Tag: Rekik

Les Bleus will turn Orange in Paris

After more than 10 years blogging about Oranje and its exploits, you do run out of cute titles for posts.

A crucial week for the Dutch. We were absent in France at the 2016 Euros. It was a disgrace. A debacle. If we’d miss the World Cup as well in Russia next year, we might best just call it a day with football.

But the moral is high in the Oranje camp. The new coaches – Advocaat and Gullit – do instill some confidence of course. Both coaches are confident Holland will qualify. The ever defiant Sneijder will don the band, and Arjen Robben will give everything in this match, as he always does. Be it for 45 minutes, for 60 minutes or for the full match. And the Big Three are reunited now Bruno Martins Indi Robin van Persie has joined them, after a two year absence.

Lets look at the state of the union in the Oranje camp. And let’s explore the scenarios as well.

dick ruud pre fr

The Dutch internationals are back together in Hotel Noordwijk, as per usual. Some new faces, some faces missing. Nathan Ake had to cancel his trip, as he hurt his ankle with Bournemouth. Bruno Martins Indi was called up as a replacement.And Tim Fosu-Mensah was called up when Kenny Tete had to send this thanks as well. Donny van de Beek has his first call up.   “I was very pleased to read those positive words of the coach about me. It’s all going quick but the team can count on me.” Van de Beek was about to go in and introduce himself to the internationals. “No doubt, they’ll be on hand to guide me. I have been hearing great things about this group and can’t wait to be part of it.” The young Ajax midfielder will have said “Sir” to eminence grise Robin van Persie. Back where he belongs. But whether we’ll see him play is uncertain, as the Fener forward came to Holland with a shoulder injury. The medical staff will try and work their magic.

Dick Advocaat, Van Persie’s coach at Fener last season: “Robin is one of the best forwards we have. Or ever have had. I know his fitness was an issue for a while but if we use him in the right way, I am sure he can be of tremendous value. It’s clear he is delighted to be back. It will inject something into the group as well.”

dick robin

Advocaat on Van de Beek: “We can see some great talents coming up and Van de Beek is one of the more consistent ones. He has made his mark at Ajax in a tough role. He can tackle, run, give the final pass and score. He’s a complete midfielder and I think he has a huge future.”

Ryan Babel and Eljero Elia were not called up, despite their good form in Turkey. “I know both players well of course and they’re really close but I decided for these matches not to bring too many new players in. For the forward positions we do have Memphis and Promes and Janssen. I would have to drop one or two of them if I wanted to bring Elia and Babel and Van Persie. I didn’t want to break up the team that’s been working for a while together. And besides, Memphis plays well for Lyon, Promes is probably the best player in Russia and Janssen would be a starter for any Dutch club. His lack of rhythm has never stopped him from playing well for Oranje.”

Asked about Ajax’ and PSV’s recent disappointments in Europe and Oranje’s dramatic fall in the FIFA ranking. “We need to face the facts. We are a small football nation. We have great reputation and history, but we are to be compared with Portugal and Belgium and Denmark. Not with Spain or Germany or France. And even France had a long spell where they lacked success, in the 1970s and 1990s. Denmark had their peak, Belgium as well and is now back with a great generation. We need to accept that we cannot be among the top of the world all the time. Whether it’s our clubs or our national team. It’s not a shame. We should be proud of all we did achieve.”

pre france oranje

Asked about Oranje’s potential victory over France. “Why not? Why wouldn’t we be able to beat them? Sweden did. Rosenborg beat Ajax. FC Utrecht almost beat Zenit. You have to be positive, there are always opportunities, and we do not have a quality problem. I do not agree. We have players like Robben, Memphis, Strootman, Wijnaldum, all playing for top clubs. De Vrij and Hoedt play every week against top forwards, our goalie trains with Messi and Iniesta and Daley Blind is at Man United. We still have more than enough quality to trouble France. And I also can’t see Sweden win all their games just like that. We have chances.”

Willem van Hanegem is cynical. The former top player and coach still believes better options are available. “I see Rekik and Ake making mistakes. Childish mistakes, and why not? They’re still starting out. Why not get Erik Pieters? He’s been playing well for years in the EPL and holding his own physically. We’re not playing Belarus or Finland. We’ve got to play Giroud, Lacazete, Griezmann, Matuidi. We need men, not kids. I’d love to see Leroy Fer as well. Key player for Swansea in the EPL. I think Van de Beek is a top talent. But a talent. Fer is an established entity. And with Elia or Babel, we’d have the unexpected. That might become so important, that one opportunity up front. Don’t get me wrong, I want Oranje to win, but I wouldn’t place a euro on our win. The French lost vs Sweden in their last game. They will not underestimate Holland.”

Arjen Robben is ready to rumble. “I don’t participate in all the talk of how good France is. I’m not interested. I want to know how good we are. I want to talk about what we can do. We should believe in ourselves, or simply cancel the game. If we go, we go for a win. Believe in ourselves and rise to the occasion. I’m personally not 100% match fit. But I will give all I have. Whether it’s good enough for 60 minutes or 80 minutes, we’ll see. But I’ll leave everything on the pitch. I was subbed by Ancelotti in our last match, but not because I couldn’t give more. I could have gone on. Match fitness, rhythm, it doesn’t play a role once the ref blows the whistle.”

The Bayern star welcomed his former strike partner Robin van Persie in Noordwijk. “It’s so good to see him again. I’m happy for him. It must have been wonderful to get back to Hotel Noordwijk and be part of it. He’s a born leader, charismatic and full of class. It’s good to have him back.”

wijnaldum klopp

Robben was on the bench, when France beat Van Gaal’s Oranje in 2014, which led to the 5-3-2 system Van Gaal used at the Brazil World Cup. “That match clearly demonstrated we weren’t good enough. So Van Gaal made changes. I can see that work against France again, but don’t forget: Louis had weeks to gel the system into the team. That situation is different now.”

Let’s look at the scenarios for Oranje: France and Sweden lead with 13 points, with Holland third with 10 point. The leader will go straight to the WC, the best #2s will go as well. Sweden plays Bulgaria, number 4 with 9 points. After these up coming match ups, there are 3 more games to play. With the first of the lot being played on Sunday.

Holland needs to finish in the top two, but out of the nine groups only 8 number 2s will join the winners. The worst #2 stays at home. Obviously, Holland is best served if they win vs France and Sweden drops points vs Bulgaria.

Rest of the program after Thursday:

Sunday 3 september
18.00 uur: HOLLAND – Bulgaria
18.00 uur: Belarus – Sweden
20.45 uur: France – Luxemburg

Zaterdag 7 oktober
18.00 uur: Sweden – Luxemburg
20.45 uur: Belarus – HOLLAND
20.45 uur: Bulgaria – France

Dinsdag 10 oktober
20.45 uur: HOLLAND – Sweden
20.45 uur: France – Belarus
20.45 uur: Luxemburg – Bulgaria


Defeat vs France would be a drama

Won’t surprise anyone: a loss against France would be bad. We then can only hope that Sweden loses too. We will drop to spot 4 in the group but with only two points behind Bulgaria and three points to Sweden. We play them both at home still. But a loss in Paris while Sweden draws or winst would be disastrous.

Loss Oranje, win Sweden
France 7-16
Sweden 7-16
Holland 7-10
Bulgaria 7-9
Loss Oranje, draw Sweden
France 7-16
Sweden 7-14
Holland 7-10
Bulgaria 7-9
Loss Oranje, loss Sweden
France 7-16
Sweden 7-13
Bulgaria 7-12
Holland 7-10


A draw still gives hope 

With a surprising draw in Paris, there will be a glimmer of more hope for Oranje. But merely a glimmer. Again, Sweden should lose vs Bulgaria.

Draw Oranje, win Sweden
Sweden 7-16
France 7-14
Holland 7-11
Bulgaria 7-9
Draw Oranje, draw Sweden
France 7-14
Sweden 7-14
Holland 7-11
Bulgaria 7-10
Draw Oranje, loss Sweden
France 7-14
Sweden 7-13
Bulgaria 7-12
Holland 7-11


A win is very welcome

And then the scenario where Holland takes all points from Paris. And if Sweden would lose vs Bulgaria, France, Sweden and Holland will all have 3 points, with Bulgaria fourth with 12 points. It would bring more excitement and pressure for all, as Bulgaria will have a chance suddenly too. The pressure will be on for all teams, but also on the home games vs Sweden and Bulgaria. The #2 of this group might even end up as the worst of the lot, and therefore miss the World Cup still.

Win Oranje, win Sweden
Sweden 7-16
France 7-13
Holland 7-13
Bulgaria 7-9
Win Oranje, draw Sweden
Sweden 7-14
France 7-13
Holland 7-13
Bulgaria 7-10
Win Oranje, loss Sweden
Holland 7-13
France 7-13
Sweden 7-13
Bulgaria 7-12


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Mature performance Oranje winning vs Morocco

A lot of talking points before the game and one of those was Wesley Sneijder’s record breaking attempt. But it was young Mathijs de Ligt who got a record in the Moroccan game, while Wes has to play one more cap to reach his pinnacle.

Johan Cruyff used to be the youngest Oranje player ever to be red-carded in the orange jersey. Johan was only 19 years old when his constant talking became to much for the ref. Young Mathijs is 17 years and 292 days old and the proud owner of this new record. If JC’s career is anything to go on, De Ligt has a bright future. His card was for pushing a player through on goal down to the ground. I saw many fouls by Moroccan players more deserving of red, but hey….

de light rood

Holland won again. Sadly, it was a friendly, but at the same time, it wasn’t friendly at all. Morocco played a rough game and Oranje passed the test really well. They dealt with it in a mature manner. They didn’t lose their head or got provoked. Some brilliance from Promes, Janssen and Memphis was enough to secure the victory: 1-2.

Quincy Promes now silenced the criticasters who say the youngster is only good in Russia. He had a great match for us earlier, scoring twice and against Morocco he was mercurial, scoring one and assisting Janssen’s goal. Janssen had a solid game too, his usual workrate and a good shimmy resulting in a powerful shot on goal. His goal was taken with aplomb. Earlier on, Memphis wiggled his way through the box to offer Quincy a solid chance to score the opener.

It was a good match. Not just because of the win, but the way our lads dealt with the circumstances and it was definitely cool to see the Under 17 talents from 2011 emerge on this top level. Back then, coached by Albert Stuivenberg, the young lions played Germany under 7 off the pitch, winning the EC finals 5-2. Jetro Willems was the first to make it to the big time (2012). Terrence Kongolo was part of the 2014 World Cup squad and Karim Rekik also made his debut in Oranje already. Now, Tonny Vilhena, Memphis Depay and Nathan Ake were present, with Utrecht midfielder Yassine Ayoub on the bench for Morocco. He decided to don the colours of his father’s country but hasn’t played for the first team of Morocco yet.

promes moro

Fred Grim, interim coach, was very pleased. “I am pleased with the win. Yes, it’s a friendly but winning is a mood we need to get into asap. And we did. I’m also happy with the performance, although our second half wasn’t as good and after the sending off we came under pressure, but that’s normal. And I think we dealt with it.”

Nice forward Belhanda in particular challenged De Ligt and Wesley Hoedt with red-worthy challenges but both players did well. Advocaat could have seen on his telly how Hoedt in particular appeared to have a strong pass while Nathan Ake and Tonny Vilhena also spat in their palms to go to work against a strong Morocco (on paper). Marten de Roon, coming on for Steven Berghuis, had a part to play as well as he set up Promes for the assist on Janssen.

ake moroc

Nathan Ake got his “hare” making his first minutes for the Big Oranje. “I hoped to get some minutes but I heard a day before I’d play. Goosebumps. Really happy. The game wasn’t so good, but we played well in the first half. And we had to go deep at times physically, but thats ok. We got the result and we can build on this. I played left back again and was really knackered. Haven’t played that position for a while but I don’t mind, I’ll play wherever the coach needs me.”

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Ridge Haps wants to be Oranje’s left back

It seems we are doing nicely now, developing defenders and defensive minded players…. Some while back, it seemed we were great at developing wingers, strikers and playmakers… We always complained about the defensive strength of Oranje. Since the 1970s (Israel, Laseroms, Suurbier, Krol, Rijsbergen, Mansveld, Drost, Hulshof) we were never able to develop world class defenders. Frank de Boer, Danny Blind, Reiziger, Wijnstekers…all former attackers. The only real defender with world class capabilities was Jaap Stam. Now, with all that focus from the past decade on “better defenders”, we seem to have a list of potential world class players, from Van Dijk and De Vrij to Strootman and De Roon. From Rick Karsdorp to Riedewald, from Tete to Kongolo and Nathan Ake.

A player who escaped the spying eyes of most big club scouts but who is regularly touted as the coming man for Oranje by analysts in Holland, is called Ridgeciano Haps. Which I will call Ridge Haps from now on :-).

gijp haps

He’s the 23 year old left back of AZ Alkmaar, playing under the guidance of experienced defenders like Ron Vlaar and Stijn Wuytens and part of the weekly core group of players discussing football and tactics with coach John van den Brom.

His Roots

“I was born in Utrecht, like my sister. My parents are from Suriname, but they studied in Holland. My dad used to play football in Suriname but not at a high level. My mom was a very good basketball player. She did play high up, as a playmaker. Fierce and quick. I’m probably more like her, to be honest. She’s a very industrious type. Worked for Abn Amro for 40 years and always giving me advice.”

Early Start

“I didn’t play at a club or anything. My parents didn’t want me to. But I played school football and after one game a guy walked up to my parents and asked where I played. He was gobsmacked I didn’t play for a club. So my parents decided to give me a go, with the Zwaluwen in Utrecht (Swallows). After three weeks, Feyenoord came! I did a six week period there, with Karim Rekik and Annas Achahbar. They were allowed to stay, I wasn’t. I didn’t care, I think I was too young to really care. I went back to the Zwaluwen, I liked it there.”



“A year later, Ajax and PSV wanted me. I was delighted! I picked Ajax, as it’s closer to Utrecht. Every day, my dad drove me to Amsterdam and my first season was great. But I think my second season disappointed as Ajax let me go. This time, I was shattered. I felt like a failure. I thought my future as a pro player was gone. My parents helped me a lot. They said “stick the course, keep believing…” They were convinced there were other avenues to the top. That helped.”


“With my Ajax background, Elinkwijk wanted me. That is one of the best amateur clubs in Utrecht, with good youth development. I went there and the funny thing was that I was playing in a competition with AZ and Ajax as opponents. AZ immediately asked me for a test period. They had this tournament and I went along and played that with AZ. I was voted as player of the tournament and made a move to Alkmaar. By then, my parents decided to relocate to Amsterdam to support my life as a player. I played left winger and I was really good at that age. But after a couple of years, they moved me back, first to midfield, then to left full back. I was pissed off! I didn’t wanna play defender! I was a winger. Everyone started to explain it to me and all that, but I would not listen. Were they crazy ? I would not play in defence. I was horrified. Insulted. I needed to force myself to go to practice and decided to leave.”

u20 haps

AZ Again

“When I left, I got several calls from pro clubs but I had had it with them. I wanted to regain the fun of playing football. AFC called and I decided to go there. A top amateur club, playing against pro club youth teams. Still a good level. But I said: I will come, only if I am allowed to play left winger! And they said: sure. So I did and had great fun there. And at the end of that season, we played a friendly, against… AZ. It ended 4-4. I scored three goals and had one assist. The next day, the AZ Academy director calls me up. “Do you want to come back?”. And I did…  I missed the pressure of a pro club. I wanted to reach for the top. So I went back and 7 months later I was offered my first real contract. I made it. I was a pro player. I played for Young AZ as a left winger which means you train with the full senior squad.”

Gert Jan Verbeek

“After half a season, first team coach Verbeek wants a meeting. He said: “I like how you are developing, but I think there is a wonderful future for you as left back!”. Bam! No, not again… I had to process this. But Verbeek explained why he saw it like that. How left wing backs are the new wingers. How modern wingers play on their wrong foot and move inside. How I would have the ability to go for glory 10 times per 45 minutes. Running, crossing, dribbling… I took some time, and learned from games, focusing on Alba, Lahm, Zabaleta, that sort of players… Dani Alvez… And I saw that Verbeek was right. I realised that position allowed me to do what I want. I have a lot of energy that I need to get out of my system. You can do that on the back spot. I was 19 years old when I made my debut for AZ 1, versus PSV Eindhoven. I knew it then and there: I am a left back!”


The Future

“I’m a lucky guy. I have a good friendship with Max Huiberts (technical director of AZ) as he was my youth coach, years ago. And he was a creative left winger of course. He has a good relationship with my manager as well, I’m with Raiola’s cousin. And the plan is to make a move when the time is right. I’m ambitious. My contract runs till 2019 and I think by then I’d like to move to a Dutch top club, if they want me. And after that, when I prove myself there, maybe something in a bigger competition… But if the top 3 isn’t interested, well… I might make the move away earlier. Money is not my motivator. I want to reach as high as possible. But, the Championship in England these days is also interesting. I do think my game fits a bigger competition. And who knows where my ceiling is…”

haps run


“Am I the left back for the future in Oranje? Well, I don’t know but I sure hope so, hahaha. Oranje is one of my personal goals. I haven’t progressed past Oranje under 20. But, I think it’s realistic to think I’m close. Playing for AZ means you are on the radar, I’m sure. Schaars of Heerenveen, Vlaar who’s with me at AZ… I think I’m playing well this season, but as a team it’s not consistent enough. That doesn’t help of course. A step up will help me with my chances in Oranje as well of course. I think I’m close but not good enough yet. Btw, I’m happy Terence Kongolo is in the squad. He’s a good friend, we played together in the U20s and I think he’s doing really well. I told him, you’re doing so well. And he’s a lovely guy. He said: so are you hahaha. I really like it for him and wish him all the best. But, I’m ambitious and I will go for the left back spot in Oranje!”

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Dutch football needs make over. Fast!

My friends, I would like to start this post with expressing my support and sympathy to the Greatest Football Player Ever, Johan Cruyff. The Catalan Salvador announced that he is battling lung cancer at the moment. Johan was a chainsmoker most of his active life and quit in 1991 after serious heart problems. Johan is a fighter and will do what he can to win this match as well, I’m sure. Still, our thoughts are with him and his family….

Johan Cruyff smoking on the touchline - 06 Dec 2006

Historically, we have had numerous amazing quotes from famous people that were so completely wrong, it isn’t funny anymore.

In 1962, some Decca head honcho didn’t sign The Beatles. “Guitar bands are out. The Beatles have no future in music.”

Some banker in 1903: “The horse is here to say. The automobile is a fad. Don’t invest in Ford Motors.”

Variety magazine in 1955 on Rock & Roll: “It will be gone by June.”

Politician in England, 1969: “Never will we see a female PM in England!” (Margaret Thatcher, anyone?)

Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer in 2007: “The iPhone will not succeed. They will not get marketshare.”

William Orton of Western Union at Bell’s presentation of the phone, in 1876: “This telephone has too many shortcomings to be ever considered a serious means of communications.”

Now we can add: “This qualification group for Euro 2016: it will be harder for Oranje to not qualify, than it is to qualify…”

oranje fans balen

So let’s analyse…

1. Inheritance of Louis van Gaal

I think Louis is partly to blame. Halfway through the qualifications for Brazil he already said he didn’t like the job and basically only did it for his own ego and resume. He would only do the job for 2 years and when Oranje was done in Brazil he ran to the exit, which took him to Man United. He never did any knowledge transfer, neither has he taken the responsibility to hand over the team. Any team that worked and played under Van Gaal has been forced into a straight jacket. Any successor to Van Gaal will find a team that is used to being told exactly what to do. His club teams usually consist of mature players already fed up with him when he leaves (Barca, Bayern, Ajax) but this Dutch national team owed a lot to Van Gaal and his way of working. De Vrij, Blind, Depay and BMI all made lucrative transfers thanks to LVG. Some players will have had a breath of fresh air when he left (Robben, Sneijder, De Jong) others were probably a bit at a loss without Louis (BMI, De Vrij, Depay).

blind verliest

2. Installing Guus Hiddink as LVG successor

Bert van Oostveen is responsible for this decision. It would have been perfectly acceptable to pick a coach to follow up Louis van Gaal who understands the Van Gaal vision and can work on that basis. Co Adriaanse was an option. Danny Blind would have been a good pick as well. Unknown Joachim Low took over from Klinsmann after 2006 for Germany, in the same vein Blind could have taken the baton from Louis. But no, the KNVB selected the one and only Dutch coach who is totally opposite of Van Gaal. Van Gaal is in your face, intense, tactically disciplined and driven… Hiddink is arms length. Loose, not really strong tactically, “come on boys, enjoy!” kind of coach. No wonder Blind and Hiddink couldn’t see eye to eye. On top of that, Hiddink lost his swagger a bit. He became soft and a doubter.One match, Nigel de Jong was the “captain in midfield”, the next game Nigel wasn’t selected… The worst decision, picking Hiddink. Too big a change for a young and not so incredibly talented squad. What Louis did in Brazil worked, but somehow the KNVB wanted to break the trend…

oranje qual

3. Instructing Hiddink to play “Total Football”

The biggest joke. Total Football. What is it exactly? Bert van Oostveen doesn’t know… Is it playing a right footed player on the left wing? Probably not. Is it playing square balls in defence at a slow pace? Probably not. Van Oostveen describes it as “attractive”, “dominant”, “attacking” and “using wingers”. And it is being translated as “4-3-3”. Hellooooooo… If that is Total Football or Dutch School, it appears that many nations play this. And probably not because of some egotistical “Dutch School” brand, but because they 1) have the players to do so and 2) because all the other terms are subjective… The only time Holland won anything was playing 4-4-2. We tend to forget we had a lot of luck against the Irish, against the English (off side goal Van Basten), against West Germany (our penalty was not a penalty) and against the USSR in the finals (the first 25 minutes were for the USSR). It is being sold as if Total Football in 1974 was the result of strategy. It wasn’t. The center backs were picked by chance due to tremendous injuries (Hulshoff, Israel, Laseroms, Drost and Mansveld were all out) and we happen to have two amazing world class players in Cruyff and Van Hanegem. Oh, and in case you forgot: we played Total Football but we lost the finals… Playing 4-3-3 when you don’t have the players is silly and suicidal. Playing 4-3-3 for the hell of it with a right footer on the left and a left footer on the right is different from the 4-3-3 we played in 1974. Which may have been 4-3-3 on paper but one Johan Cruyff was always everywhere on the pitch, except for the center striker position. Van Gaal picked 5-3-2 for a reason. Finishing third at the World Cup did not change the reasons why he went for 5-3-2.


4. Overestimating our qualities

We beat Spain at the World Cup, but not because of our great play, but because they let themselves down. Re-watch the first half. They were cutting through our defence like a hot knife through butter. We got lucky with that super goal by Robin van Persie. Spain only has one game plan, so they kept attacking and we kept counter attacking. Australia deserved to win against us. The Chile game was less relevant and Mexico was hard done by. A close game, if there ever was one. Costa Rica simply lacked quality but held us at 0-0. Argentina tried hard but didn’t succeed. And Oranje was putting it all towards Robben who couldn’t find the gap between Argentina. Obviously, by then, Brazil was already in severe depression and it wasn’t hard for Oranje to rob it in, nicely. But it didn’t mean a thing. But we came back with Bronze. We silenced all criticasters. Some of us went to play for big EPL or Seria A or Portugal Liga clubs. And we were the Kings of Europe (Germany was the Emperor).

spelers balen

5. Frail Foundation of Players

After finishing third it can’t be helped that players (and staff, and fans, and media) believe we are really something. The start of the campaign – seen as an easy one – was devoid of real desire. It took two games or so for people to slowly “wake up”. In the meantime, trouble had hit the squad, in the form of injuries and form issues (Vlaar, Van Persie, Robben, Janmaat). We suddenly realised that without the 5-3-2 and without some players in top form (Vlaar, De Vrij and Robben in particular were outstanding in Brazil), we are not that great. During the qualifications, we lost a number of important players to injuries, and the frail foundation of Dutch talent came to light when others didn’t get the playing time we hoped (BMI, Huntelaar, Van Persie). The tremendous gap between 30+ year old top class players (Sneijder, Robben, Huntelaar, De Jong, Van Persie, Van der Vaart) and the potential top class players of around 20 years (Depay, Rekik, Willems, Klaassen, Berghuis, Veltman, Van Beek) wasn’t filled with leading players in the age-group 24-28… Daley Blind, Georginhio Wijnaldum and Darryl Janmaat are probably the only ones fit (Strootman being the only real top class midfielder, and his return to that level is questionable) and they are probably nothing more than good team players, nothing more, nothing less.

RVP zit

6. Defensive qualities

LVG noticed it in his qualification campaign. The Dutch don’t have strong defenders. The problems started already in 2008. Ooijer, Mathijsen, Heitinga…they were criticised from the off and a lot of people never expected Holland to do well in the WC2010 with those defenders. Van Marwijk needed Van Bronckhorst as left back and replaced him with 18 year old Jetro Willems for the Euro2012. We used to develop good ones. From Krol and Israel and Laseroms, to Spelbos, Van Tiggelen,Wijnstekers to Jaap Stam, Michael Reiziger and John de Wolf but around 2004 the qualities started to fade. We do develop them. In spades actually. Bruma, Vlaar, Rekik, Veltman, Denswil, De Vrij, Martins Indi, Gouweleeuw, Viergever, Kongolo, Van Dijk, Van der Hoorn, Van Beek…. but none of them (maybe Van Beek) has the ruthlessness and commitment we see in Italian and English defenders. Is it lack of defensive DNA? No, it is not. It is lack of development.

hunter buik

7.  Lack of desire

It is a given that mental strenght, focus and desire can add a significant level of quality to any team. The Greek national team in 2004, the Germans in 1996, Atletico Madrid, Leicester City, Liverpool 2005… There are so many examples. Barca and Bayern have it. Last season, Chelsea had it. Oranje had it in 2010. It was mistaken for “ugly football”. You have to really really want it. Today, in modern football, football skills is not enough. Barcelona demonstrates the work ethics and discipline needed to really rise up. Our Oranje doesn’t have the football skill and finesse of Spain. If we do not match the desire of the opponent (yes, Iceland away, Czechs at home, Turkey away), our lack of quality means we will lose the game. It is again, something that needs to be added in the development of teams and talent. It’s youth development, but also scouting and selecting. Over the last years, Holland developed lots of tantalizing talents, who can play football, but don’t seem to have the desire, the iron will to succeed. Adam Maher, Royston Drenthe, Ryan Babel, Ricardo Kishna, Ibi Afellay, JP Boetius, Eljero Elia….

Wesley Sneijder said something telling, only a week ago. When a reporter asked an innocent question about Playstations, Wes said something profound. “In my time, when I came to Oranje, the older players played cards. As young players you were taken in to the game and you created a bond. Today, players come to the hotel with their PS4 and go to their rooms to play FIFA. A bit childish, I think. You won’t see me doing that.”

Oostveen czech

Who is responsible?

Obviously, the man who appoints the coach and the man who instructs the coach is end responsible. Going from LVG to Hiddink was a big mistake that someone with football expertise would have spotted. The decision to go back to “4-3-3” or Total Football was pedantic. A proud Dutch national team wanting to show the world that the rest of the world is doing it wrong. On what basis? Van Oostveen needs to be replaced by a more football savvie experienced CEO. Gaston Sporre (ex PEC Zwolle and ex Heerenveen) is an outstanding candidate. As would Ruud van Duyvenbode (former Ajax and Feyenoord defender and long time Ajax board member). Or Toon Gerbrands, former AZ Alkmaar and current PSV general manager.

toon lou

Toon Gerbrands and Louis van Gaal

For talent development and overall KNVB football strategy, the KNVB need to appoint a Technical Director. Someone with extensive development and football management experience. Wim Jansen might be too old, but someone like Co Adriaanse would do. Foppe de Haan comes to mind. Martin Jol, maybe? Once the KNVB establishes the direction to take, the coach can be appointed…

I personally believe Danny Blind is a good man for the job. I don’t buy the “he lacks experience” rhetoric. Blind was captain of the best Ajax of the last 40 years and has worked in football in every role thinkable, incl head coach of Ajax and assistant to Van Gaal at Oranje. Joachim Low of Germany and Prandelli of Italy did not have big coaching jobs prior to their national coaching jobs. A national team manager coach is a totally different role than club coach. As Louis van Gaal blatantly put it. “I hate this job.”

Blind is a good builder, I think. Great with young players, a good and steady personality, strong communication skills and an eye for talent.

jan and jc

The two iconic Dutch football legends: your humble blogger and JC


In terms of development, the Dutch have always focused almost exclusively on ball skills. If you control the ball, you control the game, was a motto often heard. But these days, the game has changed. Every player on top level now has excellent ball skills. A workhorse midfielder these days can play like the best of them. Polyvalent players is the term. The Strootmans, the Pogbas, the Busquets, the Pastores and Modrices of this world can do it all. Score, assist, tackle, pass, run… Physical improvements have been made. Tactical improvements have been made. By all nations. The Dutch don’t lead on skill or tactics anymore. What will be a key differentiator, as said before, is the will to win. The ability to focus fully. These are elements that need to be brought into the development program. Venom on the ball and off the ball. The intensity that we see in C Ronaldo, Messi, Thomas Muller, Lampard, Eden Hazard and Yohan Cabaye. Furthermore, we need to focus more on playing without the ball. The Dutch grow up wanting the ball and when we do, we are not bad. But once we lose the ball, we are horrific and all over the place.


Young talents at Varkenoord (Feyenoord)

We have been forcussing too much on playing with the ball. The youth teams of Ajax, Feyenoord, AZ, Vitesse, Sparta, NEC…they know how to win their games in the Dutch leagues. But as soon as the Bazoers, the Berguizen, the Klaassens and Vilhenas are confronted with international opponents (for instance in Europa League games, in CL qualification games or Euro or World Cup tournaments for rep teams), eventually they “run into the knife” as the expression goes.

Financial Fair Play

The situation at European / Global level has impacted football life in smaller countries. The Bosman ruling is another aspect. As long as Dutch clubs get a fraction of the tv income that other nations get (England, Spain, Germany) it will be hard for Dutch clubs to compete on quality. On top of that, in Spain and England, clubs can have negative equity on the balance sheet. Whereas Dutch (and German clubs) have to balance the books. This means that Ajax – Real Madrid is per definition not a game played on an even playing field. If the UEFA really aims to produce a “fair and equitable” European competition they should make sure the rules are the same pan European.

uefa money

Johan Cruyff made a strong case, not just for Holland but also for Spain, England and other national teams to have a rule that forces clubs to field at least six homegrown players (as in: born and raised in the home country). This will put countries with strong development cultures on a more even keel. It will force countries with an overflow of import players (England!) to develop more “own” players and as a result strengthen their national teams.

High horse

Clubs, like the KNVB, will need to get off their high horse. Ajax in particular. They have the so-called Ajax house style. That house style is still held as sacred although it has been forfeited years ago. But no one wants to admit it. The Ajax style is: fast ball circulation, pass and move, wingers (Keizer, Swart, Ling, Van ‘t Schip, Roy, Overmars), a number 10 behind the striker (Bergkamp, Bosman, Litmanen) and a libero (Vasovic, Krol, Blind, De Boer)  who moves up to midfield whenever possible.

That is not how Ajax plays today. Co Adriaanse was sacked for abandoning the “Ajax style” but every coach after him has done the exact same thing.

ajax tactics

The Ajax Housestyle

Ajax (and the others) need to determine what their identity is. Do they want to dazzle and impress (which they fail to do in Europe)? Do they want to showcase great players and sell them with a fat profit (which they do)? Or do they want silverware? Because the way Ronald Koeman played with Feyenoord and copied by LVG for the WC2014, I am talking a fortified defence to deal with stronger opposition, might well be the only way for the weaker Dutch clubs to present themselves in Europe.

Lots of work to be done.

And it should be led by the KNVB. With a clear strategy for football identity and development. We need to stop allowing a lawyer to determine that. We need wise men to come together. We need to get a development strategy to support the clubs and we need to learn to use systems in our teams that are based on the player material we have.

In my view, we need to go back to 5-3-2. It worked. And with reason.

We have weak and inexperienced defenders, so we need some more bodies back there. We have good players for the flanks, good passers in midfield and some exceptional talents upfront.


Co Adriaanse suggests 5-3-2 with Groningen right back Hatenboer

No problem with goalies. I’m a Krul fan, but Cillesen, Stekelenburg, Vorm and Vermeer can do the job too. Zoet for me is too unproven.

At the back, I like De Vrij – Blind – Van Dijk. Bruma, Rekik, Van Beek, Veltman are candidates as well, as  will be Ron Vlaar and Martins Indi, if they show their strength.

Wide on the left, Willems is key. But Pieters, van Aanholt, Kongolo and Riedewald normally should be able to manage as well.

Wide on the right, Janmaat is my man. But a Van der Wiel with rhythm or a Tete or Bacuna can play there too.

The three man midfield needs either Sneijder or Clasie. Great passers of the game. I’d use players like Wijnaldum, Strootman, Fer, Klaassen or Van Ginkel as the other two midfielder. Some length, some legs/lungs and some power is good to have. Upfront, I’d use Robben always, and pair him up with the man in form. Could be Van Persie. Or Memphis. Or Promes. Or El Ghazi. Or Berghuis. Or Sneijder even… (with Clasie behind him in midfield).


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Oranje, how bout the Czech, mate!

The Oranje team won an epic away match against the giants of Kazachstan (1-2) after suffering losses against Iceland, Turkey, the Czechs and Andorra.

Well…Andorra is probably an exaggeration. But we did lose against the other ones. And we have celebrated a much much needed victory over Borat’s brothers.

I do wish to be positive and I do believe in miracles but at the same time… Whether we qualify or not, this whole campaign was a joke cum disaster. A disgrace, really.

And I somehow fear that if we do qualify for France, the federation might forget all about it as soon as possible. “Ah, let’s quickly put that bad experience away and focus on the future”.

It is too early to lament now and this post deserves a new body text tomorrow should we not make it.

But for now, lets focus on the good things.

Coz in among all the bad, there was some good.

blind monter

It seems Danny Blind quickly learned from his initial mistakes in the Iceland and Turkey matches and did what he had to do. He focused on his tactical set up and selected players who play on that spot and who have had a string of decent games in that position. It was made somewhat easy by the fact that Van der Wiel and Martins Indi were injured. but both players shouldn’t have played vs Iceland and I think Danny got the message.

Janmaat sadly got injured and so did goalies Cillesen (warm up) and Krul (second half). Sad, for sure, but most likely also the result of the weird artificial pitch. Something to analyze and maybe something to address at UEFA level.

The 4-3-3 worked well. Of course. the Kazachs are not very good. We were expected to win by 0-4 or so, in my book, and we could have but hey…let’s take the 1-2 and work towards the Czechs.

Blind played well in center of midfield and had a killer pass for Memphis who should have scored then and there. It would have been a sensational Mancunian goal. The midfield worked well, the full backs showed they have great potential for the future and debutant El Ghazi was lively and highly involved in the 1-0.

van dijk juicht

Virgil van Dijk, although sloppy at the end with all his colleagues, showed great composure and confidence and will soon be the man to assist De Vrij in the center of midfield, should coach Blind decide not to use son Blind as CB.
Huntelaar played a tough game doe Oranje, barely having a touch in the box but these games are not about individuals and even Robin van Persie won’t lament the fact he only got 2 minutes to secure his centennial cap.

Danny Blind: “Robin wasn’t fully fit. He would have come on earlier if we were level after an hour, or trailing. But with 0-2 on the board I wanted to keep him safe and fit for the Czech game and I told him I’d give him the last minute to get his celebratory cap. But only if the situation allowed.”

Blind also swept away the rumour that Memphis and Van Persie had a bust up at practice. “Nonsense. They had a football discussion. About a pass that should or should not have been given. It happens all the time. No biggie.”

blind bert

I have to say, Danny Blind has scored some points with me. He was criticized by the media for the Cocu Phone incident. Frank de Boer said he was always contacted by Blind if the latter was keen to add a new Ajax debutant to the mix. Cocu said he was never contacted. Danny Blind: “It is a silly situation. You have to understand that I call every coach of any played I want to select for the first time. Because usually, I don’t know these lads. This is why I call Frank. About Riedewald, Tete and now El Ghazi. And I ask about their temperament, their training specofics, their mentality. I haven’t called Cocu because I am not selecting any debutants from PSV. I picked Bruma, but I don’t need to call Cocu to check how Bruma is doing. I know Bruma and I don’t need Cocu’s insights for this. This whole phone thing is a media generated thing to kick up a stink.”

Danny Blind was happy with the result. “We did what we had to do. At times we played well, at times we could have done better. The Kazachs used a lot of long hauls and physical power and at the end we were pushed back a bit. I could see the team was getting uncomfortable with it. But it was fine, we could have scored more and shouldn’t have conceded that last goal, but all in all I am ok with what we did and I now will focus on Tuesday.”


The main talking point after the game were the goal keepers injuries. Both Cillesen and Krul were injured and left Blind with no alternative to play Jeroen Zoet who will most likely start vs the Czechs.

“It seems Krul is out for a spell, maybe the full season. I don’t know what happened exactly but I won’t be surprised if it was the surface. Cillesen’s injury is less serious but he will not play Tuesday. Both Ken Vermeer and Maarten Stekelenburg are called up to complete the squad, along with Greg van der Wiel as right full back back up.”

The Turkish coach lashed out to coach Blind for sending an email with congratulations to the Czech team manager. The UEFA has since declared that it will be regarded as illegal for the Dutch to offer the Icelandic players a financial reward for beating Turkey.

holland scores

Dutch Swansea board member and sponsor John van Zweden : ” I spoke to Gilfi Siggurson the other day and he told me not to worry. He is keen to beat Turkey as Iceland really wants to win the group. This is Iceland’s first outing to the Euro tournament and they want to make sure they do all they can to have the best odds.” Siggurdson was the man who slayed the Dutch giants and he is keen to do it vs the Turks. “I will send him a text to remind him but I know how he works and thinks. They Icelandic guys won’t throw a game. They want to win everything now as a preparation for the Euros. I think Holland will make it through thanks to Gilfi.”

Arjen Robben is less confident. “I am dying a 1000 deaths watching the team on the sofa. It is so much easier playing so you can do something about it. Watching it is a drama. I am not confident. I thought the Czechs would hurt the Turks but now I am not so sure. I am really concerned. Missing the Euros would be a drama for me, for Dutch football for the fans. I would be devastated and I am pissed off my body let me down yet again.”

robben zit

Interestingly enough, Bert van Oostveen has declared he will not resign if Oranje doesn’t qualify and neither will he sack Blind. The KNVB CEO:  “I think Danny did well in very tough circumstances. I work closely with him and his luck wasn’t there vs Iceland. We lost the game as a result of some individual mistakes and I won’t sacrifice the coach for this. We signed a contract until 2018. In 2016 we have an evaluation moment. But I am impressed with his way of working and will support him. As for myself, I am obviously highly concerned and would be highly disappointed if we fail. It would be a disgrace, I agree. But I was proud to wear the silver and bronze medal and I will not run to the exit when things turn south. We are building a whole new team at the moment and despite the results, the future is bright. I will take my responsibility and keep on working and building.”

Bert also said in a recent interview that the players lack fighting mentality. The young breed is too much focused on money. “It appears to me that young players leave Holland very young, lured by big contracts. The result is, they either warm the bench at big clubs or they get to play for smaller clubs.  They should invest in themselves and get some more runs on the board before they go. We used to have players with the mentality of Wouters, Cocu, Van Bommel, De Jong… I don’t see these players anymore.”

bert oost
Some Dutch analysts already started to see the positives once we don’t qualify. It will give two things to the Dutch: 1) humility (much neeed) and 2) time to build a new team. Which is interesting, and true because if we do qualify all will be focused on getting a good result in France. Should we not qualify, we can use the time to work on a new football vision, development strategies and select new talent to take over from the Sneijders and Van Persies….

But what do Dutch analysts know, really? One of them (Rene van der Gijp) famously said this when the draw for this qualification group was known: “My my, it will be harder NOT to qualify than it will be to actually qualify…” Famous last words.

I do believe we have a chance, though.

1. The Icelandic team wants to top the group which will help them with the draw in the actual Euros.

2. Iceland ripped the Turkish defence to pieces in the first game, winning 3-0

3. Iceland’s defence is tight and strong

4. Turks will self destruct

5. Holland will run over Czech Republic like a steam train

Coz, really….can you imagine a Euros without the Orange?

I will leave the analysis of where went wrong for later. Win or lose, we will have to go there.

For now, I want some positive vibes.

I can see Blind playing the same players, with only Zoet as new addition.

Early in the first half, Sneijder scores a zinger from midfield. A low drive. Turkey gets nervous. They need to make decisions now. Will they go for the 0-0 or will they attack. The Turkish supporters want their team to attack but Iceland is luring on a counter. Memphis scores a second goal from nothing and the Czechs deflate. Turkey is playing sloppy now and the fans are getting rowdie.  Iceland is still poking and threatening and Turkey sees 5 players sit deep and 5 players pushing up. The hole in the middle is spotted by Siggurdson. In the second half, Huntelaar gets the third goal and Oranje dazzles towards the end of the game with RVP for Huntelaar, Afellay for Sneijder and Elia for Memphis. Late in the game, RVP gets a tap in on an Elia move and Holland wins 0-4.

The Turks make a mess out of it and in the 83rd minute, Iceland turns the game around and Siggurdson gets have a shooting chance and hits the ball in the near corner. Turkey loses. Holland goes to the Euro 2016 in FRANCE!

And then, I awoke….

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Do the Dutch still have Clockwork Orange material?

All sorts of things race through my mind and many new posts are being formed in my head while we still process those dreadful two games.

A question I got on the blog is “What do I think of the players we have coming through the system…”…. Well let me go into that a bit.

Lets start with some key comments:

In my view, having to have great world class players is not everything. Greece 2004 did not have world class players. Yet they won the Euros. In 1990, Holland had amazing individual players and the end result was horrific. The key is, to have a strong team. Probably with a number of world class players, but we don’t need eleven or sixteen world beaters.

Another comment I need to make is: what do we want? Do we want to play Total Football. Dutch School? If yes, what is that exactly? And if that is our objective, is qualifying or winning trophies important as well? If so, what is more important? Or…do we want to be say “forget Dutch School” and let’s just play to win. Like Van Gaal did in 2014. Realistic football, based on the quality at hand.

Van Oostveen is not looking too confident here…

Zeist - "Guus Hiddink unveiled as new Netherlands manager"

I believe Bert van Oostveen made a mistake in giving Hiddink/Blind the charter to “return to Total Football”. Return to 4-3-3. We don’t have the players for this and most teams these days do not play 4-3-3. They play 5-3-2 (which makes 3-5-2 or 3-4-3) or 4-2-3-1…  Somehow, Hiddink and co. wanted to move away from Van Gaal’s “anti-football”. It was the purists complaining (Cruyff, Van Hanegem) but maybe it is important to be realists. I didn’t complain when LVG went 5-3-2. I didn’t complain when we almost made it to the World Cup finals.

If we want to play at top level, competing for trophies, we need to create a system that fits our players. Louis did this…

keep calm

As for talent, I also want to point out the typical categories we have seen in the past (and present) and what we can expect in the future…. And let’s not forget: we don’t need eleven super world class players to win trophies. We need a healthy mix….

1. Super talents and became real consistent quality players

2. Super talents who never really converted their talent at the top level

3. Overlooked players who became world beaters

So lets look at some players we know today and see what can happen…

1. Super talents who became real consistent quality players

In my book, players like Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Frank & Ronald de Boer, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben spring to mind. Players who were spotted as young talents, both by their coaches, the media, the public and the KNVB.  Usually, these kids have the spotlights on them at a young age and manage to work and develop their way to greatness. At this stage, we are looking at lads like Vilhena, Bazoer, Stef van Beek, Jairo Riedewald, Jetro Willems, Memphis Depay, Nathan Ake and Davy Klaassen… I think Daley Blind, Willems, Memphis and Bazoer will make it. From what I have seen…

The jury is still out of course. Memphis played approx 6 serious games for Man United and only impressed against Brugge, which is sort of the level Memphis was used to at PSV… I haven’t seen him dazzle against the EPL opposition as yet. Willems had his little setback season already but from what I have seen since, I think he is the real deal. Bazoer impresses me every week but with all these talents it is a matter of 1) will their bodies be able to withstand the pressure, 2) will their mentality be strong enough, 3) will their management do what is best for them and 4) will they make the right choices in stepping up from their current level… Royston Drenthe comes to mind… A huge prospect, who left too early, to the wrong club and Royston probably also did not have the mental strength to deal with all that stuff.

When all worked….

Spain v Netherlands: Group B - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

In the past, Rijkaard was almost led astray (PSV, Sporting Lisbon) and Dennis Bergkamp had trouble at Inter…. Robben suffered physically and Wes also got lost in the desert for a spell.

Ricardo Kishna and El Ghazi are also seen as “sensational talents” but Kishna didn’t really prove to be one at Ajax while El Ghazi is just starting to deliver on the promise.

2. Super talents who never really converted their talent at the top level

Here we get to the level of Cedric van der Gun, Frans van Rooij, Mario Been, Jantje Peters, Marcel Peeper, John van ‘t Schip, Gerald Vanenburg, Edwin Gorter, Ryan Babel, Hedwiges Maduro, Royston Drenthe, Kyle Ebicilio, Quincy, Peter Hoekstra, Bryan Roy, Ibi Afellay, Richard Witschge. All these guys had super reputations when they were playing for the youth teams. Most of them played rep football for the Dutch from a young age and most were compared with the great Johan Cruyff, the great Willem van Hanegem or the great Ruud Krol (depending on their role in the team). They were all brought carefully into the first teams at their clubs and most of them made their way into the Dutch team… But somehow, they never delivered on their promise. Some had the bad luck of physical problems (Van der Gun, Pepper, Peter Hoekstra, Afellay), others made the decision to leave their club too soon or go to the wrong club (Royston Drenthe, Richard Witschge) while others simply lacked the mentality to make it big…

Johnny Rep, Ruud Krol and Jantje Peters


They seemed uncoachable ( Quincy) or lacked discipline or simply couldn’t be bothered to be team players. Some players excelled at youth level but couldn’t make it work for them at senior level (Vanenburg, Babel, Gorter, Been). At this stage, Holland has a number of these lads. I think Adam Maher currently is in this category. I think Boetius might be the same and players like Fer, Wijnaldum, Davy Klaassen, Siem de Jong, Luuk de Jong and Martins Indi might end up in this basket. Exciting players when they’re young. Highly impressive in the Dutch league when they first make their appearance. But when the surprise factor wears off, they appear to be mediocre… Not that there is anything wrong here… Players like Vanenburg, Van ‘t Schip, Roy and Afellay have had good runs at their clubs and country but they simply never made it to the level that was expected of them when they were young… At this stage, Bruma, Klaassen, Wijnaldum, Narsingh, Promes, Lens could all end up in this category.

3. Overlooked players who became world beaters

This is an exciting category. Philip Cocu, Arthur Numan, Jaap Stam, Jan Wouters, Dirk Kuyt, Roy Makaay come to mind. This is the category of players that suddenly catch your eye. I saw Jaap Stam coming. I remember him at Cambuur and Willem II. And after a couple of weeks, you hear this name more often in highlight reels and you realise that this unknown lad is a powerhouse. Cocu, similar story. Brought as flegmatic talent at AZ. Went to Vitesse as a left winger and mixed good games with invisible games. PSV took a gamble, he ended up playing in midfield and became one of Holland’s best midfielders ever. And the somewhat complacent left winger became a mentally strong leader, who captained Barcelona! Jan Wouters is another example. Overlooked by many clubs and brought to Ajax by Cruyff when he was already a tad older… Marco van Basten highly criticized this signing until he realised that with Wouters behind him, his job was easier… And in West Germany, in 1988, it was Wouter’s pass in the semi finals that led to Bassie’s winner… Arthur Numan was a big fish in a little club (Haarlem) until he became a smaller fish in a big team (Oranje!). Dirk Kuyt made steps from Katwijk, to Utrecht, to Feyenoord, to Oranje, to Liverpool. And with every step, people said “he’s not going to survive that level” and everytime he did! Kevin Strootman is in this category as well, as is Jordy Clasie. The latter was told time and time again by his youth coaches at Feyenoord: “laddie, give it up. It won’t work for you. You’re too small for top football.” In the past, the Dutch team saw players like Winston Bogarde, Michael Reiziger, Peter van Vossen, Adrie van Tiggelen, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Nigel de Jong become important, on the basis of their mentality, grit and personality. In today’s team, I rate Strootman and Clasie of this level but also Dost and Ron Vlaar.

Jan Wouters, FC Utrecht, vs Lerby Ajax. Both would become midfield captains at Bayern Munich

wouters lerby

My point with all of this, is that in every successful team in the past, we had players that were known to be bright stars and we had players that came from nowhere. We had players that were essential to the team but they weren’t considered great talents.

The 1974 team won silver in West Germany and had usual suspects such as Cruyff, Van Hanegem and Rensenbrink, but Wim Rijsbergen was a nobody. Slow and definitely an ugly player. But tough as nails. Young upstart Arie Haan played as center back. And Johan Neeskens was quite an unknown playing for HFC before someone tipped Ajax to sign him.

Top dogs Piet Keizer and Sjaak Swart didn’t get a look in. And Michels only found the winning line up days before the Tournament started. Oh, and did I mention that Oranje actually had a terrible qualification series? And actually shouldn’t have qualified as they scored an offside goal against Belgium, which when disallowed would have meant the exit for The Netherlands? Freaky, no?

Fußball-WM, BRD - Niederlande 2:1

The 1978 team got silver in Argentina. Big name players like Cruyff and Van Hanegem were not present. Young upstarts Brands, Poortvliet and Wildschut impressed, with Haan and Krol as the leading players. The three PSV youngsters were not rated as hot talents but they fitted perfectly in the team.

In 1988, in West Germany, Holland won it’s first and only trophy. Playing 4-4-2. With under rated Erwin Koeman in the team to cover for Arnold Muhren. Limited players like Berry van Aerle and Adri van Tiggelen completed the team, while wonderboy Gerald Vanenburg was working his ass off for Gullit and Van Basten.

The 1998 Oranje was very close to playing the finals. Looking back on that performance, players like Bergkamp and Cocu admitted that they never really considered themselves good enough for the finals. They didn’t play like they had a chance to win it. In hindsight, they can kick themselves.

My point being…the whole debate about 4-3-3 being the “Dutch School” is silly. The whole point about talent and skill and experience is silly. It is about Team. With capital T.

Team. Tactics. Tenacity. Skill and talent and experience are very handy. But without team, without desire and without a clear idea as to how to play, we will never win anything. This is what made the Greeks win 2004. And what fuels the Germans always!

So sure, our lads can all play. Outside foot passing, pannas, dribbles, cool step overs… all nice and dandy. But the Mark van Bommel / Edgar Davids / Johan Neeskens will to win, is essential. Because at a Euros or at a World Cup, every player can play football.


Piet Wildschut in 1978

With the players we have, I think we should be able to 1) qualify and 2) win trophies.

As the past has demonstrated: a team full of super players doesn’t necessarily mean you win trophies. And vice versa, many mediocre teams have won trophies over the years. From Greece to Germany (1996) to Atletico Madrid and FC Porto.

If we, for the sake of discussion, simply accept that all the Dutch players are capable in handling the ball. And we accept that they all are fit enough to play top football, then the aspects we need to focus on are: 1. tactical strength, 2. mental strength and 3. desire.

If I have to judge our current players on this, then for me the jury is not too positive on the following players:  Klaassen, Promes, Narsingh, Martins Indi, Lens, Van der Wiel, Afellay, Boetius, Maher.

Players that get the benefit of the doubt are: Wijnaldum, Van Ginkel, Fer, Bruma, Riedewald, Tete, Berghuis, De Guzman, Bacuna, Van Dijk, Van Beek, Vilhena.

Players that I believe have what it takes in this particular department are Daley Blind, Luuk de Jong, Clasie, Bas Dost, Pieters, Janmaat, Willems, De Vrij,

The good thing is, that the question marks are all playing in the EPL or at top level in Holland (so we can spot them well). Playing in Holland is not necessarily a good thing. I am certain Bruma developed well with Terry and Lampard and Drogba as training buddies while at PSV it is all bit more laissez-fair. The ones that make it in the EPL will most likely have what it takes in the work rate department…

barca witschge

The ones that demonstrate the right development path – such as Blind, De Jong and Willems – will definitely be the backbone of future Oranje squads. I just wish some of them would lose that “lets play some nice football” attitude and develop a “over my dead body” mentality…

All in all, I am not negative about our potential futute. We certainly have the quality. We now need to pair the quality with the grit and pick a coach who will use what he have in a tactical system that works…

Danny Blind can still be that guy, if he leans more to Van Gaal and less to Cruyff. If not him, the likes of Ronald Koeman, Frank de Boer, John van den Brom or Ron Jans come to mind as future national team coaches.

Danny Blind with son Daley Blind

danny daely


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Oranje: where to from here….?

It could be worse right? Eh… well… can it? We are now in the same league as Andorra, Slovenia, Kazachstan, Albania and Finland.

The thing I had to think of (a lot!) was the comment by the media when the draw for this Euro qualification was published. The top 3 go through. We are in a group with Turkey, Czech Republic, Iceland… The media went “It will be harder for Oranje to NOT qualify, hahahahaha!”. Well…we never shy away from a challenge and we did it! We did it!! We are failing to qualify… Reaching the last four in the World Cup 2014 was easier….

Well, I needed a break of a couple of days after the Turkey game. And not because I had to watch it at 2 am with Spanish commentary and delay… :-(.

I am not going to spend a lot of time on the game.


I mean, you saw it. First 10 minutes. Oranje has 6 men before the ball. Turn around comes. Turkey whacks ball foreward. Quite blind, really. De Vrij wins the essential header. But Turkish midfielder is there before Klaassen. More desire. De Vrij is out of position. Bruma doesn’t step up. 1-0.

Narsingh gets similar opportunity. Misses.

Blind looks up while ball is coming his way (Dutch throw in). He needs to shift his weight as ball comes on right foot. Bad touch. Bad throw too. Bruma was facing the open pitch as last man and Narsingh was available too. Turkish playmaker picks ball up and defeats Cillesen near post. Three big mistakes in a row. Throw of ball to Blind, Blind’s touch. Cillesen. No coaching going on. Just bad, weak, sloppy defending.

Third goal I don’t even rate. Was a foul on Van der Wiel. But everyone had stopped playing by then.

Sneijder gets a shooting opportunity on the edge of the box. He, in particular HE, should bury that ball.

Wijnaldum scores crazy header for Newcastle only weeks back. Now he has a free header and mishits the ball totally. Ball bounces of his shoulder.

If this is the way you play, it doesn’t matter who the coach is or who you field… It was a total shocker.

No confidence, no speed, no automatisms, no desire. Midfield was outplayed. We have too many “nice guys” in midfield. Blind, Klaassen, it was all too soft.

blind daley turk

Danny Blind, again, made some weird subs. At a certain stage, it was Sneijder playing on the right wing, crossing balls in with Promes (?) playing behind Van Persie/De Jong. Why not use Huntelaar? The Schalke 04 striker was Thursday good enough to be #1 striker and on Sunday, he isn’t even good enough to play pinchhitter…

I think the final conclusion, even though we still have a small chance to make it, is that Holland simply doesn’t have “it” at the moment and doesn’t deserve to go to France…

Sad but true. We lose twice against Iceland! ICELAND!!

In Holland, one can easily speak of a crisis. The fans are devastated, the media disgusted and the sponsors and retailers see 50 bio euros disappear. The only ones who don’t see the crisis, is the KNVB. A poll under Dutch football fans says that more than half of the people believe KNVB CEO Bert van Oostveen is the one to blame. Him, and the players. Both Hiddink and Blind seem to have the sympathy of the people.

But the KNVB has positioned itself into a difficult position. CEO Van Oostveen has publically and loudly stated that he supports Blind and Staf unconditionally. He is not going to send Blind away after two games, and also not after 4 games. The CEO has signed Blind until 2018 and has previously sacrificed Hiddink to allow Blind the reigns. No way that Blind will be fired by Van Oostveen. But should the board of directors sack Van Oostveen, then Blind and co. will most likely follow suit.


Which leaves the question: if this happens (and it might, as Bert van Oostveen was also responsible for the unelegant exit of Bert van Marwijk), who will be the ideal team manager? Most candidates have committed to their clubs.

Hiddink’s demise was inavoidable. And it left Blind with a difficult inheritance. Only four games to sort things out. Four finales, with only one practice session before the first game. And Blind will have had his plan, but Martins Indi and Arjen Robben destroyed that plan. A cheap penalty made it even worse and that first game was lost in a freaky way. But there is no excuse for the dramatic loss against a mediocre Turkey. As Ruud Gullit said in an emoti0nal analysis after the game. “There was nothing, no desire, no cursing, no yelling, no dirty challenges, no provocations, there was nothing you would expect from a team that does not want to lose. It feels as if these guys can’t give all they have. It’s all too soft.”

The crisis is complex. Danny Blind might become the man to bring Oranje into the biggest qualification shame in the history of Dutch football while also being the man who is to lead Oranje into a new future, with a transformed team as the big guns (Sneijder, Robben, De Jong, Huntelaar, Van Persie) are getting slowly too old for Oranje.

blind schiphol

What went wrong?

In my view, the first mistake was made by Bert van Oostveen by selecting Guus Hiddink as successor to Van Gaal. The second mistake was Hiddink proclaiming that he would restore the Dutch school, with 4-3-3. Louis van Gaal did very well with Oranje. Why not build on these foundations and use a coach who thinks and works like Van Gaal: Danny Blind! And instead of wanting the Dutch School, the KNVB should have realised that the 5-3-2 is currently the best tactical set up for Oranje. As it can become 3-4-3 in a turn around situation just like that. Hiddink and Van Gaal aren’t friends. Hiddink is a totally different coach. What a change of protocol and work approach for the players. Why would Van Oostveen want this??

The next big thing that went wrong was the post-WC disease that most successful teams have after long stint in the World Cup. The players had a ahort holiday, they want to focus on their spot at their clubs and the first qualification games do come very quickly in the new season. The Dutch see games vs the Czechs and Iceland as necessary stumbling blocks on the road to new Euro success. The Czechs and the Icelanders however, see the game against us as the biggest game of the year! They weren’t at the WC and finally have the chance to play against a big team. Their motivation is 110%, ours is 90%. And suddenly, we have a game on our hand… Individual mistakes (concentration, arrogance?) and lack of sharpness resulted in losses in the start of the series. The Iceland game away was a big one. We lost 5 points already and needed a result. Two moments of lack of concentration and we lost that match, which prompted the KNVB to put the pressure on Hiddink which undermined his authority and led to his demise. By then, Arjen Robben was not available for half of the games and Hiddink stuck with old hands like Van der Wiel, Nigel de Jong and Ibi Afellay… He even mentioned Nigel as his “captain of midfield” only to snub the captain months later, saying he needed more football in midfield.

staf turk

Guus was on a losing streak. He got into a rift with the KNVB CEO, the media jumped on him, pundits started to wonder what was happening and it all got into the heads of the players who seemed to be playing without any confidence, adding mistake to misfortune.

Certainly, a trend to take heed of is the fact that our players might not be that good anymore… Dutch football in general seems to losing it’s way. In 1988, the Dutch clubs battled for top European trophies. In 1998, Ajax had just played two CL finals. In 2010, most of our top players played at big clubs (Inter Milan, Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City, Bayern Munich)… Today, our big guns are getting more tired and less fit (RVP, Robben and Huntelaar battled with injuries while Rafa van der Vaart is no longer on the radar). And the young guns we have are all playing for mediocre teams (on a European level) like Watford, Newcastle, Basel, Ajax, Feyenoord and Sunderland with Memphis and Daley Blind as the main exceptions. But… consider this… Would Blind and Memphis play at Man United if Louis wasn’t managing there? Probably not!

So, post World Cup blues in combination with bad management (Van Oostveen/Hiddink) in combination with lesser quality.

The perfect storm.

Some people think Danny Blind is also a problem and not fit to manage Oranje. I used to believe he was good enough. Simply due to the way he presents himself. He is a good communicator. He knows all the talents on the fields in Holland as he keeps track of all that is going on. He used to be a very tactically savvy player who has demonstrated to know what it takes to win trophies. He has worked on all levels in football. From assistant coach to technical director. From head coach to youth coordinator. And on top of that, he worked with Louis van Gaal for many many years. Doubts have arisen though, with his two games at the helm. Losing against Iceland in the way we did can happen to any coach. A quick loss of Robben, a Martins Indi red card. A silly penalty. No coach can stop that, most likely. But why did he play BMI and Van der Wiel in the first place? Why did he put so much emphasis on Robben as leader? Why was RVP on the bench “unfit” while starting three days later? Why subbing Huntelaar so early in the piece? Why using Blind as left back and not centrally in midfield? So many questions.


The Turkey game offered up even more questions… Why Riedewald? The youngster, over Pieters? Why Klaassen in midfield who proved to be too light vs Iceland? Why sticking to Narsingh who didn’t dazzle vs Iceland? Why keeping Huntelaar benched? And Blind has one Marco van Basten and one Ruud van Nistelrooy next to him on the bench? Would they have agreed to sub Narsingh for Promes, moving the youngster centrally and letting Sneijder play right wing??? Is Luuk de Jong (PSV and failed at Borussia) really a better pinchitter than Schalke 04 striker KJ Huntelaar? Really?

But most importantly… His master Louis van Gaal decided more than a year ago now, that 4-3-3 was not working for Holland. We do not have the quality (yet) to do this. Hiddink proved the point with his abysmal campaign. Why didn’t Blind immediately go back to 5-3-2? He had four games to grind out a result. We didn’t need to entertain the world. We just needed points. Why not use Janmaat and Pieters out wide. With De Vrij, Blind and Bruma centrally. Blind moving into midfield whenever possible… We could have had work horses Van Ginkel and Wijnaldum in midfield with Sneijder and Memphis and Robben up front, using Hunter as pinch hitter!

In possession, Janmaat would always move up and be the right winger Robben isn’t. And fill that space. Marathon man van Ginkel as right mid would have covered ground on that flank. Pieters is more a defender which would work well with Sneijder who likes to own that left space.

Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken, but clearly Bert van Oostveen felt “5-3-2” means the system needed fixing…

persie sneijd turk

The analysts are ruthless in their analysis. You read what Gullit had to say above. Johan Cruyff pointed out that all of Oranje’s mistakes are basis flaws in quality and it is all trainable. “The defending was shocking. Weak. Positioning was totally wrong and the challenges were ill-timed. The penalty we conceded against Iceland is a typical example. Positioning: all wrong! Most of our movement in defence and in particular in and around the box is naive. The second thing that gets me is the lack of passing capabilities. The through pass forward. Only a couple of players see it and can give the pass. Sneijder, of course, but he is playing high up the pitch. From behind, it’s only Blind and Clasie. The rest rather play square balls because they don’t see it or they don’t have the skill. And it’s all trainable stuff.”

Willem van Hanegem laments the lack of quality. “The reality now is, that we need help from Iceland and the Czechs to qualify. That sums up how poor we have become. Having said that, Turkey wasn’t that good either and the only thing they were better in against us was team spirit and desire. Oh, and the fact that they converted their chances and we choked at the crucial moments.  Hiddink was told he was too old or too weak and had to go. A new young coach played two games and has zero points. Well done KNVB! We think we are very good but the reality is different. A lad like Memphis is playing and acting as if he is a demi god but he spent most time on the pitch moaning to the ref. If he gives a back heel the commentator orgasms but the effectiveness of all his dancing and twinkletoes is simply not there. The player who impressed me was Van Persie. He tried to play as a team player. He was always looking for the combination. We are too soft for our youngsters. The hat, the scarf, the golden boots… Start with performing, with making a difference before you behave like a movie star. For me, criticizing Danny Blind is too easy. He started his first game and was confronted with the epitome of bad luck: losing Robben, red card, penalty… What do you do? Sure, he made mistakes but we all make mistakes. That is part of the game. But I’m telling you, Turkey will make mistakes in the last two games. They probably lost their qualification against Latvia, when they could have scored 12 but ended up drawing.”

Blind staf

A telling statistic, one we can’t ignore, is the fact that out of the 8 qualification games, Oranje conceded first in six!! Six times, at home and away, the opponent scored first. Six times, our lads have to play to get back into the game. That is a telling stat. It happened again against Turkey. All tactical plans can go into the shredder. The idea was to let the Turks come out and play, as they needed a win. And we would counter our way to our victory. Hence Narsingh, hence Van Persie. After seven minutes, the Turks could play that game with us… In six out of eight games, the opponent can sit deep and make the field small and give us the ball. In all these games, we had serious trouble playing our way to chances. Spain, as an example, has more than enough players in midfield able to play the through ball. They have Iniesta, Fabregas, Isco, Silva, Mata in midfield. And fast full backs using the flanks when they can. A top striker like Costa is actually not even needed in the Spanish team, that is how well they break down opponents from midfield.

Our midfield does not have that quality. It’s predictable and slow. As Cruyff said, we don’t have enough players with the sharp through ball… And therefore, we might have enough possession, but we don’t do enough with it. We don’t really dominate the game.

Another issue we have: our top guns hardly make the difference. Robben was not as instrumental as he was at the World Cup. Van Persie looks quite bland these days and Sneijder misses opportunities he would have scored back in 2010. We don’t even remember who Van der Vaart was, by now.

elftal turk

There are now two options:

1. Turkey fails and Oranje wins the last two games….

This option doesn’t sound like the obvious one to me, to be honest. I think Turkey has the momentum and we clearly don’t. But it we do get through, I think Blind will need to focus on the 5-3-2 system. With players like Willems and Janmaat as wing backs, with Memphis and Robben upfront. Depending on form of the day and opponents, we could play with players like Sneijder, Strootman, Clasie, Van Ginkel or Wijnaldum in midfield while Daley plays center back. The other CBs are not that key. Bruma, De Vrij, Veltman, Rekik, Van Dijk, Van Beek….

2 Turkey finishes the job and Holland is out!

The more likely scenario. I think in this scenario, Blind needs to stay on and work on a new Oranje. Time to slowly phase out Van Persie and most likely Sneijder. Time for an exciting new team to be build. And I think we have the quality.

We have decent goalies…

Our back line is not that shabby either. I believe in Tete, Van Beek, Blind, Kongolo, Riedewald, De Vrij, Rekik, Bruma, Van Dijk, Willems… I also believe in Janmaat by the way and Van Rhijn will not have unlearned how to play….

With midfielders like Clasie, Maher, Wijnaldum, Fer, Ake, Van Ginkel, Strootman, Bazoer, Ziyech, Tannane, Klaassen, Blind, Vilhena, Sinkgraven and Propper we surely should be able to field some quality there

Upfront, Memphis seems to be the man, with El Ghazi coming through, Sinkgraven, Promes, Boetius, Berghuis… The only missing player in all this is the central striker… Van Basten, Kieft, Bosman, Kluivert, Bergkamp, Van Nistelrooy, Makaay, Huntelaar, Van Persie…where is the next one? Maybe it’s Vincent Janssen….

young nl

In 2011 and 2012, Alfred Stuivenberg won the European Championship with the Under 17s. The current Man United assistant coach had players like Rekik, Ake, Hendrix, Vilhena, Willems, Depay, Kongolo, Kyle Ebicilio and Anas Achahbar under his wing. He said: “The trophies were great but it is youth football. It is different. At top senior level, different skillsets are important and there is no telling where these players will end up.”

Statistically, Oranje is one of the more dominating teams in Europe. Holland has 67% possession over 8 qualification games. Only World Champs Germany and former Champs Spain come to the same percentage. In terms of attempts on goals, Holland is in the top 3 as well. We had 151 shots on goal. Only Germany and Belgium had more attempts. 60 of these attempts were on target. Only Germany had more precision. But… out of the 60, we score the least goals. Only 13 goals out of 60 with 6 of the 13 in one game ( Latvia 6-0). England is top with 24 goals and Poland is number 2 with 21 goals…. End conclusion is: the opponent goalies are playing sensational against Oranje or the quality of the shots is wanting…

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Dutch football, where do we stand….?

Well, time for reflection. The football-less summer is here. The one in which we can marvel at the South Americans or smirk at the women…

I had a serious bout of bloggers curse! I wrote a long piece on Hiddink and the future of Oranje and then two things happened: a computer crash wiped out half of the text and at the same time it appeared Hiddink was out and San Marco in so my whole rant was outdated and needed reworking. This put me off for a spell. Apologies. I will rehash the old post and add all the new items in it.

The odd summers are always a bore :-). I love the big tournaments and the excitement of it all. I’m sorry I couldn’t feel it for the Lionesses. Not that I don’t like Women’s football. I think its cool that the girls get a lot of attention and all that. But I can’t watch it like I watch men’s. I see so many silly mistakes. Bad touches, bad vision, defensive errors… I don’t enjoy it. I would support our women all the way to the gold obviously but watching it is frustrating. I saw highlights of most and the full match vs Japan and we are still a bit behind them, the Ozzies, the Germans and the US. Our speed in handling the ball and movement in particular. And decision making. We also allowed several dangerous headers by the little Japanese girls while we do have some tall mofos at the back. Anyway… there is always the Olympics :-).


Lots of movement on the transfer front but not a lot of real action. Maarten Stekelenburg to Southampton is good news. For him. Not sure if we need Maarten for Oranje. But Koeman will have more patience with him I suppose. He still has 5 good years in him, I think. Karim Rekik will leave PSV. The youngster is keen to move to France or Italy. I was surprised by his move as City was not unhappy with him at PSV and the new champs are playing CL next season but Rekik wants more apparently. Otherwise, no real interest as yet in Clasie, Wijnaldum or Willems.

danny guus

It appeared that the Zeist management has had question marks around Hiddink for a while now. His lack of passion, his alleged laziness, his lack of clarity and direction and the relationship between him and the technical staff and the key players apparently is fragile.

Hiddink was a great servant to Dutch football but the time came for him to leave. Danny will take over asap in the role of team manager and none other than Marco van Basten will take the role of assistant manager in the staff. San Marco and Danny have worked together in different roles (players, coach and manager) and appreciate each other’s contributions. “Marco is one of the best analists I have come across and dares to speak his mind. He is an independent thinker and very creative tactically. He is also a great and loyal guy,” said Danny Blind.


Marco could have stayed with AZ to work under Van den Brom and was doubting whether he should take the step, but working towards a Euro and World Cup tournament with the best players of the country really appealed to him. Ruud van Nistelrooy will stay on as assistant as well.

In the meantime, some exciting transfers happened…. For starters, Skipper Van Persie leaves Man United to play in Fenerbahce’s colours. The former Feyenoord man will follow in Kuyt’s footsteps, who made his way back to Feyenoord. Van Persie signed on for three years. Louis van Gaal: “I wish him well. I sent him a text message already. Robin knew what he could expect with Man United. I was clear to him about his future here. I would have loved for him to stay, but I was not giving him a starter spot, without question. He wanted to play and keep himself on the radar for Oranje. That is his choice. I wish him well.” The crowd in Turkey greeted RVP already and Dirk tweeted a nice message to his mate. “It is not hard to fall in love with this club. I am sure Robin will love playing there and I am sure the fans will love him back.”

RVP Fener

Jordy Clasie is reunited with Ronald Koeman, with whom he built up a deep relationship. Clasie cried on the pitch when Koeman said his farewell one season ago and will join Southampton on a 5 year deal. Clasie knew he wanted to work with Koeman again, but in the last week before his decision suddenly Lazio Roma other clubs started to zoom in. Feyenoord signed Swede Gustavson as another midfielder replacement for the little playmaker. “A dream come true. In my 15 years in the Feyenoord jersey I was always told I might not reach the top. Under Koeman I made my big step up and even made it to Oranje. To go and play in the Premier League is a dream come true. But I will always remain a Feyenoord man at heart.”


Another reunion in the EPL is the move of Jeremain Lens to Advocaat’s Sunderland.

And if you need another reason to cast your eye on the EPL: Georghinio Wijnaldum signed for Newcastle United where he will join Janmaat, Siem de Jong, Anita and Krul under Steve McLaren.


Leaves us with the question “What to do to improve our Dutch football?”. The analysis needed to answer this needs to focus on the question “What is wrong with it?”. And obviously, as with anything, money is a key factor. I believe Sunderland in the EPL has more money to spend per season than all the Eredivisie clubs put together. Or something like that. There is one major issue.  Which will not be resolved just like that.

But money doesn’t buy trophies. So we need to find the solution in our coach prowess, among other things. We might not have the funds to buy the same players as Sunderland or Monaco or Basel or Benfica. But we should be able to use the players we have to create a better team. This has been done many times by the Germans (1990, 1996, 1974), in 2004 by the Greek, Louis van Gaal did it in 2014 with Oranje and at club level Atletico Madrid comes to mind.


Oranje will always be able to shine, in my opinion. We do create enough talents to fill at least 22 seats with good players. If we can have a good coach who can instil a playing style that fits the players we should be able to remain amongst the best 8 teams in Europe. I think that the new bunch of players (Depay, Willems, Clasie, Klaassen, Bazoer, Chery, Zyiech, Van Beek, Vilhena, Rekik, Berghuis) have more than enough talent to rise to the occassion. Add to this a Strootman, a Janmaat, a De Vrij and a Robben and you have a decent team.

At club level I think it will be very hard to compete. But not totally undoable. Although it will take a very strong coach with an entrepreneurial club management to come up with the goods. And every 5 years I think it should be possible for an Ajax, Feyenoord or PSV to do well in the CL.


PSV had its chance this coming season. If they’d be able to cling on to Depay and Wijnaldum for one more year. The option is always there. You promise the top players you need a free exit from the club, or something like that. In return for another year to perform in the CL. The price money you can collect might be worth it… Although… Depay 35 Mio. Wijnaldum 19 Mio. It’s a lot of money…. Is it thinkable that PSV and the players would have said no to their chance to take a next step up?

Or will it be a small team like AZ with a talented young coach like Van den Brom and players like Berghuis and Muhren maybe? To perform with excellence in the Europa League?

Who knows… Your opinion please?

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Oranje secures crucial points but will change coach….

The Dutch overly cricital analysts said it before the game: “If we really need to lose sleep over an away game against Latvia, than we have sunk really deep…”. And obviously they are correct… Holland needs to play all finals now, to secure enough points to reach the Euros. For the current #3 in the World, that is actually quite disappointing.

But, at least we are still in it. Guus could breath relaxed after the game, as I am 100% convinced he would have been fired with any other result.

The team did what it had to do. Put pressure on. Create opportunities. Win. The Latvians played pretty solid actually. Their positioning was excellent and their will and desire was present too. Paired with a Dutch team as opponent which wasn’t able to fire on all cylinders. Depay on the left was very active and involved in the first half, as was Wesley Sneijder. But Luciano Narsingh and Klaas Jan Huntelaar, in contrast, were sub par. Huntelaar did not get an inch in the box and didn’t get good service while Narsingh simply seems to lack form (or quality). He is particularly strong when he can explore space and against Latvia away, obviously there is not a lot of space to be found. This is where Promes or even Berghuis would have been a better option.


The pairing of Sneijder and Blind in a 4-2-4 set up worked fairly well although Clasie with his fast passing and vision would have added a dimension to the game, I’m sure. Depay could have scored a couple in the first half (should have even?) and that would have opened the door to a strong victory for sure. But lack of sharpness, and a good goalie prevented a bigger loss for Latvia.

It was one moment of briliance from sub Wijnaldum that sealed the fate of the Latvians. A good turn, a Kluivert style toe poke and Oranje was 0-1 up. Another good moment of Blind finding space (!) for Narsingh and the winger did the only thing right in his game. Hopefully the goal will help him shrug off his burden. Interestingly enough, Narsingh jumped into the arms of his rival Promes while Wijnaldum sought assistant coach Van Nistelrooy who had instructed Wijnaldum where to look for space and how to time his run. Van Nistelrooy had told the PSV midfielder that he would be the one scoring the crucial goal. Four minutes later, he did.

devrij bmi

And so Oranje did what it had to do.

Having said that, the 67 year ol sly fox will probably make way for Danny Blind, this summer already.

Lucky Gus seems to have lost his touch. There are grave concerns within the KNVB while the players also shared their confusions in small circles about some of his decisions and communications.

Now, I think Guus deserves a respectful farewell as I don’t think there is more work for him after this. And he has had a sensational career. Quite good as a playmaker but not good enough for the big guns. He played for PSV for 1 season but preferred to be a big fish in a little pond. He coaches PSV to the European top and since that feat he has done really well for himself, coaching all over the world, with a mixed bag of success.

The team manager’s stint for Oranje from 1994 to 1998 was a highlight for sure. Rising like a Phoenix to the semi finals in France after the 1996 ashes with Davids as co-star.

Letland - Nederland


But this time around, Guus thought he could do it half-arsed. He figured that with 1) the top 3 progressing to the Euros and 2) a mix of talent and experience he would be able to bring the Dutch School back into existence while winging it a bit. Well, he made a mistake. For starters: the World Cup as per usual left a negative inheritance for Oranje’s Euro qualifications’ start. This seems to happen always. Players are either tired (the young ones), overly extended (the older ones) or maybe a bit complacent (the rest).

So a series of mistakes, lack of desire and absence of big star names resulted in a horrific start of the series and all through this first year, Hiddink was vague and somewhat mentally absent during press conferences. Deer in the headlights comes to mind. He wasn’t consistent and his communication was questionable. After the second loss against Iceland, the KNVB general manager immediately pulled the power card which probably didn’t help in the relationship department with Guus who normally would refuse to deal with minions like Oostveen.

And if you are in a rut, things don’t go your way. The many missed opportunities against the Czechs and Iceland, the Janmaat mistake, the defensive uncertainties, the Robben injury, it all seemed to be a logical result of the Law of Attraction.



He is not longer the fearless leader. Her accepted too much and was too weak in his communications and directions. He has been changing and shifting players. De Jong in center midfield… Two months ago, he called him “my captain in midfield” and now De Jong wasn’t even needed. Clasie gets the nod. But suddenly Clasie is sacrificed for Blind. Van Persie and Huntelaar cannot play together against strong opponents. Fine. But which of the two will need to go? I think Huntelaar will know that it will most likely be him. So the Schalke striker is playing less for the team but more for himself. Janmaat in, Van der Wiel out. Van der Wiel in, Janmaat out. When the US came to play a friendly, Hiddink said quite resolutely he wouldn’t play Sneijder (who just arrived from Turkey) but the little playmaker wants to break van der Sar’s record and convinced Hiddink to allow him to come on as a sub. Or the game against Mexico. Hiddink had said Robben would be used only for half the game. But Robben enjoyed himself and decided to stay on the pitch.  These are all not too smart things to do for a coach.

blind latvia

Obviously, there is no guarantee that Danny Blind will fix this all. But at least the players highly respect him for his craftmanship. And it seemed in the run up to the Latvia game that this decision was already made. The 53 year old ex Ajax coach was coaching dominantly at the practice sessions while Hiddink kept his distance. During the game, Blind also made a passionate and driven impression, coaching actively, while during the first matches, he sat next to Hiddink, somewhat apathically. But it is his big ambition to coach this team, and he decided to not join Van Gaal at Man United after the World Cup for this reason.

Despite the lack of satisfaction concerning Hiddink’s performance, the KNVB will most likely not sack the seasoned coach. The former Real Madrid coach will probably step into a mentoring role or advising role which will lead to Blind taking the reigns and most likely a new assistant coach being added to the mix at Oranje.

rvp latvia

And while Hiddink immediately went on holidays, Blind and the KNVB will get together to find a modus to give the former success coach the ending he deserves. It will be a busy summer in Zeist, but also for a lot of the Oranje internationals. Some of whom are not yet certain where their next home will be. Depay is home and hosed at Man United. Huntelaar will remain at Schalke 04. Usually, Janmaat, De Vrij, Martins Indi and Blind will not move away (although De Vrij might be snatched up as he had a tremendous year with Lazio). But Jetro Willems has signalled he is ready for a next step. “If a good club in a big competition comes, I might be tempted.” There is rumour that Paris St Germain might be that club.

wiel hidd

Van der Wiel is most likely on his way to AC Milan. The Italian behemoth is looking at re-establishing themselves and hope to get Zlatan back to the fashion capital. Jordy Clasie is ready to move away from Feyenoord and both AS Roma and Southampton seem to be the most likely candidates for him. Sneijder has a solid contract in Istanbul, where he makes 6 Mio euros per season and lives like a movie star in a penthouse overlooking the Bosporus. He will play CL next season and any board member at Galatasaray suggesting to sell the midfielder might want to hire some bodyguards. But… it’s football. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is tempted to play in the EPL for once. Liverpool could be a candidate. Wijnaldum is another player whose name is on many scouting lists. He had a good World Cup and this last goal will definitely help his status. I think Narsingh will be happy to stay at PSV, but Promes and Lens are both in demand. Lens would love to join Advocaat at Sunderland while Promes might have different clubs to choose from. Robin van Persie is a question mark. The 31 year old is probably too old to make a big transfer although AC Milan and Juventus are mentioned through the grapevine as well. In an interview recently he said that his family’s needs will be very important in his next step. And from more recent quips it seems that the Man United striker might stay at Old Trafford and battle for his position.

hunter jetro

Steven Berghuis is almost certainly on his way from AZ to PSV which might bring more pressure on Narsingh, as Jozefzoon is also an option for Phillip Cocu on the right flank. Leroy Fer got relegated with QPR but is too expensive for the Championship and might be on his way, finally, to Everton. Karim Rekik might either be loaned by Man City to a club in France or Italy or he will be sold to PSV. Ron Vlaar is at the point in his career that any offer from a big club will be appreciated… The veteran defender is injury prone and will not yield a return from an onsell, so it is questionable whether a big name club will actually come for him. This is different for Virgil van Dijk at Celtic who actually has the clubs to pick from. Sunderland, Arsenal, Southampton… which ever it will be, it seems Van Dijk will play EPL football next season and will aim for a spot in the orange jersey.

Lastly, it seems the keepers carrousel will commence soon too, with De Gea moving to Real Madrid and Cillesen being touted as a potential successor. Interestingly enough, people close to Van Gaal say it is a nonsense story.

Sorry guys I could not find a decent video of highlights….

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End of Season Update

After some weeks of frantically following all that happened in the Eredivisie, the EPL, the Champions League and the Oranje shenanigans it is finally time for me to write my post.

It was quite a disappointing end of the season for a Feyenoord fan, as you can imagine. In the three seasons Ronald Koeman (incl Janmaat, Clasie, De Vrij, Pelle) one would expect at least one shot at the title. But every season it was the same old song. Lack of clarity who would come to the club. CL qualifications failing due to this issue. Hardly any width in the squad and when the going got tough, the Feyenoord players let themselves down.

This season saw Rutten come to the club, because he “is so good with young players”. The poor coach had to start without a number of internationals (Martins Indi, De Vrij, Janmaat, Pelle, while Ruud Vormer – the ideal no. 12 left as well). The players who took the spots of these internationals are either very young (Nelom, Karsdorp, Kongolo, Van Beek) or transfer free gambles ( Kazim Richards, Boulahrouz, Wilshere).

gio fey

New Feyenoord coach Gio van Bronckhorst

The best deal Feyenoord did was signing Ken Vermeer. With Clasie and El Ahmadi (returning from Aston Villa), one of few top players. Richards was never able to do what Pelle did: score a lot of important goals, while his cooperation with Immers wasn’t great either. Immers scored 12 goals last season and got stuck on 4 this season. Not enough for a number 10. Add to that the fact that “talent coach” Rutten couldn’t get Vilhena and Boetius to perform and a crisis was in the making.

Rutten saw the signs when technical director Martin van Geel refused to sign midfielder Cherry from Groningen in the winter break. “Why sign Cherry when you have Vilhena??”

And Rutten didn’t see enough future in Rotterdam and decided to leave the club. This message further deflated the young group and the youngsters clearly were out of steam at the end of the season. Where the #2 spot seemed possible in March, the once famous and rich club fell back to the #4 spot and lost out against Heerenveen in the play-offs.

My 2cents: it’s probably best that this happened. Young gun Gio van Bronckhorst can now focus on the season in the league and the national cup. Make no mistake: winning the cup is the shortest route to European football and is also definitely a top trophy.

With Kuyt returning to the Kuip Stadium and hopefully some good replacements for the departing Clasie (I fear) and Immers (I hope) and Gio giving the young Vilhena and Boetius some TLC we might see Feyenoord on the way back. Next season: the national cup, then the next season: #2 and the season after that: the Title :-).


De Boer disgusted when Ajax loses against relegated Dordrecht….

The issues in Amsterdam are quite different. Frank de Boer also does not have a very strong squad. Probably, the worst and most boring Ajax ever. There is definitely talent in Amsterdam but the team lacks leadership. De Boer aims to resolve this by signing Nemanji Gudelj. An impressive player. Already on the radar when at NAC but Ajax decided to let AZ develop him more and is now paying a lot more for him. But he does seem the finished product: good leadership in midfield, tremendous shot and free kick in his feet, great mentality, wonderful lungs and legs and a body equiped for midfield duels! With Fisher returning to the team and potentially Rafa van der Vaart returning as striker and Ajax might have quite an impressive line up. The ax of the team might sound thus: Cillesen, Veltman/Viergever, Gudelj, Van der Vaart. Not bad. With Klaassen and Bazour and Fisher and Kishna/El Gazi on the flanks, surely the Ajax fans should be entertained.

The problems in Amsterdam however, are more off-pitch. The lack of clarity between the youth camp (Wim Jonk) and the Ajax 1 management (De Boer, Bergkamp) and the lack of clarity in the hierarchy of the club. Marc Overmars vs the “technical triangle” as JC likes to call it. When I hear that “El Salvador” needs to fly from Barcelona to Amsterdam to help the club find its way, I can’t help but cringe. Johan Cruyff knows how to do it. But this is the problem. He is not doing it. He is merely telling the peeps in Amsterdam how he thinks it should be done, but then leaves and with that, he leaves a lot of questions. Seagull management, they call it. He comes down from high up, makes a lot of noise, and when he leaves again, he leaves a lot of shit, hahahaha.


Orlando Trustfull as Ajax’ youth coach

Orlando Trustfull left Ajax last season, when some guru there decided that youth coaches do not longer train one team. The new mantra was: a coach switches teams every 6 weeks. Trustfull immediately resigned: “I cannot instill my vision into a team for 6 weeks and then move on to the next team.” And he left to work for the Oranje youth teams. Frank de Boer got Orlando back. The former Feyenoord playmaker is seen as one of Holland’s best coaches, tactically mainly, and is brought in to support Frank de Boer in instilling a forward pressuring playing style into the first team. Timing, pace, coordination, reading the game, etc. And with Bergkamp and Spijkerman not keen to follow in Frank de Boer’s shoes, it is highly likely that Trustfull with be the successor to De Boer at Ajax once Frank leaves for greener pastures.

Congrats to PSV of course. It was about time though. Marcel Brands was capable of developing a number of strong teams over the last years and was not successful when he had the likes of Mertens, Strootman and Van Bommel in his team, under Advocaat. Depay, being the best player in the Eredivisie, supported by Luuk de Jong, Wijnaldum, Guardado and Willems made it happen. From Day 1, PSV was the team in form. Motivated, focused and professional. Not always with exciting football, but definitely with effective football.


Jurgen Streppel, best coach of the Eredivisie?

As per usual, coaches like Rutten and Cocu were nominated for Coach of the Year (the Rinus Michels Trophy). Cocu I can relate to, he won the title. But there were other coaches in Holland doing much better than both. How ’bout John van den Brom? Winning 3rd place coming into AZ when there was trouble. The season had started. Van Basten had health issues and decided to take a step back into assistant coach role. Alex Pastoor was supposed to become the head coach but somehow was not deemed fit and was pushed out. Van den Brom played very good football with the likes of Gudelj and Berghuis and got European football. Van der Looij and Ron Jans got to the cup final. Van der Looij’s Groningen won it, but Jans got their for the second time in a row with Zwolle. Not bad! Or Marinus Dijkhuizen with Excelsior? Or Jurgen Streppel with Willem II. I think it is harder to do what Streppel did with Willem II then Mourinho with Chelsea or Pep with Bayern.

Even Ruud Brood wasn’t nominated. The NEC coach was able to promote back to the Eredivisie immediately, winning practically all his games, totalling more than 100 points… A record in The Netherlands. Brood got his promotion in the form of the assistant coach job under Philip Cocu and will assist the former Barca skipper when PSV enters the CL next season. Dijkhuizen makes a move to the English Championship, to Brentford. Fred Rutten will most likely move to his beloved but technically bankrupt FC Twente.

Speaking of Barca: there are quite some ex Barca professionals successful in the different leagues: Blanc in France with PSG, Pep in Germany of course, Philip Cocu #1 in Holland, with Frank de Boer #2, Mourinho (assistant to LVG) winning the EPL with Chelsea, Luis Enrique winning it in Spain while LVG secured CL football with ManU and Koeman secured Europa League with Southampton. Nice record.

And with the different competitions coming to an end, fittingly for all things FIFA/UEFA, Oranje has to play a qualification game some 3 weeks after the end of the season. The US is waiting for a friendly and then it’s Lithuania. Guus Hiddink took the opportunity in those weeks ahead of the games to test some young talents that made an impression earlier. Twente midfielder Ziyech, Groningen midfielder Cherry, AZ maverick Berghuis and Vitesse icon Davey Propper were part of the prelim selection. Hakim Ziyech had to leave with an ankle injury. By now, Jeroen Zoet (PSV) and Leroy Fer (lacking fitness) were sent home again. AC Milan destroyer Nigel de Jong is also not needed. Hiddink: “Nigel was a key player in Brazil but against the US and Lithuania we are looking for a different style player and we decided to let Nigel go.”

ziyech nistel

Former Heerenveen midfielder Ziyech with former Heerenveen striker and assistant team manager Van Nistelrooy

With De Jong, you never know. If Oranje gets a group at the Euros with Germany, Spain and Italy, Hiddink might want to use the beast in midfield but I am personally happy to see Clasie or Blind play in that position. Coach Guus has used the time to play and practice behind closed doors with his limited squad. Obviously, the play off players were not yet part of the squad, just like Sneijder and Lens will come to the squad after their obligations for their clubs. Ibi Afellay, his on Hiddink’s list of fave players, will not make the squad this time. Hiddink: “What can I do? He has not played for three months. He wasn’t even part of the squad. He is 29 years old and it will be important for him to find a club and coach that understand him. Returning to PSV? It’s an option but those come-backs don’t always work well. With Cocu, it did. Van Bommel did well too. But we have seen too many examples where it doesn’t work and you don’t wish that upon any player.”

The injured Ziyech can be seen as the most valuable player of the Dutch competition. The former Heerenveen midfielder was one of the few players at FC Twente, in deep doodoo, that impressed. He scored 13 goals, as a midfielder, and had 16 assists!! Not bad. I don’t think Ziyech will stay at Twente this summer. Feyenoord had a chance to sign him last summer but passed. It is not unlikely that he’ll go to PSV, in particular if Wijnaldum follows Depay to the exit.


At the same time, Jetro Willems told the media he is ready for a next step. This is code for “I am going”. And he is correct. He started playing for PSV at 17 years old in the Eredivisie in the 2012 season and took the left back spot in Oranje at the Euros 2012 after Pieters got injured. He has 3 seasons behind him at the highest level in Holland and had a cracker season, with a good number of assists. Willems probably has the best left foot in the land… He doesn’t mind spending another season in Eindhoven, playing Champions League football but I predict a big future for him and if Man City, PSG, Barca or Liverpool come for him, he is gone. That is the level he will end up, for sure.


Rafa helped save Hamburg but killed the coach in the process…

Last but not least: Rafael van der Vaart retained his hero status in Hamburg, captaining HSV in their last game to keep their spot in the Bundesliga. It took penalty kicks for the Hamburgers to stay up and Rafa played his last game and did so for the full 90 minutes. The midfielder will leave Hamburg and will announce his new club soon. I am not sure Ajax will have a chance, as the Heemskerk born wizard wants to continue his adventure abroad.

This is the Season Summary for me. Soon back with Oranje news!!


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