Tag: Zoet

Dutch football on the up and up (again)

Wow! Two clubs in the Champions League group stages! What a luxury. Well done Ajax, well done PSV! A wonderful start to the season, particularly with Salzburg missing their chance, meaning that The Netherlands have surpassed Austria (sic!) on the coefficiency list of the UEFA and if all goes well and we get more than enough points together, we could have a direct placement in the CL group stages again in the 20/21 season! Yay!

And based on the draw, I wouldn’t be surprised if we actually get quite some points. Ajax doesn’t have that big a shock. Bayern Munich is definitely too good for us now, but, we play them the second time on the last day. This could be good. Bayern will most likely be placed already and might field a B-team!

The other two opponents seem doable. Beatable.

PSV however will have a mountain to climb, but with sensational ties. Spurs, Barca, De Vrij’s Inter…. Mouthwatering. And I do think PSV could well finish third in the group and go into the Europa League after the winter break.

Bloody annoying that Feyenoord and AZ didn’t do what they could have done and pulled their weight too!

Mark van Bommel deserves praise for the way PSV plays. It’s not all silky smooth yet, in particular in the Eredivisie PSV is not on steam. PEC Zwolle played PSV off the pitch, but…PSV didn’t concede while they took their chance in the last minute of the game to seal the win. That is a quality too.

But the team impressed vs Bate Borisov. Energetic, on the front-foot, playing like a real team. With much criticized Luuk de Jong as one of the leaders, a perfect target man and he is also finding the net again!

Pereiro being found in between the lines

Gaston Pereiro was the most skilled PSV player to never fulfil his promise, for a long time. Every one can see and could see he has tremendous qualities, but will he ever be consistent? Well, under Van Bommel he is the key man. The Dreh-und-Angel punkt. The metronome. Whenever PSV has trouble finding him, like against PEC Zwolle, PSV is under par. Whenever they can find him, like vs Utrecht and Bate Borisov, PSV plays well.

PSV is getting better and better in finding the man more situation on the pitch and the new full backs, former City man Angelino and ex Heerenveen back Denzel Dumfries are perfect for Mark’s game plan. They offer energy, runs forward in the channel and most importantly, great final balls.

And with Lozano and Bergwijn, PSV can dominate games and they can play on the counter attack! Promising, indeed!

PSV in counter attacking mode

The technical management of the club is as pro-active as the players, with two key signings on the night PSV secured CL football. Mexican midfielder and bossom buddy of Lozano Guiterez was signed, while Australian international full back Aziz Behich is coming in as well.

More news this week, Koeman’s Oranje squad. It lacks Weghorst (understandable), Berghuis (lacking form) and Bergwijn (harder to understand) and it will offer a debut to Frenkie de Jong (long overdue) in Oranje. Obviously, Wesley Sneijder will be part of the squad for the Peru game, as he will be farewilled in that game and start as captain.

Koeman called Van Bommel to explain why Bergwijn was not in the squad and why Kluivert (not a starter at Roma) is. Van Bommel declined to tell the media what Koeman told him. Most likely, Koeman wasn’t impressed with Bergwijn’s first matches (he only started to fire in the last week or so). And, Bergwijn is a player who, like Memphis, loves to come into the ball and doesn’t so much go deep or in behind without. This is what Kluivert will give you. That seems reasonable. But Bergwijn will definitely get his spot in the limelight, for sure.

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New Season: PSV

This last title won by PSV appeared to be the closure of a era for PSV. Phillip Cocu decided to move on. He probably felt there wasn’t any more room for him to grow at the level of the Eredivisie, working with the confines the Dutch league brings. He wanted something bigger and Fenerbahce would be a logical next step for him. But the change in Eindhoven wasn’t limited to the coach, as the Technical Director was also lured away. Marcel Brands, serially successful, couldn’t withstand the opportunity to work in the Premier League. Everton had an interesting challenge in store for him. A bigger club on a bigger stage. Bigger budgets to work with. A rare opportunity for a technical director and Brands – former playmaker of RKC Waalwijk and Feyenoord – who had success in the managerial job with his old club RKC, AZ Alkmaar and now consistently with PSV also felt he was ready for a big step up.

These two exits forced PSV to make a big shift. Former PSV player John de Jong will take on the Marcel Brands role and another former PSV player has been prepped for the coach job. When Mark van Bommel made it clear during his playing career that coaching would be his next logical career move, PSV knew they wanted the former captain on the bench at some stage.

General Manager Toon Gerbrands, Technical Manager John de Jong and head coach Mark van Bommel

The ex Bayern Munich, Barca and AC Milan player was prepped in the youth academy for this role and last World Cup he assisted his father in law Bert van Marwijk with Australia.

Is he ready already? Is he forced into the job too soon with Cocu leaving?

Who knows, but I think not. Mark van Bommel was already a coach as a player and the first signs are positive for PSV.

At his introduction press conference, Van Bommel was clear in his football vision. “I want to be in control, of the game and of the ball. We want to be the boss on the pitch. preferably with ball but if need be without the ball. We want to play further up the pitch and taking advantage of the weaknesses of the opponent.”

Where Cocu was criticized for playing a bit passive, a bit counter-attacking style, Van Bommel wants to impose the Barcelona / Bayern Munich philosophy onto his team.

PSV’s pre-season was quite a success. The hand of Van Bommel was visible in the first games already and Gaston Pereiro in particular was the most remarkable player (Hirving Lozano returned late to PSV due to his contributions to Mexico’s World Cup campaign).

Van Bommel: “Every one can see Pereiro is a special player. Even non-PSV fans will like to see him play. I use him in the #10 role. He’s not a winger for me. Yes, he still has his moments where he seems to be dreaming a bit, we’ll work on that.”

Luuk de Jong decided to stay in Eindhoven and said no to several offers from Mexico, France and other competitions. The striker is scoring prolifically and is currently PSV’s captain. Van Bommel will select his skipper for the season in the coming week.

Steven Bergwijn is already high on the hitlist of many big clubs in Europe, but Van Bommel is adamant. “I want to keep Steven at the club. There is still a lot to learn for him and I believe he can make a big move if he stays a bit longer here.”

Marco van Ginkel is not going to be part of the plans for now. PSV would have loved to have signed him but the poor bastard’s knees are giving him a lot of grieve again and he’s out for another 8 to 9 months most likely. Sad story. Will he ever get back to 100% fitness?

Van Bommel is building his foundation at PSV and it seems he’s doing good business. Jeroen Zoet is the number 1 goalkeeper of course. Nick Viergever seems to be the left central defender, with either Schwaab or Luckassen as his partner on the right. Denzel Dumfries came from Heerenveen and the assist king will take the spot on the right, with Arias most likely moving up to Atletico Madrid. Angelino, the former Man City man, will take the left spot at the back.

Ramselaar and Hendrix will be the two holding mids in the middle of the park with Pereiro the playmaker, attacking mid. Van Bommel has a couple of tremendous talents available to him as alternatives of course, such as Mauro Junior and Pablo Rosario.

Mark van Bommel is still looking for a replacement for Van Ginkel though and is also still a bit concerned that there will be a mega offer for Lozano or Bergwijn. But otherwise, these two with Luuk de Jong will be the front men. Sam Lammers is off to Heerenveen to get some playing time there, will young talents like Romer0, Gudmundsson and Malen are chomping at the bits for playing time as well.

In the pre season, PSV beat three serious opponents and seems to be ready for the season opening vs Feyenoord for the Johan Cruyff shield. PSV beat Galatasaray, Panathinaikos and Valencia (the latter finishing third in La Liga last season!).


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Oranje disappoints Koeman (and us)

Koeman’s new Oranje had a bland loss against England, an aggressive win against Portugal and now a tw0-faced draw against Slovakia.

Koeman will stick to his 5-3-2, with good reasons, and said before the two friendlies he wanted to use all the players, see them all in action.

He played a line up that I don’t think we’ll ever see again… A midfield of Propper, Van de Beek and Strootman doesn’t seem to work (which I thought already before the match), in particular if Propper is playing the defensive mid role.

Anyway, I don’t think it matter who played where.

The team didn’t function in the first half. The tasks were made clear, we can be sure of that. But the execution was not great. To say the least.

Quite simple, the aggression wasn’t there. The front-foot forward pressing lacked. The team was too stretched with the back 3 too deep and the two forwards too high, resulting in a too big a stretch of pitch to control for Van der Beek, Strootman and Propper. The latter would be stick with his backline, while early in the game Kevin Strootman wanted to push up and Van de Beek as a result drowning against Slovakia’s main man Hamsik.

As a result, we could never put pressure on the ball, we allowed the opponent all the time on the ball and they can surely play ball if they get time and space.

And on top of that, the team wasn’t helped too well with about 5 early deep forward passes simply not reaching the forwards, resulting in early loss of possession. “That is not how you get to play football,” is what Koeman would say about that, after the game.

And when individual players (De Vrij, Blind) lose focus as well, it gets hard to win games.

Nemeth was supposed to be De Vrij’s man (the Slovakia is tall and strong in the air) but he smartly escaped from the new Inter signing and looked for the smaller Daley Blind.

The latter didn’t pick the striker up quick enough, some coordination issues with the former Feyenoord centre back, and as a result Blind was too late and went into the aerial duel half-assed. The header was perfect. Zoet was without a hope: 1-0.

Slowly in the first half, Oranje started to become stronger with the ball circulation pace going up and the forwards Promes and Memphis making threatening runs.

It did result in chances (Van de Beek, free-kick Memphis, curler by Van Aanholt) but it would take till the second half for Koeman to see his style of football being played.

The NT coach took Van de Beek off and brought Ruud Vormer for his debut. The 30 year old Brugge playmaker did what Koeman wanted and somehow the message got through to the rest of the team.

Sad for Van de Beek who was excellent against Portugal, like Propper. That is football.

Koeman: “I wasn’t yelling or overly angry at half time. Just disappointed and I told them this. We needed to go back to the key tasks as we discussed them before the game and just do it.”

In the second half, the Oranje team pressed more aggressively, played more compact and in particular Propper played higher up the park, pulling the defence along.

A good move resulted in Promes’ equaliser – forward pass De Ligt, Memphis in between the lines, good dummy run Van Aanholt and good shot Promes). It seemed Slovakia was getting tired and Oranje should have scored at least two more.

There were chances alright!  Vormer saw a ball flicked off the line, another 100% chance was hit straight at the goalie. Memphis had some chances, even Daley Blind partook in it, with a chance to make amends for his error.

Oranje had Slovakia in a tight grip in the second half, but as we lost the first half 1-0, we won the second with 0-1. Really, we should have put this game to rest.

Koeman: “I am not really too disappointed now. I saw a response in the second half. I also saw that the eleven on the pitch in the first half couldn’t fix it. That is useful information. I expected them to pick it up and I do hope they have learned from this experience. This is why we play friendlies. The first half: a lesson how we don’t want it to go!”

Ruud Vormer was the bright light in this friendly. The midfielder started his career under Van Gaal at AZ as a defensive mid. Aggressive but also a good passer. His only weakness, his lack of pace. He played here and there before going to Club Brugge. Feyenoord was his biggest club in Holland – under Koeman – but he was never able to push Clasie out of the team and left.

At Brugge, they put him on the creative playmaker spot and he never looked back.

Vormer: “What a season. We won the title, I got the golden boot and now this debut! But, I should have scored. I’m not a striker of course, but this ball should have gone in.” Sander Boschker is the oldest player ever to debut for Oranje, with 39 years old. The last 30-something player to make his debut was Ruben Schaken in 2012. It does seem Vormer can prepare to play some more in the orange jersey.

With Sneijder, De Jong, Van der Vaart, Van Persie all out of the picture, it’s good to have a more mature player in the squad. The balance in age needs to be there (Nigel de Jong said recently that he felt Hiddink let the older players go too early after 2014) and Vormer might well bring that.

All in all, not a great Oranje display but lots to hang on to. With Van Dijk coming into the squad, most likely a starting spot for Cillesen, we should be relatively solid, moving into the future. I also count Frenkie de Jong as a potential starter once he’s fit.

For Italy, we can expect a totally different line up. Most likely Vormer to start, with Wijnaldum in midfield. Babel in place of Promes. I do expect Memphis to start.

Van Dijk to replace Blind, Ake to replace Van Aanholt? Hateboer for Janmaat, definitely Cillesen of course. I guess we’ll see Vilhena, potentially Kongolo. Probably De Roon in the defensive mid role.

It’s all fun and games for now, the real deal is still a bit away.

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Buckle up! Oranje starts again!

We had our time, for crying, for mourning, for self-obsessed analysis and for memories…

Now is the time to look forward again. As our EC2020 campaign will start now basically!

Huh? I hear you think… no, the campaign doesn’t start until the qualifiers? But Koeman is quite clear: we will take every minute moving forward serious. There will be no “friendlies”, we will not have Wesley Sneijder being carried off the pitch as a sentimental gesture.

Koeman made his intentions clear from the start: no more Hotel Oranje, no more press in the hotel, no more visits to cafes and restaurants and beach walks… We work behind closed doors now and we work.

Koeman bring a level of urgency to the job. Impatience. But the former Barca skipper also has a bit of humour. When an English reporter asked him at the press conference why his statue wasn’t among the statues in Zeist of Oranje legends (Cruyff, Michels, Bergkamp, Gullit) he responded: “Well, I wasn’t good enough clearly. But in two years I might get a statue…” Followed by a wry smile.

When players or guests walk onto the Zeist complex, they’ll see several photos. We can see the Oranje 1988 group, photos of the Big Four in South Africa 2010 (in case you forgot: Van Persie, Van der Vaart, Sneijder, Robben) and the last photo on the wall is the current generation: Memphis, Wijnaldum, De Vrij, Dost…

The world class player has left the building for now, and Koeman will have to replace these players by building a solid team. “The reality is, that team spirit and playing style will be more important than the individual quality we can muster.”

Koeman and Dwight Lodeweges

Koeman stepped into a record low situation before. He joined Feyenoord in 2011, when the proud club was number 10 in the Eredivisie and had lost 10-0 against PSV only months before. He came in and created clarity. He developed a simple playing style, he gave the youngsters his trust and he demanded one thing: sharpness. Focus. Commitment. (That’s three things, Ronald!)

At his first training session, they did a rondo (circle of players with 1 or 2 in the middle having to take the ball from the others). Koeman joined in and never spent a second in the middle. He was still the best player. Last Monday, with Oranje, he did the same thing. He joined in the rondo and showed them who he was. “Sometimes you need to demonstrate why you are the Boss.”

At Feyenoord, he said: “My door is always open. If you don’t get something, just come in and ask me.” No player ever did. Not because they were afraid, but because he was crystal clear in what he expected.

Koeman is happy with the move to Zeist. “In Noordwijk, they would take 15 mins to go from car to the lobby, due to all the media and friends. Then they’d shake hands and go to their room to come out later for dinner. Now, it’s different, we close the door behind the complex and we’re free to roam, we hang out, some players check the gym, some starting to play table tennis. Its more intimate for us. Less distractions.”

Koeman spent his weeks before the coming together of the Oranje lions with a plethora of people. Former coaches Hiddink, Blind, Van Gaal. Ex players Robben, Sneijder. Coaches Van Bronckhorst, Van de Brom, Cocu, Ten Hag and others. “I want to have a clear and broad picture. You only have one chance to prepare for your first weeks.”

One of the things he heard: Oranje needs more discipline. “I think we will work hard now and in May (Italy and Slovakia friendlies) to create clarity. Once we start with the Nations League, we need to be ready. Players need that clarity, but so do I.”

What can we expect for the England game? Koeman: “You can expect to see a team with an attitude, with a will to win. A team that will play for a good result.”

Dost, Hateboer, De Roon

Asked about the potential return of Van Persie, Koeman says this: “He never retired from international duties, like Robben and now Sneijder. And I’m not interested in age. I’m interested in quality and you can see even in his short runs in the Feyenoord team that he still has that quality. So, when he’s fit and in form, why not?”

A new system also seems to be way to go for Oranje under Koeman. New hotel, new training complex, no more dominant superstars and also a move to the 3-4-3 or 5-3-2. Hans Hateboer, the right wing back of Atalanta: “Yeah, I guess that is why I am here.” Stefan de Vrij of Lazio: “I am feeling comfortable in the 5-3-2 system and I think most players do, these days.”

A lot of smiling faces, but Bas Dost’s face predicts a storm. “Well, I came here to show my worth, dammit. I’m getting sick of being told that I’m good enough to be top scorer in Portugal but I can’t do shit in Oranje. I’m sick of it.” Dost never made a dent in Oranje. “I made my debut in a friendly, in which we played 5-3-2. After that I had some sub turns in different systems, with different players around me. I was never sure what was expected from me. After the Sweden at home game, I was done with Oranje. I had had it. But that was then. I’m feeling super fit, I’m good in my head, I really want to be part of it again, under this new coach. And I do hope we will get clarity. If Koeman tells me he wants to use another player, fine. As long as I know.”

Guus Til

Memphis is very aware of the clock ticking. The former worldclass talent is now 24 years old and still not a certain starter for Lyon. Ronald Koeman is convinced: “I wanted to sign Memphis for Everon. So I invited him to my home in England and we spent some time together. I actually think he’s a great prospect. Sometimes I see things of him in the media and I think: you should have done that differently, but he’s definitely a great kid with the potential to be our future leader on the pitch. He has above average qualities. But it’s up to him too. I’m willing to do what I must to get the best out of him, but it takes two to tango.”

The Oranje team vs England will probably look something like this:


De Vrij    Van Dijk   De ligt

Hateboer   Wijnaldum   Propper   Van Aanholt

Promes    Dost    Memphis

Strootman and Berghuis will most likely play the second friendly vs Portugal. The choice of goalie is still a question mark but I think Koeman will go for the PSV goalie, who is in good form and plays regularly, with Cillesen as #2.

The last decision to be made: the new skipper for Oranje.

Strootman was in the hierarchy before. De Vrij skippered Feyenoord under Koeman and Van Dijk seems to be a strong candidate as well, with Daley Blind on the short list as well, once he’s fit and playing regularly again.

Below, photos of the new Oranje home at Zeist.

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Oranje: where to now?

So Fred Grim will go into the history books as the worst team manager EVER! He lost all the games he was in charge of! 100% score in losing!!

Just kidding of course, poor fellow. But, he might be in charge even for the Luxembourg game and in that case he might actually up his score, from 0% wins to 50% wins…

So, Oranje played a friendly no one really wanted. The whole nation was in mourning. The KNVB expected 40,000 fans to come and yell abuse at the players, staff and KNVB officials. With Italy as opponent, it was highly likely that we’d lose yet again…so what was the whole fukcing use of a friendly 3 days AFTER an official qualification game?

But the reception of the fans was not as bad as expected. The fans know that now the team needs the full support. Even if it was the team that led them (the fans) down. But that is football: the coach is end responsible and accountable so the coach needs to go while the ones who actually performed lousy get to stay, play and say meaningless things after the game.

Hoek grim ital

After the Bulgaria game, more news came out about Blind’s utter and complete misjudgement of the Bulgarian tactics. He expected them to park the bus and expected to have 65% possession. His analysis and the views of the people in his team confirmed this.

The reality was: Bulgaria doesn’t even respect us anymore and they played the high-press (on De Ligt!) from the first minute. Our build-up was pathetic all day long (also with Hoedt by the way) and our positioning (Strootman!) amateuristic.

Blind wasn’t able to help the team change their tactics in that first half and the players weren’t capable of doing so either.

They kept on trying to build up from the back, with players who are not really known for these qualities. Karsdorp is great running down the channel but played his third cap so can’t be expected to bully his team mates into something else. Zoet does not have the shrewdness and experience Stekelenburg has while De Ligt and Martins Indi are simply not good enough to play out from the back.

This got Strootman to drop deeper to collect the ball which totally unhinged our team and Bas Dost was as a result very hard to reach.

stroot ital

Grim made some changes vs Italy. Still Zoet on goal, but Hoedt and Martins Indi in the heart of defence with Tete for Karsdorp. The midfield was – surprisingly – left as it was vs Bulgaria.

The desire was there, the intensity and pace was better. This is/was something that could and should have been the case vs Bulgaria as well. For me, whether Ronald McDonald, The Pope or Louis van Gaal is the coach, you always need to have this in your backpack. The days that ball skills were enough to win are over. Every team/nation (Germany, Italy, France) will have the ability to deliver this at will. Like Italy.

Robben Sneijder italy

Wes: “Arjen, whatever you do: don’t get Van Gaal back!!”

We needed a double deflection to score our goal. They needed three Oranje mistakes to get their two goals.

Losing 1-2 vs Italy while there were good chances for us to finish 2-2 is not a big drama for me, as it was a friendly.

Fred Grim: “We showed some more energy, some flair. I’m not too disappointed to be honest. We straightened our backs. It was a tough week for all of us and given all that, I cannot be displeased.” Asked about his future: “I am only here because of this game. When Danny was let go, he called me and said: make sure you stay for the team and do your utmost to right the ship. We’ve got 40,000 fans who paid money to see us Tuesday and you need to have the team respond”. I think my future is vague. I’ll find out I guess. The KNVB will have to say what they think is needed. This might be my first and last game in charge, but some suggest that the search for a new coach might take until June (when the seasons end) and I might be in charge against Luxembourg as well.”

memphis ital

I personally like the team without a Dost-style striker. I think our game doesn’t fit his strengths. It’s been demonstrated a couple of times, also with Luuk de Jong in the Dost-role, so to speak.

We are more in need of fluid, dynamic players, like Memphis, Robben and Promes with the added value of Janssen’s hold up play and ability to “bounce”.

The main topic for me, is not so much who will play where.

The main topic for me is: who will be our new coach, what does the KNVB want from that coach and how will they support him?

And on top of that: what structural / strategic changes will the KNVB make internally to allow for a bright future? Incl. development of talent, development of coaches and development of a football philosophy. For Oranje but also for Dutch football in general.


At this point in time, Hans van Breukelen is the man responsible for selecting the coach and supporting the coach. But Hans van Breukelen is also walking around like a wounded deer. Will he still be there in 5 months? Or has he suffered too much damage already? Astute coach candidates will want to know what the deal is. And who will be assessing Hans van Breukelen’s work? His coach selection? His instructions for the coach? Jean Paul Decossaux? A part time interim commercial director??

I’m sure a series of smart football people (Van Praag, Adriaanse, Van Hanegem, maybe Wim Jansen, Robben, Sneijder) will be asked for their opinions, but someone will have to make a firm decision. Judging how Hans van Breukelen managed Hans Jorritsma, Ruud Gullit and those clowns from the company he is related to does not instill a lot of confidence in me….

I don’t think a foreign top coach (Capello, Wenger, Schmidt, Klinsmann) will say yes to the job. For starters, they make 10 times more abroad than with Oranje, in terms of dollars. Secondly, they will think thrice before committing to this weak Oranje. And like I said before, the KNVB is in such a chaos that this role will have many red flags going up for any serious coach.

I also don’t believe that a foreign coach will work with our national team. Our culture, our competition, our language, etc will be a big hurdle. It’s also a prestige thing for the Dutch: we should be able to find a suitable candidate in our own ranks.


Even Dutch coaches will think thrice before committing to the job right now. It’s a snake pit.

Co Adriaanse won’t do it. Louis van Gaal already said he won’t come back as a coach, he will only consider the chair role at the KNVB (yes! Do it!). Ronald Koeman will not do it (“They had their chance. They decided differently and now we seem to be missing out on two major tournaments in a row!”). Frank de Boer wants to remain a club coach for now. Cocu and Van Bronckhorst are not ready yet. Dick Advocaat would not be a credible option after abandoning Oranje earlier for money.

So it seems Henk ten Cate and Ruud Gullit are the main candidates for the job. Ten Cate seems to have the best papers. He’s got international experience, loves attacking football, is tough and disciplined and has standing.

Gullit will have prestige to the hilt as well, internationally, but that won’t win you games. He’s a good people manager but probably not a good coach / trainer. He could do the figure head role but will need a strong field coach beside him.

Ten Cate worked in that role at Barca with Rijkaard, but Gullit is a different type of person than Rijkaard. The combination Gullit – Ten Cate or vice versa will not work, most likely. Too much similarities in their personality and I won’t be surprised if Ten Cate by now would not want to be an assistant anymore.

blind grim ital

The most important question is:

Do we focus on a short term success and aim for the World Cup qualification – against all odds- and bring in a crisis coach a la Van Gaal (De Mos, Ten Cate, Advocaat) or do we accept that the World Cup campaign is over and select a coach who can build and gel a new team towards 2020 and beyond, using the new generation of talents (Nouri, Vilhena, De Ligt, Bazoer, Tete, Memphis, Karsdorp, Bergwijn, Ramselaar, Ake). John van ‘t Schip could be considered. Alex Pastoor. Gullit with Rene Meulensteen. Or, why not Erwin Koeman? I don’t know…you name some….

memphis lion


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Oranje getting ready for Belarus and France w/o Robben

Amidst all the shenanigans at federation level, Danny Blind is keeping his focus on the games ahead. He shrugs off the problems with management, the influence of new Tech Director Van Breukelen and shows confidence for the matches vs Belarus and France.

Danny Blind is not to be envied. Key players missing, overall quality below par, lack of support of his management. But he still finds time to joke. At the press conference last week, Hans van Breukelen was missing due to a wedding party. Blind: “I told Hans he should go nice and early to be ahead of traffic.” Which invoked laughs from the media present.

Asked if he felt the pressure: “I know there is pressure. Just like with any other game. We need wins. Whether I’m working for Oranje, or coaching Ajax 2. Also as a player, we wanted to win every game. That pressure is normal for me. I don’t feel the pressure of needing to win to keep my job. That is counter-productive pressure and I’m fortunate not to have that stress. I don’t do anything for this, it’s just how I am.”

Blind bela

One of the key talking points is Arjen Robben’s fitness. “We all want a fit Robben to play for us. But you have to be realistic and we also have a responsibility towards Arjen. I need him for the full qualification series and for the World Cup. I don’t want to take risks, and neither does his club.”

With all the attention going to the missing Robben, the return of Stefan de Vrij is almost overlooked. It was basically one year ago almost to the day that De Vrij stayed behind in the break with a knee issue.

The Lazio defender is impressing again in the Serie A and is keen to get minutes in his former home, De Kuip. “I am so happy to be back. I so missed this. My first focus was getting fit for Lazio and now I can play without pain, I’m top fit and keen as. Playing for Oranje is amazing and to be able to play on my favorite pitch in my home stadium gives me the goosebumps just thinking about it.”

And here is probably the best news football fans in Holland can get, apart from Robben being 100% fit and ready. Oranje is back in De Kuip. In 2012, KNVB general manager criticised the Feyenoord home as being outdated and obsolete. He copped a lot of criticism from the fans, as De Kuip used to be the home of Oranje for decades. The more sterile and theatre like Arena in Amsterdam was chosen as it has more VIP rooms and restaurants for the sponsors. But De Kuip is a true football temple and one of the most intimidating stadiums of Europe. The fans are close to the pitch, the pitch is arguably the best in Europe –  100% grass, no synthetics – and somehow, De Kuip is always full when Oranje plays (in contrast with half empty Arena and Phillips Stadium experiences).

kuip bela

Youri Mulder: “I scored the winner vs Belarus in the 90s in De Kuip and it is indescribable what happens when you score in De Kuip. It’s like you’re in a cyclone. The energy, the noise, the whole experience. I can only describing it to making love to the girl you have been in love with for years and she never really noticed you. Until suddenly, she does and you meet and fall in love and…magic happens…”

Former Feyenoord striker Peter Houtman: “You enter the stadium from the tunnel and the energy grabs you by the throat. Immediately. Players can’t hear each other. Coaches can’t reach their players. It’s loud and all encompassing. Even now, coming into the stadium, without playing yourself, it’s massive.”


It’s fitting that De Kuip is the new home of Oranje. Feyenoord is the leader in the Eredivisie and was victorious versus Man United in the EL. Rick Karsdorp was part of the Oranje squad twice before, but hasn’t broken his duck yet. “It’s great that we are doing so well with Feyenoord. We are in good shape and the team manager will take notice of that. My career is going from strength to strength. I’m grateful to Fred Rutten for this. He recognised a right back in me, whereas I played playmaker in the youth. But the game has changed and they demand a lot from full backs these days. Build up, speed, tactical awareness and assists.” Karsdorp believes team spirit is the secret for Feyenoord and hopes this can channel into Oranje. “We are like family at Feyenoord. We enjoy playing together and are tight. This is how new players like goalie Brad Jones and striker Jorgensen can adapt so easily. It is not the sum of the individuals, it’s more than that. I hope to get that feeling with Oranje as well.”

oranje bela

Despite the fuzzy warm feelings Karsdorp and co are hoping for, Blind approaches the games very business like. The coach: “Belarus is a tough opponent, yes. Most players are in the Russian league and it’s a tough league to play in. But, we play at home and we have players playing in the EPL, the Serie A, the Bundesliga, Turkey and Portuguese league. I demand a win and I think I am allowed to. The players need to cope with that pressure, because they can. Belarus is a tightly organised, defensive thinking team. They won’t give a lot away, but we need to be on the front foot and win the second ball. Snuff out their counter and keep pressure on. At home, we always want to win and that is the mission.”

For the France game, Blind doesn’t have a different aim. “Again, playing at home, you need to be gutsy and confident. I analysed the friendly against France and they were better. It will be different than playing Belarus. France wants the ball and wants to play. This will give us opportunities.”

wes bela

The former Ajax captain doesn’t wanna give much away regarding the line up, but it is clear that De Vrij, Dost and Karsdorp are making it hard for him. Veltman didn’t impress earlier and seems not in great shape for Ajax either. Dost scores as if he played for Sporting for years and Stefan de Vrij impresses in Italy again. Janmaat being injured, Karsdorp might start. “He is playing well and it’s an advantage to play in De Kuip for him. It’s his home and he’ll feel confident.” He is not planning to use both strikers. “Dost is not a Plan B player alone. He could easily start. I will pick one or the other. I did take Siem de Jong along for an all or nothing hail mary end of the match, if need be.”

Wesley Sneijder didn’t come to the Oranje camp without issues. A muscle injury in his thigh got him subbed for Gala. “Sneijder seems fit now, but with muscle issues, he could actually be in trouble after 10 minutes. It’s a scenario I need to keep in mind. And prepare for that.”

Oranje in training

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Strong Oranje “forgets” to take the three points!

In what could have been a first upset on Game Day 1 of the WC qualification group of Oranje, Holland could have lead with 3 points, while favorites France couldn’t manage to score in their first match.

But, sadly, a strong Oranje created many good opportunities to score but saw Sweden hit the net first, after a rare Strootman howler. Oranje got back into the game with skipper Sneijder finishing an excellent move by Daryl Janmaat. Late in the game, Bas Dost seemed to have scored a perfectly legal goal to give Oranje the deserved three points, but the Italian ref somehow saw something untowards…

Dost scores

Danny Blind: “We’re bitterly disappointed, to be honest. Kevin Strootman is in a foul mood and he’ll probably won’t come out for interviews. I’m also quite cross with that referee. It was a perfect goal. What happened in that duel is what happens 67 times in both boxes during a game. Either you give a foul and a penalty for all these instances, or a defensive free kick, or not. But to disallow Dost’s goal…. Pathetic. We could have taken three points and have two points on France. It’s disappointing we didn’t, coz I felt the team did everything right. Our tactics worked, the players executed it perfectly, we created chance after chance… Very unlucky. But, it does give us  something to build on…”

stroot duel

Before the game, in the press conference, Blind was quite clear: “We are coming here to win. But, if winning is not possible, at least we need to make sure we don’t lose!”

I agree with Blind. We did everything right, but score. And if it wasn’t for that a-typical mistake by Strootman, the one Sneijder goal would have been enough.

Holland dominated from the start. Patient build up, allowing the ball to be zipped around. Sweden, playing at home, were set up to not lose. Two banks of four, with 2 strikers. Guidetti and Berg, shrewd and experienced. Sweden didn’t want the ball and was basically hoping for a mistake by the Dutch.

Blind’s set up was perfect. He opted for two strong defenders to deal with the Swedish forwards. Van Dijk in particular played a brilliant game. Strootman sitting in front of those two would be the safeguard. Ironically, it was the usually solid midfielder who gave Sweden a present. Blind used Janmaat on the right, knowing he would playing as a winger more than anything. This means that Wijnaldum, on the right hand of midfield, had to play more controlling, as Janmaat and Promes were in charge of the attacking side of things. The Liverpool man’s job was to guard the balance and he didn’t show a lot of penetrative running for us.

Sneijder goal Swed

On the left, with Sneijder as the false left winger, Blind wanted a player who’d play more controlled on that left wing, as Sneijder obviously wouldn’t be able to track 60 meters back all the time if a player like Willems or Van Aanholt would lose possession.

The left flank was kept open for Blind to venture into (at times he did and created some good crosses from the left with Sneijder) and Vincent Janssen and Davey Klaassen used that space to enter into as well.

And it worked wonder. Holland created close to 8 real chances, with a number of opportunities to shoot as well. The number of crosses and corner kicks added to this and you can see that Oranje’s only problem in this game was: scoring.

It was the penetration runs of Klaassen that got him the most opportunities. Couple of headers, little dink by Strootman, putting him one on one with Swedish goalie… Vincent Janssen did get some joy too, but the stocky striker was mostly impressive with his hold up play, his runs and work rate and a couple of decent efforts from distance (one tipping the bar after a deflection).


Everything clicked. No single player was disappointing. Sure, Janmaat had some defensive slip ups, but those things happen. Nothing came of it (in one instance, Van Dijk had to stretch and use all his agility to head the ball over the goal) and Bruma was not the best in his passing, but all in all, no one stood out in a negative way.

I would like to see more from Promes, personally. It feels like he lacks confidence. In the first half in particular, he made some bad choices, where a quick through ball or one-two combination was on the cards, but he did well with Janmaat on the right flank.

The only really negative moment I can recall by Oranje, was Strootman’s fumble. What was he thinking? Trying to get the ball under control with Markus Berg lurching, he could have played the safe square ball to Janmaat but decided to want to control the ball properly. He half stood on the ball, lost his balance and Berg was in possession. His goal was a peach!

Berg scores

In our first qualification game for the Euros 2016, vs the Czechs, Daryl Janmaat was guilty of a howler. Coach Hiddink publically attacked Janmaat for it and decided not to call him up anymore. That did not go down well with the players and was most likely the start of the drama. Now, when asked how he rated Strootman’s mistake, Blind said: “What can I say. Strootman is devastated. He knows he let the team down. I don’t need to remind him. Players make 100s of decisions in a game and it goes all very fast. Players who are in the thick of things, make mistakes. They’re not always lethal. This one was. We need to get over it and go on.”

Virgil van Dijk had a guild edged opp from a Sneijder free kick but he couldn’t bring the ball down, giving the goalie a chance to stop it, and Bas Dost was through on goal at one stage, where a simple side footed pass into the goal would have sealed the deal.

blind sweden

So, a disappointing result where 3 points were the deserved outcome, but all in all a good performance.

Particular taking into account that the pressure was on! The failure to qualify was still hanging over this team, add to that the shenanigans at the KNVB and the lacklustre 60 minutes vs Greece… It was game on and the punters in Holland were adamant that a bad result vs Sweden would mean Blind would have to pack his bags.

The Dutch coach was interviewed about this at the press conference and said this. “Do I feel the pressure? I don’t really. It’s the media that discuss this at length, we don’t go there internally. We focus on what we can do, should do, and must do. That is all we can do. I understand there is pressure, and that is normal. But I don’t feel it, I am not in any way constrained or influenced by it.”

Cool and collected, but the question was: would Oranje choke vs Sweden if things would go awry during the game?

And it didn’t. That, to me, is the biggest win of this first round. Blind picked the right squad, the right tactics, the right line up. It worked. What didn’t work, was us killing the game off and sadly one of our leaders on the pitch had one momentary lapse of reason, gifting the Swedes the goal of the Game Day.

Wesley Sneijder: “This is not the best Oranje I ever played in, in terms of individual qualities. But, this is becoming a solid team. And that is probably as important, if not more important.”

protest ref

Later in the night, Kevin Strootman did come in front of the cameras. “I’m vice captain. I can’t make a mistake and not show up to talk about it. I am pretty devastated though. I have been going on and on in the last months about how we make too many individual mistakes. And here I am, we finally play a real qualification game and now I am the one throwing it away. And I can’t tell you what happened, it was a black out of some sorts, I can’t turn it into any kind of excuse. And yes, I hear Dost’s goal might have been legit, but I am the last guy here to talk about another guy’s mistake…”

We’re away, and things could have been worse….

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Greek Tragedy for Oranje…

I like some drama, as you know… But it wasn’t really a tragedy for me. Friendly schmriendly, really. We lost. Big deal. We won vs Poland and England. Big deal again.

We are not at full strength yet, what with Robben not available, and some of our players are most likely not fully match fit (Sneijder). We played some good football from the start, some zippy passing and good movement. And some individual mistakes cost us. Lack of concentration? Lack of communication? Nerves? Who knows.

The Oranje goal demonstrated some good positioning by Berghuis and Wijnaldum and excellent play by Janssen, who basically made the goal.

Janssen greece

We should have created more in that first half, but didn’t. In the second half, Danny Blind changed the midfield and allowed Hendrix his debut. Any team would become weaker as a result. The first Greek goal was a series of mistakes. Veltman’s pass forward (like a lob) was ill advised, the positioning of our defence was all wrong, Daley was swimming, Bruma lost his man and Zoet should have remained in goal…

The second goal they scored was a horrific Bruma howler after an unnecessary square ball by Hendrix. Sadly, Zoet boxed the ball straight into the feet of the Greek attacker who finished it well. Was harder than it looked, to be fair.

zoet griek

I think tactically we did alright. The starting line up was logical. The desire and intensity was there. We just got sloppy in certain areas and that cost us.

But let’s hope that this loss will further strengthen our resolve against Sweden. Losing vs Greece but winning against the Swedes will be way to go. And this friendly becomes a footnote.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Danny Blind. The role Hans van Breukelen played is unclear. Advocaat and Van Basten exits are unrelated I believe. San Marco’s passion is rejuvenating the sports (for many years) and Dick…well…he’s simply a dick.

sneider griek

I do think Van Breukelen is behind Jorritsma’s departure as he wants to install a performance coach or something. He should include the national team manager in his forward thinking though and the KNVB is solely responsible for this mess. And all this plus Bert van Oostveen’s stepping down just one week before the WC qualifier vs Sweden…terrible timing…

daley griek

It’s time the players rise up now and show they support their coach!

Daley: “It was not great and a loss is a major disappointment, but if we win vs Sweden, all will be alright.”

Danny Blind was hopeful: “We only had a couple of days for this game and the changes made it harder to keep control in midfield. Typical practice match, I suppose. The loss was unnecessary and we need to take the lessons from this game. We started well and that is a positive, but we gave it away thanks to some individual errors.”

Asked whether this is the ideal line up for Sweden: “I wanted to say yes, but based on tonight I think we will need to do some further analysis and see what we can improve. This might be in the form of some changes, yes.”

Jeroen Zoet started for Oranje. Blind: “This doesn’t mean Jasper is suddenly second goalie. He has had a couple of distracting weeks of course, but he has been a loyal soldier for Oranje, so let’s see how things develop for him at Barca. But Jeroen had a great season last year and played very well vs Austria, so I was always happy to start with him.”

Blind Danny Griek


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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.

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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).

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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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