this, what if that. And I made myself anxious and lost confidence, by not controlling my mind. I’m different now. I take things step by step. I am not thinking about the matches in April, or next season, or the new signing. I am working hard on training and go from match to match. It serves me.”

“When I was at Ajax, playing in the first team at 19 years old, there were rumours of Real Madrid having an interest. And that screws with your mind a bit. You start with fantasies and with dreams and you play with the idea in your head that the next game might get you that transfer. I mean, many players made big moves in those days, and I too wanted to reach high. I ended up with Fulham and got relegated! But I stayed, I love this club and now we’re number 7 in the league! I am focusing fully on Fulham as I love it here, I love living in London and my family loves it here too. If I have to finish my playing career here, I wouldn’t not mind a single bit.”

Marco Silva’s team has found the way up and has the best season since a long time. “We didn’t lose too many players and were able to bring in some good new lads and it just clicks now. We are playing with flair, with passion, with joy and it works. And we played Arsenal twice, the number 1 in the league, and we lost to them by goals in the last minute. This does mean we are not 100% there yet, but it also means we’re getting close.”

In the past years, the Dutch National Team was a no fly zone for King Kenny, but it might well be that a mainstay in the Premier League gets another call up. Dumfries doesn’t play a lot at Inter. Rensch doesn’t convince. Karsdorp only just started playing again, Geertruida plays as a central defender… Any thoughts? “Well, I was on the prelim list of De Boer’s squad, but I wasn’t a part of the squad for a long time. I missed the Euros, missed the World Cup so I’m not a go to guy at the moment. And I will not claim I should be. But sure, playing well in the EPL does mean you’re reaching a good level, so if the invite comes, I will be ready.”

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Meet Tarcisio – your new Blog Czar

You know that when a Brazilian guy prefers the Dutch Oranje over the Seleção Canarinho, you have a really cool and special dude in your tribe!

I have been speaking with him for months and it was clear to me he was and is the ideal guy to take over from me.

I mean: you try and find a Brazilian guy who would admit Cruyff was better than Pele, right?

Here is a first interview with our new playmaker.

So, Tarcisio, welcome! Tell us a bit about yourself?

Tarcisio: “I was born and live in Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, a state located in the northeast of Brazil and which has a very particular history with the Netherlands. Between the years 1630 to 1654, our state was colonized by the Dutch and Maurício de Nassau was the governor of our state during that period. He brought many improvements to our state, but “unfortunately”, the people managed to expel the Dutch from here. And I say that it is unfortunately, because when the Dutch left Pernambuco, they went to the United States and colonized New York. I believe that having the Dutch here would be better than the Portuguese who came to steal our riches and did not think about developing our region, as Maurício de Nassau did while he was here. In Recife, I live with my sister and mother. I’m 27 years old and since I was 16 I’ve been following Dutch football and I started to fall in love with it. Initially, I liked the country. I liked the things I read about the Netherlands, the culture, the history and that’s when I got deeper into football. I love Holland, I really do and don’t ask me why, things just happened and the next thing I know, I was completely in love with the country. But I’ve never been to Holland. My life goal is to live in Holland.”

This is Tarcisio’s Oranje Office, where the blogging-magic will be happening

Did you play football yourself?

When I was younger, I played football for Sport Recife, one of the big clubs in my region. Today, I don’t like to play, I just like to watch.”

But you probably do adore Pele? Like we do Cruyff?

For many, Pelé was the best and greatest player in the history of football, but for me, nobody has ever surpassed Johan Cruijff. What he did and what he left for football was much greater than any other athlete. Alongside Rinus Michels and many other legends, he revolutionized football. To this day, we see his legacy being upheld by Josep Guardiola. Pelé was a great player, but he didn’t leave the legacy for the sport that Johan Cruijff did. And I’m scared how the Dutch don’t appreciate Johan Cruijff. He was simply a genius and greater than anyone else.”

Do you follow the Oranje only, or also the Dutch clubs?

I follow all Eredivisie and Keuken Kampioen Divisie matches. Every weekend I watch Dutch league games. I just don’t watch amateur division games, because they aren’t broadcast here in Brazil. I don’t speak Dutch, it’s one of the languages I want to learn.”

Which tournament stands out for you, re: the Dutch National Team?

In my opinion, the 1974 World Cup was the Dutch team that impressed me the most. I didn’t have the opportunity to watch it, but from everything I’ve read and watched on videos, it was supernatural. But if you only analyze the competitions you watch, the 2014 World Cup was the coolest. We didn’t win the title, but we arrived discredited and reached the semifinal.”

This is where he lives and where we will all gather once we win the World Cup!

Do you support a particular Dutch club?

I support Ajax, but whenever a Dutch team is on the field against any club from another country, I will support the Dutch club, because I want to see our football prosper. It’s not good that only Ajax can play the Champions League frequently. I want to see PSV and Feyenoord playing in these tournaments and showing the strength everyone has, just like the main teams in Portugal can do.”

Any favorite players?

My list of favorite players starts with Johan Cruijff (it couldn’t be different), Ruud Krol, Wim Suurbier, Wim van Hanegem, Johan Neeskens, Rob Rensenbrink, Piet Keizer and Johnny Rep. Players like Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben are also on that list.”

How did you find out about the Dutchsoccersite?

I found the site through Google. I was looking for Dutch football stories and reviews and Google introduced me to DutchSoccer. When I started reading, I fell in love with the content and tried to get in touch with you, to praise the high quality of the reviews. You were very humble and always open to help, and that made me even happier. I met a Dutchman who told me that people in Holland are not that friendly, but so far, the Dutch people I’ve met, I have nothing to complain about.”

Do you have any particular plans with the blog?

I won’t be able to bring the quality and special touch that you’ve built over all these years to the site, but my idea would be to bring the daily updated news about Dutch football, from the top clubs to the clubs in the second division. . I want everyone to be able to get to know and follow the Dutch club by heart.”

And somewhere down there is a pub where we will get drunk on the success of our World Cup win!

How do you see the future of Dutch football?

My perspective on Dutch football is that we can see clubs growing more and more. I hope that the directors understand once and for all that it is necessary to assemble competitive teams and compete strongly in European competitions, after all, they are what will bring money to our football. One thing I’ve learned over the years following football in the Netherlands is that the Dutch really see football as fun, unlike here in Brazil, for example. I think that’s the big difference and that’s why we can’t see Dutch football grow more than it can.”

Guys, it’s official now. The blog is in his able hands.

Say hello below and maybe also introduce yourselves? Say something about your age, where you live, how you came to become a fan of Oranje, and anything else you like to share.

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Oranje not good enough….

Below is the original text I wrote straight after – or actually during – the match.

With the game behind us, we can make some short and snappy conclusions:

  • The Heroes of the US game, Blind and Dumfries, the zeroes against Argentina

Scoring and assisting versus USA, and letting your man go (Blind) and conceding a penalty (Dumfries) making them the losers versus Argentina

  • Confidence, mental strength and will are important

We never played with confidence, the game was sloppy, slow, measured and basically… weak. When Plan B was executed, we scored 2 (we = Wout) in 15 minutes and in the remaining 30 extra time minutes, we should have pushed on.

  • Belief in penalty science unfounded

Louis and his minion Frans Hoek had decided that a scientific approach to penalty kicks would help the takers and the goalie. A whole theory was implemented and based on the 2014 deception, Van Gaal went for penalties this time, thinking he’d done the job already. In 2014, he wanted to win in 120 mins and brought Huntelaar. It failed. Now he decided not to bring Janssen or Simons but to stick it out to pens. Another mistake (in hindsight).

  • Van Gaal’s arrogance

Louis decided before the game to explain how Messi was invisible in 2014 and how we would manage to do this again. He also said repeatedly: “Messi doesn’t do anything without the ball and they’ll be playing with 10 men”. These words were obviously picked up by the Argentinian media and Messi was fuelled like never before.

  • Where is Ziyech??

Ziyech chose Morocco, which prompted the many Dutch experts to say “how can you pick Morocco when you have more chances to win silverware with Holland??”. Well, Morocco is playing the semi finals, Oranje is on a plane home.

  • Just not good enough

There are many subtleties that could have gone different: Danjuma instead of Taylor, Bijlow instead of Noppert, Malacia instead of Blind but overall, I think it is fair to say we were simply not good enough to win the title. Quarter finals sounds just about right.

Sadly, I am at an airport gate waiting for my flight after a couple of days of business in Melbourne.

I hoped to be able to ignore the game and watch it at home, after the match, but there is no escaping Messi and co. So I missed the 1st half, and I’m currently watching the 2nd half, 2-0 down, with 15 minutes to go.

And from what I have seen, we have been kicked out of the tournament at the highest level we have a right to be. We don’t deserve to play the semi finals, let alone the finals. Not good enough.

Not Dumfries, not Blind, not Koopmeiners and in this form, not Memphis even.

I didn’t see the 1st half but I can imagine De Roon and Bergwijn didn’t bring much. I saw the 1-0, and yes, Blind didn’t look good, but neither did the whole part of the team dealing with Messi. And lets face it, that pass was sublime, as was the run. You will all tell me how bad Blind dealt with it, I’m sure but Van Dijk should have tackled with his left, on the ball and there will have been others wanting as well (Ake, De Jong).

Still 45 mins to recover, but Koopmeiners had another dreadful game, with balls bouncing off his feet, passing backwards all the time and Memphis dribbling into cul de sacs, while Dumfries – again – saw no way through as he was constantly forced into a dribbles he cannot do.

Overall, a weak performance. 1 attempt on goal, none on target in the first 70 minutes.

It’s sad, we could have gone all the way, as Croatia would be a better opponent than Brazil, but at least we can cheer for Messi as he might well win it, finally.

We can be angry, disappointed, pissed off, disgusted, but I think we can only say that we are not good enough.

Ake, Van Dijk, Frenkie de Jong were consistent. Noppert was great, but overall not that great.

And while I am typing this, Berghuis curves the ball onto Weghorst’s head: 2-1. Wow.

Ok.

Who knows.

A grand finale?

WHAT IS HAPPENING???? 2-2!!!

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How to stop Messi: Ron Vlaar

People still stop Ron Vlaar at the super market to ask him about his match, 8 years ago, versus Argentina and Messi. This will only become more the case in the coming days. Not many defenders can say that they silenced the little maestro. And that was all at the biggest platform: the World Cup. The AZ youth coach explains how.

So how do you prep for a match up with Messi?

“You don’t. You should prepare for a game versus Argentina. And that was then and it’s the same now. You do need to take into account his particular skill set and quality, but you need to anticipate as a team, on them as a team. But a team with Messi. I just told myself, that whenever Messi would be in my neck of the woods, I had to stop him.”

So it was a team task?

“Yes of course. No one was sacrificed to play or mark him. It’s important that you constantly watch him and check his movements, in particular when we have the ball. Those are the moments he is waiting for. He’ll drift, he’ll wander, he will go to the spaces inbetween, mostly strolling almost. You saw it versus Australia as well. And his team mates will know where he is, and when they get possession back, like a snake they’ll find him fast. Half a ball is enough for him to punish you really. So that is where we need to be sharp. And I think we did well, in 2014.”

So how important was blocking the pass lines to Messi?

“They play the exact same way now as they played in 2014. Find Messi and give him the ball. It was very visible this way versus the Aussies this time around. They were sloppy in the first half, so they didn’t really find him, but in the second half they did, and Messi was immediately threatening.”

How do you look back at those personal duels?

“People still ask me about this. And I think there are some cool photos from that match. I personally don’t remember the match as me versus him. I fought duels with a lot of players in that game but these duels are less important to the fans I guess. For me, the whole performance was important, the team performance. At the end of the day, you need to do your job as a defender, no matter who the opponent.”

But Messi’s feet are a tad quicker than the average other player..

“That is true which is why you need to be ready for him before he gets the ball. If you can anticipate his runs, you have a chance. If you react to him, you’re usually too late already. You have to scan constantly. You need to take into account what is happening and what can happen. Because if you allow him to turn and then run at you, you’re toast. He has speed, ball skills, he can go left, right. The key things are anticipating and reading the situation. The good thing is, Frenkie and De Roon have the tendency to constantly look around them, all the time. They should be ready for him.”

And the forward press is key too?

“Super important, because Messi loves to drop deep to find space and make his runs. You need to be compact. And you need to pressure him from two angles. Close in on him. Ake and Timber are very good in the press and that will be a major asset. I played in the Virgil role back then and my role is the same as Virgil’s: to be there when he slips through the cracks.”

And than there is the role of the holding mid.

“Yes, that was something Nigel de Jong did for us in that semi final and he had to leave the pitch for an hour or so. He had to be subbed and Jordy Clasie did his job as a sub, which he did ever so well. That was such an important performance, as Clasie hadn’t played a single minute. In this Oranje, I think De Roon will be key, for when Frenkie is on his bike. Don’t forget, Dumfries is also usually gone.”

Which Argentina is better you think, the 2014 team or the current team?

“I think the Brazil one was bnetter. They had a younger Messi, a younger Di Maria, Higuain, Aguero, Mascherano, really top players. And more individual qualities. But, just like then, this Argentina does play as a team.”

Are you confident for the game?

“Yes, I think Holland is actually better. We don’t play flash, but we play very business like. To win. I loke that. And if the play with the ball is not good, they still perform their tasks without the ball. This team is hard to beat. And we have players who can make a difference. I too enjoy good football, but winning is more important to me. I don’t care how. It’s not about how good you are, but are you good enough to win. And this Oranje is good enough to win.”

While we’re talking, I can see Messi make his way up to the training pitch at Doha!

“Haha, cool! Tell him I said hi!”

 

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The Road to Qatar: Memphis believes!

We have seen many posts here on Memphis. About his rise to the top. About his tough childhood. His amazing skills, goals and stats and his incredible outfits. Yes, the latter has been a big thing in Dutch media, because… we have an opinion about literally everything.

The 28 year old is LVG’s hope in fearful days, but since his return after a 2 months absence, he has not been firing on all cylinders yet. Could we actually expect him to? But, Memphis believes he will improve and be ready to step up. “I have proven that I don’t need rhythm or even form, to play well in the next match.”

Oranje had a lot of possession against Qatar, but the ball pace was still too low. This is what made Oranje so wonderful to watch: good pace, lots of positioning chances, adventure, pressure… We didn’t see one decent attack – well maybe we saw a couple but not enough. But, Oranje qualified for the last 16 and is facing Team USA.

“I am very bad at watching a game from the bench. I’m even more nervous than. I don’t get nervous when I play. You have more control. Against Senegal and Ecuador, you see thinks that need to improve, but you can’t improve them. Medically speaking, it was unwise for me to start in those matches, but I always want to start and I can get a bit agitated when I don’t, hahaha.”

He did come on to the pitch, Louis van Gaal adamant to bring Memphis with some caution. “Getting onto the pitch after an hour or so is tough. Really is. The game has a flow, a pace and you need to quickly adapt. And in my role, I am a bit dependent on the balls I get, the way the others can play. Against Senegal, I had 3 touches in 15 minutes. That is debilitating for me. And then in the last stage, the ball comes into space, I can run with it and we end up scoring. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. You simply have less influence when you come onto the pitch in the second half.”

Against Qatar, he started. Finally. After 65 minutes he was rested but had a strong role in both goals. Overall, Van Gaal was high in his praise for Memphis, but the match was again quite disappointing.

Is it possible to play good football and to win?

Memphis: “Oh for sure, but it also depends on …what is good football? Some people love a team that dominates like Barcelona plays. Others like swift counter attacking teams, or teams that really do physical battle. But yes, I think we can all agree our match v Ecuador was below standards. We are all football fans ourselves and we are not satisfied.”

What is the solution?

“That is in the details, it’s subtle. The moments in which you can get away from your marker. Offering yourself as an option at the right moment. Passing lines, blocking them or opening them up. I am a forward, it is not my job to pick up the ball, like Frenkie does. And we need to have all the parts clicking. From the goalie to Virgil, via Frenkie and other players to me or Cody or whoever is up front. We all play our role. And we have lads on the bench who can make a difference still, with weapons we haven’t used yet. I think of Luuk or Noa or Xavi.”

Do you hear the criticism from Holland?

“Nope, I am not on social media during the World Cup. This all goes beyond me. I do that on purpose, to protect myself. I don’t need that info to perform. It’s all noise. I focus on what makes me better. I will hear from our coaches what I need to hear. All that is said and written by others, I try to ignore. I live in a tunnel at the moment.”

Is that easy to do?

“I had to learn that. When I played in England, for Man United, i heard all those things about me and it didn’t help me. At all. I was checking everything and I realised it is not something that works for me. It’s distracting and most of the stuff you read is not even true! The other day, they read that Noa was sent away from training. He came to me and said “why do they write this?” There was no issue, the physio wanted to see his foot and he had to go inside. Noa needs to close himself off from that, it’s a discipline thing. Once we are done in Qatar, I hope after the finals, I will turn my insta back on.”

How is your fitness?

“Well, there is fit and there is match fit. The muscle injury i had after Poland is gone. That happened two months ago and it’s all good now. But that doesn’t mean I am fit to play 90 minutes. You cannot emulate matches at training. As a sub, you do need to train the next day with the lads that didn’t play and that is pretty tough. I need it all to become fit as soon as possible.”

Did you ever doubt you’d be ready?

“Never. We didn’t need to rush anything in my recovery. There was a slight set back early on, and that has somewhat slowed me down, but not much. It is what it is. I never panicked. We had it all under control.”

There is being fit and being in form?

“Yes, but…what is form? You can have a nice period in your career, a flow, things go by themselves. But i can still be decisive for the team even if I am not in good form. I can decide a game in the 90st minute even if I play bad all match. It’s about moments. And I need to be there when my moment comes. That is tournament football. Is there one team that plays consistently good football? No, there are not that many amazing matches, but there are many amazing moments.”

Louis van Gaal basically said “we don’t have a chance without Memphis”. Does that give you additional pressure?

“No not at all. That pressure, I put on myself. Always. I want to be the key man, I want to be decisive for the team. I created those expectations myself. I have 42 goals for Oranje, well… people can expect something from me. And other players will step up too. When Frenkie and I were not there for the Nations League games, we still beat Belgium, right? We won against Senegal and drew versus Ecuador and Cody does the business for us. We will come far, as long as players remain fit.”

You created that level of expectation and if you’re honest, the whole team has done this, as has Louis van Gaal. Shouldn’t we be playing way better?

“Yes, for sure. I think so too and we are confident. No one will be able to convince us we are not good enough. Yes it was not good enough against Senegal and Ecuador, we know. But we did win the group and we are in the last 16 of the tournament. We will grow into this tournament.”

Even in a bad game, we don’t lose. This Oranje refuses to lose?

“Well yes, that is a quality, but it’s not something we want to lean on. We want to attack and win and we want to play better. The thing is, you also have to deal with the strength of the opponent.”

Did we underestimate Senegal and Ecuador?

“Maybe, these nations play different than we do, or than European nations. I remember we played Ecuador in the run up to the WC2014. We played 1-1, as well. I think the current Ecuador is even better. You never win easily against South American teams. We had a hard time beating Mexico in 2014 remember? We were watching Argentina – Mexico  the other day. And we were looking at each other. They were going at it, but the players are all cool with it. It’s there culture. They know they’re going to get kicked, but that is how they play and think: You’ll feel me today!”

is it possible to enjoy a World Cup as a player?

“Oh yes, we watch the games when we can. We follow the big names of course. We love watching Argentina, Brazil, Spain. I could watch football every night, but we also have our meetings and obligations. We have sessions per line, or individual. What is going well, what needs to improve, that sortathing. Discussing it is as vital as practicing it. It takes time but the talks are key. We need them and sometimes we miss a game as a result. A World Cup for us is more than just playing matches.”

In 2014 you were the Xavi Simons. Young, fearless, impatient. Now you are the leader.

“That is the fun thing of a career, all the different stages, the emotion, the pressure, the learning and now the responsibility. I have always wanted the responsibility. And it makes it extra tough when you can’t play due to injury.”

Do you find opponents play differently when you play or don’t play?

“When Frenkie and I are in sync, there is definitely more fear in the opponent and we can tell by how they talk and coach each other on the pitch. But, I don’t see myself as a real striker. I am more a creator and not a finisher. Like Lewandowski is a really killer. That is not me. By the way, super for him to score his WC goal. He is always leading his country and cool for him to go through.”

Do you learn from other strikers?

“For sure. I am not really a killer but I do watch him and learn from his movement and his positioning. The way he takes a ball first time, yes of course.”

For someone who is not a striker, you are close to being Oranje’s all time top scorer, with 42 goals you’re close to Robin van Persie

“That would be history wouldn’t it, a record like that. I have that ambition yes. And I missed the Euro 2016 and the WC in 2018, imagine that. I started to score a lot of goals under Koeman, before that I didn’t even score that much. Records are there to be broken, but let me stop talking and let me reach that number first. It’s not about me, at the end of the day. We want to achieve something special here and for me, it’s just a matter of doing my bit.”

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Oranje steps up v Qatar

The mood after Ecuador was so low and the performance on the ball was so bad that Louis van Gaal wanted to use the game versus Qatar to go back to the basis foundation of our football.

He also wanted to use the match to start Memphis for the first time and change the personnel in midfield.

As you all know Louis by now, he would never change more than 3 players in his line up, understandably.

And our game was better. Our performance on the ball was neat. We offered options, we passed and moved so we could play forward. The ball circulation was better, the pace and intensity were better and we scored two nice goals too. We got a third one chalked off, but I believe that was a bit petty. The arm was next to the body and the ball was hit against it. If Gakpo had one arm amputated he’d still control that ball but with his side. I will count it as a 3-0, assist Janssen, goal Berghuis.

Van Gaal: “This was a match of two teams playing the same system, leading into a chess match of some sort as they covered our forwards with 5 defenders and the battle was in midfield. Which we won and were expected to win. In those sorts of games, it’s the forwards who need to make the difference and Memphis is the kind of player who can be that difference. You can say what you want about him but he is super important in the team and involved in both goals. I want him to take risks and I want him to keep on trying his actions. This guy, he didn’t play for 2 months and he has played 65 minutes today, meaning he is now getting close to playing a full match.”

Van Gaal is focusing on two things and two things only: winning the game and making sure his team gets a bit better for the next game.

“I think we did really well, looking back, in terms of squad management. I wanted the players who lack rhythm to play. De Roon has been out and I have given him time. Same with Frenkie and Gakpo whom we could spare a bit by giving them a rest by taking them off. The last 10 or 15 minutes of a game is where players start to dig into their reserves, which can have an impact for the next match. Gakpo is on fire, this is why I subbed him. Klaassen and Berghuis haven’t played all matches for Ajax, so I wanted to get them to full match fitness too. Simons is fully fit, I wanted to spare him for when we truly need him. Lang took a knock on training and I also wanted to spare him for now.”

The analysts in the studio were gobsmacked that Lang or Simons didn’t get a chance. Van Hooijdonk, Van der Vaart, Van Basten… They all felt this was the ideal match to bring the youngsters. “Janssen is not in great form, Koopmeiners didn’t play well v Ecuador… If you don’t play him now, when will you??”

Davy Klaassen was selected as Man of the Match, by FIFA. They use some weird algorithm to do this and Klaassen was also confused: “Me? Oh? Why… well, I’ll take it but…. I dunno, it’s not something you think about during the match. But we did ok, we played closer together, we were able to combine better this way. You want to create 10 chances every match but it’s not that easy. These group games are hard, you can see it in other groups as well.”

Klaassen must feel like he’s at an In and Out Burger. Than he starts, than he is passed over. “Oh, that is how Van Gaal works. He has different types of players and he uses us like chess board pieces, hahaha. He will analyse what he needs per match. The good thing is, he will tell you exactly why you play or why you don’t play. We all know his thinking, and that helps.”

Van der Vaart was positive about Memphis: “He is not in top shape, that is clear. But he is always busy, always threatening, he will always work even if he is not playing well. He is improving and that is logical if you were out 2 months. He was important with that second goal so he needs to keep on working and it will come back. Hopefully in time.”

Xavi Simons did not make his debut. Many people thought Van Gaal would use him after his positive words for Simons in the presser. “People think that when I say “he is making good progress”, that he needs to start in the Oranje line up immediately. Sorry, that is not how it works. Ken Taylor is also making steps and he has had three sub turns for us and he has done very well. Players need to be patient. I judge them on their profile and specific contributions and on their form. When these two match and I need to solve a problem I will use that player. Xavi knows this.”

Daley Blind had another important match for Oranje. The wingbacks are supposed to be the key players in this system, and where Dumfries was key for us in the group at the Euros, he’s pretty quiet up until now. He has no shots on goals, he has had no chances created and he has had no successful cross into the box! Blind only had one attempt on goal against Senegal.

Van Gaal: “The wingbacks need to play with the space they get and we need to use them as high as possible but only if we have dominance in the game. Otherwise, you are at too much risk. When we play against a team with 5 defenders, like we did versus Ecuador and Qatar, it’s harder because you only have limited moments to play them in.”

Blind played an important part in the Oranje build up versus Qatar, but this due to the different tactics of Qatar. Qatar does not press the Oranje wingbacks as Ecuador did.

Qatar wants the midfielders to put pressure on our wingbacks so they can keep their 5 defenders all the way at the back. This is perfect for Blind. Qatar gives him all the time and space to come up with solutions.

Here is an example. Blind has the ball on the left flank and can wait for the movement of Memphis or Gakpo. Gakpo and Klaassen run deep making space for Memphis and Blind is the ideal player to play these passes in between the lines.

This is what happens for the 1-0. Blind plays in Memphis in between the lines. Gakpo makes a dart deep and than we get the quick fire combination of Memphis, Gakpo, Klaassen, Gakpo and 1-0.

The second goal is a bit similar. Noppert opens to Blind. You can see the huge distances Qatar has to deal with. Blind can move up the pitch and when Ake plays the ball to the in-between the lines Memphis, he finds Blind who is now close to the final third.

Blind has time again, and when he makes a dummy pass for Memphis and his run, the space opens up for Frenkie, to receive the ball.

Here you also see the value of Marten de Roon, who covers the space behind Frenkie. Frenkie opens up to the right, via Klaassen and Dumfries cross is converted into a goal, eventually by Frenkie de Jong.

De Roon covering for Frenkie

Blind has the most successful passes in the Qatar match, towards the final third (36 passes) and he finds Memphis and Frenkie – our danger men – most: De Jong 20 times and Memphis 10 times. Blind can really benefit from the Qatar style of defending and is the starting point of most of our successful attacks.

What this means for the future. Not much… As it is not likely that Blind will get this much time and space versus Team USA or any other opponent.

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On the road to Qatar to… Qatar

Before the World Cup, all the smart football experts felt that Holland would breeze through the group, winning three games and ending on top of the group. No one expected the chagrin we all feel now.

Van Gaal built a reputation of being a daring, modern, attacking football promoting wizard, who can be viewed as a success coach. We all know better of course. Yes successes at Ajax, at Munich, at AZ but also mixed results at Barca and Man United and a huge disgrace in 2002 with Oranje. Of course, he sort of made amends in 2014, but this time he wants to go all the way. Or as he famously said: We can go an end. Which is the literal translation of the Dutch version of We can go a long way.

The Qatar match is going to be an interesting one. For starters we want and need to win it. But the Senegal and Ecuador matches have not demonstrated that Van Gaal’s complicated 1-3-4-1-2 system works. It may have worked, although in the different matches for the qualification and in the Nations League, he did switch around a bit. So to say that the LVG system is proven and water tight… no.

And now we are at a crossroads. Will Van Gaal use the same core players in his same system? Which is likely to do because 1) his ego doesn’t want to admit he was wrong, 2) he wants to have his core line up use this game as a practice run for when we play the top teams later on. Or will he use the young turks to prove themselves, give them game time and see if there is a new Marco van Basten or Memphis Depay amongst the second tier who could turn this disappointing journey around?

I would play this (if I was the coach) but I think Van Gaal will stick to this tactical guns and only add Xavi Simons to the mix. The country screams for him (87% of the respondents of a VI Pro poll want him to play) and LVG is smart enough to go with that if this means he keeps his dignity. But I don’t believe he’ll use  4-3-3.

As everyone who watched the games will concur that the “without-the-ball” play is decent but the “in-possession” play is dreadful. The players acknowledge that it has to improve, the analysts plug Simons, Lang and Malacia while the foreign press witness a struggling Oranje. The 2 attempts on goal v Ecuador is a new record. Since 1966 no nation was this toothless. The last “low number of attempts” was in 2014, the semi final against Argentina. Seven attempts.

How is it that a country renowned for their attacking creativity be so bad a creating? VI Pro asked Foppe de Haan, successcoach with Jong Oranje, Aad de Mos – master analyst, Hedwiges Maduro – ex international, Marcel Lukassen ex director football development at the KNVB and Jelle Goes, ex technical director of the KNVB.

Foppe de Haan

“We play with 5 defenders. And yes, you can play attacking football with 5 at the back, but you automatically have to start one forward less. So it’s actually a bit more defensive. You will have less options on the ball. And this system works well if you have top class wingbacks and… we don’t have them. I think Dumfries is positioned way too high. He is great if he goes into the space. Not if he’s there, with a man in his back. He lacks the skill for that. I don’t like to see Frenkie going all the way back to pick up the ball. He is the least threatening when he plays there. Van Dijk needs to do more in building up. More courage, more balls. Now, the balls go from left to right and back, it annoys the crap out of me. I don’t see any spectacle. We don’t offer enough bodies in the box, for instance. There is not enough threat, only Gakpo is in decent form up front. I don’t see any wing play with an action to take an opponent on. I see a lot of reality and not a lot of ideals. I think Team USA, Canada and Japan play with more forward thrust than we do.”

Hedwiges Maduro

“The defensive game play has developed enormously, internationally. The result of all the data and stats. It’s now easier to train in defence. How to organise, how to keep your distances in check. Even countries like Saudi Arabia can defend compact and grind out results. And because of this, attacking has become harder. I don’t think Van Gaal is thinking defensively, per se, but he simply doesn’t have world class forwards. We have three creative attackers in the centre of the pitch and the width has to come from the backs: Blind and Dumfries. But Ecuador had those avenues blocked off. They constantly had a man more in midfield and in defence. Then it’s tough to break them down. And they had one striker, Valencia, against three of our best defenders. But we don’t benefit from that man more.”

Marcel Lukassen

“All nations have improved mainly in terms of organisation. They all play more compact and defend and attack with 10. Due to it being so compact, it’s becoming harder and harder for attackers. A lot of our defenders used to be attackers. From Malacia to Karsdorp, from Dumfries to De Ligt. Which means that our defenders can all play, they can all play a good forward pass, like Blind and Ake. But this trend also shifts a lot of the defending requirements to the midfield and even the attack. German development academies focus on winning matches. Don’t concede goals and win! In The Netherlands, our emphasis is on scoring, on attacking. That is a cultural thing. Do we now create better defenders? I don’t believe so. Take Virgil van Dijk. Our captain. Considered on of the best. He should have blocked that Ecuador attack that resulted in a goal. He was running with the attacker. You need to defend. You need to block the attackers progress. Win the ball or force the opponent wide. And don’t wait and run along with him to shield the centre of the pitch. In a 1 v 1 situation, your first task is to intercept the ball when it’s passed. If you can’t, you need to make sure the opponent can not run in a straight line to the goal. You need to put pressure on him. And take De Ligt, versus Senegal. Why did he make all these fouls. Because he is not good at recognising when to pressure high and at what cost. We are not so good as we thing we are. Our attackers grow up with way less resistance. When you play for Ajax or Feyenoord or AZ you will win most of your games easily. As you can see, we know how to dazzle in the Eredivisie, but at this level? In Germany, the under 14s already play in compact systems and they look at things like distances, horizontal and vertical. They create unpredictable situations. In Holland, it’s more about the structure and shape and about individual skills. We need to overhaul our development methods. By focusing on better defending, you also train the attackers in becoming better and you challenge them. And we need to limit the spaces and play more compact. Look at the development of a Xavi Simons, at PSG and Barca, compared to a player like Hartjes or Bannis or Vente of Feyenoord.”

Aad de Mos

“I would not draw too many conclusions. This is a moment in time. Every tournament, you will have a bad game. We played Sweden in 1974 0-0. Was a terrible match. The spaces are more confined, it seems like defending is done better, but it’s not. Some nations do benefit from this, like Ecuador. Once we play better teams, who play more open, we will get more space, I suppose. Our forwards lack form though. Memphis, Bergwijn…maybe it’s time to give Simons or Lang a go. I do hope the players will be real and honest to each other. I think being a good friends group is not always good. I heard from some players from Belgium that they talk a lot about cars and watches, but now it seems De Bruyne is finally confronting his team mates, as is Alderweireld. We need less good vibes and more assholes. I think the Belgians resemble us more, and we are becoming more like them. It’s a good time for a little war in the camp.”

Jelle Goes

“In my view, we play reaction football. When you play 5 at the back, you actually leave the initiative with the opponent. It worked well in 2014. Every chance and a half ended up in goal, with hot shots like Van Persie and Robben and Memphis hot off the bench. But today, we have more quality, we have midfielders playing at top clubs in Europe and I think players need to play on the position they’re used to at their club. It’s not easy to make that switch. Look at Van Dijk, Timber, De Ligt and Ake. Do they play in a 3 at the back? No, not at their club. Are they the key men in build up? No, they’re not. They’re great defenders. And is it not ok to ask from Blind to reach the box of the opponent? Gakpo played his best games as a left winger and I believe Berghuis should play as right winger, in the Ziyech role, with Dumfries bombing forth. I do believe in success for Oranje, but don’t make it too complicated. Make it logical. I will probably take one or two subtle changes and we can win games comfortably.”

I think Ronald Koeman will need to do some restoration work.

I think under Koeman we will say our goodbyes to Noppert (as #1 goalie) and Blind. He might stay on in the squad but its time to bring Malacia. And if Wijndal or Bakker start to perform consistently, move on from Blind.

And go back to a 4-2-3-1. Preferably with Frimpong as well :-).

What do you expect from the Holland v Qatar game? I say 5-0. Brace for Xavi, a goal for Memphis and hopefully a World Cup goal for Virgil and Berghuis. Good for their confidence :-). Although Gakpo is on fire and every goal is another 5 million euros for PSV hahaha….

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