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Follow a legend of footballing history making history once again.
Started on 15 January 2014 by Louis O.
Latest Reply on 30 January 2014 by Northwood
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Holy shit, the Arge's taught you a lesson! But then a great comeback against Ukraine! Great detail, and It's obvious a lot of hard work has gone into this! Well, done Louis, keep it up and you'll be in my 'best story EVA' list...Not that it will matter:P
Incredible detail and effort Louis, fantastic update :)
Unlucky against Argentina but good comeback against Ukraine!
Woohoo, Argentina taught you a lesson there didn't they, and in a really classic match! One from the past definitely! :D

Also, a nice tactic you got there - except I'm still more of a fan of 'Futebol Arte' than Total Football :P
Louis O.'s avatar Group Louis O.
10 yearsEdited

Fortunately our next few games would not be against Argentina or teams on that level. In fact, our opponents would not even be Ukraine, but much easier. Our first game would require a trip to Northern Italy and the small country of San Marino. Although the San Marianese side was much ridiculed and had only won once, in a friendly against Liechtenstein, but recently they had managed a 0-0 draw away at Albania. They were no longer a team to take so lightly anymore. The other team we were going to play was Luxembourg. Fortunately this time we were going to be at De Kuip.

After settling back in Amsterdam I finally remembered where the Schiphol Airport was. I promptly booked a flight to Moscow to watch Dinamo Moscow play CSKA. Both Douglas and Nick Viergever would start for Dinamo and I was eagerly watching to help evaluate these defenders. Douglas had not impressed for me against Argentina and Ukraine, even heading into his own net against the Ukrainians. He had played well under van Gaal but so far I did not think that he was the best player available. Viergever was also not the best player, having so far just one cap to his name, a 4-2 friendly win over Ecuador. He did have a decent game but was not considered good enough to play in the next game which was a 3-1 defeat to Germany. I also thought that he had not done himself any favours by leaving AZ Alkmaar, where he was a fan favourite for his reliability, to the cold climes of Russia and Dinamo Moscow. Not only did I think that he should have stayed in Holland, but also I believed there were better sides to which he could have gone. The Russian league may have some great sides near the top of the table but when you look down the league to sides like Alania and Terek Grozny then the league loses credibility. You just have to wonder how AZ compare to Dinamo Moscow and whether the move was motivated by the riches of the Russian Premier Division. The game was poor not just from a neutral perspective but also from Dinamo's. Expected to give CSKA a run for their money, they finished the game 3-0 down. It was a bad defeat. Viergever was substituted at half time and whilst Douglas played the full game he did not impress and could have stopped at least one of the three goals. In the end, it was no surprise that neither of the Dinamo defenders made my squad.

Although it was against such easy sides, it was not going to be as simple as people thought. The problems began as soon as our game against Ukraine was over. First, left back and left winger Alexander Büttner tore his hamstring. He would spend 3 months on the sidelines. Key player and former captain Wesley Sneijder sprained his ankle and he too would miss our next two games. Douglas may not have made the squad anyway after his poor performances but a hernia injury would certainly rule him out. Then, goalkeeper Tim Krul damaged his shoulder in a Newcastle United training session and would miss two weeks of action, thus not being match fit for our games. Then, Ajax's Kenneth Vermeer fractured his ribs against Almere City in the Cup, after Arjen Robben had suffered the same fate with Bayern München. Both would miss 4 weeks of action.

I had a big selection dilemma ahead of our two fixtures. I knew that we would only be up against San Marino and Luxembourg, and so almost any team I picked would likely pick up 6 points. However I wished to pick the best side I could anyway. Faced with goalkeeper problems, I gambled to call up the not totally kit Tim Krul and FC Twente's young stopper Marco Bizot. With Douglas out injured, I recalled Johnny Heitinga for the role of sweeper. As back up for Heitinga, I called up young AZ defender Jeffrey Gouweleeuw. I decided to also pick Anderlecht's Bram Nuytinck to replace Alexander Büttner, although his Paars-wit (for whom ex-Barcelona player Ronaldinho now plays)teammates Joel Veltman and midfielder Danny Holla missed out. The midfield was almost the same as before. There was no Arjen Robben after his injury, giving me the chance to recall Fenerbahce's 34 year old workhorse Dirk Kuyt. Kuyt had enjoyed a good career, scoring 59 times from midfield in his time at Liverpool in the Premier League, and spending 7 years in the Eredivisie with Utrecht and Feyenoord, though as it turned out Kuyt would play up front for me. Luuk de Jong was recalled up front and Adam Maher retained his place in the squad, though Jürgen Locadia was left out this time.

San Marino 2-8 Holland

10th October 2014 | Olimpico | Attendance: 5,250 | Euro 2016 Qualifying

Holland Line Up: M. Stekelenburg, J. Heitinga, G. van der Wiel, B. Nuytinck, D. Blind, K. Strootman, A. Maher, M. van Ginkel, G. Wijnaldum, D. Kuyt, R. van Persie (C)

Holland Substitutions: S. de Jong (van Ginkel) L. de Jong (Kuyt)

John Heitinga (34)
Robin van Persie (50)
Dirk Kuyt (54)
John Heitinga (57
Gregory van der Wiel (63)
Gregory van der Wiel (65)
Robin van Persie (75)
Adam Maher (83)

San Marino Line Up: S. Ripa Burgagni, G. Gatti, G. Della Valle, L. Zonzini, G. Benvenuti, S. Francioni, G. Terenzi, M. Baducci, M. de Angelis, A. Selva, M. Censoni

Michael de Angelis (20)
Mirko Censoni (30)

I decided to go with the same formation that I had used against both Argentina and Ukraine. Against the minnows of world football I knew that this could be a landslide. But just 20 minutes in disaster struck. It wasn't quite the 8 seconds that it took for Davide Gualtieri's goal against England after Stuart Pearce gave away ball possession, but it was eerily similar. Daley Blind was caught in possession after a dreadful pass from Heitinga, and Michael de Angelis stole the ball, jinked past Nuytinck, and drilled past Stekelenburg at his near post. 1-0 to San Marino. Oh dear. Then on 30 minutes, van der Wiel gave the ball away, and it was cleared upfield to Censoni, who beat Robin van Persie, the only man back, with ease, ran half the pitch, and fired home off the upright. We were 2-0 down to San Marino! This was the most goals San Marino had ever scored in one game, tied with a 2-2 draw with Liechtenstein back in 2003. Five minutes later, a van Persie cross found Johnny Heitinga unmarked and he got a goal back with a delightful looping header. It was scant consolation for the fact we were to go in at half time still 2-1 down.

Of course, San Marino knew it couldn't last. Immediately after we came out for the second half Georginio Wijnaldum came close to an equaliser, but couldn't get a connection on van Persie's low cross. Our goal finally came through the captain van Persie. Lady luck was on our side, as Wijnaldum crossed for Maher, who shot, and Robin van Persie was able to keep it in and smash it home. Now, we were level, and soon we would be ahead. Again, the goalkeeper should have done better, the goal coming from Dirk Kuyt who weakly headed in a Maher cross. We had the lead finally, and we set about increasing it. Robin van Persie found the head of Johnny Heitinga straight from a corner, and he got his second goal to make it 4-2. Gregory van der Wiel then smashed the ball home from the wing, beating the startled goalie at his near post, and then just two minutes after that, van der Wiel got his second, the goal of the game. Receiving the ball from Bram Nuytinck, Daley Blind beat his man and picked out van der Wiel, who evaded a challenge, and ignored all his options to once again power the ball past the hapless Ripa Burgagni in San Marino's goal. The next goal came from van Persie and this time van der Wiel was not the scorer but creator, delivering a world class cross to the far post where the tireless van Persie was waiting to head home. Our final goal came from the youngster Adam Maher with his first goal for his nation. Wijnaldum was in a position to shoot but unselfishly laid the ball off to the incoming Maher, who hammered the ball home. In the end I suppose it was a good win. However, it was certainly not pleasant to go two nil down but in the end, we got the result and played some beautiful football. I just want to forget about the first half.

Holland 7-0 Luxembourg

14th November 2014 | De Kuip | Attendance: 51, 137 | Euro 2016 Qualifying

Holland Line Up: M. Stekelenburg, J. Heitinga (C), G. van der Wiel, J. Bruma, B. Martins Indi, K. Strootman, A. Maher, M. van Ginkel, D. Kuyt, L. de Jong, U. Emanuel;son

Holland Substitutions: S. de Jong (van Ginkel) G. Wijnaldum (Emanuelson)

- Luuk de Jong (4)
- Luuk de Jong (18)
- Gregory van der Wiel (32)
- Adam Maher (38)
- Marco van Ginkel (42)
- Adam Maher (75)
- Dirk Kuyt (82)

Luxembourg Line up: L. Ivesic, M. Mutsch, P. Braun, R. Hansen, D. Pauly, K. Theis, M. Clemmensen, R. de Sousa, T. Hanssen, A. Joachim, M. Deville.

Our next game fortunately went a bit better. As expected we dominated. This time, instead of going a goal down after 20 minutes, we went 1-0 up inside the first five minutes, with just 3 minutes and 20 seconds gone. The goal was beautiful too. Strootman beat a man, played the ball inside to Kuyt, and Kuyt to Luuk de Jong who placed the ball beyond the goalkeeper's reach. One touch football. Adam Maher fired a great opportunity wide on 11 minutes, but we were soon 2 goals ahead and it was Luuk de Jong again. It came seconds after Johnny Heitinga had a speculative long range effort just turned over, as de Jong eked out a scrappy goal from the resulting corner, Bruno Martins Indi having laid the ball off to him. Van Ginkel nearly made it 3 with a powerful drive, but the Luxembourgian goalkeeper Ivesic was on his toes once again to foil his attempt. Kevin Strootman then had a goalbound effort tipped round the post, and then it was Heitinga's turn to gasp in despair as Ivesic made another acrobatic stop from his powerful strike. We did make it 3-0 soon though, and again it was scrappy, as a de Jong shot deflected off a pile up in the goalmouth, off Martins Indi and then off Gregory van der Wiel, who claimed the goal. Urby Emanuelson then went through the whole Luxembourg defence, before delivering an inch perfect cross for Adam Maher who volleyed past the stranded Ivesic. The fifth goal came just before half time from Marco van Ginkel who received a pass from Maher before picking his spot. Early in the second half, the Luxembourg forward Joachim received a long pass and dribbled past Heitinga and Bruma before shooting straight at Stekelenburg. It was the only shot on target Luxembourg had all game.

Despite continued dominance, it took us until the 75th minute to get our 6th goal. Bruma received the ball from Stekelenburg, and lumped the ball up to Maher, who headed to substitute Siem de Jong. With no hesitation he looked forward and hit a 35 yard ball ahead of Dirk Kuyt on the wing. He evaded the lunges of Hansen and Pauly, and teed the ball up perfectly for the onrushing Adam Maher to drive the ball down low without breaking his stride. Heitinga then headed onto the bar, but the day was capped by Dirk Kuyt getting his 26nd goal for the Netherlands on his 100th international cap. What a finish it was too, firing hard but perfectly accurately into the corner, on the turn. It was a fitting way to end the match, but instead Ivesic finished off the game by turning away a beautiful free kick from Maher. That was more fitting because it summed up the game. Holland, brilliant. Luxembourg, hapless. But Luca Ivesic, even more brilliant than Holland.

With our two wins, we now top Group A, with 9 points from 3 games. Israel lie in second, having beaten Luxembourg 3-1, drawn with Ukraine 1-1, and found a last minute goal to beat Albania 3-2. We have conceded 3 times, 2 of which were against San Marino, but we have a +15 goal difference having slaughtered every team we played and scoring 18 times. At the opposite end of the table, San Marino are in 5th and Luxembourg 6th, with San Marino having earned 1 meagre point against Albania.

Our performances this month were good, I think. We were without Arjen Robben, and Luciano Narsingh was dropped from the squad as was Ibrahim Afellay, so I think we could have won by even more with a stronger attack. I was, though, pleased for Dirk Kuyt, as he not only gained his landmark 100 caps, but scored on his century. He has done well, and changed a lot since his first cap, back in September 2004 against Liechtenstein. Kuyt is a great player. He may not have the technical ability that some do, but he works hard to get it, and he also helps to defend. He was disappointed to be left out of the World Cup squad by van Gaal having played in the qualifiers, but I think he'll secretly be relieved after our dismal performance. I just want to keep him in the side until Euro 2016 and maybe the World Cup in Russia.

We finally sit atop our qualifying group. We have done well so far, and although we were the favourites for our last two games, we still had to get out there and win which was easier said than done. It may have just been San Marino and Luxembourg, but as I have said time and time again,

“The most difficult thing about an easy match is to make a weak opponent play bad football.”
Your updates are bloody brilliant nice wins. I know there low opposition but nice wins none the less
Louis O.'s avatar Group Louis O.
10 yearsEdited
Football can be a very cruel sport, as we learned back in 74. It just doesn't go your way, sometimes. And we were the best in the world, it was just that one game where we didn't perform. We were scared of the occasion, and the Germans. 20 years earlier, Germany had done something similar in Switzerland. It would come to be known as the Miracle of Bern, for their opponents in the final were Hungary, who had not lost for nearly 4 years and had players such as Sandor Kocsis, Gyula Grosics, and of course, Puskás Ferenc. Yet the Germans, with the incredibly well known names of, err, Horst Eckel, Karl Mai and Hans Schafer, managed to win the game 3-2. Then, we lost to them after dominating the first half but just being shell shocked at the feeling: We were winning the World Cup Final! THE WORLD CUP FINAL! And then again in 1990 another triumph. That was against Argentina. OK, it wasn't exactly a shock, and they had some great players. Andy Brehme, Rudi Völler, Jürgen Klinnsmann. But who remembered Guido Buchwald? Pierre Litbarski? Thomas Hassler? And Thomas Berthold? Uwe Bein, Stefan Reuter and Raimond Aumann were on the bench. Who's heard of them? The Argentine side had just 9 players left by the end when Brehme scored a penalty. Germans will be Germans, won't they?

My point is that some nations would rather play beautifully than win. Holland is one of those nations and I helped to shape that. Without me, I'm sure Holland would love to have won World Cup 2010 the exact way they did. Spain would have been the real winners anyway. But unfortunately people now think that winning is the most important thing. Not to me. If you win, you get a medal, but if you play beautifully, you have entertained the world. In such a tournament everyone is watching you and everyone wants to see the best possible football. So that's what I want to do. Whether it is the World Cup final or a friendly in front of just 20,000 fans in the freezing cold against a team you've never heard of. It has to be simple. Pass, pass, pass. Run around a bit. Get into space. You don't have to be like the team of 1974. We were good all round, everyone was. We would defend with our attackers and attack with our defenders. Everyone would do everything, and is that really possible in today's football?

Before our next few games I decided to, as usual, watch some matches. A couple of days before our squad was due to be picked for these matches, I headed to the Gelredome in Arnhem where Vitesse were gearing up for the visit of Ajax. Ajax were still top of the Eredivisie with Vitesse not far behind, so this game was crucial for their season. Also, the Ajax team held many of my Dutch national squad players. Kenneth Vermeer, Ricardo van Rhijn, Daley Blind, Siem de Jong, Urby Emanuelson, Ola John and more were in the Ajax squad. Vitesse had Mike Havenaar, he of the Japan team who beat Louis van Gaal's side at the World Cup. It took 11 minutes for Ajax to open the scoring. The goal came from Siem de Jong, who was a key player in the Dutch national team. However, Havenaar rallied, and though Andile Jali, Ajax's South African recruit, put the visitors back ahead soon after, goals from Oriol Romeu and Terence Kongolo meant Vitesse were leading 3-2 at half time. Late on, Havenaar got his second as Vitesse cruised to a 4-2 win. One thing I couldn't help but notice was the performance of Vitesse's midfield dynamo. Even at 38 , Clarence Seedorf was still playing and in my opinion, still good enough for Holland. Having spent the previous 3 seasons in Brazil with Botafogo, Seedorf was back in the nation and playing with Vitesse. I decided to try and convince him out of retirement. He was clearly good enough to play for us, but unfortunately he rejected me. He was too old, he said, to be travelling across the world with Holland, especially since he may have retired by the time that the European Championship actually came.

The next game I watched was also a disappointment. Perhaps less so, but I wanted PSV to do well, as I had a large number of their players in my squad. Unfortunately their game against Feyenoord, who were just above the relegation zone, was a disaster. PSV were in 6th and certainly were favourites. It wasn't their best start to a season ever, but it was a lot better than Feyenoord, and PSV boasted some top class talents such as Luciano Narsingh, Alexander Büttner, Georginio Wijnaldum, Jeffrey Bruma, and Adam Maher. There was more, such as the young forward Locadia and Jetro Willems. Feyenoord also had some good players. Daryl Janmaat, Jordy Clasie, Bruno Martins Indi, Joris Mathijsen and soon Edson Braafheid who was to join from Hoffenheim. Feyenoord weren't a bad side, but it was a big shock to see them come away with a 2-0 win at De Kuip. PSV were dominated and they barely got a look in. That game certainly helped me decide who was good enough. Martins Indi was man of the match, whilst Jordy Clasie and Daryl Janmaat failed to impress. Narsingh and Wijnaldum were invisible for PSV, and Locadia, who came on as a substitute, also put in a sub par performance.

In the end my squad was a shock. Well, to the media at least. I chose to include, rather oddly I must admit, the old defender Khalid Boulahrouz. The former Chelsea man was still playing. Sort of. He had just been released by Brondby, and still hadn't found himself a team, so he would also have been surprised at the call. Virgil van Dijk returned, as did Erik Pieters who had not played under me before. Eljero Elia also came into the squad, and Bram Nuytinck of Anderlecht retained his place.

Austria 0-3 Holland

14th November 2014 | Ernst-Happel-Stadion | Attendance: 27,863 | Friendly

Holland Line Up: M. Stekelenburg, J. Heitinga, R. van Rhijn, V. van Dijk, D. Blind, K. Strootman, W. Sneijder, A. Maher, D. Kuyt, L. de Jong, A. Robben

Substitutions: U. Emanuelson (Robben) B. Martins Indi (Blind) B. Nuytinck (van Dijk) S. de Jong (Maher) R. van Persie (Kuyt)

Arjen Robben (5)
Ricardo van Rhijn (45)
Wesley Sneijder (64)

Austria Line Up: R. Ozcan, F. Hart, A. Dragovic, C. Dibon, C. Fuchs, J. Baumgartlinger, D. Alaba, A. Gorgon, Z. Junuzovic, R. Holzhauser, P. Hosiner

This game was quite an odd one. We played at the Ernst Happel Stadion in Wien and to be honest we didn't really know what to expect. We knew Austria had some top quality players, such as David Alaba, Christian Fuchs and Raphael Holzhauser, but they also played some unknown quantities such as goalkeeper Ozcan and right back Florian Hart. In the end it was a lot closer than the media would have predicted and the scoreline would have suggested. 3-0 didn't do Austria justice because as it turns out they were a very good side. However, that didn't stop us from taking the lead just 5 minutes in through Arjen Robben. And it was a gift from the unknown goalkeeper Ozcan. Robben delivered a wayward cross aimed at de Jong, but saw it parried into the net by the hapless goalkeeper. Fuchs then had a great goal denied by the grateful Stekelenburg, but it wasn't until half an hour in that Dirk Kuyt had our next opportunity, which he spurned by firing straight at Ozcan. Maher then fired wide from the resulting corner, but only after a deflection which meant another corner. Unfortunately Heitinga missed his header, and it was Austria who had the next chance, Hosiner's shot being easily claimed by Stekelenburg, where he should have done better. We made it 2-0 though just before half time through an unlikely source - Ricardo van Rhijn, the defender. He headed in from Sneijder's corner and Emanuelson's cutback to give us a 2-0 advantage.

Despite our two goal advantage it wasn't a convincing performance, and Austria could just as well be winning instead. However early in the second half we made sure that we would go home happy as we made it 3-0 from Wesley Sneijder. Dirk Kuyt received the ball from Virgil van Dijk, but was tripped in the area by Holzhauser, and though the Austrian players protested at the dubious decision, Sneijder hit high and hard right into the top corner. It seemed as if we were going to dominate from thereon after Sneijder again forced a good chance just a few minutes later, but it was cleared and van Dijk's ball back in was too long, and ended up in the substitute goalkeeper Olejnik's hands. Gorgon then headed narrowly wide for Austria, but our away support made their way to the nearest exit to get home quicker, and as the ground emptied, Austria took charge, Gorgon and Junuzovic both having great chances that were excellently stopped by Nuytinck. Late on Siem de Jong fired wide from an angle when he had a chance to cross, and that marked the end to an exciting but actually rather disappointing game. The result was good but the performance was below par. I hoped we would do better against Poland.

Poland 2-0 Holland

18th November 2014 | Stadion Narodowy | Attendance: 28,282 | Friendly

Holland Line Up: M. Stekelenburg, J. Heitinga, G. van der Wiel, V. van Dijk, D. Blind, L. Fer, W. Sneijder, A. Maher, D. Kuyt, L. de Jong, R. van Persie (C)

Substitutions: E. Elia (de Jong) S. de Jong (Maher) K. Strootman (Sneijder)

Poland Line Up: W. Szczesny, L. Piszczek, K. Glik, M. Wasilewski, C. Dorchia, G. Krychowiak, A. Matuszczyk, E. Polanski, J. Blaszczkowski, A. Symanowski, R. Lewandowski

Jakub Blaszczkowski (15)
Rovert Lewandowski (31)

Football, as I said earlier, can be a very cruel sport. We learned that against Poland. It was total domination, the kind of performance that gets you a 3 or 4 goal win even away from home. It's just weird that when we didn't play well, we did get a 3 goal win, over Austria. This time it was a good performance and the result was poor. I can't blame the players, but in all honesty we just didn't take our chances and at the end we just weren't hungry enough. They wanted it more. I went with a similar team, making just two changes from the last match as van der Wiel replaced van Rhijn, and Strootman made way for Leroy Fer. We managed to get 33 shots, but 0 goals compared to Poland's 2 goals in just 8 shots. 10 minutes in, Sneijder failed to convert from just a yard out and that set the tone of the game. Then, 15 minutes in, disaster struck. Van Persie put in a poor corner that was headed away by Krychowiak, to Piszczek, and he ran to the halfway line before launching a 30 yard ball to Jakub Blaszczykowski, who brought it down, and hit it home. Just a few minutes later, van Persie delivered another bad ball and this time it was cleared by Lewandowski, who then ran on to the ball after the Dutch defenders seemed to leave it. He beat Kuyt to it but found himself with a tricky angle, and blasted the ball over. Stekelenburg breathed a sigh of relief, but we were still dominating. Then, once again, Poland scored. Szymanowski was fouled by Heitinga in the corner, and his ball in was headed away, but he regained possession, beat two men, and crossed to the near post, where Lewandowski stood and headed past Stekelenburg. 2-0. We fell asleep for the rest of the half.

Again, in the second half, we were dominating. Maher and van Persie played a neat one two and Kuyt promptly fired against the post just 5 minutes into the second half. Sneijder then fired well wide after a great move gave him a chance to score. Szczesny made a beautiful diving save to tip a van Persie long shot over the bar. Van Dijk's effort from the resulting corner was cleared off the line. Elia then put a weak effort straight at the keeper. It soon became evident it wasn't our day. No matter how close we came and how easy it was, we weren't going to score and get back in the game. In the last half hour, we stopped passing the ball and just went for the goal. Everyone was trying a solo effort, Sneijder being the worst offender, with a strike that was closer to the corner flag. Elia dribbled through the Polish defence but shot at Szczesny when a pass could have made it 2-1. Maher then put one high and wide. And then Poland nearly made it 3-0. Poor defending again, and Lewandowski broke free unchallenged. Stekelenburg was beaten, but luckily his low effort was placed against the post and deflected into the bundle of players by which it was cleared. Even still, you could say the Polish were lucky. Even more so when Leroy Fer missed from the 6 yard box with just the goalie to beat. But really, we weren't unlucky, but instead poor.

Our performances here were good. We beat Austria comfortably, despite a relatively poor performance, but then against Poland we just didn't finish our chances. We let ourselves down if truth be told. In March, our next game will come, against Albania. We then have another 3 month wait before our next game after that. I'm trying to arrange some friendlies to play, but the league structure doesn't allow it, and so we will go into those games a little rusty. I hope we can play better than we did this time out. Or perhaps get luck on our side. But as the golfer Ben Hogan said,

"It's funny. The more I practice, the luckier I get."

We might need to spend some time on the training ground.
Decent win v Austria and a real shame in the Poland clash. Really good updates :) Keep it up!
Good win against Austria but tough one against Poland. Would have thought it would be a closer game score wise.

It was a long wait until our next game. I think over 100 days after the 2-0 defeat to Poland came just the one Euro 2016 qualifying game at home to Albania. It wasn't going to be the toughest of games with Albania having drawn with San Marino, and sitting in 57th for the world rankings. The squad would be picked for just this game, another month or two or in fact three would pass before our next games against Israel and Ukraine, both away. Then we'd have 4 more games left. We would play San Marino at home, and then Israel, in September. The next month we'd be away against Luxembourg and then against Albania again. The Championship qualifiers would then end and that woutld lead to two friendlies in the British Isles, more specifically in Ireland to first play the Northern Ireland side, and then the Republic of Ireland.

In the long wait, I decided to check on some of the players and see who was available for the squad and who was available for the squad that was good. The first game I watched was in England. It was Manchester United at Old Trafford, for the visit of Reading. There was, provisionally, 3 players involved in the match. But this game turned out to be one of the oddest games I had ever seen. Just 22 seconds had elapsed before Sean Morrison tripped Nani inside the box. And it was our Dutch man, Robin van Persie, who converted the kick. Then 17 minutes later, van Persie got his second goal off the end of an Ashley Young cross. After half time, United had another penalty and it was Morrison who had given it away again. Van Persie converted again. Then, Ince pulled back Nani, and yep, a 3rd penalty - and a 4th goal for United and van Persie. He was going into my squad. Royston Drenthe didn't make it off the bench for Reading but Kevin Strootman stayed on for United alongside van Persie, though there was a chance of a late comeback as Reading pulled two goals back late on. It came to nothing though, and United's two Dutch players went home happy.

Not that the same could be said for many players in the Eredivisie. Ajax were 6 points clear of second place FC Twente. And 3rd was FC Utrecht and 4th, Vitesse Arnhem. Most of my squad did play for Ajax, which was pleasing, but there was also a lot at PSV, 10 members of the national pool in consideration for the first team, but 5 players were at 6th placed Feyenoord, and there was 10 also at PSV who were 5th. The league was being dominated by Ajax as usual, which wasn't exactly a bad thing, since Ajax were still churning out a lot of great young players going into the first team and then, as Ajax continued to succeed, into the UEFA Champions League. AZ was another side who had a few members of their team in my national pool such as Gouweleeuw , Kevin Leerdam and Dave Bulthuis. So, I had a few problems with my squad selection. So what did I do? I decided to overlook the players sitting near the top of the table with top quality players. Instead, NAC Breda's Alex Schalk came into the squad. Arjen Robben was to break his shoulder in training though a replacement was not available at short notice, meaning he would miss the game, but Douglas was recalled as was Leroy Fer of Norwich. Luuk De Jong returned though he had still managed just 4 Bundesliga goals all season. With Tim Krul, Michel Vorm and Maarten Stekelenburg all out injured, our 3 goalkeepers for the game would be Ajax's Kenneth Vermeer, Twente's Marco Bizot, and Vitesse's Piet Veltuizen. Alexander Büttner had returned from a 3 month lay off and made the team and Gregory van der Wiel and Marco van Ginkel of Stade Rennais in Ligue 1 came into the team together. Rafael van der Vaart and Nigel de Jong were left out again.

And because I made a few unexpected changes, such as the inclusion of Schalk, de Jong, and the goalkeepers Bizot and Velthuizen, the media was merciless in their criticism. Sometimes, the media sees things the way they want to see them and don't report the truth - which is their jobs. They tried to start debate by criticising mainly my choice of Schalk instead of Norwich's Ricky van Wolfswinkel. OK, van Wolfswinkel was playing Premier League football. But did nobody notice that Schalk was the top Dutch scorer in the Eredivisie? He had 12 goals in a team firmly sucked in a relegation dogfight. Piet Velthuizen was a much ridiculed choice. Why, the media asked, had I chosen Velthuizen ahead of PSV's in form Jeroen Zoet? Could it be something due to the fact that Zoet hadn't played an Eredivisie game since August? He had played well in a rare appearance in the Champions League, restricting Manchester United to just two goals. But van Persie was nowhere in that game other than his lucky goal via a deflection half an hour in. United put less than half of their shots on target. So Schalk was the biggest shock. Nick Viergever was left out, oddly enough, in a decision that the media, at least the Russian media, agreed with. He had been on dreadful form at Dinamo Moscow, Douglas being the rock of the side but they had still slipped down to 8th thanks to some poor defeats.

Holland 1-1 Albania

27th March 2015 | De Kuip | Attendance: 52,237 | Euro 2016 Qualifier

Holland Line Up: K. Vermeer, J. Heitinga, G. van der Wiel, V. van Dijk, D. Blind, L. Fer, W. Sneijder, S. de Jong, D. Kuyt, A. Schalk, U. Emanuelson

Substitutions: M. van Ginkel (Fer) R. van Persie (Sneijder) E. Elia (Schalk)

- Gregory van der Wiel (27)

Albania Line Up: S. Ujkani, L. Vocaj, D. Curri, M. Mavraj, S. Ismaili, S. Metaj, S. Masreku, J. Gjasula, E. Bakaj, H. Salihi, E. Kapilani

- Jurgen Gjasula (86)

We went into this game with high expectations. San Marino had managed a draw against Albania, after all. This game was ours for the taking, as Albania's captain Dallku was not even able to play for the first half with an injury, but came on later as a sub. Johnny Heitinga's hopeless long ball straight out of play was to give you an idea of how things would pan out. Just two minutes had elapsed when Siem de Jong fired wide with the goal at his mercy, after a poorly cleared corner. Then, Salihi beat Heitinga to the ball, went past two defenders, and clean through on goal, but fortunately Vermeer palmed it away to Blind and we escaped the danger. Then Schalk missed a good header from a corner, but then on 27 minutes, we scored through an unlikely source. His 4th goal in the qualifying made Gregory van der Wiel our top scorer so far, as Heitinga headed a corner across goal where van der Wiel was waiting to nod in. Virgil van Dijk had the next chance to add to the score, but put his effort on the turn high and wide on 29 minutes. Then it was Kuyt's turn to fire over after a lovely move and a few minutes later, Ujkani tipped another effort wide after a good move down the right. Kuyt's shots from angles were not working, as he sent another wide, and Siem de Jong also missed a good chance, a comfortable save for Ujkani from de Jong's long range effort. We would go in at half time just 1-0 up.

And throughout the second half we would stay just 1-0 up until the very end. No matter how many chances we got we didn't finish them. We were completely dominating the game, but you just know that things will go wrong when you miss chances like us. Van der Wiel hit a volley straight at Ujkani when there was options all around him. Having come on as a substitute, Robin van Persie delivered a corner, which was headed away by Salihi, but only as far as Schalk, and he headed back to van der Wiel, and he headed straight into the palms of Ujkani. He gave us the ball straight back a few seconds later though, and van der Wiel was unlucky not to score as his swerving shot crashed into the side netting. Van Persie put in a beautiful cross, which Heitinga, van der Wiel and Schalk all missed before Ujkani stopped it. De Jong was next to miss a good chance, ballooning an effort over the bar. Dirk Kuyt then ran through the whole Albanian defence on 67 minutes, but still we failed to score as Ujkani palmed away his weak effort. A minute later, Kuyt found space outside the area, and fired it at goal but again, too close to Ujkani. A Van Persie corner found it's way to Heitinga after 77 minutes only for the defender to somehow place his shot back across goal and nearly return to van Persie. Emanuelson hesitated with a chance from 6 yards after a great van der Wiel cross, and Mavraj darted in to clear. But I realised our fate on 86 minutes, as the Albania captain Dallku intercepted Elia's pass to Emanuelson - but his backpass went straight to van Persie... who took it to the right of the goalkeeper, almost an open goal... and drilled it past the post and out for a goal kick. Ujkani booted the ball up the pitch from his goal kick, Salihi won the header, Metaj received the ball and played it to Gjasula out wide, and he beat a half hearted challenge from Blind, danced into the box, and of course, finished it. 1-1. Oh dear.

After the game, I told the players precisely what I thought. The result was poor and it was our own fault for not finishing our chances. How did we score as many goals in 23 shots as they did in 4? The players were shouting at each other afterwards, it was all everyone else's fault, and each one thought they had played brilliantly. We have here a problem that every Dutch side of the past has been blighted by. The pure egocentrism of the team. It's creeping in here, and I don't like it. They just have one simple thing to remember, and I'm sure you'll be seeing wins next time out. As a fellow number 14, Thierry Henry, said:

"Sometimes in football, you have to score goals."
Poor results but still quality, quality updates.

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