Teamwork makes the dream work

Dutch should rediscover identification or face early Euro 2024 exit

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Following their 3-2 defeat to Austria of their ultimate group-stage match, Netherlands supervisor Ronald Koeman fielded questions on his facet’s defensive frailties, midfield dis-organisation and ineffective urgent, solely to then be requested if he was reevaluating his future.

Former Netherlands worldwide Demy de Zeeuw was within the stands among the many wall of orange in Berlin witnessing the defeat. “It was dangerous,” he instructed ESPN. “Very dangerous. You’ll be able to’t think about you can play so dangerous with such good gamers.”

In the meantime within the Dutch tv studios, former gamers have been lining as much as take their pictures on the supervisor, some gamers and techniques. The legendary Marco van Basten was disillusioned with centre-back Virgil van Dijk, whereas ex-midfielder Rafael van der Vaart labelled the defeat a “shame” and mentioned he was able to “cry” at how dangerous they performed. After which there was poor Joey Veerman who was taken off after 33 minutes following a dismal efficiency. Some pundits mentioned that may very well be the top of his worldwide profession.

“The one optimistic factor is that we’re nonetheless alive,” was Koeman’s tackle the Dutch efficiency. However they nonetheless certified for the knockouts.

Then got here the twist within the story — because of unpredictable outcomes elsewhere, Netherlands went from doubtlessly taking part in England, to being drawn in opposition to Romania. “It’s not not possible to beat Romania and develop within the event once more,” ex-forward Dirk Kuyt instructed ESPN.

There do appear to be a number of questions round this group and their unpredictability: are they poor at urgent? Have they got striker points? Is Koeman the suitable man to guide them? Or maybe all the above? It is dependent upon who you discuss to — the optimist or the pessimist — as there’s additionally nonetheless loads of optimism across the Oranje, however lose on Tuesday and the backlash shall be brutal.

Urgent points within the midfield

Veerman appeared devastated as he sat on the bench having been substituted. Denzel Dumfries — a shock omission from Netherlands’ beginning XI for the Austria defeat — requested the cameras to veer away from Veerman and his footballing grief. The midfielder had a profitable passing fee of simply 47.4%.

“He is not the one one who might have been substituted, all of us might have been substituted,” midfielder Jerdy Schouten mentioned afterward because the Dutch took inventory of their 3-2 defeat. “We’re not glad with how this match was performed. We have been late all over the place. We didn’t get the stress on. All of it went fairly simply for them.”

Veerman’s desolation was remoted, however symptomatic of the broader malaise. “We have been too passive and gave them an excessive amount of time to search out the free man. If we had the ball ourselves, we might lose it too rapidly,” midfielder Tijjani Reijnders mentioned. Koeman added that the staff defended like “headless chickens” and ran far too usually “out of our positions.” He mentioned there was far an excessive amount of house between the traces, and the staff lacked aggression.

“For his or her second and third objectives, we do not sustain with our opponent,” Koeman mentioned. “In case you play like that, you aren’t entitled to extra.”

Former Ajax and PSV Eindhoven midfielder, and present ESPN analyst, Marciano Vink insisted: “It was so disappointing the way in which we carried out. Some gamers are completely out of shape, a few of them did not step up they usually take cost over issues like communication, [and] getting the staff again into form. There is not any disgrace in shedding in opposition to Austria, however it’s the way in which we misplaced.”

Midfield stability, or lack of it, has been one speaking level all through. On the eve of the event, the midfield misplaced Frenkie de Jong, Teun Koopmeiners and Marten de Roon to harm. Each De Jong and Koopmeiners would have been assured starters.

“Frenkie de Jong is Netherlands’ finest participant, the motor of the staff,” ex-Denmark worldwide and ESPN analyst Kenneth Perez mentioned. “That is an enormous factor, taking out your finest participant — he is the one who made the clock tick and the staff play higher.”

There have been calls from former star Wesley Sneijder to incorporate Feyenoord midfielder Quinten Timber within the squad, one thing he reiterated after the Austria defeat. “I’ve talked about it earlier than, however I feel Timber is a participant that we miss in midfield,” he instructed De 538 Middagshow. “Particularly with that positioning, capturing balls and he may also shoot from distance. It’s too simple in midfield.” However there have been doubts over his health as nicely.

For his or her opener, a 2-1 win over Poland, Koeman went with a midfield two of Veerman and Schouten, with Xavi Simons simply forward on the suitable and Reijnders by way of the center. For the 0-0 draw with France, they performed Schouten and Reijnders along with Simons within the No. 10 place. Then for Austria he reworked to a center three with Reijnders, Schouten and Veerman. The experiment failed. Netherlands could not maintain the ball, they have been dominated on their left flank, and though Simons’ introduction did assist with stability, there have been nonetheless questions over different adjustments Koeman made.

Speaking to a number of figures in Dutch soccer, there may be nonetheless widespread bemusement over why the supervisor turns to Georginio Wijnaldum to assist shore up the midfield within the latter phases of matches, with the Al Ettifaq veteran struggling for kind.

The urgent statistics made for grim studying, as ex-pro Daan Sutorius highlighted for ESPN. The Dutch are solely profitable the ball 3.3 occasions per 90 within the high third of the pitch, which ranks them twenty third out of the 24 groups at Euro 2024. Additionally they enable the opposition 14.1 passes earlier than they regain the ball (Germany prepared the ground averaging 8.8 passes on common), which sees them concede 5.0 pictures heading in the right direction per match on common — with solely Albania, Scotland, Georgia and Poland extra beneficiant.

“There wasn’t a number of aggression within the staff, particularly the dearth of urgent,” Vink mentioned. “And it is fairly much like England. England additionally go into their very own half after which wait, and also you see that [Harry] Kane, [Bukayo] Saka, they do not know what to do. And that is principally additionally what’s occurring [with Netherlands]. It’s not that they do not know what to do, however I consider that possibly the techniques are usually not the suitable techniques for this staff. It is a disgrace as a result of I consider you’d reasonably go full pace forward after which see the place you find yourself, however as a substitute we’ve got this calculative approach of taking part in, and that is not the way in which Dutch folks need to see their nationwide staff play.”

Koeman and the striker challenge

Koeman has are available for loads of criticism. That query about his future post-Austria revolved round whether or not he would resign, or was involved about his job prospects in the event that they misplaced within the spherical of 16. Koeman is contracted by way of to 2026.

De Zeeuw has his issues, saying: “It appears as if Koeman can’t inspire the gamers. When you’ve got been like this for 3 video games, you’ve got an issue.” However Perez mentioned the staff will embody Koeman’s spirit. “He’s anyone who will actually battle for his staff and for himself,” he mentioned. “And he is a winner, he is a survivor.”

What Koeman has restricted management over is the gamers’ potential to hit the goal when it issues. Netherlands have had 40 pictures, however simply 10 heading in the right direction. That report of 25% places them twenty second in Euro 2024, with Serbia (23.1%) and Scotland (17.6%) worse off.

The place to play Memphis Depay has been a continuing theme each in these Euros and former tournaments. “Memphis must step up his sport, to begin with, after which as a result of he is shedding too many foolish balls in his personal half up entrance,” Vink mentioned. Towards France, he was remoted, and recorded zero profitable dribbles, received simply one in all his 4 duels with a cross success fee of 63%. Towards Austria, he dropped deeper, extra a hyperlink man than an out-and-out striker, and had larger success.

“Everybody within the stadium [against Austria] was speaking about Memphis merely having to be ‘on 10,'” De Zeeuw mentioned. “That is the place he was within the second half and he scored right away.”

Vink want to see Brian Brobbey begin up entrance, in a task much like how Belgium‘s Romelu Lukaku performed in opposition to Romania.

“Memphis is a really artistic participant who additionally goes deep, he alters up pace as a sensible participant with a number of expertise,” he mentioned. “If you’re up entrance there alone and … gamers are approach too removed from you, it is a troublesome factor. However he’s skilful sufficient to deal with that and he wants just a little little bit of assist, however he wants to vary his sport additionally. I would love to start out Brobbey, as he is able to laying balls off for the midfielders, that is the way in which Youri Tielemans scored in opposition to Romania. There are such a lot of methods to be dominant, but additionally to achieve success in opposition to Romania. It’s a must to be courageous, so Koeman, for my part, ought to make adjustments for the higher and never due to individuals who gave you a large number prior to now.”

Then there’s additionally a college of thought that maybe it is time for Wout Weghorst — the super-sub from Qatar 2022 and of their opener when he scored the winner in opposition to Poland — to be given the keys to the beginning striker position. All of the whereas there’s additionally Joshua Zirkzee within the combine, the Bologna striker who has been linked with Manchester United, however was a late call-up to the squad so clearly Koeman has his misgivings there.

Former Netherlands striker Pierre van Hooijdonk urged Donyell Malen ought to begin up entrance, with Cody Gakpo and Jeremie Frimpong on either side of him and Depay within the 10. Both approach, the consensus is, Depay wants a foil.

“There must be a striker who can maintain the ball and whether or not that is Zirkzee or Weghorst or Brobbey, it would not matter,” De Zeeuw mentioned. “At Atlético [Depay] usually performed with [Antoine] Griezmann. He wants somebody who strikes round him.”

Romania and the trail forward

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Virgil van Dijk: ‘We will not assume additional than Romania’

Virgil van Dijk speaks forward of the Netherlands’ Spherical of 16 match with Romania.

But it surely’s not all doom and gloom — removed from it. The draw has opened up superbly for the Dutch, they usually have some in-form gamers; Gakpo has had a superb event, whereas Bart Verbruggen, 21, has put in performances past his years in objective.

However, there are at all times expectations for the Netherlands. Kuyt remembered nicely the exterior stress that got here in main tournaments, having performed in 5 of them.

“I keep in mind in 2010 that we mentioned to one another that we have been in a tunnel, and you can not escape exterior stress,” he mentioned. “You’ll be able to attempt to shut your self off to that, however a method or one other it nonetheless comes by way of mates or household. You at all times get that. This can be a new expertise for some boys. I’m certain that have will make them stronger.”

The staff have been making an attempt to compartmentalise that each one week. The backlash to Veerman’s efficiency was steadily talked about within the build-up to Romania, however his teammates rallied round him. That previous moniker footballers roll out saying they have not learn the press or have not seen the feedback was forged apart to assist Veerman on Friday. Nathan Aké mentioned the criticisms from the media “went a bit too far,” after which Van Dijk stepped in. “We will all have a nasty match. After all, he did not play nicely, however one match would not outline the remainder of his profession,” he mentioned.

After which Van Dijk was requested about his personal kind, which he took on the chin. “I can actually perceive the criticism fully after the final match,” he mentioned. “I’ll work on it, and I additionally blame myself for it. The accountability I really feel for Oranje and in addition Liverpool could be very excessive, and I additionally assume that I can and will do higher than that.”

There’s a basic acceptance that issues a lot enhance.

“It’s simply an eye fixed opener,” Van Dijk mentioned. “If we proceed on the identical path, we’ve got no enterprise right here and that has turn out to be very clear. If we need to obtain one thing right here, one thing has to vary in a short time.”

Koeman ran the rule over his staff in a practise match in opposition to TSV Havelse from the Regionalliga Nord throughout two 35-minute halves on Wednesday. The Netherlands received 6-1 — Weghorst and Micky van de Ven each bought two objectives, whereas Brobbey and Frimpong additionally scored. Maybe somebody there’ll power Koeman’s hand.

Van der Vaart needs Koeman to make three switches for Romania: He needs Simons beginning as a substitute of Veerman, Matthijs de Ligt over Stefan de Vrij, and Dumfries returning in Lutsharel Geertruida‘s place. Vink needs different adjustments.

“I would like to Frimpong as a result of Romania are usually not the quickest in defence, so I would like to see Frimpong on the suitable, I might play Brobbey as a striker and Depay as a ten with Gakpo on the left-hand facet,” he mentioned. “I would have Reijnders who’s extra eight, who’s a box-to-box participant, after which you’ve got Schouten who is kind of a sitting six. And I would not change the backline as a result of Geertruida may also implement the midfield as a result of he likes to come back in on the within and play there. So I would not change the final line, however I might make some adjustments up entrance.”

However as Van Dijk insisted on Friday, the time for speaking is over. It is now time for the staff to ship, a sentiment Kuyt agrees with.

“I hope that the boys seize this chance and make the event much more profitable,” he mentioned. “That is how event soccer is. You’ll be able to have a nasty day as soon as, however not anymore from this second on, as a result of then you might be out.”