Tag: Xavi

Prelim Squad announced for Oranje

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My two teams:

 

 

Tell me your fave line up in the comments….

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Oranje making up numbers at Euros

Well, we made it. We qualified. But the performance quality – or lack thereof – doesn’t instil a lot of confidence in me.

I don’t think I have seen one match after the World Cup that gave me a good feeling. And sure, we miss a couple of big players, but I can’t see how Frenkie or Memphis would have improved the play much, all by themselves. I mean, there were games with Frenkie in the side post-WC which also didn’t dazzle us.

I do think Koeman is doing the right thing in his squad selection and today’s line up, for me, was quite logical.

I personally would have doubted to put Weghorst in, but he did score the winner so people will probably laugh at me.

But i just don’t like him. And I think that another player would have scored if we had Malen as right winger and Xavi as false 9.

I probably also would have played Wieffer instead of Schouten. I’m a big Schouten fan but to put him in in his second game after being shoved aside by Van Gaal quite rudely, I would have used him versus Gibraltar. I think Wieffer is settled more in Oranje and is known to be quite stoic.

I also need to add: I think Schouten played a very decent match and will only improve.

Lastly, I think I would have picked Bijlow over Verbruggen. The latter is a great talent but still so inexperienced. He had to field two shots on goal and one went in through his legs. Ouch. Luckily for him, the Irish attacker was off side.

But overall, I think Koeman’s decisions re: line up and squad are fine.

It’s the execution (and maybe the prep by Koeman) that leaves a lot to be desired.

The excuse that we miss so many players is not a real excuse for me. We missed a lot of central defenders ( Botman, De Ligt, Timber, Ake, Van der Ven) but that area was not where the issues were today. I thought Blind and De Vrij did well. De Vrij was probably one of the best. His passing, some of his footwork, obviously his defending too. No worries at all.

The issues were in build up and the speed of play. We played walking football. Every time there was a chance to accelerate the game, we seemed to not want to take it. Where Frenkie naturally turns “open” when getting the ball and pass through a line or two, the two “6”s were too cautious. Schouten did it a couple of times, but it still was a bit timid. The pass backwards was found too easily. A simple acceleration on the ball, either with the man or by the ball in terms of a pass, was constantly an option and mostly not taken.

Up front, Weghorst seems to “block” forward motion. Every time he comes into the ball, Simons and Gakpo would move forward for the flick, and every time Weghorst would simply bounce the ball back to the midfielders. No flow.

And most annoyingly, none of the players had the urge to make runs in behind. The corner triangles you see so fluidly at Man City, Feyenoord and Arsenal were not there. The only player at times to recognise the space was Reijnders who’d run into it, but the pass never came. It was sterile and flat. There were options enough ( for Hartman, for Xavi, for Weghorst or Dumfries) to make the dart into that space, even to just stretch the Irish. But no.

My biggest disappointment was the post match interview with Weghorst, who was angry at the reporter asking him a question about the lack of flow in the game. As if the great man is above critical questions after doing his heroics for king and country. Pathetic!

There is a lot of work to do. The good thing is: we do have the players. But we need these players to realise they need to up their game two levels if they want to compete with Spain, England and France at the Euros.

 

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Oranje’s bright future…

It’s a bit cynical maybe to speak of a bright future after a loss in the Euro qualifications, but with Koeman’s 3-4-3 and the talents cherished by AZ, Feyenoord, PSV and …. Ajax (?), we should be able to mould a winning team again.

We will need to reach the Euros of course and that is not a certainty yet, but with the Greece game coming up and our escape route via the Nations League standings, it’s hard to believe we won’t be making it.

There have been some good suggestions on the blog for ideal pairings and such. I think it’s best to stay flexible also taking form and the strength of the opponent into consideration.

Goal Keepers

With Bijlow, Flekken, Verbruggen, Olij, Vaessen, Van Gassel, Gorter, Room, Noppert I don’t think we’ll have many issues here.

Bijlow remains my favorite, although Verbruggen will develop into a top goalie as well. If we have 3 goalies who can stop shots, distribute the ball, coach well and remain fit, I think we should be happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Central Trio

Van Dijk will be beyond criticism, as will Ake be. I think De Vrij will make way soon for Van der Ven/Botman. De Ligt is not ideal in this role as he will have trouble seconding for Dumfries/Frimpong as occasional “right back”. He’s not very agile and needs a direct opponent to bite himself into. I would see De Ligt as the replacement for Van Dijk. With space around the right centre back, the likes of Timber and Geertruida are more suited for that role on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Van der Ven impressing in orange and in London

Wingbacks

It’s clear that Dumfries and Frimpong on the right and Hartmann, Malacia, Maatsen will be the main guys for the wingback role. I haven’t ruled Karsdorp out on the right, but he’ll need more playing time of course. Mitchell Bakker can be an option on the left and who knows, Wijndal?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mercurial Frimpong

Central midfield

De Roon will probably always play a role in the squad as coach appreciate his physical strength, his tactical discipline and leadership but from a football perspective, Reinders, Wieffer and Veerman and even Schouten (PSV) will eclipse him at some point.

To me Schouten is a more complete “De Roon”. The PSV midfielder is also a great passer of the ball. Shame that he was overlooked, in particular with Koopmeiners out.

Frenkie will be a certainty. Koopmeiners/Frenkie hasn’t worked too well. Reinders could be a good partner for Frenkie. I personally rate him overall higher than Veerman who remains to be weak without the ball. Schouten/Frenkie can work well too, I believe.

Ryan Gravenberch is doing really in his early Liverpool days and he and Frenkie might also end up being a strong partnership. Not sure about Gravenberch as a 10. I can see Reijnders playing as a 10 though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jerdy Schouten

Forwards

Up front, it might get tough for Memphis to get back into the team, in particular if Koeman can get Brobby to perform. Gakpo and Xavi Simons are probably solid options for the coach. Noa Lang is on fire at PSV. A forward trio of Lang, Gakpo and Xavi Simons looks really amazing, with Malen, Bergwijn as support. Danjuma is a bit of a dark horse. No idea why he cut his time at Villareal short, as he was doing so well there and then he ended up with Everton??

Zirkzee and Joel Piroe might end up becoming top strikers for us too, in the years to come. Another forward/midfielder I really rate is Ruben van Bommel of AZ, currently in Jong Oranje.

In that squad, managed by Michael Reiziger, players like Kenneth Taylor, Jorrel Hato (Ajax defender), Dirk Proper (NEC) and Isaac Babadi (PSV) look like the real deal, as I’m also impressed with Noah Ohio (Standard Luik). The latter played his youth football in Manchester at United and City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruben van Bommel scoring while Mark van Bommel is tearing up

Coaches and playing style

Ronald Koeman seems to have the sympathy factor in The Netherlands, based on his past as a player and based on his last stint as national team manager, as he is seen as the man who got Oranje out of the slumps. He’s not the most innovative or even adventurous coaches, but with Erwin Koeman next to him and more important, Sipke Hulshoff next to him, we should have all elements in place. Erwin is a great field coach and analyticus while Hulshoff offers the more modern coaching aspects to the team (stats, video analysis). Pat Lodewijks is always praised for his wonderful set piece ploys.

As clubs like PSV, Feyenoord, AZ but also Sparta and even Almere City transforming into high press, high octane teams (Ajax currently lacking behind a bit) and with top internationals playing this style of football already under Klopp, Guardiola and Xavi, it’s only a matter of time before Oranje plays in this same vein, forcing the likes of Xavi Simons, Memphis and Lang into the mould as well.

We will only get better.

The Greece game will not be easy. Greece is better than most people think ( we have a couple of these guys in the Eredivisie and they’re good). We can lose or draw that game, I would not be surprised.

We will still have a way into the Euros via the play offs but again: if we can’t beat Greece than we need to wonder what we want to achieve in those Euros.

Still, I say we win 0-2, with Weghorst and Simons on the score sheet.

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Oranje press masterclass v USA

Louis van Gaal has been talking about his “provocative press” quite often. This works well against teams that are expansive, want the ball and want to attack. It’s not a high press, so much, but a press around the midfield. They make the opponent think they are on top, they have possession but once they come 5 yards or so before the midline, the Dutch press starts. The pitch becomes small and the more intense and more neat ball players will turn the game around.

A couple of things are important: 1) recognising the moment, 2) neat and tidy in the passing, 3) some courage to play the ball one time forward and move forward to offer an option again and 4) understanding of one anothers movements.

Van Gaal also analyses the opponent of course, and the USA do not have the best central defenders, not in terms of defending and not in terms of build up. Adams is their holding mid/playmaker and Van Gaal made Memphis, Klaassen and Gakpo or to Adams. The other two would block the passing lines from the defenders to the wide players, as that is how the USA builds up usually.

This is what LVG wanted: crisp fast passing forward, this is the run up to the 1-0. Amazing team goal.

When you can stop these passes, the danger man – in this case Pulisic – will not get much to play with and will not be able to stamp his authority on the game.

The defensive organisation was superb, and a nice bonus of this way of playing is that the USA is allowing the field to become stretched. The two defenders will not dribble into midfield, so whenever there is a turn-around, the smart players (Frenkie, Koopmeiners, Blind, Ake) will find the space to attack the opponent.

Central defender with the ball, pass lines are closed off. Next step: loss of possession

Look at that first goal we scored. It’s Frenkie probing, turning, trying to find the space. Once he has it, it’s accelerating, it’s one-touch football and Gakpo carrying the ball into the danger area. And Memphis has learned from Messi: don’t run into the box but pause a couple of beats and arrive in the box right in time: 1-0.

And this:

What was quite remarkable too, was the presence of both Klaassen and De Roon in the box ahead of Memphis, which allowed the Barca man to drift to the edge of the box, unmarked, Lionel Messi style.

The second goal was the result of a nice overload, late in the first half. I think it was a second phase attack on the right, with an overload of Oranje players, playing short combinations.

Smart Memphis went to search out Dest, the US right back to keep him busy and distracted, allowing Daley Blind to move into space undetected. It might have been a blessing that Blind had to finish with his weak foot. Sometimes players try to hit the ball too hard with their favourite foot, while they kick a controlled shot with their weak foot.

After his goal, Blind ran to the bench to celebrate with Weghorst (I have yet to find out why) and to have moment with dad.

Yes, it all worked out well but we can’t ignore that Pulisic chance in the 3rd minute, when that same Daley Blind was too lethargic coming out of defence to stay in line with Van Dijk. That almost cost us dearly but goal stopper Noppert saved the day.

I have to say, I was quite suspect of using Noppert but he has completely convinced me. What a story.

This would be the wingbacks game, finally the two wide players got the chance to shine.

Van Gaal assumes Oranje would get more space in the second half, with the USA needing to attack and he brings Koopmeiners and his passing skills and Bergwijn, with his speed. The Atalanta midfielder had a good turn and was close to scoring. Bergwijn had a couple of opportunities but wasn’t sharp enough to turn them into goal chances. It seems Bergwijn needs to shake something off still.

Oranje fails to convert the chances and kill the game, despite more opportunities for Memphis and Blind but when it remains 2-0, USA can still get back into the game and does so through a fluke goal.

The disciplined Dutch do get their third goal, as mentioned, another wingback to wingback opportunity, with Dumfries unmarked at the far post. Typical for a team defending with four at the back, they simply didn’t have enough bodies at the back and looked a mess.

Xavi Simons is the youngst debutant in Oranje, at a World Cup knock out stage. 19 years and something. In the 83rd minute he replaced Memphis. “This is a dream come true!”.

Denzel Dumfries was the Man of the Match, unchallenged. Two assists, one goal and those trade mark marauding runs. It was all rosy after three weak performances in the group. Dumfries: “I can tell you, the criticism hurt. It was not easy for me, mentally. I do have a great team of people around me and they helped me. Since my Sparta days I am working with a sports psychologist. I have had contact with her twice via Zoom during the World Cup. Sometimes this is a taboo but I don’t care. I am super critical on myself, even more so that others. And it affects me But I am super happy with played well and won, even though we can and need to do better. We had to kill the game before they scored. Their goal made things a bit harder.”

Frenkie de Jong is usually one of the best Oranje players, but this time he played a so-so match. “We did allow them the ball and allowed them to move up a bit. This way, there would be more space in their third, which we could penetrate and exploit. I think that worked well. But, we can do better in possession. I was not good today, I was actually quite bad. Not sure, I was flat, missed the energy and was sloppy. I think it might have been that cold I had. But it’s ok, we now have 6 days until the Argentina game, that should be enough.” When talking about the strengths of this team: “We are good in exploiting the spaces, that is a weapon. And that 1-0 move, that was us good in possession. We need more of that.” When asked about playing with Marten de Roon: “I like playing with him, but I can play with others too. You know with Marten, that he will always guard the space, when I roam, he is a certainty for me.”

Louis van Gaal couldn’t help but emphasize that his plan worked: “We were going to allow their two central defenders to build up and just pin their key players further up the field. This allowed us to play our provocative press. And those goals were fantastic, as it all worked out as we planned. That second and third goal: one wingback assisting the other wingback. Amazing. But we need to improve when we are in possession. Without the ball, we can dominate and we are very good, but with the ball, we need to grow. And if you don’t, you won’t win this tournament. Now, I will give my players a day off. I think they will be pretty sick of me by now.”

Some people call this Oranje a counter attacking team, a bit condescendingly (you know who you are Pierre van Hooijdonk) but Davy Klaassen is not ashamed: “Yes, it is one of our strengths. It always sounds so negative, but we have speedy and capable forwards. The 1-0 was amazing and that is how we like to play football. This is how we discuss our game. And today you saw the power of the system we use. But, we do want to play higher up. When players drop in, you need to decide whether you press forward or not. And that needs to be finetuned between the other players as well. But, all in all, the USA didn’t create too many chances. Still, I think we needed to press more aggressive even, we could have done better.”

Blind was asked how it came to be that it worked so well against USA and not in the group games. “When teams play deep and compact, Denzel and I simply don’t get the space we need. It’s hard to go past them. Now, there was space. And when our strikers can hold on to the ball, we can move up and support. And there was space behind their backs, as they also tried to move forward. That is all relevant. In the past group matches we pressed higher up. Which limits our space as well whereas against USA we decided to let them come higher before we pressed. I do think we can improve in that but we got some good results. When you play this system you know you might see less of the ball. But it is effective.”

Blind had to cop some criticism before this match. “I personally believe we tend to focus on the negative too much in Holland. You can do 20 things right, but when you make a mistake, all the focus is on that. It’s a Dutch thing, I think. But we are super critical ourselves as well. We know what needs to improve but you cannot just flick your fingers and there it is. It’s like a jigsaw, you need to find the right pieces that fit together. And when we do what we agree on, we can come a long way.” When the interviewer kept on coming back to the criticism, Blind cut him off: “Lets not make a big thing of it. We won, lets talk about that. I can see many nations trying to find their top level. We are the only country without a loss. I am not claiming we are playing perfect football, I know we need to do better. But if we can’t, we need to stick to the plan and do our job. The criticism is justified at times, but not always.”

This team had some outstanding performers. Noppert needs a mention, because of his saves (playing sweeper at one point), Dumfries as Man of the Match of course, and Daley with a goal and assist. Memphis is clearly getting better and better but the defence deserves a separate mention as well. Van Dijk and Timber played sober, but did everything right, while Nathan Ake is Holland’s most consistent performer this tournament. He is slowly but surely becoming one of the world’s best defenders if he keeps on developing like this. Great player. The modern defender.

All in all, after 90 minutes of play, the USA has had more possession, a higher passing accuracy and more attempts on goal, but the most important statistic – goals – is in for the Dutch.

 

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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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Without Cruyff, no Messi….

Cool book review: Graham Hunter’s “Barca: The Making of the Best Team in the World”.

Buy it now, at the UK Book Depository. Postage is FREE. See link on my home page 😉 and here….

http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/?a_aid=jroskott

If the 175,000 Barca socios would organise to massage his feet everyday, cook for him, carry him to his bed and caddy his clubs for him on the Montoya hill…even if they’d pay him 50% of their weekly wages….then still the debt the Barca fans would have to Johan Cruyff would not not have been paid off.

Graham Hunter published the book “Barca: the making of the greatest team in the world” this month and is on a quest to find the factors that made Barcelona such a tremendous success. From players to coaches to presidents to youth academy. An inspirational book…a football bible.

And his conclusion: without Cruyff, we would not have had Pep Guardiola, Lionel Messi, Xavi, Iniesta… They would all have been judged too small, too vulnerable, too frail.

“This current Barca team also carriers the Cruyff DNA in their genes. The way they practice and train, the way they play…the way they feel that creative football and entertaining the crowd is as important as winning,” writes the English journo. Without Cruyff, the Barca Legend would not exist.

“Without Cruyff, no dream team. No dream team, no totall football. No tiki-taka, no Rijkaard, Laporta and without Cruyff and Rexach, Guardiola wouldn’t have made it into the first team.”

In 1989, it was Johan Cruyff who laid out the parameters for the La Masia Youth Academy. He restructured the way the youth was developed signicantly. Only 3-4-3 was allowed and the lads that were exceptional were put in teams of older boys to generate resilience.

The goal keeper was told to be pro-active as a field player, one-touch was introduced and forward pressing when the ball was lost. Ball possession and regain it fast once turned over was the key. And every player was told to gain the utmost ball control. The players were motivated to do tricks, to dribble and to try out things.

Hunter: “These elements are all still very current in Barca’s youth academy and led to the golden generation of the recent teams we’ve seen. And Spain’s European and World titles, in a final inwhich they ironically beat Holland, are made by Cruyff. Spanish football and Catalonian football owe their success to Johan Cruyff.”

The English Guardian published their top 100 of best players of 2012.

Lionel Messi is obviously number one, and his team mate Xavi is number 3. The eternal number 2 – C Ronaldo – is sandwiched between them. Robin van Persie is the best Dutch player on number 7. Iniesta, Ibrahimovic and Falcao are considered better players this year. The next Dutch name is to be found on 63: Klaas Jan Huntelaar. Sneijder and Robben made the top 100 as well.

Hot news from ESPN, Wesley Sneijder is about to sign for Tottenham Hotspur. The London based club pays 15mio euros for the little midfielder.

Barca youth team demonstrating the Dutch DNA

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Viva Espagna ! !

I am sorry people. I know some of you don’t like the way Spain/Barcelona plays…

And as we lost against them in 2010, we might carry a grudge, but By Golly they played sensational against Italy, didn’t they?

And if you can win three big tournaments in a row, even with not that good football ( 2010) you deserve respect…

And although I do think Barcelona is getting boring and predictable at times, this Spanish side really impressed me.

For a couple of reasons. And obviously, I look at them thinking… Hmmm, if only Oranje could play like this.

1. They can kill of a game / opponent
They know how to play good football and they know how to win games. They hardly concede goals. And they have patience. Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Pique are not only great players, they are also great tacticians.

2. They are sooo skilled
Every touch, every pass, every run…it’s all pure football. They experience joy on the pitch for sure and they are all about the game. Sure, some of them (Busquets) dive and others are a bit dirty (Ramos) but all in all, they are outrageous.

3. They work like a team and don’t demonstrate prima donna behaviour
Oh yes, we read about the Barca-Real Madrid rifts and the bust ups… But under Senor Del Bosque they operated as a team. Super player Cesc had to sit on the bench. I didn’t hear him whine. Torres got a look in and then he was benched again. Juan Mata won the CL with Chelsea and only played 5 minutes… And not a single word of protest or discontentment. And these guys all had a big season. They all had 50 games or more. But they worked and worked their arse off.

I liked this tournament. We saw a cocky and “Dutch” Germany choke when it mattered most. Again! We even read in their newspapers that success coach Low is to blame and that they want to go back to their old ways. Playing ugly but win.

We saw England playing for what’s it’s worth. Which is never that much. But there is passion and pathos in that team and lots of physical issues as well.

We saw Croatia playing a Spain-lite type of football, we saw Portugal finally throwing the chains off and play with balls and we saw France implode again.

But most importantly, we saw Italy playing somewhat Dutch ( it resembled our World Cup campaign… never great… one midfielder (Pirlo/Sneijder) important and one forward important ( Robben/Cassano) while the other one got headlines for many reasons and not always the right ones ( Van Persie/Balotelli)).

I think to track back for Holland, to get to the place were Spain is, is not that hard.

We need to go back to our roots. And we need to find some good defenders. Arbelao and Ramos have demonstrated that we don’t need world class players on all the positions. Sergio Ramos compensates a lot with his mentality and physical strength. While Arbeloa is almost a pathetic figure in this wonder team.

But somewhere down the line, this Spanish team will fail. Xavi will get too old. The desire will go. Complacency might set in. Del Bosque might retire. Etc etc…. And then we will look back at the period 2008 – 2012 as the Spanish period and we will tell our grandchildren about the legendary Spanish team. And names like Iniesta, Fabregas and Casillas will mean as much then as Puskas, Eusebio, Cruyff and Netzer mean to us now…

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