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Match Report NED v URU

I’m having a hard time coming to grips with a World Cup Final for the Dutch. I’m certainly very proud but I would not have predicted this after the first couple group games. The Dutch have been flat at times, unimpressive and yet somehow they’ve been the most successful team that remains in the tournament. Both Germany and Spain participated in the series of first round shocks; Germany losing to Serbia and Spain losing to Switzerland. But they made it and on the balance of of their consistency, the apparent luck following the squad, and the determination displayed versus Brazil they certainly deserve to be there 

With first choice right-back van der Wiel and the excellent midfielder de Jong out due to suspension Khalid ‘the Cannibal’ Boulahrouz came in to defense and Demy de Zeeuw started in midfield. The first half was quite defensive from Uruguay and the Netherlands created very little in the way of chances. Uruguay’s strategy seemed to be to defensively counteract the Dutch strategy and look to Forlan and Cavani to create by themselves. That isn’t meant as a slight towards Uruguay: with a player like Forlan and considering Uruguay’s suspension/injury concerns it was a very shrewd plan by Tabarez that paid dividends 

There were three notable moments in the first half. The first was van Bronckhorst’s opening goal. I sent out a tweet shortly afterwards saying that I recalled a similar, though less spectacular, goal he scored for the Netherlands against Argentina in a friendly eight or nine years ago. The ball typically moving across the Dutch front players and being played to space for van Bronckhorst who took a touch in stride and blistered the ball into the far right hand corner via the post. The commentator at the time described it as a “snorter” and that it was.  

The second moment was notable for a few loose teeth when Caceres attempted an overhead kick on the top of the box. In doing so he connected perfectly with Demy de Zeeuw’s face. He was replaced at half time by van der Vaart and then taken to hospital. According to reports afterwards he did not suffer a broken jaw as initially suspected and was only left with a few loose teeth.  

In a true case of “anything you can do I can do better” Forlan stepped up and stroked a beautiful curling effort from 25 yards past Stekelenburg. At the interval the scoreline was fair though on a personal note I felt sick and was wondering if this would be the final act in a thus far successful campaign. 

The second half didn’t do anything to help my nerves and Uruguay to their immense credit execute their game plan brilliantly and only through a goal by Sneijder suspected to be offside did the game swing towards the Dutch. Sticking my neck out for Sneijder, I don’t believe the goal was offside. Whether van Persie was active or inactive it doesn’t matter. Van Persie was very very close to his marker with only his leg actually being offside at the time the ball was played. The common interpretation of the rule is the “benefit of the doubt” should be given to the attacker and in this case as van Persie’s only action was to get out of the way the goal was correctly given. On a related note the Valdez goal for Paraguay against Spain should have stood for the very same reason. 

From that point on the Celeste had a very difficult task ahead of them and were not able to put away any of their chances. Robben’s headed goal from the outstanding Kuyt’s cross effectively killed the game. Uruguay did keep coming though and on the balance of the 90 minutes you could argue that they deserved the second goal. Their goal came from a wonderfully worked free kick and game them hope. 

Past that goal you would expect a minute or so of remaining extra time. Curiously in the 94th minute the referee appeared to blow the whistle and successfully confused the teams, the cameramen who rushed onto the pitch and the commentators alike. He did not in fact blow for full time but instead decided to book Mark van Bommel with a pointless yellow card and allow a further minute and a half of added time during which Uruguay laid seige to the Dutch penalty area. Ultimately they couldn’t find the equaliser and putting aside the bizarre ending to the game the Dutch came through another test and march onto the Final on Sunday. 

I’ll be very glad to have van der Wiel back in place of the liability that is Boulahrouz who fouls repeatedly but isn’t sneaky enough to get away with it like van Bommel. I will also be happy to see the return of #8 de Jong. While de Zeeuw ably deputized de Jong has been the most influential player, yes more so than Sneijder, and has consistently propped up the team.  

I can’t decide who I’d rather play in the final. A part of me would choose Spain because they’ve been misfiring and are frustratable (I may have invented a word) by defending well. On the other hand Germany might be preferable because they are not the organized, passing, possession opponents that could stifle the Netherlands. From what I’ve seen of Germany they seem to be playing a counterattacking brand inspired by Schweinsteiger. I have a growing suspicion that de Jong and van Bommel might be able to shackle Khedira and ‘Schweini’ depriving Ozil of his supply. I may watch the replay of Germany/Serbia to see how its’ done. 

Player Ratings 

Stekelenburg – 6 

Boulahrouz – 5 

Heitinga – 6 

Mathijsen – 6 

van Bronckhorst – 7 

de Zeeuw – 6 

van Bommel – 7 

Kuyt – 9 

Sneijder – 8 

Robben – 7 

van Persie – 6 

Subs: van der Vaart – 6, Elia – 5

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

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

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.

NED v JPN Match Report

The Dutch continued their progress with a win over Japan.  Strangely they are among the best performing teams thus far with 6 out of a possible 6 points.  Only Argentina have full points at the time of writing.  Considering the other European highlights include Spain, Germany, England, Italy and Portugal that is significant.  Maximum points may prove vital yet in this most unpredictable World Cup.

Strangely similar to the Oranje’s first game against Denmark there was precious little to be interested in during the first 45 minutes.  Absurd possession with precious little to show for it.  It appeared that both managers had a very distinct plan for this game.  While the Dutch have instilled an ultra posession style of play even beyond what Total Football would require.  When a person speaks of Total Football you envision fluid passing, darting movement and incisive attacking play.  You cannot describe the curent crop of Oranje thus. 

Van Marwijk is very much of the mindset that if you have the ball for the entire game no team can score which strictly speaking is a great idea.  I have said before that this works in theory but then so does communism.  Bert van Marwijk stuck with the same line up that failed to impress against the Danes. 

The first 45 today should prove a stern warning to van Marwijk about playing without any natural width.  Van der Vaart was poor again out of the left as he continually drifted infield allowing the Japanese to stifle any creativity.  Sneijder had difficulty throughout as he was manfully marked out of the first half.  Late in the first half the Dutch fullbacks were pushed up the field in an attempt to provide some desparately needed width.  Proving they were well prepared upon granting them space behind the fullbacks the Japanese attempted to expliot these gaps and while not rewarded with a goal they did provide a few worrying moments.

The second half proved fruitful again though and Kawashima’s failure to control Sneijder’s piledriver gave the Dutch a lead.  As with their first game it was the substitutions who took the game home and provided more chances in the last 20 minutes than in the rest of the game.  The Dutch started very brightly creating meaningfull chances early on.  Something that was missing in the first half were incisive crosses that forced Japan to make difficult defensive decisions.  Sneijder’s goal began as a cross into the box that fell unkindly to van Persie.  While trying to control the ball came out to Sneijder on the edge of area where Sneijder promptly cannoned the ball off the keeper and into the net.

After the goal Japan attempted to push back into the game through some attacking substitutions and extra pressure down the inside channels trying to exploit the Dutch attack-minded fullbacks.  Against Denmark Eljero Elia and Ibrahim Affelay were introducted to positive affect and today was no difference.  Both came on with twenty minutes to go.  Elia and Affelay were very bright and the latter could have – strike that- SHOULD have had 2 goals for himself.  I have to think that these cameos have provided van Marwijk , notoriously fond of consistency, with a selection headache ahead of Cameroon.  Making an appearance was also Klaas Jan Huntelaar who replaced van Persie very late on.  His impact was almost immediately felt as he control provided Affelay with the second of his chances.

We don’t have to be too worried about Cameroon now and if the result goes our way this afternoon.

Remember you can follow me on twitter @m_devries .  Also, you can follow Bert van Marwijk on Twitter @VanMarwijk_NL10 .  Join me in pleading for wingers to be used prior to the 70th minute.

Yes, we won.  Yes, it was rarely worrying.  But too little is being left to chance.  Total Football is a fantastic idea but to expect that at this point is naive.  HOWEVER!  There is nothing wrong with playing organized attacking football with the emphasis on keeping possession.  MY SALARY FOR A WINGER!!

Player Ratings

Stekelenburg – 7
van der Wiel – 8
Mathijsen – 6
Heitinga – 6
van Bronckhorst – 7
van Bommel – 7
de Jong – 6
Kuyt – 8
Sneijder – 7
van der Vaart – 4
van Persie – 6
 
Subs:
Affelay – 6

Elia – 7
Huntelaar – 6