Tag: Tete

Oranje: The Final Countdown….

It seems like I simply can’t take a little break. A lot happening in football, alright. Frank de Boer and Bert van Marwijk sacked, media campaigning for the inclusion in Oranje of Frenkie de Jong and Sophyan Amrabat. Ronald Koeman under pressure. Dutch champions given football lessons by England’s #3…

And in a couple of weeks time, it’s game time! With Dick and Ruud announcing their pre-lim squad.

Frank de Boer became the first victim in the Premier League but most likely not the last one. The Palace board wanted to radically change the way the club has been playing for more than a century. They did their homework, they made the plans and signed Frank de Boer for 3 years. The owners were ecstatic. And after 4 matches (!) the club panics, the board suddenly doesn’t want to change anymore, the long term vision get torn up and Frank de Boer (and Orlando Trustfull) can pack their bags.


What a disgrace!

Frank de Boer, former world-class libero and NT captain, won 4 titles with Ajax and is now suddenly incapable of turning a mediocre club around? It simply takes time. Disappointing decision by Crystal Palace who have dug up old-hand Woy Hodgson.

Bert van Marwijk’s exit was different. Now the Saudis have qualified, everyone wants a piece of the pie. Bert did the work but several yesmen are now putting their hands up to finish the job. Bert was offered a new deal with non-negotiable terms that Bert didn’t like. For instance, Bert had to live in Saudi Arabia and ask for permission to leave the country. Bert didn’t think that was a good plan and as a result he is now out.

Of all Dutch coaches working in top football at the moment, Van Marwijk’s achievement is most likely the most impressive.

Feyenoord lost 0-4 vs Man City. And deservedly so, even though Feyenoord helped City in the first 10 minutes with their woeful defending. Three goals from set pieces. Boys vs Men.

But the media slashed Feyenoord with terms as “shameful” and “Appalling”. But was it? Sure, the first goal was a shocker. Not enough pressure on the ball with the cross, Botteghin not attacking the cross and Vilhena allowing the ball to roll through his legs. But no matter how silly it looked, a player can be wrongfooted. Vilhena switched his weight to the other leg, just when the ball ricocheted through his legs. It can happen.

tony mancity

But Man City scoring four is not a disgrace. It would have been a disgrace (for Man City) if they didn’t. They brought in two subs during the second half, two players valued more than the whole of the Eredivisie!

And despite Feyenoord’s loss vs PSV Eindhoven, they outplayed PSV in the second half, with only 10 men. I think we needn’t worry about Feyenoord.

Oranje is a different matter. Dick and Ruud have two games left to win, score a lot of goals and pray that we won’t end up as the worst #2.

For this, we need to play in a system that makes sense to the players (4-3-3) and with players in form and capable of doing what we need to do: win and score.

Dick called up Ryan Babel and Klaas Jan Huntelaar. Babel is in top form. He’s fit, physical, opportunistic, can play on several positions and has his mojo back. Huntelaar still lives for goals and he played himself into the Ajax 1 starting line up. Good decisions. Daryl Janmaat is back too. Got his fitness and starting berth back. Scored a goal and is his ever dynamic self, bringing experience to the squad.


Kenny Tete will most likely be the best choice for the RB spot. Cillesen should be the goalie, for me. Dick could use Blind with De Vrij in the centre of defence with Fosu Mensah on the LB spot. Blind’s build up from the centre is needed and Tim Fosu Mensah will use his power to dominate the channel.

Up front, Babel, Huntelaar and Robben will do nicely, with the biggest question marks left open for the midfield. Wijnaldum and Strootman disappointed. Sneijder doesn’t seem fit enough. But it’s not the right time to experiment with Toornstra or Van Ginkel, while Klaassen simply doesn’t play enough. Frenkie de Jong could be an option as playmaker – albeit it an experiment as well – but the 20 year old is not selected.

Dick has to make some decisions here. Maybe Robben in the Sneijder role? With Babel on the right and Memphis on the left? We do need goals.

More good news: Vincent Janssen scored a goal from open play in Turkey and Virgil van Dijk has rejuvenated his career at Southampton, making his first minutes again.


Lastly, the KNVB has started to turn things around.

New chair of the board of directors is no-nonsense man Jan Smit. This entrepreneur (debt-collector) has led Heracles Almelo for decades before. Never got into trouble financially, knows a lot of people in football, is highly respected and an experience football manager.

Eric Gudde is the new general manager. Gudde was in this role for Feyenoord for 10 years. He started in the dark days, when there was no money at the club, lots of losses, and no success whatsoever for the once biggest club in the world. With Martin van Geel as his technical director, Gudde turned the club from a struggling behemoth into a financially healthy and highly successful and popular side. Plans for a new stadium are in a final stage, the youth academy is rocking and Feyenoord boasts to have the finest pitch in Europe. He was the man, last season, who decided to support the young coach (Van Bronckhorst) who failed to win in a series of 7 matches. And he left, after the same coach won three trophies in 15 months.


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Oranje better, but not good enough….

It’s a weird game, that football! France played us off the pitch with dazzling football and got 4 past us. Next, versus minions Luxembourg they can’t score any of their chances.

It probably won’t matter. As our statisticians on the blog have demonstrated: it will be a huge challenge to do what Oranje needs to do: win and win big!

But there were two typical off-pitch issues that are illustrative for the state we are in.

First of: Goal Difference:

After the France game, the highly popular (but very populist) football program Voetbal Inside broke the news that the players of Oranje were not aware of the importance of goal-difference when losing in Paris to France. With 10 mins on the clock, it was 2-0. We should have been able to keep it at 2-o. Instead we conceded two more counter goals and our goal difference difference (is this English) deteriorated, while Sweden pumped theirs up last night.

staff oranje

If this is true (the players not aware), you can see immediately what our problem is. You’d expect the ample staff at the KNVB to whisper this into Advocaat’s ear. You’d expect Advocaat to respond with: “I know!”. And you’d expect Dick to inform the players before the match: “If we can win it, we will try and win it. But if we are losing, we need to make sure the margin stays limited. Because goal difference…” and then the full Oranje squad yelling at him: “Stop talking. We KNOW!”

But apparently they didn’t. Sums up the KNVB/Oranje situation in one hit.

Secondly: assistant coach filming in dressing room and posting it online:

Right after the game, Twitter shows a video clip of the Oranje squad post-match in the dressing room. The TV journalist shows the clip to Dick, who explodes. “This shouldn’t be online! We shouldn’t have anyone with cameras in the dressing room! How is this possible?” The tv guy said: “Eh, your assistant Ruud Gullit filmed it and posted it on Twitter!”. Dick: “Really? Wow… That is not what I need. I will have a stern conversation with Gullit about this!”

Pretty silly eh?

Against Bulgaria, we should have scored 5, based on the game. And not concede one single goal.

With all the positives we can rant about here (Blind, Vilhena, Propper, De Vrij), this really puts us further back. We now have to make up for 6 goals, while Sweden has to face Luxembourg still.

We’re in a dire situation people and it’s fricking sad!

Janssen Bul

Our line up against Bulgaria was a reasonable logical one. Sneijder is deemed not fit enough. Propper has exquisite technique, is a dynamic runner with the ball, all intelligence and can score. He doesn’t / didn’t show it enough last season at PSV and with Brighton, he might never be able to. But he played a perfect game vs Bulgaria. Vilhena showed himself vs France and deserved to be in the team.

But with Janssen and Robben and Hoedt lacking rhythm, we still were vulnerable, going into the game.

Scoring in the first five minutes was exactly what the doctor ordered. And should have pushed the team for more and increased the confidence. But we didn’t create enough in the remainder of the first half.

Even worse, we seemed to be lacking in ideas. Propper had some attempts to create an attack and Blind was industrious on the left, but players like Tete, Wijnaldum, Janssen and even Robben were not able to bring any flow to their game.

I think Wijnaldum had 5 stray passes/touches in the first 20 minutes alone. Tete seemed out of sorts. His tackle timing was off, his passing was sloppy and his forward runs started properly late in the first half.wijnald bul

Part of what Janssen did was good. He works hard. Check. He is a nuisance. Check. He fights for every yard and wants to be important. Check. But he also demonstrated a total lack of rhythm. He miscued his shots on goal (with his solid left). He needed many fouls to stay in the game. He complained and whined to the ref constantly. And off-side needs to be explained properly to him. At times it felt like every time he’d get the ball, he would find a way to strike at goal, even with options around him and even if it’s from 35 meters out. A typical striker who lacks confidence and rhythm and feels he needs to prove to the world he can still play.

Oranje won, but played sluggish. Stray passes, square passes, lack of movement (again) and lack of team understanding. All logical, if you consider the selection issues Danny Blind and now Advocaat have had. But it doesn’t bode well for flowing football and the creation of opportunities.

In the second half, Arjen Robben joined the Vincent Janssen-Lets-Try-and-Score-From-Every-Angle club and he was keen to force the issues personally. He got his goal and would give a sour post match interview, criticizing the team for not working harder to create more opportunities.

propper bul

The goal Bulgaria scored from the set piece… Really?

Some positives… Promes was lively. Worked hard. Tried again and again on the flank. Seemed to have arguments with the ball at times, but probably due to trying too hard. His interplay with Janssen and Blind was pretty good though. Davy Propper impressed me again. His runs into space (two goals as a result), his first touch, this lad can really play and deserves a better team around him. Vilhena was industrious as ever. Without the ball, a key player. Lung, legs and drive. And make no mistake: he can play too. But he’s a bit young still and maybe a bit too hurried at times. But he has good technique and a thunderous long distance strike. He could well be our Kante moving forward.

Man of the Match, hands down for me, was Daley Blind. And despite his shortcomings, he will be a key player for Oranje moving forward for me. He made two goals. Like he did vs Spain at the WC2014.

The Ajax prodigal son has had a difficult start to his career. He was touted as the next big thing from an early age, coming through the Ajax Academy. Expectations were such, that when he made it into Ajax 1, the fans turned against him, as he does tend to play without any Ajax flair. No dribbles, no speed, no goals, no trickery. Just solid passing and positioning. He almost lost his spot at Ajax and was booed when Van Gaal selected him for the National Team. Up until the Spain opener in Brazil, people doubted him. After that match, he was a household name globally.

Robben Bulg

He went from strength to strength. At Man United, for 3 seasons he was one of the key players Van Gaal and Mourinho relied upon. This season, despite the question marks, he started every EPL game for the Mancunians.

At left back, the allrounder actually turned out to be Oranje’s playmaker. At. Left. Back!

His passing is forward whenever he can. Under pressure, without any time, he finds the right pass. His technique is exquisite but functional. No frills. And his left foot keeps on developing really well. Crosses, corner kicks. Mr Reliable.

What Blind does at the left, you’d want someone to do on the right (Tete? Veltman? Karsdorp?) and someone to do in the centre of the pitch. In the good old days, we have players who could pick the pass. Jansen, Van Hanegem, Cruyff, Krol, Rensenbrink, Haan in 1974. Muhren, Koeman, Vanenburg, Rijkaard, Wouters, Erwin Koeman in 1988. Davids, Seedorf, Ronald de Boer, Cocu, Frank de Boer in 1998. Sneijder, Gio van Bronckhorst, Van der Vaart, Van Bommel, Van Persie in 2010.

Going forward, whether it matters for this coming World Cup or not, I believe we need to work with a 4-1-4-1 system.

tonny bul

And I would consider Robben as the striker in some cases.

And in that system, I’d like to see a solid left back playing left back. Patrick van Aanholt, Jetro Willems or Erik Pieters. Players with body, defensive strength and good forward runs and crosses. Beats me why Pieters is constantly overlooked.

And I’d play Daley Blind in the Pirlo role. The 1 before defense. Not because of his defensive prowess, but because we need his vision and passing to come from the central position. With 4 midfielders like Klaassen/Vilhena/Wijnaldum/Fer/Van de Beek/Van Ginkel/Promes/Memphis we should have enough cocktails of running, passing, dribbling and speed.

The line up would change based on the availability and form of the players and the upcoming opponent.

But at this stage, the best build up player / playmaker we have today, is Daley Blind.

Advocaat (or his successor) will have to find a way to use the key strengths of his players to gel a system together which works best.

A last point: people seem to think that we need to play Total Football and attack like we used to “because the supporters demand this”. This is nonsense. Ask the supporters with match of the last 10 years is their favorite one and they will probably (80%+) will say: “Spain – Holland, WC 2014”. Case closed.

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Oranje and final #1

The key thing for the Oranje team after the dressing down vs France is to quickly get the egg and mud of the faces and straighten their backs! It’s a tough one. Egos were hurt, reputations damaged. We’re the laughing stock in Europe after the biggest Orange defeat since 1969!!

And the players will have felt it. The media (French, Dutch, English) were tough on our performance and with all reasons and right to do so. But, it is not a knock-out competition. We’re still in it. So analysis should wait. Blame game should wait. Dick needs to pull the lads together and get them uplifted. Sneijder said after the game, that due to the Bulgaria result vs Sweden, the mood lifted in the dressing room. A little angel helped us to stay alive.

And may I bring into memory the WC1974? No, not Cruyff’s goals. Not Van Hanegem’s playmaker’s role, Neeskens runs or Krol’s crosses. Yes, we dazzeled the world but do you remember the qualification games before the tournament? We were shite. We should not have gone! Belgium was the nation deserving to go, as Oranje scored the decider vs East Germany in clear offside position. Otherwise, we were out!

And even then, with JC, with De Kromme, the fans and media back in 1973 wondered why on Earth Oranje was even traveling to West Germany?

Same in 2014 with Van Gaal’s squad. The media was ruthless. “We were going to be humiliated and on a plane back after the three group matches!” And it took penalties vs Argentina to keep us from playing another finals.LVG

Which we would have won by the way. So you know.

So yes, it was dramatic, but surely we can beat Bulgaria and Sweden at home? The good thing is, both nations have something to play for and both will have to come to take something from the game. Belarus away might be the toughest game. Winter, bad pitch, tough opponent.

The issues we have – as analysed by all of you after the France game – are apparent. And are multi-faceted. It’s many things and we can work on some of them.

There are also aspects we simply can’t work on. When Rene van der Gijp was asked what he hoped for, he answered: “I hope a guy and girl are making love right now somewhere in Veenendaal or Tiel or Zaandam and are making a Lionel Messi for us!”

Robben Advo

The criticism on the midfield players was justified. But the reason why Strootman and Wijnaldum are so good at club level and not at NT level has nothing to do with mentality or motivation or quality. It’s about a club coach, having a firm tactical plan and gelling the team in such a way that every player’s strength is used and every weakness is balanced out.

I personally believe Dick Advocaat got the tactics wrong. I did say it before the game, I’d never go in with 4-3-3.

Janssen had no role to play in this match and he doesn’t even deserve any criticism for it. He didn’t get one playable ball.

He had no business vs France and we should have started with 2 or even 1 forward. I would always have played four midfielders vs the agile and powerful French.

But, it’s a competition and we’re still in it. Bulgaria will probably play defensively against us, so now we do need the attacking prowess of Sneijder or Robben as creator and the presence of Janssen in the box, maybe even with Dost coming in as well at some stage.

Robben dans

It seems Vilhena will take Strootman’s role and I can imagine Veltman or Tete to come on for Fosu-Mensah. The Man United loanie did ever so well vs France but had a couple of cramp attacks during the game. Veltman is better in possession and overall, Tete the better all-round player.

Wesley Hoedt didn’t have a top game either so I could even imagine more changes. An attack minded coach could use Daley Blind as centre back alongside De Vrij, but Dick Advocaat is a lot of things….not an attack minded coach.

I believe our lads will show the fans in the Johan Cruyff Arena that they are 100% focused and motivated and I can see us beat Bulgaria 3-0, with Janssen on the score-sheet alongside Robben and Sneijder.

robben 2010

Here is a To Do list of considerations for Dick Advocaat:

Try not to use players without match rhythm

Wesley Hoedt played some promising football for us against Morocco and Ivory Coast. Good passing, speed in his handling, good vision. But against France, it was clear that he simply lacks rhythm. Lacking confidence and not as light on his feet as per usual. Blind as centre back is an option but I don’t see Dick call up Erik Pieters. Martins Indi doesn’t play that often either and De Ligt, who will have rhythm, is not playing his best football at the moment. Vilhena for Strootman is a no-brainer.

Don’t let Robben get isolated on the right wing

Against France, Robben was supposed to be the go-to man, but the Bayern star got double marking and was not easily found. He was relegated to making 30 yards defensive runs and was even seen heading balls away in his own box! Pep Guardiola saw Robben as a potential playmaker and used him centrally behind the strikers. Wesley lacks rhythm, so why not use Promes and Memphis upfront with Robben as playmaker.

If we can’t break them down with football, lets use the airforce!

Pierre van Hooijdonk always says it. If you can’t break them down, pepper them with crosses. Why not? Two strikers vs Bulgaria. It seems Ajax will go forward with Dolberg and Huntelaar. Spicey detail: during the last practice session pre-France, it appeared the A team (the starters) were also beaten by the B-team who emulated France…


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Viagra for Big Dick and some for me…?

Viagra being a metaphor for some positive energy. The end of the season…only a key qualification game for us, a Champions League finals and some (Turkey) last matches on the roster. And some friendlies and testimonials.

Which means the different blog suppliers ( template, server, domain name) are sending me their invoices again.

So this annual request for some support is upon you! If you enjoy the blog and would love for it to be around longer, I would highly appreciate your contribution. If you can, of course. The donate button is on the home page ;-).


My gratitude to all of you for your support, in spirit, in postings and in dollars as well…

While you’re grabbing the last pennies from your piggybank, I will help you celebrate our win over Ivory Coast.

It has to be said: you know I dislike friendlies. But if we win a friendly 5-0, I actually take the friendly serious, all of a sudden.

And yes I know, Ivory Coast is not as strong as they used to be (but that applies to Oranje as well). And sure, what does Ivory Coast care, really? For Oranje though, it was a key game. We lost a lot of goodwill amongst the fans, we embarrassed ourselves in this WC qualification round, so much so that a Dutch football icon – Danny Blind – was ousted of the job, without any Plan B in the drawer. The joke that was (is?) the KNVB is still not finished (although we all heard the punchline, and you know what? It ain’t funny!) as former NT Manager and former assistant manager Scrooge Dick Advocaat comes back in.

holland cheers ivory

But the team is fighting hard to get some pride back. To show to the fans – and to themselves! – that they can do it. Five qualifications games to go and ideally five wins are needed to secure a ticket for Russia.

We have skills, we have some very good players and one out and out world class star. We also need some grit, some willpower and some belief, and then it will all come good.

Some of it was on display vs Ivory Coast. We scored 5, we conceded zero (great save Jesper Cillesen!!) and the fans gobbled it up. A lot went well, some didn’t go so well. Ivory Coast were able to cut straight through the centre of the park on occasions and a strong Cillesen and some fortune meant we kept a clean sheet.

We played 4-3-3 in possession and a compact 4-5-1 when we lost it, with lone wolf Janssen up top. I think we can safely say that Vincent Janssen is the Oranje #9. He is the ideal target man, always hussling, strong in possession, creating havoc and trying to find either a team mate or the target. He created the penalty for 2-0, he assisted Klaassen’s goal and scored the fifth as a real poacher in the box. Yes, he has limitations. Lacks speed, lacks the silky touch, but that can also be said of a certain Gerd Muller. Six goals in 12 internationals and a couple of assists. Not bad.

janssen robben ivory

Robben, Memphis and Promes all three look like starters. Memphis is threatening, has moments of magic and will always bind two defenders, as will Robben. Memphis didn’t play at his best, but the curler to the top corner was another example of his potential. Robben on other hand is enjoying his second (or is it third?) wind and was instrumental again, with his runs, his assist and his immaculate penalty.

Strootman played a strong game in midfield again, while Propper still seems too light for this Oranje. He’s a good player on the ball, velvet touch and good vision, but it’s all too much in one pace and he lacks a bit of venom in the challenges. He might step up still, but he probably needs to move to a higher level. Or not, and he’ll stay on the level of PSV Eindhoven (top of Eredivisie) for the rest of his career. Klaassen is a wonderful player of course, does a lot of work, smart running and positioning and always head up. His goal was a typical Klaassen goal: recognising the opportunity, busting a gut to get in the box at the exact right time. But as a number 10 I think he’s not top notch enough to replace the aging Sneijder. Promes might be the ideal player on that spot.

veltman scores ivory

Kenny Tete and Rick Karsdorp will do nicely as right backs and Joel Veltman is a good player, who fits well in the centre back role as long as the opponent doesn’t play with Andy Carrol and Peter Crouch. Daley Blind was one of the best on the pitch, yet again, with solid interventions, great positioning, good runs in the channel and it was his little solo into the box that got us the corner which resulted in the 1-0. Blind can play centre back, left back and even holding mid. He will never make you weaker, unless he’s up against fast counter-attacking teams. But he didn’t get into trouble against Ajax in the EL finals and actually didn’t get into trouble all season.

The only weak spot for me is Martins Indi. He didn’t really get into trouble but at times he looks a bit clueless and he’ll still mix up beautiful long cross passes with more short range passes that float over the byline.

Viergever, Propper, Ramselaar, Berghuis and De Roon were let go after these two friendlies. Spoilt for choice in midfield (Propper, Ramselaar, De Roon) with Ake, Toornstra, Vilhena as other options. Viergever isn’t needed either, as De Vrij and De Ligt will return to the squad. As right winger, Advocaat prefers Lens over Berghuis, a player he knows very well of course, from his Fenerbahce days.

robben dribble

We will beat Luxembourg and I do think we’ll win all the games coming up, with France as the key one. If we play as we did today (which we won’t), it will be hard. But if we can lay down a solid performance, with a fit and tenacious midfield (maybe a 4-5-1 with Promes up top, Janssen as super sub and some body and running in midfield) I don’t see why we couldn’t beat Les Blues!

Oranje does need to applaud the work of Peter Bosz (and indirectly Jonk, Bergkamp, Cruyff). It was clearly visible in the Ivory Coast game at times how Bosz’ lessons dripped into Oranje. With Tete, Veltman and Klaassen at times hunting and pressing. Wijnaldum will gladly chip in and once De Vrij and De Ligt are back, the intensity of our game could well be helped by the football style of Ajax’ success coach.

The 5-0 could easily have been 8-2. Cillesen needed to show up with saves and Janssen, Wijnaldum, Depay and Robben all had opportunities to score and there were several breaks where the killer pass didn’t eventuate.

With all the joy of the victory, Wesley Sneijder had his private party for eclipsing Van der Sar’s record. Finally! And I’m convinced he’ll play a couple more minutes/games before he retires from Oranje. Hopefully after a WC campaign in Russia. He lacks speed, he might not make it for the full 90 minutes, but on the ball he’s still killer diller.

sneijder sub

Joel Veltman played CB and scored a brace. Doesn’t happen a lot. His first was a shouldered goal, totally unmarked while his second was a tap in from a Robben cross…totally unmarked. “We didn’t play great, but we were efficient. We know African opponents, we know they’re physical and good on the ball but their organisation is lacking. We knew how to use that. I had a couple of knocks at decided to stay put in defence in the second half. And yes, I was totally unmarked on both goals, but it does help when you have Memphis and Arjen on the wings. They can find your adam’s apple with the ball. Playing centre back was a challenge to be honest. It’s been a while. But Bruno made sure I stayed in position whenever I drifted to the right, hahaha.”

Jesper Cillesen had a smile from ear to ear: “God, I needed this! It’s been a year since my last Oranje cap. It was important for me to show the coaches I’m ready. Yes, I didn’t play a lot, but I train on the very highest level and I think I improved. That last save was a top one, right? Got the ball straight on my nose. Luckily I have a big one.”

robben pen ivory

Captain Arjen Robben was critical, despite the comfortable win. “I try to look at the whole picture, not just the 5-0 win. And I think we need to improve. At times it’s not quick enough. We release the ball too slow. We need to play with more intensity to really break down the opponents in the serious games. I do think Oranje suffered the last years with all these injuries and changing starting line ups. It’s key now to keep this squad together and to keep on building.”

And so, the reign of Fred Grim ends on a high, per Tuesday coming week, Big Dick and Cool Ruud are in charge.

My friends, I’m positive! I’ve seen enough to see that we simply need to win all our games and can win all our games. A good Oranje can win four, if Oranje is great vs France, we can beat them too! Play Nathan Ake on Pogba and De Vrij on Griezman and we’re in business.



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Ajax back in European top!!

Oh my Goodness, where to start!!?!?

Well, with that comment from a blog guest the other day, saying Ajax isn’t getting enough airtime here. If they reach the bloody finals a bit more often, I can write more about them! Just kiddin’ of course ;-).

However, I did check the past posts and I don’t think Ajax fans have anything to complain about. The majority of posts is on Oranje, of course. Other than that: Johan Cruyff got a lot of exposure, as did Piet Keizer, Marco van Basten, Ruud Krol and even a recent Peter Bosz interview… So…. Just sayin’!

But now Ajax deserves all the exposure here, until Feyenoord wins the title coming Sunday. Or next season. Or sometime in 2034…

I have been heavily enjoying Ajax’ development this season. It was like a perfect machine being made by Dr Frankenstein (Peter Bosz). Very clunky and rusty in the start of the season, and amidst the groans and moans from the dissatisfied players (Gudelj, El Ghazi, Bazoer, Tete) slowly the ideal Ajax team emerged. For me, Tete still is much better than Veltman as RB and I do like to see more of Riedenwald too, but boy, Bosz got his boys swinging!

Bosz blij

Ajax has been nothing short of spectacular these past weeks/months. They surely have Feyenoord worried. The football machine from Rotterdam has been winning games based on their power, strength, mentality and will and quality to simply kill games. Ajax has been winning games on class, speed and skill. The youngest team ever to reach the EL finals.

The irony is, that a number of years ago, one Johan Cruyff – you may have heard his name before – went to Amsterdam with velvet gloves on to preach another footbal revolution. His words: “If we want to compete with the best and have more European successes, we need to go back to our football vision of Total Football and develop classy youthful talents and build a team around them!”

He was ridiculed by most. “A Dutch team will never win a big European trophy anymore” everyone said. Cruyff put people like Overmars, Van der Sar, Bergkamp and Jonk into the Ajax management structure and Wim Jonk was charged with developing talent. The revolution didn’t go too well. Frank de Boer appeared to be a pragmatic coach, and despite winning titles, his Ajax was heavily criticized for being dull and boring. In Europe, De Boer never made the grade.

So Cruyff was basically pushed out of Ajax with velvet gloves, and poor Wim Jonk became the sacrificial lamb.

Kort geding Cruijff en jeugdtrainers tegen Ajax

Jonk and Cruyff (Stam and Overmars behind them) taking on the Ajax Revolution…

Now, almost two years later and one year after JC’s passing, Ajax did exactly what Cruyff/Jonk stood for.

They are in the EL finals with a young team brimming with Academy prospects (Tete, Riedewald, De Ligt, Van de Beek, Kluivert, Dolberg, Nouri) and some older players developed at and by Ajax (Klaassen, Veltman) and some stray cats (Traore, Neres, Viergever). Cruyff will potentially turn in his grave or smile in his grave… I am sure Wim Jonk will look at this success with a smirk. He had to go, while doing El Salvador’s work at the Future (“De Toekomst”, the name of Ajax’ youth grounds).

But even though Cruyff, Van Gaal, De Boer, Bergkamp, Overmars and Jonk all had a big hand in this success, it took an Ajax outsider to actually make it all work. The ingredients were there, the chef had yet to find the best combination for the tastiest dish.

Peter Bosz, ex-Vitesse and ex-Feyenoord. The man with the armband, when Feyenoord won the title under Van Hanegem in 1993. De Kromme got frequently annoyed with Professor Bosz who already demonstrated traits of a coach when playing as a defensive mid in the Feyenoord team. He had his time in France, Japan and in the Bundesliga before returning to Holland, where he coached Heracles, was Technical Director at Feyenoord (not too successful I might add) and took the coaching reigns again at Heracles, Vitesse before leaving to work in Israel with Jordi Cruyff. Bosz was always a Cruyff adept and had a lot of time with both Jordi and Johan when working with the “son of”… His teams, whether Heracles or Vitesse, always played attractive and at time suicidal offensive football. The match Bosz – Ajax was an obvious one.

bosz mourinho dick

Peter: “You have as much chance to beat us as the length of your willy!”

In typical Cruyff style, Bosz forced his vision onto the team, with the risk of getting it wrong. When Ajax played in the CL qualifications, it simply had to beat Rostov to progress in the CL but Bosz refused to be pragmatic, as a result, Rostov tore Ajax apart.

He took it on the chin. Copped the criticism and the fact that his tactics cost Ajax millions of CL prize money. He seemed unphased. He even said he didn’t need to get Hakim Ziyech, but succumbing under the immense pressure of the fans, the Ajax management decided to sign the wizard of Twente. Bosz made a statement by declaring “Ziyech wasn’t ready for Ajax yet”. He took the fight to the strongwilled Moroccan playmaker and benched him a number of times and criticized him in public.

Bosz won the battle. Ziyech had to be taken off his high horse and with Gudelj and Bazoer going through the exit, Ziyech would grasp the spot in midfield, alongside Lasse Schone, the man who can do it all (but play 90 minutes on full speed) and Klaassen. The Ajax Duracell man. Bosz struggled to get his team going on a consistent basis but in the Europa League games, Ajax impressed.

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Peter Bosz butted heads with some players

Celta de Vigo was brushed aside, and a B-team took care of Standard Liege. Celta, not a bad team. They ended up playing the other semi finals and ex-Feyenoord striker (and ongoing legend) John Guidetti almost exited Man U from that finals in the last second of their match. That would have been something!

The secret to this Ajax? 1) Great youth development and therefore amazing skills. 2) No fear, the Amsterdam arrogance, if you will. 3) No pressure, being the underdog suits Ajax. 4) tactics. Bosz has it spot on. From the choice of Stanley Menzo-ish goalkeeper Onana to the mercurial and ice-cold Dane Dolberg. And then there is the 5 seconds rule. Like JC, like Pep, like Simeone, Bosz expects his team to hunt like wolves when the ball is lost. Schalke couldn’t deal with it, Lyon couldn’t deal with it.

It was clear that whenever Ajax dropped the intensity (whether due to fatigue or simply not executing the tactics), it would get in trouble. Domestically and internationally. Schalke got 3 goals against Ajax. And so did Lyon. That is a risk. But Bosz is from the school of “whatever happens at the back, as long as we simply score one more”.

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De Ligt with a teenager mistake

With Ajax playing Man United in a 1 leg tie for the title, I feel they have a massive chance to get it right.

Yes, Man United has more money. Yes, Man United has the big name players and the big ego coach. But Ajax might well have the best team. A team with nothing to lose!

The key for Ajax in the coming years is to try and keep the top players in Amsterdam for a while. Should Ajax win the EL, they’ll qualify for the CL immediately. What an income stream. This might definitely help Overmars and co. to keep the likes of Dolberg, Sanchez and Klaassen one more year. Klaassen was said to be on his way out, but with this European title and another run in the CL, he might well be convinced to add one more season. Ziyech might also stay on. He’s not too keen on an overseas adventure. He picks his career path well. From Heerenveen, he could have gone to Feyenoord, but the Rotterdam club didn’t guarantee him a starting spot. So he went to Twente first. I can see him add one more season to Ajax at least.

Dolberg would do well to stay a bit longer too. He’s only 18 years old. Other players flirting with a move: Kenny Tete. For me, another outstanding performance vs Lyon when he came on for Veltman. I hope he’ll stay, I can’t imagine Veltman keeping Tete out much longer. Sanchez might be a problem though, the phenomenal Columbian – another MOTM performance by him – is on the short list of the PSG’s, Barcelonas and Man Uniteds of this world…

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Dolberg scores

The games vs Schalke and Lyon will have warmed a lot of hearts internationally and nationally for Ajax. In particular, the home games. Away, they were a tad vulnerable. Overwhelmed maybe. Out-challenged at times physically and some players do still make silly decisions under pressure. Yes, De Ligt is in his right to make a couple of mistakes. He’s 17 years old. You take the bad with the good. Same for Dolberg and Kluivert. But Nick Viergever, the hero of Gelsenkirchen, is no spring chicken anymore and he was the zero this time. The second goal was the result of a weak clearance from him. The third goal went via his knee but can’t blame him for that, but the two yellow cards were downright stupid. Ridiculous. No need for him to do what he did.

Bernard Traore moving back to London is not a bad thing either. Yes, he works hard for the team in that right wing back role and impresses at times, but he’s also quite blind once he’s on a roll and he lacks the real goalscoring desire. There were two or three situations where he should have gambled and make a run into the goal area, when a cross came in meant for Dolberg. He could have had two tap ins. Time for an Ajax lad to take his role. Why leave Kluivert or Neres on the bench and prefer a loan player?

klaassen nouri

Davey Klaassen and Appie Nouri: “We gaan naar Zweden toe!” (JR: “We’re off to Sweden!”)

Anyway, Dutch football is suddenly giving us some excitement! Last season, PSV got the shivers into Atleti, this season Feyenoord returned to the fore again as domestic challenger (fingers crossed for Sunday!!) while Man United’s scalp was seized in a European campaign cut short by a ridiculous decision in an away game (unfair penalty and sending off of Boteghin).

With players like Karsdorp, Vilhena, Berghuis, Elia, Toornstra, Kongolo and the likes of Lammers, Hendrix, Willems, Propper and talents like Tete, Van de Beek, Kluivert, Riedewald, De Ligt and others (Ayoub, Ake, Hoedt, De Roon, Memphis) the future isn’t that bad…

Ajax made it to the finals of the Europa Cup in 1969 for the first time and lost that match. A year later Feyenoord won it and Ajax followed suit three times in a row. With Oranje lagging behind in 1974 with a memorable turn at the World Cup.

Good times ahead!! Big congrats to Ajax for their totally unexpected campaign. JC is dead, love live JC!

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Peter Bosz: Let me entertain you!

Ok, that was Robbie Williams, not Peter Bosz. But the Ajax coach does have this as leading mantra in his football philosophy: “I want to entertain the fans. I want to hear the oohs and aaahs rolling from the Arena stands.”

Bosz made a name for himself as a defensive midfielder and captain in the title winning Feyenoord team of 1993 under Willem van Hanegem. He started his career at Vitesse but was loaned to AGOVV amateur club before moving to play for Toulon in France. The Rotterdam stadium club signed him and Bosz was a tough as nails but also tactically astute midfielder, with 8 caps for Oranje. He’d move to Japan after his Feyenoord days and played for Rostock in the Bundesliga. Bosz was part of the Oranje squad for the Euros1992.


The 1992-1993 Feyenoord champs, with – standing from left to right: Gaston Taument, Arnold Scholten, Josef Kiprich, John Metgod, Ed de Goey, – sitting, Peter Bosz, John de Wolf, Ruud Heus, Rob Witschge, Regi Blinker and Henk Fraser

Bosz started his coaching career with AGOVV – the team of his home town – and coached De Graafschap and Heracles Almelo, with whom he won the title (and promotion) in the Jupiler league. He got the technical director job at Feyenoord and was responsible for the signing of a couple of senior players like Roy Makaay, Denny Landzaat and Gio van Bronckhorst. He left the club in protest of the sacking of coach Gert-Jan Verbeek who clashed with the older players.

After that, he returned to coach, first at Heracles again, then Vitesse and a short stint at Maccabi Tel Aviv (managed by Jordi Cruyff). The latter raved about Bosz’ coaching capabilities and the similarities in vision with icons like (dad) Johan Cruyff and Willem van Hanegem.

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Jordi Cruyff, Johan and Peter Bosz in Tel Aviv

When Frank de Boer left Ajax, Bosz was the ideal and logical candidate to replace him.

When visiting Bosz in his sanctuary, the walls are “paved” with flip over slides and big diagrams. “This is where I watch the games back and make notes,” he says. “I make notes every minute, everything that happens. Good situations, mistakes, decisions taken. And in the bus home, after away games, I write it out. It’s the best way for me to work with the players. Taking situations they were in and using it as fast as possible to get them to process changes.”

So when did the tone in the notes start to change?

PB: “I remember that moment vividly. Mid September, the National Cup match vs Willem II. I used some players who needed a chance, players who hadn’t played a lot. I gave them a chance and I was enjoying myself on the bench. This was when I read back my analysis and was surprised to see many things just clicked.”

By coincidence?

“It was quite a journey for us, a quest. We had our vision alright, we want to play attacking, dominant and attractive. But over a long series of games, we weren’t getting to the right level. Every day we were talking about, I was scratching my head. We were trying to get the right players on the right position and in that cup tie, it was there!”

Did you ever have doubts that you’d make it work?

“Oh there were times when I thought: can I do it? And it took some time. To form the midfield, which is key to how we want to play. Would we use two holding mids, or just one? Or one deep lying controlling mid? And we had some more positions where it didn’t flow. I missed something and we were continuously trying things out, combining different types of players, looking for the ideal team.”


And Lasse Schone became the missing link in the team?

“I saw him play that match and thought: that is it! See, he started this season as attacking midfielder and in the past he’d played shadow striker, winger too. I didn’t know he had a controlling mid in him. But he actually told me at some stage: “Coach, I can play there!”. So we tried it at training and it worked. So I used him vs Willem II. It worked and now he is the key player. This is the #6 role and I have very specific wishes for that player. I don’t call it the defensive midfielder but controlling midfielder. I want a player with vision, quick feet and who can pass the ball in an offensive way, forward. And he needs to be available to get the ball always. That is tough. Someone like Guardiola, or Fabregas. I wasn’t that player, I was the defensive midfielder. If they’d pass me the ball with a man behind me, I didn’t know what to do so I’d played the ball straight back. But Lasse gets the ball and turns around and moves forward. Those qualities are essential to our game.”

As a result, first Bazoer and then Gudelj were the victims.

“Those are always hard choices to make. And some players don’t deal with it well. Take El Ghazi and Gudelj. That cannot be accepted. Although they were too different cases. I can understand players who don’t play are disappointed. Sure. But it matters that the players do understand that they hold the key themselves. I have discussed their failings many times, with them. And they weren’t satisfied with their own performances. And yes, when I try others and suddenly it clicks, it is hard for them. And I did not have a reason to suddenly change the team again.”

And then they get motivational issues…

“I was surprised. A player who says “I can’t motivate myself to sit on the bench!” No one I know in coaching land, including Hennie Spijkerman who’s been doing this for 35 years, has ever heard this from any player ever. My first response was: unacceptable! What could I do? What kind of signal would I give the others? I can’t have players saying “call me when I play, otherwise I’m not interested”.

bosz bench players

Unhappy bench warmers: Bazoer, Tete and Riedewald at the back. Nouri can still smile…

What was driving Gudelj?

“Listen, he’s a good kid and a fine player and I worked well with him. If he was a irritating SOB it would have made sense. We actually gave him a chance to revisit his stance. When he came back from international duties with Serbia, but in that meeting he was adamant. And I told him: think about the media, think about how the outside world will view you… But this was it. He would not budge.”

The media suggested you made hard promises to Gudelj, Tete, Bazoer….

“That is a lie. I can’t. I’m the coach, I can’t promise player A or B something? I heard those rumours too and I asked Gudelj in a conversation, with witnesses, and he was clear: “I worked well with you, it has nothing to do with you. I simply can’t motivate myself for a bench role. I am better than the rest, I think I need to play”. I like his thinking, but he needs to show me on the pitch, not with a stance like this. But every player, Tete, Riedewald, they all have a different story…”

Riedewald played well as central defender and defensive mid, we felt?

“And he did. I agree! It was a tough decision to bench him. I did not have much criticism on him. At home vs PAOK for the Champions League qualification he played ever so well. But his bad luck is that he didn’t play when it clicked.”

bosz ghazi

Bosz and El Ghazi had a falling out. The right winger is now at Lille

But you did say he was the only #6 in your squad in the media. That didn’t help.

“But it was true at the time. Jairo played ever so well. And he’s still young, he will develop and I do recognise his potential. But Lasse is simply a better option today. It was a comment I made about Jairo and it got all the headlines and it was repeated time and time again. And I get that. If I could use him as center back I think it would have had less impact. But Viergever and Sanchez have a solid partnership. Viergever is one of the few players who is vocal on the pitch. He coaches, he directs, he corrects. He is a good organiser. Most people don’t see this. But that is why he is quite unique. Sanchez doesn’t speak our language, so Viergever’s contributions are even more important. I discussed all of this with Jairo and he found it very hard and again, I get that. He’s a tremendous talent, but, you know, once he gets over this, he’ll be an even better player. His time will come.”


Peter Bosz, #6 of Oranje in 1992

Riechedly Bazoer was the Oranje #6 and there was talk of a Barcelona bid. Now he’s gone.

“Bazoer is a wonderful player, but not the ideal #6 for me. In our system, you need to be very disciplined tactically. Bazoer had trouble with the balance and I think it was his age. He’s very young and exuberant. Like Feyenoord’s Vilhena, a bit. He has tremendous potential but on his position you need to pass the ball, not bring it like a mailman. He runs too much, he does too much. So you need to compensate his style by putting an extra midfielder in. It didn’t flow. It’s a shame, coz he is has real potential. I think he had a transfer in mind anyway, there was talk that he was keen to go to Barca or any other big team. He reminds me a bit of Seedorf. I call them old souls. Wise before their age. And Wolfsburg gave him a solid perspective. For me, I would have loved to have had him at Ajax longer, but sometimes it’s the player that wants to go.”

And is Tete that much worse than Veltman??

“I don’t want to go into detail. Kenny knows he had a mediocre start this season. They told me when I came: Kenny is a slow starter. That might be the case. I actually gave him quite some opportunities at the start of the season because of that. But we got to the point where we wanted to use alternatives and with Joel and the other changes, it started to flow. So I’m not changing it now. But he’s doing it well. He’s working hard, he’s positive and he takes his chances when he does play. It’s only a matter of time for him.”

The media enjoyed all of this and became very pro-active in discussing the changes. You have only 3 starters of Frank de Boer’s team in your team!

bosz frank db

“We needed change, we wanted to be on the front foot more and we dealt with it. There will be lots of opinions about my choices, I’m sure. Everything you do at a club like Ajax is put under the microscope. I hardly watch those football talk shows and I try not read all these stories. It’s noise for me. The essential bits, people will tell me anyway.”

The criticism on Youness and Traore?

“I see the players daily. I can see what they are able to do and how they work. I call all that media stuff shortsighted. They judge players on 7 minutes highlights. Whether it’s Sinkgraven or Tete or Viergever or Traore. Man, if I would listen to all of that I would go insane.”

What do you think of the criticism that you block the development of the Academy players?

“I am brought in as outsider, with the aim to play attractive football AND get results. I will field the best team to do this. That is my job. I will treat all players equal, whether developed here or not. Whether young or older. On loan or signed for a big fee. I can’t make decisions based on where a player is developed! And some players who are developed here are killing it! Klaassen, Justin Kluivert, Dolberg… When I came here they said about Dolberg: “Here is a youth player. Maybe have a look?” And he’s our starting striker now. Mathijs de Ligt. Only 17 years old. We used him a bit, but expected a bit of a downfall, like many youngsters have, but he doesn’t have it. He’s the perfect example of a player developed here and given a chance.”

bosz mourinho

“And Jose, this is how big your ego is, man!”

Playing like you want to play, this starts with communication and guidance, I guess?

“Yes, a few things are essential. What players do you have and how can you gel them into a team, the best team? Midfield is key for me. This is the metronome if you want. And then it’s the understanding in the player about the way we want to play and what his tasks are, because the Ajax way and my way of playing demands concentration. And it all starts when we don’t have the ball. High press and forechecking by all players on the pitch. With tactical cameras you can see exactly the movements of players. Which players push up as well and which players drop down or lose concentration i.e. their man? And playing attractive and dominant football is step 2, after you manage to do this right. Most Ajax players can do a lot with the ball, but the thing is….you mostly do not have the ball. What do you do then, as a player, or line or team?”

Recognisable football is also a term you use?

“It is important to develop what we call automatisms… Patterns, if you like. We are dealing with conscious and subconscious developments in players. When I do video analysis with them, it’s concsious. They know what I am talking about, think about it, talk about it. But we also have practices where I don’t want them to think or talk or know about anything, I want them to subconsciously make the right decision, like intuition… And develop patterns. So we train different match formats. 3 v 3 or 4 v 4 or 9 v 9 but always with three free players who can be used for a one touch bounce. This will develop patterns both ways (for the teams and for the bouncing players) that I can see in matches too, and we’re making progress.”

bosz mourinho dick

“But then, this is the seize of your dick!”

And there is the infamous 5 seconds rule, isn’t this a bit of a hype?

“Maybe for outsiders, but what can I do about that. It’s a key foundation for our way of playing. See, when you defend, the pitch needs to be small, when you attack you want the pitch big. It usually takes 5 seconds for the opponent to regain position as a team, when they take the ball. This is why we want it within 5 seconds back. It’s easier. You eliminate their threat. And when we play versus a counter team, the 5 second rule is really important. Recently, we played Standard Luik for the Europa League and the execution was good.”

And in the meantime you are building a bigger squad…

“Well no, I don’t want a bigger squad. We will have players leaving. I want more balance. I have a lot of midfielders but I had only one real left back in Dijks. Now with Daley Sinkgraven I have another option, a different option. I only had one left winger so this winter we had to make some moves and we got Justin Kluivert moving up from the youth team. Mathijs de Ligt is playing his games. I want every player in the squad to have a chance to play, I don’t need 30 players. It won’t work. There will always be disappointed players and they can affect more than you know.”

bosz coaching

Ajax does play more attractive now then under De Boer. And the European adventure is going on as well.

“We have done well so far in Europe. I believe it should be doable, for a Dutch club to reach far, but not every year and maybe not so much in the Champions League. That league is determined by money. I’m sure a Dutch club with the right draw can reach beyond the group stage but at quarter final level, you will compete with clubs who spend 5 times more than Dutch clubs, at least. So yes, one or two surprising wins are possible, but the finals will be very hard. Europa League is different. We won vs Kopenhagen, a very decent club. If we get a lucky draw, semi finals is doable. And then anything can happen. But this doesn’t mean a thing re: the past. I don’t want to say anything negative about Frank de Boer as he doesn’t deserve it. Every season is different and he has achieved the impossible here, almost. I do like results, but I really want to be able to entertain. I want the fans in the stadium to yell ooh and aah a lot of times. Spectacle, speed. And it takes time to gel a team. We sadly lost too many points in the first half of the competition where Gio van Bronckhorst had his season last year in which he had to find the solutions. They’re very solid and hard to beat all season. We took more time. But I’m happy with the development of the squad. Onana, Sanchez, Dolberg, Lasse Schone and also the youngsters, like De Ligt, Kluivert, Van de Beek… We can be very proud of our Academy and good things will come.”

How far are you from your goal?

“I re-watched our home game vs Standard Luik. And I saw a remarkable low number of situations where I frowned, situations we did wrong. We are making good steps. But we need to keep on working and developing, we’re certainly not there yet. We have an urge to be perfect and we’re not there. We’re on course, but not there yet.”

bosz gio

Old friends, gunning for the title




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Oranje without Robben; Feyenoord ends winning streak

Danny Blind keeps on doing his job as per usual amidst the drama and shenanigans at the KNVB.

The man highly criticised might end up being the only consistent factor at the moment in the national team realm. The KNVB board gone, no general manager, team manager Jorritsma off side, no big name assistants…but Danny can’t be bothered.

Fred Grim is his new assistant. The second assistant might not even be needed, as most big nations only have 1 assistant and some more specialised technical staff members. Keepers trainer Frans Hoek takes care of most set pieces and defensive organisation anyway, so Danny might have to make do with Grim. Former goalie (like Hoek and like Hans van Breukelen, and in Holland we have saying about goalies….). But highly rated as a coach. Took care of young Ajax and worked for the Federation, and Blind and him go way back. Van Basten is now officially out and working at FIFA.

Basten airport


The definitely squad was announced and no real surprises there. Arjen Robben, who only had two sub turns in Bayern 1, is not selected. Blind: “Arjen is very keen to come and we would love to have him of course, but it is just too early. He is always too eager and we need to make sure we do the right thing for him and his club. Should Arjen get a starting spot this weekend, things might change. We might talk to Bayern and Arjen to check how he will progress.”

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Former Fener star Kuyt congratulating current Fener sub Van Persie

Stefan de Vrij is back after a year of revalidation. He played vs Turkey in September 2015 and was subbed at half time. The knee injury was severe. But he’s back in the starting line up and even saw Antonio Conte make a play for him for Chelsea. But Lazio Roma wants 50 mio euros for the former Feyenoord man and Conte is now aiming elsewhere.

Van Aanholt isn’t selected either but Feyenoord backs Karsdorp and Kongolo are. Tete, Riedewald and Bazoer drop down to Young Oranje. As Hendrix and Ramselaar both don’t play regularly, Blind decided to go with Clasie. The Saints midfielder doesn’t play regularly either, but does have more experience and does play at a higher stage than the two PSV youngsters.

promes boos

Narsingh and Dost are in good shape these last weeks while Steven Berghuis seems to be inconsistent still.

Quincy Promes is part of the squad and Danny Blind had to defend his selection: “Promes was last season’s top goal scorer for Spartak. I see him play every week, the full 90 minutes and I know how good he is? I don’t think the criticasters watch him play every week. They base their opinion on his games for Oranje. We don’t always see the level he can play at in Oranje, that is true, but it will come I’m sure. He is a star in Russia and I select him for his performance at club level, first and foremost.”

Ron Vlaar is still not 100% fit. He copped another knock on his calf and won’t be joining the Orange Lions.

Let’s hope Ancelotti picks Robben for the starting line up this weekend and lets hope Robben scores four goals, clears two off his line and has 3 assists.

robben back

Dutch club football took a bit of a hit this week, with a narrow win by Ajax over Standard Luik (without Ziyech though) while AZ Alkmaar was taken to the cleaners by Zenit in Russia. Feyenoord wasn’t even a shadow of the football and winning machine they were vs Fener and were handed a defeat by Advocaat’s men. Ironically, former Fener star Kuyt lost the ball clumsily to Jeremain Lens who played a key role in the game. Three touches later, Feyenoord was 1-0 down and never came back from that. Lens should have played in Van Persie later in the game but the Sunderland loanie went for glory and fluffed his lines. PSV defended sloppily versus Rostov and got two cheap goals against them. Again, PSV missing a spot kick.

propper pen

Propper’s gifted right foot missing a spot kick. Next!

Ajax got the full 6 points in the EL but Bosz still has a lot of work to do. It’s still not clear how he wants to play. Dolberg as the main striker? Schone as defensive mid or Riedewald or Gudelj/Bazoer? Sinkgraven the key left full back now? What’s happening with Tete? Ziyech on the right flank or in midfield? The young Dolberg definitely is the real deal but he’s only 18 years old? Is it going to quickly with him? And what are the chances of Nouri getting more games?

Quick responses here on some stuff I read in the comments section of the blog.

Vincent Janssen and the risk of him being Soldado #2….

I don’t see it. Kane had trouble getting off his mark in his first and second season. Took him till match 7 or 8 if I am not mistaken. Janssen is a totally different striker than Kane and it needs some adjusting. He has two assists and one goal in official matches for Spurs so not too shabby. I think there might be a risk of him being Kuyt #2…

tete co

Tete, Bazoer and Riedewald not playing…

Fosu-Mensah playing as CB….

Playing CB at top level requires more than being a good defender. You need to read the game, play well with your partner, no when to move up or back, organise and communicate. Bailly for me is a risk – he’s a bit wild at times – and the partnership issue is underrated. Smalling and Blind work well together. This makes their pairing more valuable than the sum of the individuals involved. David Luiz at Chelsea doesn’t work well with Terry or Cahill and it shows. It’s best for Tim if he gets game time as a full back.

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Analysis Oranje failure to qualify

Let’s look at the way we had to operate during qualifications.

And allow me to first draw your attention of the Pre-Qualification period.

1. WC 2014

Van Gaal decided to change the 4-3-3 tactics of Oranje drastically, to not get obliterated by the likes of Spain, Mexico et al at the Word Cup in Brazil. He worked diligently to get his players to get this game plan under their belt.

It didn’t work too well. Oranje’s best results came when he abandoned 5-3-2 at half time to play 4-3-3. The key thing for us though, was the quality of players like Robben, Vlaar, Sneijder and Memphis. We also got a bit lucky. Spain had a 2-0 opportunity (Silva), Australia had a massive chance to 2-3 which they missed and Oranje was given a soft penalty later in the tournament (was it Mexico?). The Costa Rica game, we couldn’t put to bed and we didn’t create much vs Argentina.


Our 3rd spot was achieved thanks to Germany’s trashing of Brazil earlier on. The home team looked dazzled and rattled and gave up after Holland’s quick goal.

Coming out of the World Cup, several players made big moves to Portugal, Italy and England. Highly disruptive in the flow of a player. And most players would focus fully on their club, once back in action for qualifications so early in the season against less attractive opponents in less attractive circumstances. It happened to us, to Spain, to Germany, Italy and Portugal too.


I do believe we were quite complacent too. We reached #3 at the World Cup and entered a qualification group that many felt was impossible not to win. This was subconsciously taken into the game. “We can play on 80% as we are Holland. No way Iceland can beat us!”. That sort of thinking. I’m sure players will deny this but I am positive this played a part too.

2. Guus Hiddink vs Louis van Gaal

After Van Gaal’s straightjacket approach, the KNVB in their glorious wisdom, decided to go totally the other way, appointing Loose Guus to manage Oranje. He also was instructed to return to 4-3-3. As a result of massive criticism from the media, fans and ex-players. In the Italy friendly, this failed and as the Czechs also play 5-3-2, Hiddink decided to go back to 5-3-2 for the first qualifications game. He couldn’t use the same team as Van Gaal used though and the team never looked like the Brazil team in execution. Danny Blind was caught between a rock and a hard place. Danny is a Van Gaal adept and uses analysis and thorough preparation, like Louis, while Guus is more a “enjoy yourselves out there” kinda coach. Body language of the two sharing the bench at times was telling…



3. Available Players

Czech Republic away

Against the Czechs, Hiddink missed key players from the World Cup. Vlaar and Robben were both missing. We played alright, created chances but failed to score more than one. And Janmaat had that atrocious back header in the last minute which cost us the draw. (Hiddink punished Janmaat immediately for this, which didn’t go down well in the squad. A faithful soldier who played well for Oranje was axed for one mistake… The players who failed to score up front were not held accountable).

Nederlands tegen Tsjechië

Kazachstan home

A must win game. And we did. Not pretty, but who cares (especially now). Afellay and Van Persie scored and Afellay had the assist on Huntelaar (Tiju, paying attention??). No Janmaat, but Van der Wiel. No Vlaar either. Robben was back, as was Lens. Martins Indi played alongside De Vrij.

Iceland away

In October, playing in Iceland… Not a lot of inspiration. But, despite conceding (WC2014 hero De Vrij giving the spot kick away) Holland had opportunities to score. But didn’t. One Arjen Robben for instance, missed a good chance. A dead ball situation (back then already…. nothing new under the sun) gave Iceland the 2-0. We tried to get back into the game but couldn’t. This game was played with most of our top guns available: Robben, Sneijder, De Jong, Hunter, Van Persie but without Vlaar still. Clasie, Klaassen and Memphis are not to blame for this loss (TIJU!!!)

ijs uit

Lithuania home

6-0 win. Huntelaar, Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder all in good form. Good goals. You will be happy to know that Clasie, Memphis, Afellay were all involved in this game. Van der Wiel played again, for Janmaat and Bruma played for Martins Indi.

Turkey home

A draw, after conceding yet again. A late Sneijder shot, deflected by Huntelaar got us the point. Memphis and Afellay played the whole match. Van der Wiel and Martins Indi in defence. Nigel de Jong, the captain in midfield according to Hiddink, got subbed and would later on be silently phased out by the same Hiddink.

turk thuis

Lithuania away

Tough but decent win away, with Wijnaldum and Narsingh scoring for Oranje. No Robben again, no Vlaar. Daley Blind in midfield. Van Persie with Huntelaar in the team. More tinkering… Janmaat coming back in the team as a sub. Van der Wiel still in starting line up.

4. Hiddink out!

With only 4 games to go (and in need of at least two if not more wins), the KNVB decides to stop working with Hiddink. The experienced coach doesn’t get on with Van Oostveen. Hans Jorritsma, team manager and as such reporting to Hiddink, plays a double agent role. The three meet to talk about their differences in Hiddink’s Spain home and the end result is Hiddink being sacked, with Daley Blind thrown in the deep to secure a Euro spot. The home game vs Iceland is next up, in September 2015. Basically, early in the new season and as per usual, some players haven’t settled in yet… Martins Indi and Van der Wiel in particular didn’t see a lot of action.

exit guus

Confidence was low at this stage. Some of our top players were struggling. Van Persie wasn’t happy. Van der Vaart disappeared. Martins Indi lost his spot. Memphis was struggling. The soul was gone from the team. The belief was gone. Guus Hiddink demonstrated this in his post match interviews, where he looked lost.

Danny Blind had to gamble.  Four games to go, four victories needed. He decided to go with players who are used to big occasions and puts Robben on a pedestal. Sadly the more experienced lads disappointed and Robben blew his engine up.

Iceland home

Arjen Robben is all pumped up as new skipper to lead Oranje to victory. In 33 minutes, all changes. The Bayern winger is too pumped up and tears a muscle. Martins Indi gets provoked by an Sighthorsson (Feyenoord vs Ajax)  and retaliates and gets red. Holland creates opportunities but lacks belief so it seems and poor Van der Wiel has an error that leads to a penalty. In this game we lost Robben and we were already without Vlaar, Van Persie and Afellay. Van der Wiel played as Afellay wasn’t available and Van Rhijn was no longer starting for Ajax. Tete was spotted as top talent but considered too early to call up. Oranje struggled in the matches with eleven players, in this game with 10 (for an hour) it simply was too much…

robben ijsland thuis

Turkey away

The pressure is on. We copped an early goal again, in a must-win game. And again Blind needed to make changes. Bruma came in, Riedewald made his debut and Robben wasn’t fit to play either. Turkey scores after a brilliant through pass. Holland’s team dynamics and pressure doesn’t work. Not much later, Narsingh gets a similar chance as Turkey and he misses… Memphis creates a tremendous chance for Klaassen who misses. Memphis finds Van Persie who offers Sneijder an amazing shooting opportunity but the Gala midfielder aims right at the goalie. Three good opps, none taken. Then Blind makes an error and Cillesen looks horrible when Turan scores the 2-0. De Vrij leaves at half time with knee injury. Memphis creates another chance for Oranje in the second half. An unmarked Wijnaldum can score with his head, but uses his shoulder. Memphis is hacked down again by Turk with yellow. Ref doesn’t care but should have given a red. Luuk de Jong misses big chance as well and late in the game, Turkey scores their third after a foul committed by Caner.

turk nl uit

Kazachstan away

A must win game for Oranje and we do. Again, lots of changes: Krul, Tete, Van Dijk, Riedewald, El Ghazi and Huntelaar are in. Artificial pitch. Holland attacks and has a good phase. Memphis and Blind combine well but the winger misses. Wijnaldum scores not much later. Sneijder scores a beauty in the second half after a wonderful passage of play. El Ghazi has a wonderful chance to 0-3 but misses.  Oranje has to win and wins, in a sometimes pretty good performance.

Czech Republic home

Zoet in goal as Cillesen and Krul are out. Riedewald, Tete, Bruma and Van Dijk are back four. Probably never had a back four consistently for two games and 1,5 years after Brazil we play with a totally different defensive line. El Ghazi for Robben again and Huntelaar instead of Van Persie again. The Czechs have qualified already, and you can tell. They play really well. But, counter attacking style. Inviting Holland in. Memphis with first opportunity, Oranje has good start. But the game is slowed down too much and Sneijder sits deeper and deeper. Van Persie is warming up as Holland needs more creativity and pace. Our defence fails twice. Incl Zoet. He didn’t look good with the 0-1 and the whole defence failed for the 0-2. Van Dijk and Zoet aren’t dealing with cross. Czech’s get red card for tackle on Memphis. Van Dijk very close to scoring. Tete is one of the few decent players. And to add insult to injury, Van Persie scores own goal. The same van Persie deserves a penalty later but is denied. Huntelaar and Van Persie get Oranje back into the game, 2-3 but we needed more but we didn’t get more.

rvp own goal

Everything that went right for us in Brazil, went wrong in this qualification campaign. Injuries, bad luck, bad decision making, loss of form. So many chances missed, so many unlucky and unlikely situations. Van Persie own goal, Sneijder missing chances, Memphis missing chances, penalties conceded but never received, etc etc… As if the Devil had a say in it.

5. Perfect Storm

Overall, we also lack quality. If quality is defined as a the total requirements to play top football. Sure, technique, they all have. They all have tactical smarts. But leadership, desire, mentality, physical presence…this is where we lacked the most.

Add it all together – wrong coach, wrong tactics, individual mistakes, key players missing, no team dynamics – and even the best football nation can lose against Iceland and Turkey.

guus balt

Something to add here, is the pretty crucial element: our lack of European top clubs. In the past, coaches were always able to draw from the key players of good performing clubs. Most teams in the 1970s and 1980s used Dutch players. When Ajax and Feyenoord ruled Europe in the early 70s, Michels used the top players from both teams in Oranje. They both played 4-3-3, no sweat. In the early 80s, the coach tried it with the AZ Alkmaar top players (Peters, Jonk, Tol, Kist, Hovenkamp) and in the mid 90s Guus Hiddink went with the Ajax talent pool. That effect slowly died out. But today you’ll find that Spain is making use of the Barca framework, which enables Spain to have a recognisable playing style, just like Germany has Bayern Munich and Italy have Juventus. England has a couple of top teams, mostly with non English lafs and hence, there is your England hangover. The Dutch have failed to impress in Europe at club level for some time, with this season a notable exception with PSV doing well in CL. For this reason, lots of people push Blind and his staff to go with the PSV skeleton for Oranje. Zoet, Bruma, Willems, Propper, Van Ginkel, to be supplemented with top players from other clubs like Sneijder. Robben, Bazoer, Van Dijk and Tete for the remaining spots. Obviously, some people believe the combination Willems, Propper, Luuk de Jong should be utilised. But this PSV core might well drift apart. Van Ginkel is still owned by Chelsea, Willems and Bruma might make a move and Luuk de Jong might lack real quality… The fact that Dutch clubs underperform in Europe will definitely have its impact on Oranje. But that is a fact of life. For now.

The good thing is, the Euros will be over and done with in 4 weeks or so. It will be history. And we will be facing Sweden without Zlatan, who will have trouble getting worked up for the qualifications so soon after the Euros. While Holland will pull a “Czech Republic”. We will want to eat the opponent and we will start our flow with a good solid win over the Swedes.



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Oranje finds anschluss with Europe elite vs Austria

Dear friends, I hope you forgive me the pun re: Austria. I am so used to go make word jokes with our opponents… Austria was a tough one, so I had to dig deep. I do believe WW2 is now far enough behind us for this to be acceptable, yes?

But, joking aside, I do think we have done well. We beat Wales and England, away. We drew Ireland while playing sub par and we beat Poland and Austria. And sure, Austria is not Germany and Poland is not Spain but decent teams. And we didn’t do too badly. Considering…

And there is lots to consider… We lost our head coach after differences of opinion with KNVB management. We lost key players like Vlaar, Strootman, Robben and Van Persie. We had top talents like Memphis, Willems, El Ghazi underperform for different reasons. And we took a mental blow from not qualifying for the Euros.

Danny Blind was facing a storm. Ziyech didn’t join, more injuries, a system that didn’t seem to work, individual players messing up in key games… a tough road.


But he stuck to his guns (system and approach) and gave youngsters a chance and he made the brave decision to have Advocaat join the coaching staff.

And I guess it worked. The Ireland game was sub par. Lack of pace, lack of desire, no forward passing, no risk takers.. Against Poland, we did alright and against Austria we got our swagger back.

We were lucky though. The Berghuis cross was deflected. Janssen mistimed his header, it could have gone anyway. Austria missed a sitter (Janko) and could have had a penalty (Bazoer on Alaba)… but overall, we played well. And we even could have scored 3 more. A lucky deflection of a Promes shot on the post, Janssen missing an open chance, Promes missing an open opportunity, Van Ginkel heading the ball away from an open goal… Opportunities galore one might say.

And even though we didn’t play great, there were many a positive light to be seen.

zoet aus

Goalie Jeroen Zoet showed composure and kept us in the game at some stage with some good saves. Kenny Tete had a tough start against Arnautovic, like any full back, but fought himself back into the game. I thought he played excellent and was also a threat going forward (more so than Veltman, but less so than Janmaat). Bruma and Van Dijk both had their little moments of complacency and their build up play can still improve but they do play with confidence and both players, with their length, have a physical presence that can’t be denied. Van Aanholt, was decent in defending, although he was caught out a couple of times, as he seems to “bite” too quick and allows wingers to trick him with their movements. Going forward, he was excellent though. He was a constant mover on the flank, although the passing speed of Oranje was still not quick enough for me and Van Aanholt was overlooked too often, in my book. Obviously, he started the move that led to the 2-0 and deserves kudos for his game.



Our midfield needs improvement, although they did step up. Kevin Strootman started rusty but played himself in the game. Great vision and passing and solid in duels. Strootman doesn’t do “friendly games”. If this is a player who was out for 2 years, I am very positive about his future and impact. Rock solid and the only way is up. Bazoer had good and not so good moments. Easy on the eye, agile in his movement, courageous and technically very skilled. But switches off too often. Had two or three occasions where a man drifted away and his passing could be more adventurous at times. His link up with Berghuis was not great. He also should make more runs into the box for me. He plays too much as a controller, like Strootman. But, he’s young. And I have very high hopes for him.

janssen aus


Wijnaldum was the big disappointed for me. He plays in the #10 role and needs to be much more dominant. His link up play with Janssen was simply non existent and it feels like it is too crowded for him in that spot. He plays well in a 4-4-2 or on the flank in a 4-3-3. The central role… I don’t know. Sure, his goal was fine. His run to the area where De Jong would lay off was great and well timed and his left and right foot can produce something special. But we need more from him in that spot. We’ll see Sneijder there vs Sweden for sure (if he’s fit). Upfront, Promes was a busy bee. Constant threat, constantly moving. His touch needs to improve and he lacks composure in Oranje, although in Moscow he can’t stop scoring. He’s positive though and seems to come across as a good lad. Janssen was special for me. His movement, his spirit, his hold up play, his smart passing and link up play… Excellent. If he keeps on working and not take himself too seriously with all the transfer rumours, he could end up being the real thing. Berghuis is a talent but needs to improve still. He is a smart player, re: movement but his touch is sometimes not there and he tends to be pushed off the ball too easily. But he has something special. A real street football player. Reminds me of Steve McManaman but with a better left foot.


Luuk de Jong impressed me as well. Great hold up play and good awareness. Van Ginkel did alright, but missed a sitter. Vilhena and Veltman couldn’t really make an impact, altough Vilhena has great energy and work rate. He’ll probably do well IF he makes the right decision re: his next step.


All in all, a good performance. A sloppy start, a lucky goal, some haphazard defending but also some great passages of play, with Strootman key in midfield and Promes and Janssen a constant threat. Well done!

We now need two things… We need the likes of Janssen, Vilhena, Berghuis, Janmaat and Memphis to to settle in their new situations next season. Wherever they go or decide to stay. And we need Sneijder, Robben, Clasie and Blind back. I still believe in a midfield with Sneijder, Bazoer, Clasie and Strootman, with Robben playing from the right and Sneijder false left winger (with Willems behind him) and Janssen upfront. Against weaker opponents, we could field two out and out wingers. Tete or Janmaat as right back and Willems or Van Aanholt as left back (I prefer Willems).

training aus

If Van Persie is fit, I’d use him in the squad as well. With Vlaar and Berghuis, Promes, Memphis, Propper, Van Ginkel and L. de Jong to complete the bench. I can imagine Blind will play son Daley as holding mid in place of Clasie if we need two strong center backs. Or Blind with Van Dijk/Bruma at the back and aforementioned Clasie as holding mid. Length can be key, and for this Blind has options.

I get excited with the prospect of Sneijder and Janssen in the team. With Janssen’s movement, Sneijder will find him. And Robben there too, they will be hard to defend. Playing Clasie will allow Strootman to go box to box which I think is his best position. I think it’s a shame to have a player with his dynamics, body and length to sit before defence.




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