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Posts Tagged ‘Oranje’

An Open Letter to Johan Cruyff

Dear Mr. Cruyff,

You have given us some of the greatest gifts a football can offer.  You created an almost otherworldly way of playing football that included revolutionary changes for players and teams alike.  Because you gave your country and the world these gifts, you are loved not only as a player but as a person who dreams for perfect and beautiful football. 

The last time our football team reached the World Cup Final game was thirty-two years ago.  I have never experienced an event like this and the thought of the Netherlands winning the World cup in my lifetime brings tears to my eyes.  Having seen the acheivements of the teams created by you in the 1970s I having always dreamed of this day and I can hardly believe it’s happening.

As your fans and as supporters of the Oranje we have been crushed by your support for Spain.  When you, our hero and talismanic chieftain, complement our opponents instead of the Oranje ahead of the most significant match in football it’s hard not to feel betrayed.

All who know you are familiar with how you love to see football played; indeed there isn’t anyone who disagrees with your ideal for beautiful football.  Not every squad is able to achieve this very high level of play and some concessions must be made in the interest of having a functional team.  In this case our Oranje team have been very successful playing a simpler and more defensive form of football.  Perhaps it’s their success without your formula that is troubling to you.  Yours ideals are the same ideals engrained in all Dutch supporters; we all yearn for that same type of football.  I assure you this success without the traditional Dutch style of play is in no way an indictment of your feelings or beliefs. 

To support another country is as near to betrayal as a cultural icon like yourself can come.  Recently in Barcelona the new club president removed you from your honorary post within the illustrious club.  I would be heart-broken if the motivation behind your comments was in part an effort to regain that post for Barcelona.  We share your history and hopes.  We shared your joy in Germany when the world was electrified by what they saw and your heartbreak in the final.  We are all united in the path we’ve walked together.

I implore you to support the Oranje; support that same shirt that you wore in 1974.  As supporters we look to you as our Oranje captain.  These Oranje players representing your country have blossomed within the footballing legacy created by you.  Do not desert us now in our moment of pregnant potential! 

Respectfully yours,

Michael de Vries

***I have attempted to send this letter to Johan Cruyff via the email addresses found on his foundation website as well as his personal website.  A response is not expected.***

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Our Opponents: Uruguay

Alright time for confession.  Everybody who thought the Oranje would get this far raise your hand!  Ya I thought not, well me neither so don’t feel bad.  Now everyone who thought Uruguay would get this far raise your hand!  Well I did actually but largely due to that side of the draw and the resulting fixtures.  Well done to them though as there is no such thing as an easy quarter-final. 

After Friday’s victory I saw a huge emergence of Dutch fans.  As soon as the final whistle sounded there were cars in the streets and fans on the sidewalks cheering and waving their flags.  I can’t recall ever seeing a display like this from the Dutch fans.

Both teams will be without some key players.  For Uruguay Luis Suarez will be missing because his intentional handball in the quarter-final.  It’s hard to downplay his significance as both he and Forlan have 3 goals a piece. For the Dutch Nigel de Jong and Gregory van der Wiel will be missing for picking up their second yellow cards against Brazil.  Boulahrouz is likely to deputize for van der Wiel and while de Jong’s replacement is less concrete it is likely to be Demy de Zeeuw.  Both players are significant in their own roles.  Nigel de Jong has been outstanding and, if you care to look, has consistently been among the best passers in the side.

I’ve unfortunately not seen much of Uruguay up to now but I’m fairly familiar with both the missing Suarez and Forlan.  From a neutral’s perspective you must enjoy Forlan’s determination to thrust Uruguay into the global reckoning.  For some reason is often stricken with an asterisk in terms of quality because of his unsuccessful spell in England though after the displays here it’s obvious what initially attracted Manchester United to the South American.

Up to this point and with the sole exception of last Friday every match they’ve encountered in the last two years has been with the Oranje firmly installed as expected winners.  For the first time the Oranje will enter a match with the added pressure that they could be on their way to…

Let’s agree that we won’t push our luck shall we?

Instead of worrying about what could be let’s just enjoy the highlights of a previous encounter with Uruguay, in 1974 to be exact.  The creator or at least the poster believes that is was the first true glimpse of what became known as Total Football.  One of the best things about this video is the offside trap played by the Dutch, the first example is already at 0:15 of the video and every Dutch player is within 2 meters of the half way line.  To call that aggressive is an understatement.

Post Match Reaction NED v BRA

Evening out there.  I had a little fun earlier posting a Brazilian history lesson that – as I’m sure you’re aware – temporarily at least has a happy ending.  As I’ve been trying to do I’m featuring a brief round-up of the reaction elsewhere and, as always, providing links so you can check it yourself.  There’s a lot of quality opinion out there even though I don’t always agree!

First up is Zonalmarking.net.  Blah blah blah…love this site…blah blah blah…good tactical breakdown.  You’ve heard it before. It’s also worth making the jump to their site if only for the classic picture of Brazil coach Dunga.  The highlights:

  • The focus was on Brazil’s meltdown: “Brazil are out. A dominant first half, a shocking second half – Holland took advantage of their defensive mistakes to record a famous victory.”
  • They attempted to explain the difference between the two halves: “There seemed to be a concious effort to practically give up on attacking the side where Brazil had Maicon-Alves-Gilberto-Lucio, and instead target the side with Juan-Bastos-Melo – often identified as Brazil’s weak point”
  • You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t already know the result so you are aware that the Netherlands were completely successful and ultimately: “It wasn’t a drastic change in formation or personnel, but it effectively (a) nullified Brazil’s strengths and (b) exploited their weaknesses – good tactics if you’re the underdog”

Another favourite and frequent attendee in my round is Foppe de Haan’s blog from OnsOranje.  Foppe de Haan is not someone who expects to see Total Football; he’s a pragmatist in the vein of van Marwijk but he’s not impressed.  His post in reaction to the victory of Brazil was titled: “Oranje were lucky”, lol.

  • He’s not a total downer: “”Of course , it ‘s great that thanks to the Orange 2-1 win over Brazil they’ve reached the semifinals of this World Cup . Really nice , especially because against the Brazilians they played their best match so far”
  • “When you see that first goal go in, that was pure luck” Fairly straightforward, and he’s right.
  • “But thanks to Maarten Stekelenburg , I think the best man on the field, we still lived . He eventually made a really important save, I think a ball from Kaka that he was able to wonderfully tip aside. For me that was really the moment of the match”
  • He finished on a positive note at least: “So let the semi- finals come! I ‘m ready and Oranje is too! ”

Dutchnew.nl has a mini-roundup of their own summarizing the headlines of some of the major papers in the Netherlands.

  • A little confident for me: “‘We are ready to win the World Cup,’ say jubilant Dutch papers”  I prefer a cool head but who am I to stand in the way of the obvious joy we all felt.
  • “Oranje cannot be beaten” is another headline apparently saying the “secret” is that they can’t be beaten.  Not sure its much a secret but okay.
  • Last a weird one that I don’t know what to say about: “The Volkskrant has no news story on its front page, just a half page photo of Dirk Kuijt, Mark van Bommel and Arjen Robben with their arms round each other grinning from ear to ear and an unrelated column entitled ‘Telephone sex.'”  Ya, I don’t understand it either.

Coming from an outsider’s view we go to the Sun in England for their take.  The report comes from Steven Howard.

  • I think everyone thought the same: “We never, ever, quite believe it when it happens – even more so yesterday when they appeared to be strolling into yet another semi-final as they strutted off like peacocks at half-time. “
  • While most have been focussing on the Brazilian imposion the Sun saved some praise for the second half Dutch performance: “Confronted by their first real test at this World Cup, they collapsed just as they did against France at the same stage in 2006.  Instead, rejoice for the Dutch. And, in particular, for Sneijder. There may not be much of him – a shade under 5ft 7in – but in terms of modern midfield players he is a colossus.  Probably the finest in the world right now. And one of the greatest bargains of the modern era.”  If the unmentionable happens (I’m not willing to say the words) I’ll have Sneijder #10 on my shirt.
  • “The Dutch, though, march on with the enormous confidence only a victory like this can provide.”
  • Mr. Howard also gives his ratings.  For full ratings make sure you visit the full report via the link provided.  “Stekelenburg 7, Van Der Wiel 7, Heitinga 6, Ooijer 7, Van Bronckhorst 8, Van Bommel 8, De Jong 7, Robben 8, Sneijder 9, Kuyt 8, van Persie 5”  I don’t know if van Persie was quite 5 or van Bronkhorst an 8 but I’m nearly in agreement.

Alright, that’s the best from the best that I’ve seen.  The only thing that matters now is the Semi-Final.  There is absolutely nothing beyond that and we can’t allow ourselves or anyone else to forget that Uruguay is the only oppositions before us.  There could be more but you won’t find anyone talking about what that might be here until the only step that matters has first been taken.

You can look forward to my Semi final preview tomorrow!

We’ll be Just Fine

There has been a lot of negative reaction to the World Cup thus far and (of particular interest to me) the Dutch game against Denmark.  I am writing this now in an attempt to provide some much needed perspective and in some cases downright correction.

First of all let me list two sources of negative feedback for the Dutch.  The first is the match report on the Guardian by Paul Wilson.  The second report I came across was from the Associated Press by Robert Willward.  These are just examples I’m using to illustrate the prevailing thought I’m seeing with regards to the Dutch win.

I’ve heard a couple comparisons with England and I feel those are unwarranted.  I would characterize England as genuinely disappointing with players that are often thought of as world class.  In the case of the Dutch game  the Oranje, while not displaying the attacking verve all expected, were very well organized defensively which is not something you would say about most Dutch teams.  Upon reviewing the replay of the match I noticed Heitinga and Mathijsen were remarkable when anticipating passes coming into the feet of Denmark’s attackers.  Van der Wiel showed signs of promise and while van Bronckhorst was not an attacking force save one forray into the Danish box he defending reliably.

England are not going to win the World Cup because their team is not good enough.  Is the Dutch team any better?  Well yes the Dutch are stronger in attack, in the defensive bit of midfield and the defense seems to go about their duties with a minimum of fuss.  Will the Dutch win the World Cup?  It’s highly unlikely but that doesn’t mean they are a bad team.

Lastly consider this quote from the previously mentioned Paul Wilson’s match report:”Whisper it softly, but though Holland got off to a winning start in Group E their performance was not that much better than England’s. The Dutch fans must be hoping their team are slow starters too.”

In response to this I would like to make the following points with regards to the comparison:

  1. England were worse value for their result than the Dutch.  Denmark defended expertly however did not regularly threaten the Dutch and Stekelenburg looked sharp when called into action.
  2. England began with their best available team (bar Ferdinand) and struggled.  The Dutch were without Robben but were able to introduce a game-changing player in the shape of Elia: Robben has also returned from injury completing the attacking half of their lineup.  England have no such option off the bench.
  3. Both the English and Dutch were able to stick to their own style of play.  The Dutch had 66% of possession, thereby retaining control despiting struggling in attack.  England had 57% of possession but looked frequently threatened by Donovan and the pace of Findlay despite this.

I also wanted to take the results of the top teams (excluding Spain as they have not played at the time of writing) and put them into a certain context.  What I’ve done is I’ve taken the scores and divided the goals scored by the FIFA ranking of their opponent.  The purpose of this is to determine the “value” of each goal with respect to the difficulty of the opposition.  See below for the interesting results:

    Teams    
Rank Goals   Adj Goals   Goals Rank
4 2 Netherlands 0.056 0.000 Denmark 0 36
1 2 Brazil 0.019 1.000 North Korea 1 105
6 4 Germany 0.200 0.000 Australia 0 20
8 1 England 0.071 0.125 USA 1 14
7 1 Argentina 0.048 0.000 Nigeria 0 21

This is useful for determining the amount of hype we can attribute to a particular result.  Note Germany’s result being the heavy winner and with good reason.  Look then at the England/USA result and you can understand why the USA have responded so positively (albiet obnoxiously) to their result. 

If you compare now the results of the Netherlands and Argentina the prevailing opinion following Argentina’s win was positive.  Most of this positive feedback was directed towards Lionel Messi who, while lovely to watch, contributed nothing to the actual result.  The Dutch did indeed maintain their shape and went forward with their tactics; do the Argentenians have a similar plan?  What would the reaction have been without Messi sparkling throughout?

In conclusion I would simply like to make the point that the result was not disappointing but I will agree that they did not reach their full potential.  Against Japan we can look forward to a reunited Dutch attack.  I think I might continue using this dumb little formula to gage the true performance of each team.

Post Match Reaction

I was just trolling through a few different websites after the match today and came across a few things I wanted to pass along.  I should say I don’t take credit for any of the work.  I’ve included links for all of them.

From the Telegraaf comes a few things:

  • The Champions League will have done Sneijder’s confidence no harm…He says, ” On the basis of the first half [it] would not be justified, but given my game in the second half I ended the man of the match ”  Charming…
  • Nigel de Jong’s tackling was widely seen as reckless and endangering the cause.  Below is a translated caption from one of the pictures, “Nigel de Jong playing with fire when came in two footed at Jorgensen”.  He could have seen red for the previously quoted tackle.  Bert van Marwijk has warned de Jong to be more careful with his tackling ahead of the next match.  De Jong was replaced by Demy de Zeeuw late on in the half and at least appeared to be positively received on the bench.
  • Perhaps on the back of today’s first half attacking struggle captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst had this to say, ” “It is good that Arjen Robben is there again, I hope he returns quickly.”  The Dutch attack did miss a direct attacking threat; we saw how the game changed when Elia came on.  Sneijder had this to say about Elia, “By Eljero there was more depth in our game. In midfield we had greater latitude to play football.”

From DutchNews.nl we get the following:

  • A ‘deserved three points for Netherlands, but let’s hope that is just a starter for them and not the best they can offer this World Cup because they didn’t have to be very good to beat a disappointing Denmark team today,’ BBC sports reporter Jonathan Stevenson said after the match was over.
  • As well as: Some 1.2 million Dutch fans had taken the day off work to watch the match. Hundreds of schools closed early.

Last but not least one of my favourite websites is Zonalmarking.net.  They offer geeky tactical analysis of just about every game and team you can imagine.  Their coverage of the World Cup has been outstanding thus far and it is one of the first sites I check after a match.  Below are a few highlights from their report after the Denmark game.

  • “A quiet game won by two scrappy goals – not really the performance we were hoping for from Holland. Some credit should go to Morten Olsen – his tactics stifled Holland’s creative players and Denmark did have chances to score”
  • “Aside from goal-kicks, however, the Danish midfield sat inside their own half and didn’t look to pressure the Dutch player in possession until they got within 40-50 metres of the goal. Their defence, too, sat very deep and meant Holland were unable to play balls in behind Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer”

There is too much quality in their report to scoop.  You must visit their site to fully appreciate the depth with which they can analyze a match and the teams competing.

NED v DEN Match Report

The match began with some interesting selection notes.  Notably absent was Arjen Robben who was still recovering from a hamstring injury.  There were some who thought he might be in the side following his arrival in South Africa on Saturday.  That was not to be the case as van der Vaart was given the starting spot.  Notably present was Nicklas Bendtner who was also recovering from an injury.  He started up front for the Danes.

In the first half the Dutch enjoyed 60% of the posession.  This was certainly part of the plan; press when defending and when in posession of the ball be patient and look to create clear goal scoring opportunities.  In reality the Dutch found themselves against a well organized and disciplined Danish defense.  There were similarities between this game and the Germany/Australia game with regards to ball posession and game plans.  The difference here is the inability of van Persie and co. to get free of their markers.  Van der Vaart and van Persie have had good glimpses but Sneijder was poor, often failing to adequately link play between the other three attacking players.

The only shot in anger from the Dutch arrived from Kuyt early on.  Bendtner had the best chance of the first period narrowly heading wide after a very good ball into the 18 yard box.  The referee also seemed to be fairly bored; once the first 45 were up he was quick to blow for halftime and forget about the snore-fest he had just witnessed.

The Oranje soon found a way through however after the break.  A cross from van Persie that looked well covered by Denmark was inexplicably turned into his own net off the back of his man, Agger.  One would have hoped that his would cause the game to open up and Denmark boss Olsen was quick to put on Gronkjaer in order to force the match.

The Dutch still seemed to struggle creatively.  One outrageous effort from van der Vaart forced Sorenson into a smart save: the pass from van Persie being taken on the volley with his instep while turning away from goal.  While it was a lovely chance in reality Sorenson had it comfortably blocked off.

A few substitutions by Denmark failed to change the game.  With about 20 minutes to go Eljero Elia replaced van der Vaart and instantaneously made an impact taking on defenders and beating them effortlessly.  Still there were no obvious scoring opportunities.

Good running from Elia and Kuyt created the second with seven minutes to go.  Elia was put through from Sneijder and after his shot came back off the post Kuyt was on hand to bury the ball ahead of the on-rushing defender.

In all the match was a good exhibition of controlled football with only a clear attacking threat missing.  As the match neared the end the Oranje began to find a few openings and you feel the next match against Japan will display a more confident Dutch side.

Dutch Player Ratings:

Stekelenburg – 6

van der Wiel – 7

Heitinga – 6

Mathijsen – 7

van Bronckhorst – 6

van Bommel – 7

de Jong – 8

Kuyt – 7

Sneijder – 5

van der Vaart – 6

van Persie – 6

Substitutes: Elia – 9; Affelay – 6

Our Opponents: Denmark

Afternoon to you!  It’s half time just now for Argentina v Nigeria.  I thought I would do a brief round up of what we can expect in the next couple weeks.  First up is Denmark who the Dutch face Monday night.

According to my fellow blogger on the Fan’s Network the “youthful” Oranje side is not worthy of the respect most afford it.  Let’s put that false claim to rest before we dig into the Danish team shall we?  The age of each player likely to feature in the starting eleven against Denmark is as follows:

Stekelenburg – 28

van der Wiel – 22; Heitinga – 26; Mathijsen – 30; van Bronckhorst – 35

van Bommel – 33; de Jong – 25; Kuyt – 29; Sneijder – 26; van der Vaart – 27

van Persie – 26

That gives us an average age of 27.9.  Not exactly a youthful squad is it?  In fact you would say that most of these players are in their prime and have just come off of successful domestic campaigns.  And if my math is correct the average age of the whole squad is 27.25: not exactly infantile.

Now for some information about Denmark’s squad.  In their squad they have five players currently plying their trade in the Netherlands while their coach Morten Olsen was once manager of Ajax.  In the past the Danes and the Netherlands have opposed each other 27 times.  Denmark have won 6 times, drawn 10 and lost 11 times scoring 36 goals and conceding 55 in the process. 

They have some household names in the shape of Sorenson, Agger and Bendtner all who play in the Premier League.  They will almost certainly be without Nicklas Bendtner through injury and don’t necessarily have a like for like replacement to bring in.  On paper their defense is their strongest part of the pitch with the experience Sorensen organizing Daniel Agger and the up and coming Simon Kjaer in front of him.

Denmark did not qualify for the last World Cup but did feature in Korea/Japan in the 2002 edition.  In 2002 they went out to England 3-0 in the second round.  No doubt they’re going to want to improve upon that and while they do have a few real talents in their ranks you have to believe that job number one is to advance out of the group and then see what comes next.  Second in this group would likely mean a second round match up against Italy would almost certainly prove to be too much.

My prediction is a 1-0 or 2-0 win for the Dutch after a tight game with few chances.