After being in the doldrums for years, the Dutch are back at the top. We beat World Champions France, 2014 Champs Germany, we took on semi finalist England… And now we’re about to take the scalp of European Title holder Portugal. Again.
Our lads are on a roll! Led by experienced Ronald Koeman – the timing for him to be our NT manager is now, is just perfect – and further inspired by Ajax’ and Liverpool’s successes, this team marches on!
What a game we saw them play again! I think you’ll have to watch it again to realise what a massive match it was.
Sure, England didn’t play their best team against us, due to the CL finals. But this is still a top notch squad we were up against and yet again, England played second fiddle to our boys.
And we ruled. We controlled the match and we set the tone. And ended up winning 3-1, although it could have easily been 6-2 for Holland. Memphis could have had a hattrick (like C Ronaldo in the Portugal semis vs Swizerland) but the Lyon forward was “unlucky”.
Strong Daley Blind: never in trouble
Interesting to see too, how some people keep on believing Daley Blind is the weak spot in the team. Not only did he play 66 matches this season, most of them really good too, he was one of the top performers for Ajax and played another strong game vs England.
Our weakest spot in the team is still the right back role. Janmaat seems to be struggeling with fitness, Tete was injured and Rick Karsdorp need to make a move away from AS Roma (apparently Peter Bosz’ Bayern Leverkusen is in the market) and play more matches. Today, Hateboer and Dumfries are the choices we have and both are vulnerable in defence. I think Hateboer is a perfect wingback, while Dumfries has wonderful moments and woeful ones…
A world class striker
Somehow, the English commentators started to put a thought in the Dutch minds. They said Holland had the midfield and the defence to win the World Cup, but needs top forwards to actually do so. (They also said the exact opposite of the English team, by the way).
I don’t buy into it. I am fully on board with what Koeman is doing. Memphis has demonstrated to be able to score. Over and over again. He’s one of our current top scorers, he creates and scores for Lyon and will never unlearn this. Babel, Bergwijn and Promes are also players who usually are prolific and Weghorst and L. de Jong are perfect pinch hitters.
And don’t forget, Memphis is Oranje’s Most Valuabe Player under Koeman by a country mile! With 8 goals and 7 assists (15 in total) he is number 1, with Mathijs de Ligt (2 goals, 2 assists) and Virgil van Dijk (4 goals) as number 2s.
And yes, wouldn’t it be awesome to have a new Van Nistelrooy or Van Basten sometimes soon? Of course. But we will be able to win trophies with the current forwards, as this team is currently demonstrating! We also have Danjuma and Dilrosen still, Sam Lammers is coming along as is Donyel Malen, FC Utrecht and AZ have some young strikers in their midst, and don’t forget Redan at Chelsea.
Against England, our forwards were not as sharp. It happens. Bergwijn had two massive opportunities he scoffed. Memphis could have had 3 goals. Babel was not in great shape, but we all know he can score and head a ball too.
Don’t be surprised to see Promes start for Oranje instead of Babel vs Portugal. The three mercurial forwards Bergwijn, Promes and Depay need some time together and they will tear opponents apart. For me, Donny van de Beek would be the perfect offensive midfielder to join in and play his Jack-in-the-Box role, with Frenkie and Gini as controlling mids. Davy Propper being the perfect stand-in for either.
Speaking of Propper, you know I am a fan. He demonstrated in the short spell he played that he can do what Frenkie does, too. He has always been a more humble guy and maybe was told in the youth system to not take risks, but the way Frenkie de Jong plays is an inspiration to the others. I saw Propper turn away and move forward on the first pass he received and Marten de Roon also found some confidence in his build up play, seemingly comfortable being played in with two opponents close by.
It is no surprise Ajax will be making a play for the midfielder, to replace Frenkie de Jong in midfield.
I really think we have more than one player in midfield who can make a difference and I’m excited with players like Cokcu, Gakpo, Ihatarren, Stengs and Carel Eiting coming through too.
The English Lessions
1 – Details
“I was already looking over the ball to see where I wanted to pass it. That was not smart.” The 19 year old Ajax skipper made two mistakes. The first is a mistake a player can make, and will make. Whether he’s 19 or 29. It happens to every defender every now and then. Play 40+ matches in a season and you make 3 or 4 mistakes. The second mistake was De Ligt gliding in, where he could have tried to stay on his feet and block the shot from an acute angle, knowing the goalie was there still too. But De Ligt took it on the chin and ended up playing a superb match, with a stunning header goal to boot. It’s the big lesson: make one mistake and the opponent will hurt you. One wrong pass. One wrong touch. It can be the difference between winning or losing. De Ligt is learning and he’s learning fast!
2 – Effectiveness
“We were better most of the game, but sloppy with the final ball. We went to quickly to the flanks which played into their hands really. And we had a number of opportunities which should have been converted into 100% chances. We were too sloppy.” This is Koeman’s analysis of the game. Yes, Holland was better. But we simply didn’t create real chances in the first hour. Bergwijn had a big one. He created it himself and he ended up destroying it. Memphis had a good one after a break, with Wijnaldum playing him in. Memphis fluffed his lines. And also in the second half, in the last minutes, he couldn’t sort his feet out properly on a break with Promes… He did get a good diving header in and was simply unlucky with that one. With Babel, Bergwijn and Memphis, Koeman gambles on their speed, trickery and creativity. Bergwijn played a good game, but Memphis and Babel didn’t reach their usual level. Weird, as Memphis assisted all three goals basically, but he also had many howlers, bad touches and bad decisions. And should have scored three times, in my view. Our attacking play needs more effectiveness, as we won’t get 9 opportunities to score against other big nations (Portugal, anyone??).
3 – The strength of the squad
We can leave Wout Weghorst at home. Bas Dost decided to call it a day himself. As Ajax demonstrated this season, it is possible to keep 16 players happy as you can use them all in a campaign to something special. Davy Propper, Quincy Promes, Donny van de Beek… all three added flair to the game when they came on, with Promes basically scoring twice! With the likes of Jeroen Zoet, Kenneth Vermeer, De Vrij, Ake, Vilhena and Luuk de Jong, we have more players who can come onto the pitch and make a difference.
4 – Setpieces
With 17 minutes to go, the Dutch supporters cheered as if we scored: we simply got a corner kick. But with Memphis or Propper on corner taking duties and De Ligt and Van Dijk in the box, you know you have a real chance. De Ligt: “I train these situations every second day. I work on my jumps, on my timing… And if the corner is perfect, as it was, and the block works, as it did, it becomes easier for me to finish the ball off.” Holland has a plan for set pieces and it paid off.
5 – Physical strength
For decades, we had to hear that Dutch footballers are physically speaking less than the Germans, Italians, French and English players… Not anymore. Daley Blind played 66 games this season. Against England, he was capable of playing full throttle for 120 minutes and also delivered the pass of the match, with his outside left. And he’s not alone: Wijnaldum, Van Dijk, De Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Memphis Depay, Denzel Dumfries…all powerhouses of guys. Holland was physically better than England. Quite a new statement to make.
6 – Hungry for trophies
“When you win, you won’t feel the fatigue” is a oft used saying by coaches. Even after conceding an unfortunate goal, Holland kept believing and diligently continued hunting for that equaliser. Never in haste, never erratic. The team excudes enthusiasm and joy to play, and demonstrated resilience and hunger. There is unity for all to see and Koeman created a foundation for the individuals to shine and excel. This spot in the finals might be a first in a series of many…