With an empathic win over Russia, Holland has confirmed their status as finals favorite. In the second game of the tournament, Oranje added five goals to their tally of three, but unfortunately could not keep a clean sheet against a weak Russia side.
Cor Pot hadn’t changed his line up for the Russia game. He probably knows best, but playing 3 games in 8 days after a long season might be a good reason to mix things up a bit, I thought. I could have justified bringing Fer for Van Ginkel for instance, or as I said earlier on, Clasie for Strootman or Van Ginkel.
But as the punters here have picked up: Strootman seems to enjoy a protected status and is beyond question.
Russia played a defensive game against Spain earlier on and had to get something out of this one, so we expected Russia to open up a bit and allow for space. That indeed happened, the game was fairly open from the start, although Russia did resort to counter football and slowed the game down to walking pace for long stretches. Oranje played patient game but in my view was still very sloppy in taking advantage of certain moments.
Oranje being sometimes too playful, too intricate and at times not seeing the easy solutions.
It seemed like Russia would be able to reach the break with an even score and memories of the late winner of Spain came to mind for this game.
But in telling style, it was Wijnaldum who broke the deadlock, almost in similar fashion as his goal against Germany.
The winger-who-is-not-a-winger cut inside again, dribbling and spotting the gap before hitting the leather with his powerful right (it was his left against Germany).
Wijnaldum lifted, Cor Pot enjoys it…
Wijnaldum was almost invisible the whole period before his goal. He made room for Van Rhijn (who played very good by the way) and had some combinations with Van Ginkel but we saw none of his dribbles on the flank.
Contrary to Ola John who started the game with the spring in his step. John is a natural, as he would prove time and time again in the game. Great first touches, vision in the pass-move dynamics, work rate, good crosses and scoring ability. The real deal.
So a lot when through the middle and over the left flank and mainly in the center of the pitch I felt we disappointed. Maher and De Jong played a tough first half (although De Jong rattled the post with a free header). De Jong is always threatening when the ball is crossed in, but in the combination with Maher and Strootman, he seems lacking.
Maher seems tired. The youngster had a big season with AZ (winning the National Cup) and must be thinking about his future, as Ajax and PSV expect to do battle over him although numerous EPL clubs are now chasing him too.
Maher showed his class in moments. He needs to be more dominant, needs to be the high up the park playmaker for us, but he has never looked the part. This is partly also because he lacks a player behind him capable of playing the one-touch killer pass.
In the second half, the game opened up more for Oranje when the French ref deservedly sent a Russian player off. He slid from behind with his studs up and a stretched leg into Maher achilles… A dangerous tackle, from behind. Ergo: red. It might have looked harsh, but the rules support the ref and we could have had a similar situation as with Italian star Insigne, who had to leave the pitch early against Israel.
Finally Luuk gets one…
The same Maher showed he could play on, when he took a Van Rhijn cross on his right on the half-volley turn and hitting a cracker on the cross bar. The whole stadium could hear the goal frame moan and Maher almost had the goal of the tournament. Luck again, for the goalie.
With 10 against 11 it was not a real contest anymore. Or so it seems. Luuk de Jong got his goal after being close a couple of times, on a measured Van Ginkel cross.
Unmarked, he placed the ball diagonally across to the far post, giving the goalie no chance.
Russia, however, stepped up a gear. Being behind and being one man down, they played all or nothing. And got a goal. Another defensive debacle with lots of orange shirts running around but no one marking the man that mattered. Infuriating Cor Pot on the bench who saw a “Germany-scenario” unfold.
But Holland didn’t get a tight arse this time and played itself to another 2 goal cushion when a long Zoet kick got extended by De Jong into the path of Ola John who had not trouble chipping the ball for the 3-1.
With Leroy Fer for Maher, Clasie for Strootman and Hoessen for De Jong, Cor Pot secured the win. A well worked attack involving John again gave Fer the chance to score his second of the tournament, as his buddy Wijnaldum did. Not much later, Fer – with some luck – got the ball to Ajax striker Hoessen who in typical Oranje/Ajax style chipped the goalie again to make it 5-1.
There were certainly chances for more, after Russia gave up but the heat and fatigue coupled with some sloppy play shielded the Russians from a double-digit debacle.
An easy win, in hindsight with a lot of great and not-so-great aspects to it.
There is nothing wrong with 4-3-3 but as Wijnaldum showed in the two games: he is not a right winger. He loves to come inside and allow Van Rhijn the overlap. Playing Van Ginkel as right midfielder sort of blocks Wijnaldum on the right and a couple of times it was clear he had no space to operate in. Playing with a wide winger on the left and a more inside focused player on the right is absolutely fine, but I believe Van Ginkel should make way for Clasie.
In this way, the defensive four have a target always (Clasie) while Wijnaldum can drift into the open space on the right. Van Rhijn hardly ever has a direct opponent at this level, so why not?
Van Ginkel does well, don’t get me wrong. He is active, he works hard, he can penetrate but I feel we need less running and more brains. A one-touch pass right in the feet of a runner (Wijnaldum, Maher, John, Strootman, Van Rhijn), perfectly weighted, is more needed. And currently, we don’t have anyone offering that.
Mostly good. The left flank is strong. The combinations between Martins Indi, Blind, Strootman, John are solid and John almost always wants to execute the correct decision.
The right flank is a bit sluggish. Wijnaldum needs space to drift. And doesn’t get it.
Maher and De Jong have not forged a romantic relationship yet. Whenever Maher drifts deep to get the ball, you know he is in trouble. And he did so a couple of times in the first half.
Strootman, Van Ginkel and Maher in midfield to me is out of balance. Too much testosteron, not enough brains. (Maher definitely is a smart player of course, but he needs someone behind him who recognises his actions). I believe Maher’s disappointing game is also the result of the players around him. Say no more.
The Defensive four played really strong and these lads should be comfortable as they will play a lot of senior games too.
I think Ola John, Daley Blind and Ricardo van Rhijn were the key players in this game for us. Martins Indi and De Vrij were good, De Vrij atoned for his bad spell against Germany while Luuk de Jong worked hard but was unlucky with his team mates just fumbling the key pass or playing the ball behind him.
Strootman and Van Ginkel put it in a good work shift but at times their passing was too hasty or at times too lacklustre.
Jeroen Zoet didn’t impress me. Again. The second German goal was not unstoppable and he missed a corner against the Russians and had some below par clearances against Russia. He is not yet of the level of Vermeer or Cillisen in my book (let alone Tyton (PSV) or Vorm and Krul (Oranje)).
Cor Pot now has choices to make against Spain. Is he playing the same eleven again (3rd game in 7 days)? Will he risk it? Or is it time to mix it up and use the Dutch Xavi (Clasie) alongside Leroy Fer instead of Strootman and Van Ginkel?
Maher didn’t look fresh when subbed and he might also be on the list to sit one out. Wijnaldum clearly relishes the no. 10 spot and with Jozefzoon (or even Van Ginkel) on the right wing, we will not lose any strength.
If we do beat Spain, we are likely to face off against Norway. A very physical team. Which might be a good reason to rest Van Ginkel and Strootman for a game… We will need at least 16 players to win this one, as Fer, Hoessen, Jozefzoon and Clasie have already demonstrated…
Daley Blind played a perfect game