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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

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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!

Quarter Final Video Love

Can you believe that its been almost 48 hours since we put out Brazil in the quarter finals?  I can’t really come to grips with it and I keep smiling.  Can you remember the last time you were impressed by a Dutch team’s fighting spirit?  I certainly can’t and I think that’s why I’m stilling having trouble believing it.  We took on a superpower and beat them.

Okay Mike, let’s have a little perspective.  Brazil weren’t at their best and it was an error that let the Dutch back into the game.  My point is simple.  I thought as soon as Robinho slid home that lovely goal in the tenth minute the Dutch spirit would be broken.  Up to that point they had been happily trundling along content to nudge opponents out of the way.  It was at this point where adversity pummeled the Oranje that I was near certain it was over.

Shame on me for my lack of faith.  Isn’t it a trademark of good sides that all they need is a door left slightly ajar?  At 1-1 there was much to do and through perserverance and determination not only did they get the second goal they needed but their opponents lost their minds a little bit.

With all the talking done let’s sit back and look at some of the history that was intermingled with Friday’s game.

We start with the 2-0 victory over Brazil in 1974; one of the greatest Dutch sides of all time.  Both of these goals, Neeskens and Cruyff, are without a doubt two of the best from the tournament.  Both seem to typify the type of player the scorer was.  Neeskens with a lung busting run into the box going into a hard challenge for the ball and in doing so lifting it over the keeper and into the net.  Cruyff’s mid-air lunging volley captured his outrageous skill.  Notice also some horrific tackling by the Brazilians…

Next we have the defeat to Brazil in 1994.  Essentially a clinic for awful defending.

Here we see the devastating semi-final loss to Brazil on penalties in 1998.  Likely the best team at the tournament the Oranje thrilled the crowds.  The Dutch are most remembered in 1998 for Dennis Bergkamps spine-tingling 88 minute winner against Argentina.

And last but perhaps most significant of all is Friday’s come from behind victory.  Apologies for the abbreviated highlights but FIFA is making it hard to get a decent video.

Obviously the true significance of the victory will be determined as time goes by.  For now all we can do is enjoy the incredible acheivement and hope there is more to come.

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

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

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.