Our Opponents: Brazil

It certainly seems like a different tournament now.  Of course I can only speak for myself but from this morning onwards I haven’t been able to shake a feeling of trepidation.  I just don’t know what to expect!

I’ve made my case about the current squad’s style of play but at this point I’m left scratching my head as to how this will lend itself to tomorrow’s game against Brazil.  In truth I’ve heard very few people who believe the Netherlands can win. 

I know what’s causing my hesitation but I’m afraid to admit it.  It’s the lack of attacking spark from the Dutch.  I’ve tried to be very positive about their performances because I have seen a lot of good things about the shape of the side, the mentality of the side and the overall results.  After watching a couple of the Brazil games it seems the South American’s are more comfortable in their own skin with more chances being taken. 

The Dutch have for the most part been comfortable but at times in matches the team appears too comfortable and allow oppositions back into the match.  The win against Slovakia should be a warning as for large parts of the second half the Dutch allowed Slovakia to make inroads and Maarten Stekelenburg was called into true action for the first time in this tournament.

Tactics

We can be fairly sure of the starting lineup on Friday.  As much as everyone has been calling for two wingers in order to pin back the Brazilian fullbacks its highly unlikely van Marwijk will begin with Kuyt on the left and Robben on the right as he did against Slovakia. 

Brazil also have an established line up and only injury concerns are forcing changes for Dunga.  There is no doubt Brazil will actually attack as opposed to Japan and Denmark.  Samuel Eto’o in the group stage and the in-from Vittek for Slovakia were good practice for the back line but the true danger comes from Kaka and Robinho who will be moving between the Dutch midfielders and central defenders. 

For the Dutch to be successful they will have to come out of their shells to a certain degree when attacking.  They have been very disciplined when defending and provided de Jong and van Bommel can marshall Kaka and pick up any runs from deep they will be able to realistically look to win the match.  Given that Brazil will not be looking to merely shut down the Dutch there should be space with which the Dutch can create opportunities.

Personalities

For the Dutch Arjen Robben is the key man.  He will be looking to exploit the inexperience and suspect defending of Brazilian leftback Bastos.

For Brazil Kaka will have the spotlight firmed planted on him.  Playing a similar role to Sneijder on the other end of the pitch Kaka will need to link well with his midfielders and Fabiano if the Samba boys are going to have any success.

Key matchups

Bastos versus Robben.  Kaka versus de Jong.  Kuyt/van Bronckhorst versus Alves/Maicon.

Predictions

I’ve always been told that I don’t have to do anything that I don’t want to do.  One of those things is to predict the outcome of this match because truly I can’t grasp it!  I think I’ve come up with a way to squeak out without really committing myself.  I have no idea who will win.  What I do is how the game will play out defending on the result.

If the Dutch win the game will go this way: Brazil will be stifled, struggling to create chances and the Dutch will successfully convert a half chance or two.  The Dutch may come to life late on the match as belief because solidified: 2-0

If the Brazilians win we will see a game (I can’t believe I’m saying this) similar to the North Korea match where for long periods Brazil were frustrated but their quality up front eventually finds a way through the as yet untested Dutch defense: 3-1

An alternate tactical preview can be found at Zonalmarking.net

Our Opponents: Slovakia

Alas my friends I am unable to create a full match preview ahead of the 2nd round game for the Dutch against Slovakia.

Quickly I have a few points

1) I hope Arjen Robben plays. Whether on the right or the left I hope I don’t see van der Vaart on the team sheet. Will it happen? I’m doubtful

2) The Dutch need to focus on this game and not Brazil. Euro 92 the Dutch forgot to focus on the game at hand, ie Denmark, and were dumped out of the tournament.

3)The Dutch need to come out flying trying to make an immediate impact instead of waiting later on in the matches as we’ve seen in the previous 3 matches.

For a more complete match preview have a look at my favourite football-geek website Zonalmarking.net.

Full match report to come later this evening!

Post Match Reaction NED v CMR

June 25, 2010 1 comment

We’re going to do a quick round up of some of the press reaction between the Netherlands and Cameroon.  Keep in mind that this match didn’t mean a lot and throughout the Dutch only ever needed a point.

As always make sure you check out the full stories via the links provided.

In what is quickly becoming one of my favourite comment blogs Foppe de Haan has the following to say:

  • Speaking of FIFA man of the match van Persie and Wesley Sneijder:  “But I had not chosen him as a man of the match , like FIFA did. Naturally , Van Persie has the first goal so he was important , but even more this time I was talking about Wesley Sneijder . After Denmark and Japan, I was quite critical of him and I saw Sneijder , in contrast to FIFA that both times made him Man of the match, was certainly not the best man of the field . He was not good enough . But now I found him really play well.” 
  • Of Robben’s introduction: “Introduced at the right time by Bert van Marwijk , just at a time when Cameroon threatened to be stronger . With Robben you just create depth. That was evident , with his shot on the post after allowing Klaas Jan Huntelaar to score.”

ESPNSoccernet.com in their match report were not over the moon with the Dutch performance.  Looks like the report was provided via the Associated Press.

  • They grabbed the following quote from van Marwijk: “We were far too nonchalant in the second half,” Van Marwijk complained. “Our final spell put us on the right track again, but consider this a serious warning.”
  • Following his return from injury Robben said: “It is good to be back. I had to get back in the groove and it worked. Too bad the shot did not go in.”

I know you were wondering so here it is!  The news about the Dutch Facial hair!  Via De Telegraaf

  • Apparently a group of Dutch players had all decided to not shave while at the World Cup.  Specifically Sneijder and van der Vaart look to be sporting the “Ryan Giggs” look.  As well Heitinga, de Jong and Boulahrouz (nicknamed the Cannibal) participated.
  • Yesterday however Boulahrouz made his first appearance in South Africa and – SHOCK! – was found to be clean shaven.  Says Boulahrouz, “”It started to itch, so it was off.”
  • As a result Boulahrouz was punished in Friday training having to allow his fellow players shoot at his rear end.

That will teach you to bail!

Match Report NED v CMR

Evening all.  We’re all finished with the Group Stage and its difficult to point out too many flaws.  The Oranje came into the match needing merely a point to set up a second round date with Slovakia on Monday.  I’m trying my best to ignore the utter and complete failure of Italy and allow them to grieve.  I will not point and laugh.  Despite the close scoreline the Dutch were not unduly tested however Cameroon certainly played differently than both Japan and Demark.  Had this match come earlier and providing Cameroon came out with similar designs we may well have seen an utter rout.

In the end goals from van Persie in the first half and a second by Huntelaar late in the final frame were enough to ease the Netherlands clear with nine points from three games.  In between the Indominatable Lions had equalised through a Samuel Eto’o penalty after van der Vaart handled a free kick inside the area.  Bert van Marwijk will be pleased van der Vaart contributed to van Persie’s goal but overall his match was sub-standard once again.

Tactical Analysis

Prior to the Dutch substitutions the Oranje came out in much a similar fashion as the previous two matches.  Van der Vaart started on the left, Kuyt on the right, van Persie up front and Sneijder through the middle.  It seemed the Dutch had been given instructions to use the flanks more often as most of their good work in the first half came from deep crosses from Kuyt and van Bronckhorst.  Also, there was good running to the byline often by Sneijder.  With the Cameroon midfield and attack more advanced that Japan and Denmark there was additional space provided to Sneijder and van der Vaart in the middle. 

As a testament to van der Vaart’s inability to effectively play on the left consider that his assist to van Persie came from the right side of penalty area.  Having the left-footed van der Vaart on the left should mean he is at least running downfield putting in crosses but by comparing him with Kuyt you can see that Rafael isn’t comfortable crossing on the fly and he is repeatedly forced to hold up the run and play in either the on rushing leftback van Bronckhorst or look for Sneijder closer to the centre.

Van der Vaart would be an adequate replacement for Sneijder however he has been played to the detriment of the squad when utilized on the left.  As a special point of pleasure for me there were several instances of Kuyt and Sneijder tracking Cameroon players running from deep when on the attack.  I’ve been impressed with van Marwijk’s ability to get all players on board with the overall plan.

Robben Verdict

To the delight of all Arjen Robben made is long awaited return from injury.  He showed why he is a vital player to the Dutch providing direct running, challenging fullbacks, occupying the defenders concentration and providing a genuine goal threat. 

His best moment was his involvement for the second goal.  Sneijder’s sumptuous pass was well controlled on the right by Robben and after checking his run he came back towards midfield, glided past his marker and let loose a perfect curling shot that thumped the post.  His shot came back fortuitously for Huntelaar who was able to slot home.  It’s telling that the team ran to congratulate Robben in the centre allowing Huntelaar to enjoy his moment alone on the touchline.

Player Ratings

Stekelenburg – 6

Boulahrouz – 5

Heitinga – 6

Mathijsen – 6

van Bronckhorst – 7

de Jong – 6

van Bommel – 7

Kuyt – 7

Sneijder – 8

van der Vaart – 6

van Persie – 8

Subs: Elia – 5,  Huntelaar – 6, Robben – 7

Our Opponents: Cameroon

Thursday brings us to the conclusion of Group E.  Beyond tomorrow the Dutch will go on to what whoever awaits beyond.  Before we’re there though we have the small matter of Cameroon.  After last Saturday the Indomitable Lions are no longer flying the flag for Africa as they were officially eliminated following their failure to gain a point against Denmark.

Most notable among the Lions are Samuel Eto’o of Champion’s League winning fame, Alex Song of over-complicated-passing-with-no-real-end-product Arsenal and Jean Makoun Don’t-know-him-well-enough-to-make-a-joke of Lyon.  Really Cameroon have half of a good team.  Manager Paul Le Guen has a handful of outstanding talents with some “others” filling in the gaps.

Unfortunately there isn’t a lot we can really say.  The Dutch are riding high and their only concern would be maintaining whatever momentum they’ve gained and advancing first from the group: though that has little advantage with Italy looking likely to be the opposition.

Cameroon will be playing for pride and will want to provide a performance to make their supporters proud. 

The two unknowns are the Dutch line-up and the ultimate result of the match.  Cameroon are not an organized team structured to frustrate their opponents.  Up to this point we haven’t seen a side come out and attack the Dutch and this could be the chance for the entertainment we have all waited for.  The second variable is the Dutch formation and starting line-up. 

We saw in Cameroon’s game against Denmark that Cameroon do not provide cover on the wings and most of their attacking play comes through the centre.  For a more in-depth analysis have a look at ZonalMarking.net ‘s breakdown.  If the Dutch are able to properly attack down the flanks the Lion’s could be torn assunder. 

Van Marwijk sent out a Tweet yesterday: “Wat een speculaties weer van Bert M. iedereen zal het donderdag wel zien.”  That translates roughly to, “There is a lot of speculation about Bert M.  Everybody will have to wait to Thursday and see.”

 If Robben plays the match does not look to be a comfortable one for Cameroon.  Such a surprise would provide an oustanding launch pad for the Dutch and could kick-start their tournament in ernest.

My prediction is a 3-0 victory for the Dutch.

On a completely unrelated note I stumbled Bert van Marwijk’s Twitter List featuring all of his players.  It looks like he has created Twitter accounts for all his squad. See below for the list.  Wierd.

http://twitter.com/VanMarwijk_NL10/mijn-selectie

Look ahead to Round 2

Going into the second day of competition for Group F all four teams were equal.  One point a piece, one goal scored and one goal conceded.  Saturday saw Group E eliminate Cameroon and guarantee the Dutch a spot in the second round.

Given the vital nature of this second set of matches for Group F I thought we would an opportunity to look at the possible opposition the Dutch would face in the second round.  Paraguay comforably won their match against Slovakia by two goals.  Italy and New Zealand clashed in the second game, the Kiwis taking a shock lead and Italy equalising through a dubious penalty.

Paraguay

Paraguay are one of the impressive South American participants who have maintained the status quo while the rest of Europe seems to be wilting under pressure.  Their match against Slovakia served to prove what we already knew about them.  They are an attacking side unlike many of the underdogs we have seen thus far who seek to cut out passing lanes and frustrate opponents.  Paraguay consistently look to get forward and score goals rather than prevent them from being scored.

Much of their impetus comes from the wings, again something that really only Chile has done so far.  In Santa Cruz they have an experienced centre forward who can ably hold up when necessary and can also take a scoring opportunity when called upon.  The first goal today came from a lovely piece of passing completed by a deft finish: both things the Dutch have not seen thus far.

Paraguay were certainly good value for their win and have played the best football in the group thus far.

The Other Team

As for the other team who the Dutch could face well…I can’t be sure.  I was expecting to write about Italy but after their draw with New Zealand I can’t really be sure.

Conventional wisdom says Italy will win their match against Slovakia and New Zealand are unlikely to get full points against Paraguay but who can say for sure?

I want to say that the Dutch would be able to comfortably handle New Zealand should the unthinkable happen and they make it through but you just can’t write them off.  That said the Dutch have attacking power unlike anything that exists in Group F.

The Italians while certainly organized have lacked any cutting edge and killer instinct.  I think that if they meet the Dutch in the next round and the Oranje are able to execute their plan of possession football the Italians will be beaten.  In truth the Dutch haven’t been stretched or even truly tested.  They have only been made to wait thus far and that will not last as they progress through the tournment.

The Dutch are expected to move past the second round.  Initially Italy were not expected but they look now to be the more likely opponents and the Dutch will need to be at their best if they are going to add to the Azzurri’s misery.

Post Match Reaction NED v JPN

Good evening all.  We saw the Netherlands take on Japan this morning in what was a fairly dull match.  I don’t know if you managed to see the late game with Cameroon and Denmark but that was a much more entertaining spectacle.  The result of that match, a 2-1 win for Denmark, means the Dutch are officially through to the next round.

That was painless eh?  Two matches, two wins and six points to show for it.  Three goals for and none against.  Ultimately they have not impressed but they haven’t really needed to.  Let’s take a look at what the press are saying.  As always I don’t want to take credit for what I post here but merely highlight good work by others.  Links are included in all cases for you to check out the full pieces.

From one of the most notable Dutch football sources VI.nl comes the following reaction:

  • De Jong was quoted as saying “These are tricky opponents and its difficult to keep our patience.  It pays off though” and also “”You have to get points, especially in a group stage. When you see how many countries struggle to win against somewhat lesser opponents that you just close down games. And then comes the beautiful football might be in the semis or the finals. “
  • Their match report can be largely summed up with this quote: The first half seemed an eternity.

Next up is the former U-21 Dutch manager Foppe de Haan blogging for Onsoranje.nl

  • He titled his most recent post “Big names were Disappointing”
  • “For sure the first thirty minutes, I found that the Orange did quite well. Okay, it was not perfect or sparkling, but it was not very bad.”
  • “No, the best player on the field I found was Mark van Bommel. Who played really well, actually did nothing wrong, though I was also pleased with Ibrahim Afellay”
  • De Haan also speaks about the team selection ahead of Cameroon and whether players should be rested: “Playing with a refined second team is in fact the stupidest thing you can do. You also saw two years ago at the European Championships in Switzerland and Austria.”

Again from one of my favourite sites, Zonalmarking.net, comes the tactical breakdown of Netherlands v Japan.  This is always worth a read.  Just a couple highlights:

  • “Both sides kept faith with their opening day line-ups. Holland continued to play both Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder despite the impressive substitute appearance of Elijero Elia against Denmark.”
  • “Looking at it from another perspective, it was the second time Holland had broken the deadlock by putting a cross into the box, suggesting that this approach (which seems quite unnatural to their attacking players) might be more effective than constantly playing through the centre.”

Everyone is going to be happy with two wins but when you consider the audience you know that the enthusiasm will be severely tempered.  All Oranje fans require a match to be played a certain way whether domestically or internationally. 

With the last game against Cameroon I’m looking for an improved performance and I really need to see Robben given a run out.  I completely agree with Foppe de Haan regarding the squad selection; whatever momentum has been gathered must be maintained at all costs.