Tag: Spain

Oranje simply not up to it

The cliche “men versus boys” has been used here a lot. In the past. And how I hoped that would remain a thing of the past.

But the games versus Croatia and Italy have yet again demonstrated where we go wrong. Again.

And I wonder who or what is going to change this!

The System

Lets start this two-match review with the obvious: some people claim that due to the losses and the conceded goals we will need to consider a switch back to the 5-3-2 of van Gaal.

One photo will show you why this is nonsense.










As one can see: we had enough defenders in the box (5!). It’s not about the number of defenders. It’s about how the defenders defend and about what they do.

Combine this insight with the fact we conceded two downright idotic penalties versus Croatia and the analysis is done: stupidity, complacency and laziness.

Gakpo trying to turn the best midfielder of the past decade on the edge of his own box. Gakpo losing the ball and then trying to pick up the little maestro from the back (and what… bring him to the kids’ stands??)…. And late in the match, Malacia with a lunge in the box. I mean, a rush of blood to the head of course but I could accept the explanation of Malacia: only minutes left to score a goal and we needed the ball so I took a risk. And failed. But either way: two cheap penalties and very unnecessary.

The Croatie second goal was a typical example of alibi defending. Or pseudo defending.  Making people believe you’re doing what you can. Dumfries, in this case not putting any pressure on the ball and staying at 1,5 yards from the forward. In his own box! That is not something you see Croatian or Italian defenders do. And Ake, Virgil and Koopmeiners all looking at each other. Typically something that happens even more with a 5 at the back system.









Not enough pressure on the ball. No communication. Ake can see it all happening in front of him,

Versus Italy, same old same old. Two early goals because no one really defends! No one attacks the ball, no one clears the ball, no one puts pressure on the ball and the key forwards who should track back to cover the Italian wing backs: absent!










Dimarco gets time and time from Malen and his defender mates were not able to recognise or communicate the danger to him. Where is a screaming Frank de Boer when you need him?

We didn’t lose because of the system

The quality of the players

I think we all know we have a lot of players who can play some neat, nifty football. Xavi Simons, Noa Lang, Donny Malen, Joey Veerman, Frenkie, all gifted players. But tenacity, leadership, personality and mentality are also part of the complete package of qualities a player requires.

And we lacked it. Again. We did see some good moves, we did see some decent actions and at times we played some nice football. Sure. But it’s about when things don’t go your way. When the opponent finds spaces where you didn’t expect it. When team mates get sloppy.

The quality we need then, is not the step-over of Noa Lang, the shimmy of Frenkie or the dribble of Xavi. We need the leadership of a Roy Keane. The big mouth of Gatuso. The piercing look of Mark van Bommel. I can fully understand that Wieffer, Geetruida, Dumfries and Lang are not the players to demonstrate this part of the game.














But Virgil. Nathan Ake (treble winner!), Frenkie de Jong ( skipper at Barca) and Koopmeiners should do more in this domain. Captain Van Dijk should be in Malen’s face, if he doesn’t track back! Frenkie should be ready to make the tactical switches where need be.

It’s all too sweet. We’re too friendly. We play too many card games at training camp and we focus too much on funny youtube clips with quizes, or raps with cigars and fashion shoots.

Mentality, commitment, leadership

And these are the elements that are missing. Some players came to the Nations League final round complaining that the season was too long and if we don’t win versus Croatia, we can’t be bothered to play the Losers Finals. Koeman should have sent these players home!

If you can’t get inspired for a football game, not hoping the coach will do it for you, then you have nothing to do in an orange jersey.

Every single player of Spain, Croatia and Italy has had a long and tough season! Man up!

We believe we are great football players. But we are only great on the ball. And not great. Above average. And we suck in the mental department.

And this is not something we fix by changing systems.

The Coach

I never believe in getting a coach back for a second stint. It was a success with Michels and Oranje, ok. But not in any other instance. Mourinho at Chelsea. Van Marwijk at Feyenoord. Van Gaal at Barcelona. Van Gaal with the Oranje/Ajax contingent in 2000.












There is a sense of “comfort”, working with a coach you know. Whenever a coach says it feels like coming home, you know you’re in trouble. It shouldn’t feel like home.

Why pick Koeman again? Because it worked so well before? Well…. did it? He bailed before the Euros. Not really a success. So in my book, a big cross should have gone through his name.

Peter Bosz was available. Just sayin’.

Koeman has end responsibility and he needs to get his players mentally ready for a match or send the ones that can’t be bothered home. And when Malen doesn’t track back twice in 15 mins and we get hammered twice: immediately sub the dude. Show grit. Show courage.

Just like our team wasn’t able to show courage versus Croatia, our coach lacked courage in his choices.

The Future

I do believe the youngsters we see in Orange will grow into good solid players for the team: Wieffer, Veerman, Geertruida, Simons and even Malen, Gakpo and Lang are still youngsters, compared to Blind, Van Dijk and Memphis. We need to give them a chance.

But we need to give Botman, Frimpong, Schouten, Dallinga and Spierings a chance too.

Bijlow was not 100% top, but was only really at fault with that third Croatia goal. It wasn’t an easy one, but it was stoppable.











A back line with Ake and Botman, De Ligt and Frimpong should work. Or Malacia, Ake, De Ligt, Frimpong.

A midfield with Veerman, Frenkie and Wieffer should work. A forward line with Lang, Gakpo and Malen should work. We do have enough quality on the ball. But we need to turn it into a team and we need to wise up really quickly now and start switching that button on in their heads.

Playing for Oranje is not a summer camp outing after a tough season at the club.

It’s do or die now.


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Louis van Gaal interview

Louis van Gaal has announced his definitive squad for the coming two matches. He selected 28 players.

Why this big squad for the upcoming matches?

LvG: “For me, the World Cup preparation starts now. And apart from the fact that I want to see many players and test players, I also want to start implementing a new system. I remind you that in 2014, we were able to do this, but just. We had to grow into it, during the tournament and it was not ideal. Back then, i had 5 weeks (…) prior to the tournament to do this. Now, I will only have 1 week before the start of the World Cup. So I will need to start now.”

So these Oranje weeks are more about the new system than the matches?

“Correct. Usually, it’s two matches as a main course and the days around it, you practice. I see this differently. I now have a period to work on the new system and we’ll have two interruptions, two games, in between.”

Jordan Teze is a remarkable name. How did you come up with him?

“Well, as you will know, he plays for PSV. He is Dutch. So we follow him. Like we follow many players. And with De Vrij injured, we need some alternatives. Teze is a young player, with an outstanding build up pass. That is how he caught our eye. And that forward pass is important and it’s quite rare to see. He moved from right winger, to right back and now he plays centrally. That experience will be handy for him.”

And Hateboer is back.

“Initially, we wanted to test Frimpong. He is totally new for the group. But he got injured. Hateboer is not new, we know him, he’s an international already but lost his spot due to his injury woes. But he’s playing at Atalanta again, so it felt like a good time to call him back in.”

Denmark and Germany. Two top nations. What do you expect from them?

“I expect that they will be playing at our level, at the least. So we know there is intensity and pressure. They will defend on the front foot and we have not played those type of opponents. It will be great for the fans to see these games. I expect two full stadiums. Great opponents and Denmark has had a tremendous couple of years, Denmark qualified without dropping points and I hope the fans will want to be part of this process.”

Can we expect surprises these games?

“Yes, I think I will have surprises in the line up and in the way we play. Our spirit, but also our system.”

There was also time for some fan questions.

How is your hip doing?

“Thanks for that. I’m doing well. It was a 6 to 8 week thing. I had a tear in my hip, but it was super painful when it happened and I was not allowed to take painkillers, as I had to coach the team the next day. But it was really painful.”

How was it to be back as coach for Oranje?

“I was a bit reluctant and hesitant. There simply wasn’t anyone with the same skills and experience as me. I didn’t do it because I really wanted to. We were also two points behind, we had three big matches in that week and I expected not to be able to add much to it, in the first weeks. But I was wrong, because this is a super group, with a great commitment and maturity. The team spirit is amazing and that is just a joy for any coach.”

What changed since the 2014 campaign?

“Not much. My football vision has never changed. Same in 2012, or 2000 or in 1995. It’s just that the players are different and the generations are different. You cannot be a dictator these days. In the olden days, coaches like Michels were totally authoritarian. And another thing, at Ajax, we always worked from the perspective of “We are the Best!”. But clearly, when you play higher and higher you cannot expect to win all the time. At Barcelona I once played a match versus Valencia. The Valencia of Ranieri. We were 3-0 up in the first half.  And we kept on attacking, so we lost that match 4-3. That was a lesson! And we used this too last time vs Norway. We decided to play fully on result and we were able to manage the game and kill the game.”

How is it for you to work with these young players?

“Actually, it’s great. Working with young players keeps you young. And this group actually triggers me, inspires me. More so than the 2012 or the 2000 squad. They think football, they use analytics, they discuss tactics and ask me questions. That is quite good actually and it keeps me on my toes. And it’s fun. I always look forward to working with them.”

If you had to pick a player from the current generation who is most like you as a player…?

“I was a so-called defensive mid, but I wasn’t. I didn’t defend too well. I was a deep lying playmaker. I could dribble if I wanted to, but I lacked speed. So passing was my thing. And I saw the game well. Of the current squad, I think I resemble Teun Koopmeiners most. He also is comfortable in the deep lying role and his passing ability and vision are great. He is capable to play passes through the lines and he skips lines with his passes. He’s now also more an attacking midfielder, as he does have more speed than I had, hahaha.”

Which coach inspired you most?

“That was Rinus Michels. I was around 14 years old and Michels was coach at Ajax. I was playing but I always went straight to the Ajax training after school. I wanted to see him coaching the team. And I also went the same trajectory as him. I went to study for a physical ed teacher and I got my coaching diploma like him. It’s cool that I too now have coached Ajax, Barca and Oranje, like him.”

Do you have any hobbies outside of football?

“Tennis, golf and playing cards. I love klaverjassen and kingen. Loving my wife is also a hobby of mine. I am never bored.”

What was your favorite Oranje match, as coach?

“That has to be our first match at the World Cup in Brazil, the win over Spain. Spain was World Champion and hardly lost games. The media in Holland wrote “why does Oranje even go to the World Cup??” and we created a plan and the players executed it perfectly and we won: 1-5. That was a big shock to the global football world.”

What do you think of the Nations League?

“It’s a competitive tournament, so that is good. And I see it as a good prep for the World Cup. We hardly have any prep time. So I will use the games to test different players. But playing against Belgium is top. Poland is also a tough opponent. We have amazing opponents, Wales is also not easy.”

What kind of music do you listen to?

“I guess soft-pop, would be the term.  Music from the 60s and 70s, I suppose. The era of the best music. What the kids listen to now, that shrill type of pop beats, I don’t like it. Why would I try to listen to new music, when I know I have heard the best music already.”

Which player is the best young player you ever coached?

“I need to mention Clarence Seedorf here. He was 16 when he made his debut with me and he has won the most prizes internationally. But the ultimate are either Xavi or Iniesta. They were 17 and 18 when they made their debut. They were even better than Seedorf.”

Will we win the World Cup this time?

“I will never say this before hand. But what I can say, is that the Best Team will win. And I will do what I can to make us the Best Team. And then a bit of luck. It’s not the best individuals, but the best team.”

Sadly, I wasn’t able to ask my questions:

Where is Rick Karsdorp ??

“Well, Mourinho loves him. And I loathe Mourinho. So, there is that. Rick is also a Feyenoord lad. So that doesn’t work in his favour. And he might roll his eyes at me. So there.”




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Oranje licking wounds preparing for Spain

As per usual, I found myself in decent company. Both Dutch football gurus Van Hanegem and Cruyff lamented Hiddink’s line up choices after the game vs Turkey. Both legends of the game and former success coaches felt the midfield set up was wanting, with the slower build up in the hands feet of Nigel de Jong and Martins Indi while Afellay was out of place as right winger and Wijnaldum got choked up in the masses around the Turkey box.

You need quick feet, decisive passing and good running patterns to break down a team like Turkey. Clasie has that in spades. Klaassen offers you the penetration options and with Promes and Narsingh you have real right wingers…so why not use them? Van Hanegem went a step further and implied that in his line up Blind would have started on the bench, with Willems on the left back spot. “Willems has the best left foot in Dutch football, so if you want to service Huntelaar, you’d want to use him.” Both Cruyff and De Kromme felt that too many passes went from defence (Martins Indi) to De Jong (midfield) and back. “If you play like this, the player in midfield is always with his back to the opponent’s box. What can he do? He needs to get the ball in his feet while facing the goal. The way to do this is to play the ball to the forwards, who pass it back into the feet of the penetrating midfielders. Martins Indi and De Jong won’t play those passes.”


Klaassen and Janmaat

Cruyff also mentioned Klaassen in particular, who – in JC’s vision – has the right skills and positionings smarts the team needs.

Cruyff felt it was a chore to watch the team play.

Now, I have to be frank with you. I wrote my earlier post without having had a chance to see the game. I have now watched the game in its entirety and what I am about to tell you will shock you:

It was NOT that bad.

Yes, Martins Indi and De Jong are not the right guys for the build up. I agree. Like I said, I would have been comfortable to use Veltman instead of Martins Indi or even Daley Blind as center back. I like Willems a lot and would have loved to have played him. And Clasie in place of De Jong. All that is a given.

But despite this, the team was focused, worked well and tried hard to get something happening against a sturdy and tough defending Turkey. We might not have had many open chances but I did count a number of good distance strikes from Sneijder (one free kick that would have been out of reach of the goalie), a pretty decent early chance for Depay, a shooting opportunity for Depay later on in the first 30 minutes…. Then we had that flick by De Vrij, scooped away by the goalie. There was a distance strike from Afellay that deserved better. That weird Narsingh flunked chance and Willems with an inside foot riser. And after the 1-1, Depay even had the opportunity to kill the game for us but missed.


Narsingh should have scored

The team kept the field wide. Dost did what he could to lay off balls. Blind and De Vrij played very decent. And Sneijder took his responsibility. Wijnaldum and Afellay were poor but I blame Hiddink partly for this, as Afellay should not have to play right wing.

In my view, there are two major causes for this performance:

1. The inheritance of the World Cup 2014

Oranje had a dominant leader in the last two years. Van Gaal moulded and fabricated a system and pushed the squad into that mould in weeks on end, before we started the World Cup. In dominant LVG style. After the World Cup, a number of things happened that had a tremendous effect. 1) Van Gaal left and with him the dominant in your face mentality, and 2) Hiddink came… a relaxed grandfather type laissez-fair coach. 3) opponents were/are extra motivated to play us as we were the #3 in the world. 4) Hiddink wants to or was told to go back to a more Dutch style 4-3-3 system and 5) key players were injured at key moments or players were distracted in the early stages of the season due to their moves to bigger clubs ( Porto, Lazio Roma, Man United, Newcastle United).

2. The tactical mistakes of Guus Hiddink

The KNVB decided to hang on to Danny Blind for the future, the LVG adept, but with Guus Hiddink as his mentor. Hiddink, being a totally different coach than Van Gaal (and Blind). Literally, the opposite on the spectrum. And Hiddink was given the task to let Oranje play more “Dutch school”.  So Guus goes 4-3-3 but everyone knows Guus is conservative, so he decided to use a midfielder as winger and destroyer Nigel de Jong as dreh-und-angel punkt as the Germans call it. The pivot. Wrong wrong wrong. You want Huntelaar to get service and you use two wingers who will drift inside and go for glory….


Memphis on the radar of Man United and Man City

This Oranje has been wounded from the first game. There is no real system, no automatisms in the team. The flow is gone as there is no real game plan and the players don’t fit the team tasks. And if you see the look on Blind’s face on the bench next to Hiddink you know enough…. Where is the pleasure, where is the football smarts?

Afellay is not really doing well in Greece. Martins Indi lost his spot in Portugal. Nigel de Jong has a dramatic season with AC Milan…. They are all big names, but the names don’t correspond with form. Why not Veltman? Or even Van Beek? Bazoer? Klaassen? Clasie?

The game against Spain will be an interesting one. If there is one team in the world with a game plan and clarity in how they play it is Spain. And they’re opposing a team that is drifting and swirling. In that game, Del Bosque says his team is not out looking for revenge. He might be truthful: “We just want to play a good game of football.” I do hope Hiddink’s lads are out for revenge though. On themselves. Hiddink has already mentioned he will rest a number of players. And according to the newspapers, we’ll see the likes of Janmaat, Promes, De Guzman and Klaassen come in. Huh?

opstelling spain

Not a midfield I have a lot of faith in, to be honest

What good will that do? I think it is wrong. Against Spain, in a friendly, you need to test your preferred starting line up, or at least your defence. These lads will be tested. Against Turkey, who park the bus, you want quick young feet (Klaassen, Clasie) and against Spain you want a destroyer like Nigel de Jong! Not the other way around? Promes would have been good against Turkey. Against Spain, that might be a bit much for a youngster like him. De Guzman on the holding mid spot is also not what I’d like to see. Use De Guzman on no. 10, but please play Blind as holding mid, Guus, and use Willems as left back.

I would also like to see Vermeer in the goal, or Krul. Time for the goalies to do some rotating.

The Spain game only makes sense if we use it to get better. Just throwing the B-team in front of the train will not do us any good!

I’d like to know what the game plan is against Spain. Win? Win in any way possible? Or play 4-3-3 Dutch style and win? Or practice certain patterns and who cares about the result? Or let young players experience a big game? What is the objective of this game?

Maybe we need to play this guy below as the striker?

guus balt

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Match Preview Spain – Oranje: Tapas time!!!

This is to tell you a bit about our first opponent, Spain.

Spain is a country in the south-west of ….of screw it!! You know who they are! Where they are! What they are! What they can do!

Hell, we taught them all they know… The likes of Michels, Cruyff, Beenhakker, Metgod, Hiddink, Neeskens, Koeman, Muller, Witschge, Cocu, De Boer, Afellay!!

The whole tiki-taka is a Dutch abbreviation of tik tak football. We say in Dutch “tik tak” if we mean pass and play. Tiki Taka is probably Cruyff’s way of explaining things in Spanish.

So Real Madrid was this powerhouse in the 50s and 60s and in the 1970s Barca tried to take the reign and for a long time they did very well in Europe with their clubs. Real, Barca, Sociedad, Valencia, Deportivo…. But the Spanish national team never really set the world on fire, like Uruguay, Hungary, England, Holland, Brazil and Germany did… They won the first European Championship in 1964 and repeated that consecutively in 2008 and 2012, which is quite good. But in World Cup terms, they were chokers. In 1982, they hosted the Cup but failed to impress under coach Santamaria. They were knocked out in the second round. They did fair much better in 1986 or 1994. In the 2002 World Cup, one could have expected Spain to beat South Korea but in a controversial match, South Korea beat the Spaniards on penalties.


Some people believe Luis Aragones was the inventor of tiki taka and it originated purely because in the mid naughties, Spain had a suspect defence. And the ball in possession in midfield strategy meant the defence would not be put under much pressure… We know better. Johan Cruyff and later Louis van Gaal will have done more for Spanish football than Aragones and the use of two former JC proteges as Barca coaches ( Rijkaard and Guardiola) will have added to this.

Historically, Spain always produced good players. Every generation had at least a number of above average lads although Barca and Real tended to find their star performers across the border. From Puskas and Di Stefano to Cruyff, Neeskens and Laudrup, to C Ronaldo and Bale to Messi and Neymar, but the Spanish squad currently is overflowing with talent and quality. The youngsters keep on going (not unlike the Dutch development) and this is probably the biggest issue coach Del Bosque has. Will he go for the more experienced lads that got him the two recent titles (2010 and 2012) or will he break down the existing hierarchy – like Van Gaal was forced to do – and select some young turks to keep the team fresh.

There is a risk in both scenarios and we will see what the man comes up with.

oranje jesus

I think we will see Del Bosque play with Cesc as false striker. Iniesta and Villa from the flanks. I wouldn’t be surprised if Xavi starts on the bench, with Xabi Alonso centrally with Busquets and David Silva in midfield. A defence of Alba, Juanfran, Pique and Sergio Ramos. Although Javi Hernandez might get the nod over Pique. And I think Van Gaal will be playing 4-5-1 when Spain has possession and 4-1-4-1 in possession. I also believe we’ll see Clasie in our line up, as the little Xavi from Rotterdam has the feet to match the combination play in the tight spaces of Spain.

What can one say about this Spanish side. Oozing quality. Unbelievable quality. Mata, Corzola, Silva, Torres, Hernandez…just some names of players who might not even play. And then there is Michu and Isco who were left at home. To name a few players.

oranje salvador

Spanish media have tried to create unrest in the Dutch team with stories of Oranje players living it up in the Rio night life. And claiming that Dirk Kuyt was actually involved in that. This rumour didn’t stick. If it was Depay, Fer and Wijnaldum one could have believed it but Kuyt and Robben would be the last players you’d expect to samba the night away :-). Van Gaal laughed it off.

Still, Holland’s golden triangle of Robben, Robin and Wes is seriously feared in Spain. And with reason.

I believe Holland will beat them with a shock 3-0 scoreline. Why? Because Spain is tired. And a little bit lacking desire. Real desire. Most of the players had a big season, with most even playing the CL finals. As C Ronaldo, Reus, Wellbeck and Van der Vaart can testify: the international football calendar is long. Spain doesn’t want to be put to the test this first game. They like to start a little bit relaxed. The big guns want to keep their powder dry. But Holland might only have 3 games to shine and Holland will be super ambitious and driven in that first game. Spain might see Holland as a nasty mosquito on their way to bigger game. While Holland will view the first game vs Spain as the finals!

So we will go out there and chase them all over the park from the first second and Spain won’t know what hurt them. I predict a goal in the first 20 minutes, with Arjen Robben being involved. I foresee a second goal before half time with Van Persie involved. And when Spain fights back with Costa in the second half, it will be a cool counter attack led by Sneijder allowing Oranje to finish Spain off! Just my feeling. And as I am the blog king here, I can delete this forecast during the game if things turn sour.

The ref is Italian. If I’m not mistaken, none of the Spanish players have a history in the Serie A. In the Dutch team, both Sneijder and De Jong have played in Italy and have encountered Rizzoli and speak the language. Could be a plus.


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Does Van Gaal have an ace up his sleeve?

The temperature is rising, for sure. Not just in Rio (or Salvador) but definitely also in Holland and in Australia!!

You can almost touch the ball and smell the grass now..

And the question on everybody’s mind (in the Holland Camp) is: does Louis have a trick up his sleeve?

The tactically astute coach was clear in the press conference. “It takes something special to beat Spain. They have experience and quality on every single position. It is naive to say that we are as good. But we can still beat them. It will take something special but I am brooding on a little surprise for them.” Spain played some friendlies recently without a real number 9 (as Costa was also injured) but with Cesc playing as a false striker. Although it seems Diego Costa will be ready for Holland, Van Gaal seriously considers the fact that Spain might play without a striker. And he is planning accordingly. During training, in the last week, Oranje was seen playing with Clasie and De Guzman in midfield. De Jong and De Guzman played the more forward roles, with Clasie sitting just in front of the defence as the deeplying playmaker.

LVG Rio training

Robin van Persie declared he has not been pain free for 6 years. The groin issue he had was a bit overplayed in the media. Van Persie doesn’t even call it an injury. The Rotterdam born striker wants to be 100% ready for Spain and is looking to play an important role against the reigning champs.

The circumstances in Salvador and the other playing cities for Holland appear to offer Oranje Dutch weather. The last practice was witnessed by ex Oranje players like Van Nistelrooy and Aron Winter, while also Roberto Martinez, Everton coach, was present. They saw Clasie make the play from the mid circle with De Guzman and De Jong pressing up. They saw Blind, Janmaat, Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder finish in the box. Sneijder in particular was very impressive, with most distance strikes finding the net and most free kicks hitting the target.


Sneijder seems ready for Spain. The little general had a special week. For starters, he made it clear to all the doubters that he is back. Then he is about to play his 100st international game for Oranje. And he reached the age of 30. “Wonderful milestones, of course. But if we don’t win against Spain, I still won’t be happy. Those milestones are not that important compared to results. And we might not have a squad like Spain or Brazil, but we have quality and if we play our cards right, play tight and manage the turn around well, we can hurt them.”
Sneijder scored twice against Brazil in 2010 and is a famous face in Rio. The Brazil supporters and locals immediately recognise the “little one” as he is nicknamed here. “They are friendly. They mean well. They sell, cheer and wave to us. That is all fun.” Sneijder has a clear opinion about the 5-3-2. “What do you mean it is un-Dutch? That is ridiculous. We will play with eleven. And Dutch football is more than just playing with wingers. We play high paced circulation, forward pressing, using the flanks to attack… That is more than simply a system. I don’t follow all those debates. What counts for me is winning. And if the coach believes 5-3-2 is the way to go, then that is what we do. Simple.”

Nigel traininb

Asked about his status in Oranje. “I am not longer the captain. But I am still a leader. I think that is something you bring onto the pitch, with or without the band. Arjen has that too, and Nigel has it. We have many great personalities and you don’t have to be loud to be a leader. Someone like Fer commands respect with the way he can play and if you are marked by Martins Indi, trust me, you do check your back regularly. He can be a beast. The team spirit is wonderful. It’s much much better than in 2012 and I will protect it where I can. It’s important at this stage and that is something I know from experience.” Sneijder is starting his sixth big tournament with Oranje. “When I was 21 years old, I thought 30 year old players were old, hahahaha. Some of them retired after turning 30. But I feel so young still. I will play on for at least another 5 years and I intend to be present in 4 years again. You better get used to the idea.”

nigel de jong

Nigel de Jong is ready too. Of course. And he knows his karate kick in the chest of Xabi will be mentioned and shown ad nauseum these coming days. “I really don’t care about my reputation. People will talk about you. My coaches are the ones that need to judge me on my performance and contribution. I have always been appreciated by my mates. That is key. I do not feel the need to defend myself for what I do. Whether you think I’m an asshole or a hero, I don’t give a shit.”

Janmaat (24) and Clasie (22) were both informed in the Feyenoord youth it was better for them to leave. Now, both are most likely starting at their first World Cup. “We are both examples that believing in yourself and never giving up does pay dividends.” The youthful fans with their Panini books can count on the patient signing by Janmaat and Clasie. Not that long ago, both players were also keen in collecting signatures of big name players. Janmaat indeed left Feyenoord, only to return after stints with ADO Den Haag and Heerenveen. Clasie refused to go. “A career can be made or broken by one or two decisions. Bad ones or good ones. It’s important to find the right coach at the right time. Alex Pastoor was key for me at Excelsior when I played there on loan.”

janmaat jordy

It seems that Janmaat is more and more becoming a trump player in Van Gaal’s deck. The right back is playing like a winger and has an impressive number of assists to his name. In particular his partnership with Van Persie works well. A transfer to Man United might be looming for the The Hague born player. Clasie admits to having to pinch himself at times. “I can sit in my hotel room and realising I am actually at a World Cup with Oranje. When I was little I was so busy supporting the Oranje players and now I am one of them.” And it was even four years ago when Oranje reached the finals and Clasie was just out on loan to Excelsior. Daryl Janmaat expected to play a Euro Tournament with Young Oranje but was one of the last players to be exited from the list. “I remember thinking that that might have been my only chance to play a bit tournament, hahaha. Interesting how life works.”

Jasper Cillesen is clearly Oranje’s number 1. Not all the fans are won over yet. Krul seems to have more experience, plays in a bigger league, is taller and seems to be much better with his feet. Van Gaal said about the topic: “Vermeer is the man with the best profile to be Oranje’s goalie, but Cillesen is simply the best in stopping the ball from going in.”

cillesen rio

Cillesen saw Oranje lose the finals in 2010 sitting on the sofa with his parents. “I remember the toe of Casillas. That was luck. He went the other way and Robben hit this toe with the ball and he stopped Robben from scoring. A lucky for Iker. Bad luck for Robben. I know Arjen would have wanted Casillas to have made this tremendous safe. That is easier to digest. Now it is just bad luck. So lets hope we are more lucky this time.” Cillesen is a typical down to earth Dutch bloke. “When we came at the hotel, I saw all these cameras and I was keen to know what was going on… Normally, these scenes only appear when some celebrity is in the hotel or someone has died, hahaha. I asked what was the matter and they said: it’s us. Oranje has arrived. I realised suddenly we were at the World Cup in Brazil!!”. Asked about his role model, Cillesen has an interesting answer: A combination of Kahn and Van der Sar. The latter was the better goalie, but Kahn had that big personality. Very extraverted and loud. I think I am more like Edwin, but I do sense a bit of Kahn in me as well.”

We always had sensations free kick experts in Oranje. Willem van Hanegem, Jan Peters, Ronald Koeman, Frank de Boer, Pierre van Hooijdonk and now we have a number of them: De Guzman and Huntelaar can do it. Clasie has a nice kick. Sneijder, Robben and Van Persie are renowned but so is Nigel de Jong, apparently.

Other news: the Oranje players have two rules to abide to re: Social Media. No more tweeting and instagramming after 11.30 pm and no comments about colleagues. These rules are probably a result of the Eljero Elia “crisis” when the speedy winger – not part of Bert van Marwijk’s squad back then – retweeted a sarcastic comment from a fan about Kuyt after the Germany friendly defeat. “Kuyt played as if he still have the box around his shoes”. Elia thought it was hilarious. The KNVB didn’t.

He was also the center of a verbal outburst during the World Cup in South Africa when he was playing some PS3 game in his hotel room unaware that Boulahrouz had the camera on and the whole world (sic!) could enjoy this little bit of expression.


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Portugal Preview

Bert van Marwijk practiced behind closed doors. And with a grim look on his face attented the press conference: “We will play 100% attack! We need two goals more after 90 minutes, so that is a clear mission.” And: “I wish the vibe in our camp was as bas as it allegedly is in the Spain camp. They won 4-0, despite their internal strife.”

Van Marwijk is on edge. It’s do or die for Oranje. Not winning with 2-0 or more ( and Germany not winning vs the Danes) means Oranje will go home and Van Marwijk will most likely go home. And the next job won’t be Tottenham, Liverpool or Valencia but West Brom, Freiburg, Salzburg or Tenerife.

Skipper Mark van Bommel looked back at the Germany game: “I played a good pass onto Robin. He missed. Not much later, I missed Schweinsteiger and he allowed Gomez to score. I could have been the king, but I ended up the joker.”

“It’s football, isn’t it? I haven’t the “son-in-law” comment for many years but now things are going bad, everyone mentions it again.”

Asked if he believes that he can’t manage the midfield role anymore? “I can. But I do understand these criticisms. The first Germany goes was totally my fault. But our midfield is too stretched for anyone to cope.”

Ironic pic: Mark and Bert creating history together…

The skipper had this Euros as the last big trophy with Oranje on his wishlist. After a Champions League with Barca and titles in four countries ( PSV, Fortuna, Barca, Bayern and Milan).

“The vibe is a bit different now, that is true. Players like Van der Vaart and Huntelaar were benchwarmers at their clubs before the World Cup and are established players now. Dirk was a starter at Liverpool but a benchwarmer now. But we are still one group. We are mates and we support each other. If we would have won twice, no one would have concerned themselves with Van Persie making that phone-call, simply because he didn’t have connection in the dressing room.”

Van Bommel did see his team lose it tactically and physically. “It was like playing in a wok. It was so hot and humid. We couldn’t keep on pressing. Why we didn’t pick a hotel in Charkov? I have no idea. I believe we decided to pick good hotels before the draw and Charkov didn’t offer what we needed? But that was not my call.”

Van Bommel has a positive outlook. “Italy won the World Cup in 1982 after three dreadful group games. And in 2004, The Czechs beat Germany with their B-team. Allowing us a trip to the quarters…”

Portugal has a tremendous record against Holland. Of the last 10 games, they won 6. We won only one. And three draws.

Belgium might be historically our foe. Germany might be traditionally our arch enemy, but is Portugal then our “angstgegner”?

The last time we won was in 1991, in the qualications for the 1992 Euros. With a Richard Witschge goal.


These statistics are flawed. Let’s look at the last four games.

May I remind you that we should have won twice in the World Cup 2002 qualifications when we didn’t win (lost one, drew one) because Louis van Gaal had his moments of madness against them in both games? We lost at home because Van Gaal played Reiziger as left back an some moron in the stands had a referee whistle. He blew on it, Davids stopped playing and Portugal took the ball and scored. Ouch.

In the away game, Holland was 0-2 up when Van Gaal brought more forwards to humiliate them. Within ten minutes, Davids was sent off, Figo scored from that free kick and they equalised in the dying seconds.

The 2004 Euros game we lost was a deserved loss. Portugal was better.

The 2006 World Cup in Nuremberg was a disgrace. We lost, but not because we were not good enough. We had a massive Van Persie chance he fumbled, Cocu hit the bar and Kuyt choked one on one with their goalie. With a tad more luck, that game would have been ours.

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