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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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Louis O.'s avatar Group Louis O.
10 yearsEdited

It's been 38 years! Since those fateful 90 minutes in Munich's Olympiastadion, not I nor my country has quite recovered. Of course, Michels came back 14 years later, but there was by then a whole new generation. Marco van Basten, the legend of that game with his volley... he was 10 in 1974. There was still Arnold Muhren, who was by then 37, but the rest of the team was completely different, and the style was different; it was good but not what we did. We were revolutionary, we were brilliant, we were beautiful, no team could ever play like us. But I have hopes that soon, one will.

As I write this, Dutch football is in a state of disarray. The national side came closer to winning the World Cup than it ever has done before, even back in the 1970's, but something was missing. And that thing was dignity, that thing was beauty. Never shall my country play like that again. The man responsible was one of the most technically gifted players never to star for the Netherlands, managing one cap in 1975. He was a rebel, the fans loved him, and his dark long hair. But no. Bert van Marwijk is not like that any more.

"In the space of two hours, they destroyed a 40 year tradition.. dragged it through the s**t..."
And that was one of the more mild mannered complaints. At the World Cup in South Africa, the Dutch side reached the final, yet from the experts and ex players, there was a lot more malice than applause. The Dutch side was not at all Dutch. They were more like the cynical Argentines from the 1978 World Cup Final. I didn't play in that tournament. But they were going to get a win no matter what, they would triumph and nothing would stop them. Except a team that played how they should have done. Whilst being Dutch, an Amsterdammer, and desperately wanting Arjen Robben to tuck home when clean through on goal, when Andres Iniesta hit his low drive past Maarten Stekelenburg, I cheered. They were my team, the Dutch were some foreigners, they couldn't be Dutch. How had van Bommel not been sent off, for that dangerous lunge on Iniesta just 21 minutes into the game? When Nigel de Jong planted his boot into Xabi Alonso's chest, not even half an hour had been played and I just couldn't watch. The Spanish committed some fouls too, mainly Sergio Ramos, but he was from Madrid. Arjen Robben went down too easily, I thought. Sneijder too. Van Bommel should have his 4th or 5th red card of the game when he studded Xavi almost a minute after the ball had gone. Sneijder was lucky after going in with a high foot that Busquets nearly managed to evade his flying boot. Robben flew through the air after a slight touch. De Jong attempted to headbutt an opponent, and ended up missing and winning a free kick! The referee was all over the place. Van Bronckhorst sandwiched someone alongside Kuyt, and a minute later tripped up Villa. The fouls later on in the game... they were unfathomable. How could a team play so dirty? And the most beautiful team of them all? It was all too much to bear. The Spaniards, were gentlemen. When Jonny Heitinga was sent off, the only surprise is that it wasn't sooner. And when the goal came.. I was cheering for Spain and had been for a long time. This was not a Dutch team. When Iniesta scored, he lifted up his shirt to reveal a message. "Dani Jarque, siempre con nosotros." His former Spanish teammate Daniel Jarque had died of a heart attack the year before.

I hoped that the coach would change his ways. I didn't want to see that again. But I was now powerless, reduced to a footballing romantic who can teach you how to lose 4-0 in a European Cup final but no more. These days, the public wanted victories. About a million people were expected to up at Schiphol airport to congratulate the team! There was exceptions. One disgruntled fan told the English journalist David Winner, writer of the book Brilliant Orange, to rewrite his book as 'Criminal Orange'. I would happily write the foreword. When I saw on a leading Dutch website that van Marwijk was to be knighted... I haven't touched that website since.

Euro 2012 was even worse. The terrible football wasn't bearable at the World Cup and I'm not sure it would have been even if it had won Holland the trophy. In fact, that would be criminal, and I don't think I was the only Dutchmen praying for Spain to win. The Euro's qualification had gone well, with 23 points from 10 games. There was even the case of a new record win, 11-0 over San Marino. But it was only San Marino, and we had failed to beat sides we had played at the World Cup when we faced them in friendly matches. So I was sceptical going into the Euro 2012 tournament and even more once I saw the groups. There was Germany, our great rivals. Portugal, with the best player in the world. And Denmark, who knocked us out of Euro 92. I thought that we could beat Denmark easily. Portugal would be a tougher test but one that we could win. Germany, perhaps not, but we could eke out a result. After a bit of thought I decided that we could go all the way. Our opening game was against Denmark, a crucial game considering that both Germany and Portugal would certainly win, and given that it was the first game, I knew how it could affect the team's morale. It was going well, too, until just 24 minutes in. Michael Krohn-Dehli, the Danish striker, slotted through the legs of Maarten Stekelenburg. The 35,00 in attendance were in shock. But the truth is that it was not going well for Holland and they were not playing well. The Oranje dominated possession and had tons more shots. But while the Danes put all of theirs on target, we managed to send 20 of ours spiralling over the bar or rolling harmlessly past the post. As the Slovenian referee blew the full time whistle, I wondered how we would cope.

The answer was very badly. Our next game was the toughest one, against Germany, in Kharkiv just as were all our other games. Again we went behind on 24 minutes. Mario Gomez took a fantastic touch on the turn as a pass sent him clean through on goal, and he slotted in to give the lead to the Germans. Gomez got his and Germany's second just before half time after another great passing move set him up for a great effort from an angle. We had enough chances to get back into it, as we dominated the Germans in a way that nobody expected. In the end it was quite an eerie repeat of the 1974 Final. We had our chances to kill the Germans off, but we didn't take them, and they won 2-1. This time it was also 2-1, as Robin van Persie hit home with 20 minutes left on the clock with a cracking effort, but the damage had been done. The next game against Portugal was winner takes all. Germany, I thought, would beat Denmark, and they did, which meant that this game could lead to us qualifying for the knockout stages. Rafael van der Vaart opened the scoring on 11 minutes with a peach of a goal; a curler that flew into the corner cleanly off the playmaker's boot. We had a hope. Moments later we were greeted by the news that Germany led Denmark thanks to Lukas Podolski. But then things all went pear shaped. Cristiano Ronaldo, the dangerman, was slipped in by a sublime Pereira pass, and as Ron Vlaar desperately lunged at the Portuguese's feet he lobbed the ball into the back of the net. Then on 80 minutes, disaster struck. Portugal hit on the counter, Nani had the ball out wide, and after running past backtracking defenders at blistering pace, he crossed the ball along the grass towards Ronaldo, who shaped to shoot. Gregory van der Wiel dived in to block the shot, but the showman Ronaldo feinted onto his other foot leaving only a fooled Stekelenburg to beat, and he beat the ball forcefully into the bottom left corner. The orange clad supporters stopped bouncing around as van der Viel lay dejected on the turf and Ronaldo slid towards his teammates on his knees. A triumphant red pile of delighted Portuguese players formed in the corner. I switched the TV off. Holland had disappointed once again. And van Marwijk was no longer the hero. I wrote in my column in De Telegraaf my feelings in full. I felt compelled to. I wrote my honest opinion, and I thought that some of Holland's best players, your Arjen Robbens, your van Persie's, the players that were most important... they had failed to deliver. The problems arose from sloppy build up play, which led to us being hit on the counter by Portugal, and our failure to complete passes and take our chances. We had 44 attempts on goal in just 3 games, but we only scored twice. It was not good enough.
I hoped that at least Spain would continue their passing football to win beautifully as they should. They tried to do that, despite claims that they were too boring, and proved their critics wrong with an emphatic 4-0 win over Italy in the final, with the Italians having beaten favourites Germany in the semi final. But before the final, something else happened. Bert van Marwijk resigned from his duty as the Netherlands manager. As I say,

every disadvantage has its advantage.
1st comment leleelel
What a start, if all the updates are going to be like this, this will be an awesome story!
What an amazing start to the story!! How many words are in it lol?
Awesome start, Louis!
Wow! An incredible start!
Keep up this quality of update and this will be an amazing story :)
Fantastic bro, such a good update. The best thing is the way you researched things (although most of it you knew already). Amazing.

I am so exciteeeed, Great write up, good luck, can't wait to see more!:D
Top notch update, that.
Walter's avatar Group Walter
10 yearsEdited
Good luck Louis and I know who the manager is, also.
Amazing start mate :D
Louis O.'s avatar Group Louis O.
10 yearsEdited

For years, the world had been worrying over it. Stadiums; will they be ready? Streets; will they be safe? Locals; will they be friendly? And, most importantly, will our team win? The Dutch side qualified pretty well. Even after the disappointment at Euro 2012 The Netherlands did well in 2012's qualifiers, with 17 goals in 5 games, and no goals conceded. It was in 2013 where it went wrong. We beat Estonia in Tallinn, with an emphatic 4-0 win. Then, we lost a friendly to Tunisia at De Kuip, and a win in our next two games would secure a trip to Brazil, we played one of our best games in recent years, completely dominating Turkey. But somehow, we lost 2-0. Again, we dominated, in our next game against Hungary, but it was only a 91st minute goal from Klaas Jan Huntelaar that got us the 3 points. A 3-0 win over Andorra followed, but by now, I too was worried, not about the stadiums or the favelas, but about if we'd even get to Brazil.

I needn't have worried. After a shocking performance in a 3-1 friendly defeat against Germany, Stefan De Vrij of Eintracht Frankfurt put us ahead after just 4 minutes against Romania in our final qualifier. Unfortunately, our side had a relatively poor backline consisting of Alexander Büttner, De Vrij, Bruno Martins Indi and the rapidly deteriorating Johnny Heitinga, and Gregory van der Wiel, with inexperienced Daley Blind and FC Augsburg's Paul Verhaegh coming off the bench, and this meant that Ciprian Marica equalised 20 minutes from time. It was nail biting stuff - except for me. I switched back to Spain's game against Georgia, where they had got one more, it was now 5-0, and they were playing some of the most beautiful football I had seen in a while. That meant they were essentially top of their group, unless Georgia got 6 goals in about 5 minutes. I checked back to Turkey's game against Estonia, and Umut Bulut had just put the Turks 2 goals ahead. Did it mean that they would go through? Yes, if Romania had taken the lead at De Kuip. I didn't switch over to that. I didn't want to see van Gaal's average side. It was Spain who I was to follow at the World Cup, the Dutch side an afterthought, as I wanted to watch good football by a team I helped to build.

As it turns out, the Netherlands did qualify. They battled for the draw against a Romania squad with arguably more household names like Stefan Radu, Vlad Chiriches, and Alexandru Maxim of Stuttgart. It was goal difference in the end, Turkey and Holland tied on 25 points from 10 games, which sounds pretty good. France were banished to the playoffs alongside Ukraine, Portugal, their opponents Croatia and 3 more sides. They would not qualify. Nikica Jelavic got a brace in Zagreb for a 2-1 win, before France were defeated on their own turf thanks to goals from Ivan Perisic, Mateo Kovacic and Mario Mandzukic. Turkey were also defeated, by Norway, though they needed extra time to settle it, whilst Cristiano Ronaldo managed just one of Portugal's goals in their 4-1 aggregate win over Ukraine. Slovakia were through too, a penalty shootout needed to pick a winner between them and Ireland following 2 consecutive 1-1 draws.

The draw in December was kind to both Holland and Spain. Group C featured Spain with Chile as their biggest threats, both sides looking to brush aside the 'soccer teams' of Australia and the USA. Holland's group was easier. We would be up against a youthful Japanese side full of surprises, but Morocco and the Samurai Blue weren't as much a threat as the long time rivals to Dutch sides - Belgium - with Thibaut Courtois, Marouane Fellaini, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen , Eden Hazard England, with Benteke soon agree a deal with giants Bayern München.

I anticipated a good tournament, for after Bert van Marwijk's resignation, we had found a new coach relatively quickly. The man was Louis van Gaal, and he had been in charge before. Admittedly, this came when the national side failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, but unlike van Marwijk, he had a good track record, having won the Champions League with Ajax and taken Bayern München into the Final. His time with the Netherlands and with Barcelona, in his second stint there, were the least successful jobs that van Gaal had done. So really I was pleased. Not least by van Gaal's attacking football.

It could have been a tournament to remember for the Netherlands. Yet despite the country's idea that the terrible Euro 2012 was behind them, but in the build up, problems began to build. For a start, Eljero Elia, the Werder Bremen winger, sprained his ankle in the first friendly. That friendly was also a concern. A defeat at the Engenhao to Botafogo, youngster Adam Maher scoring in a 2-1 reverse. Then a game against the hosts Brazil ended 2-0 with Ramires bagging two goals for the Selecao. An exciting 4-3 loss to Atletico Mineiro did little to mask the media's fears. The side were in trouble. Twice they conceded late, and early on, they threw away a 2-0 lead. The final game was a dire 1-1 draw with Second Division Paysandu, which showed where Holland were. A bad place. Preparations for the tournament were not ideal, and dressing room problems, whilst being typically Dutch, did nothing to help. I sensed that this was going to go wrong.

I just didn't sense how wrong it would go. 22 minutes into the first game against Morocco, Arjen Robben, the 30 year old, dribbled past numerous defenders before firing home. My worries were forgotten, until just before half time, when Marouane Chamakh was sent through and drove it in. And then Jordy Clasie stupidly handled a cross in the area, with Mbark Boussoufa beating home the penalty. And with us pressing to find the equaliser, Boussoufa got forward on a rare attack, only to be tripped up by Virgil van Dijk, so then, it was 3-1, as he perfectly placed the ball into the corner with Stekelenburg unable to reach. There was chances to come back in it. Siem de Jong neglected an easy passing opportunity with all his team mates in the box, instead floating a shot wide, Klaas Jan Huntelaar ballooned an effort over the bar after 87 minutes, and no one challenged the Morocco goalkeeper Askri after he spilled a tame Sneijder header. In the end, Morocco had really deserved to win. We just took too much for granted.

The next game meant everything. Holland vs Japan, who had been defeated by Belgium in the first game, in Goiana. There was numerous changes in the Dutch line up, with Jetro Willems replacing Alex Büttner, Wesley Sneijder out in favour of Kevin Strootman, and Marco Van Ginkel replacing Adam Maher. The Japanese side also looked a lot stronger than Morocco, with players such as Gotoku Sakai, Maya Yoshida, Yuto Nagatomo, Hiroshi Kiyotake, Keisuke Honda and of course, Shinji Kagawa. But the biggest thorn in the Dutch side was Mike Havenaar, the man born in Japan to a Dutch father, playing in the Eredivisie with Vitesse Arnhem. It took just 5 minutes for the first chance, after Shinji Okazaki dispossessed Marco van Ginkel in the box, and it took just 6 minutes for that man Havenaar to open the scoring, running on to an inviting Okazaki pass and hitting it with too much power for Stekelenburg to hold. Trying for an equaliser, the Dutch wasted numerous good chances, most notably Luciano Narsingh fluffing his shot with only the keeper to beat, and Narsingh beating two players but going for the lob rather than the simple pass early in the second half. Arjen Robben too, tried too much, floating the ball past the post with an opportunity to cross. The Dutch defence fell asleep moments later, with Havenaar playing in the unmarked Okazaki. The shot was blocked by a Daley Blind slide, but deflected back to Havenaar who slot into the empty net to make it 2-0 to Japan! Then, in stoppage time, Shinji Okazaki compounded my misery, by dribbling through the unfit Heitinga and Blind before lashing the ball into the top corner. 3-0 to Japan. Now we would need a miracle in our final game against Belgium to get us anywhere near the knockout round.

Would we manage to do that? Spain were doing pretty well, they had won their first two games against Chile and Australia, but van Gaal's Holland were failing. We had lost both of our first two games, and barring a huge victory against Belgium and other results going our way, we would be out. Büttner and Virgil van Dijk were both recalled, with Luciano Narsingh and Robin Van Persie dropped to the bench, whilst Ibrahim Afellay made his first start. It was to be probably our best performance of the tournament. And indeed it was us that took the lead, though it would take us until nearly half time to get our goal. Virgil van Dijk was the scorer, after chesting down a wayward shot from Afellay, and squeezing it past Courtois at his near post, his first Holland goal. Christian Benteke sliced an effort wide when clean through early on in the second half, but soon, the Belgians levelled it with a goal worthy of past Dutch teams and for me, the goal of the tournament, though that's not to say it couldn't have been avoided. Marouane Fellaini attempted a shot, which Strootman deflected back to him, so instead, Fellaini crossed it outside the box to the incoming Mousa Dembélé whose first time volley was too powerful for Maarten Stekelenburg to hold, and it flew into the corner. A few minutes later Stekelenburg had to parry an effort from Jelle Vossen, and then the Belgians attacking play was rewarded as Dembélé played a lovely through pass to Christian Benteke who tapped the ball past Stekelenburg. We levelled through Van Dijk's second goal though just 6 minutes from time, as he headed in an inviting Robin van Persie free kick. The game ended there, and Holland's World Cup was over after just the Group Stage. The team had gained just 1 point and finished bottom of the group. And how did Spain do?

Vicente del Bosque's side did well. They gained 7 points in their group, drawing their last game with the USA, and thrashed a side we had been defeated by, Morocco, in the Second Round, by a score of 3-0. Then came the Quarter Final and the game of the tournament. Russia 0-7 Spain. David Silva scored 4, and Fernando Llorente 3, though it was marred by Guilherme Siqueira's injury that kept him out for the rest of the tournament, after being one of the team's best players in the group stage. Brazil had beaten Japan 3-1 and advanced to a Semi Final against Switzerland who had thrashed Norway. Meanwhile Spain got the tougher game, against Argentina, 1st in the FIFA World Rankings. An early David Silva goal put Spain in the final, whilst Brazil needed extra time to beat Switzerland, 3-1. But despite their confidence and their superb performances up until then, Spain fell at the final hurdle. Kaka's 53rd minute goal decided the World Cup, Brazil had won it in their own backyard, and Felipao, the manager, had won it for the second time, the first being the last time Brazil did win it, in 2002. The Spanish players were horrified. They had dominated the game, but Brazil had scored and that's all they needed to do.

Just days after we were knocked out, Louis van Gaal resigned from his post. Again, the star players had struggled to perform, and it was van Dijk, Celtic's centre back, who was our top scorer, and Arjen Robben barely had a kick apart from his goal against Morocco. Robin van Persie missed chance after chance after chance. Van Gaal was unlucky. He tried to do the right thing by placing trust in his best players, but he did also realise that some of his players were more accustomed to van Maarwijk's style of play. So he tried to blood the young players such as Adam Maher, Alex Büttner, Marco van Ginkel. Luc Castaignos was also in the squad. I think he did well. He was just unlucky, as was van Marwijk, in a way. The players disappointed once again. Now Dutch football really is in disarray. How do we continue from here? There is many good young players now. But they are not to the standards of Neeskens, of van Basten, of Kluivert, of your de Boer twins or the players like Robben and van Persie we now have. So it seems that after all this time of going forward on the pitch, now we are going backwards both on and off it. The Eredivisie is now weaker than the best European leagues and has been so for a while. I don't know what to do, I don't know. Can I even do anything? No. Only the KNVB, the Dutch FA, or the national coach can really do something now. I am just a pundit. Pundits can criticise people but they can't right the wrongs. And don't think that the KNVB are going to come running to me, get down on their knees and beg me to take over. Well, no, they're not. I'll have to make them come to me. Because as the comedian and actor Milton Berle said sarcastically but correctly,

"If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door."
Love the writing.
Great write-up, unlike Holland's defence
Louis O.'s avatar Group Louis O.
10 yearsEdited
Today I played my first competitive game as Dutch manager. How did I get the job, you ask? Well it was simple, as I said before, because although I wasn't going to be the KNVB's first choice, I knew that if I came running to them before they even eyed up any candidates then they would not reject me. Indeed they didn't. So now, having left Catalonia a few months ago, I took a similar role here in Holland. I have moved back to Amsterdam in an apartment relatively near the Amsterdam ArenA, though the national stadium is now Feyenoord's De Kuip for competitive games.

Before I even saw my office for the first time, the groups were drawn for the UEFA Euro 2016 qualification stage. We were the first side out of the hat, into Group A. Next was Portugal for Group B, and soon we had two more sides in our group. These were Luxembourg, down in 170th in the world rankings, and the whipping boys of international football, the tiny nation, or town, of San Marino. The third side in our group was Albania, an often underrated side, who were 64th in the World Rankings. Whilst having no household names, the Albanian players all had good clubs, and played regular football, so can most certainly not be bad. The next team into our group would be a little more difficult, though they are not a huge side. Israel was the team, with players such as Tamir Cohen, Dudu Aouate, Yossi Benayoun and Ben Sahar. Unfortunately, our final opponent would not be such an easy side. With teams such as Greece in the pot I was hoping that we could get an easy game, yet unfortunately, we drew Ukraine, who, despite being ranked at 52nd by FIFA's World Ranking, boasted stars such as Denys Garmash, Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Zozulya.

My first task was to take a look at the squad and when the time came, pick a new squad for my first game which would be against Argentina in the Amsterdam ArenA on the 5th of September. Argentina had a strong squad. They had Lionel Messi, a Barcelona player and probably the world's greatest player. Admittedly, in the last season the goals had dried up, with him managing just 17 goals in 30 games, but for anybody except him that would be an exceptional record. So he was a threat, as was Tottenham's Erik Lamela, Real Madrid's Angel Di Maria and Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero. I was confident that they would beat us but I knew that we could get a result.

To help me pick my squad, I decided to attend a few games to evaluate some of the players in my squad. On the opening day of the Eredivisie season, I was at the Amsterdam ArenA near my home to watch Ajax start the season against FC Groningen. Kenneth Vermeer, Daley Blind, Siem de Jong, Ola John, Urby Emanuelson, Mike van der Hoorn and Ricardo van Rhijn amongst others were in Ajax's squad, whilst Groningen had Danny Hoesen and Johan Kappelhof, though he later joined up with Ghana. So how did this Ajax game go? Just a minute in I realised which way it was going to go. Andile Jali, Ajax's new South African midfielder, volleyed in after a Fernando Gago header. Jali had scored after just 49 seconds in the famous red and white shirt! Minutes later Jali hit the post in a similar move. Then Urby Emanuelson guaranteed himself a place in my squad by leaving 5 defenders and the goalkeeper in his wake, and Emanuelson got himself a second goal just after half time. Spaniard Gago made it 4-0, then Daley Blind blasted home after a great run was spotted by Emanuelson. A Mitchell Donald rebound pulled one back for Groningen, but Lucas Andersen added the 6th after Groningen failed to clear. Ajax had impressed massively and won 6-1, no doubt putting Emanuelson, amongst others, in my preliminary squad.

The next match was probably more important for the side involved. PSV Eindhoven had just as many talents on display, including Jetro Willems, Daryl Janmaat, Luciano Narsingh, Jeffery Bruma, Adam Maher, Jurgen Locadia and Georginio Wijnaldum, who's brother had played for Groningen against Ajax. This game was in the qualifying stages for the UEFA Champions League. PSV, having won the away leg 1-0 after a Stanislav Manolev goal, would face Montpelier Herault SC at the Philips Stadion. PSV dominated possession and had more clear chances, whereas the French side Montpelier were prepared to try their luck from anywhere. The result was a poor game, until the second half, when Montpelier realised that more than anything they needed a goal. And they got one, when Tiené's cross was met by Sagbo who fired it at the goal. Tyton stopped it but the ball fell to Alexander Büttner whose attempted clearance hit his teammate Jorgensen and left Montano with an open goal to make it 1-0. A resilient PSV rallied with an Oskar Hiljemark free kick and then with 4 minutes left on the clock, Georginio Wijnaldum easily dispossessed a defender and shot past the keeper to advance to the final playoff.

Having watched these players, I finally settled on my main tactic to use for my Holland squad.

The tactic is how I played football with Ajax and Holland in the early 1970's and also similar to how I played with Barcelona. Heinz Stuy in goal. Barry Hulshoff was the libero, Blankenburg, Ruud Krol, Wim Suurbier in defence. Arie Haan, Neeskens and Mühren in midfield and me, Johnny Rep and Piet Keizer up front. But we would constantly switch around and that could cause trouble and I hope it will, especially for sides attempting to man mark. A very fluid and attacking formation but I know we can also keep possession.

I do also have two other styles of play. The first is a 4-3-3, though in truth it is more of a 4-5-1. This is similar to Louis van Gaal's system at the World Cup, but with a few tweaks such as moving the wingers in slightly and the use of an offside trap I think it will work. The other tactic attempts to overload the midfield with 3 central midfielders and slightly retreated wingers. This tactic is thoroughly possession based, and I hope to use it when playing against big sides and in the lead.

I picked my squad for the two upcoming fixtures and made quite a stir amongst the press. Whilst Rafael van der Vaart was still missing, and PSV's Jürgen Locadia was called up for the first time. Ricardo van Rhijn and Daryl Janmaat made the squad, as did Jeffrey Bruma who had also impressed for PSV. Siem de Jong was also included. Unfortunately, Virgil van Dijk and Luciano Narsingh both had to be replaced after suffering injuries in training. Then, after the first game, Jetro Willems strained his neck and Alexander Büttner was drafted in to replace him. The first game was against Argentina, and I know that not a few critics were unimpressed with my selection.

Holland 2-5 Argentina

5th September 2014 | Amsterdam ArenA | Attendance: 30,797 | Friendly

Holland Line Up: M. Stekelenburg, J. Bruma, G. van der Wiel, B. Martins Indi, J. Willems, K. Strootman, W. Sneijder, A. Maher, R. van Persie, J. Locadia, U. Emanuelson.

Substitutions: J. Clasie (Strootman) K. Huntelaar (Locadia) M. van Ginkel (van Persie) A. Robben (Emanuelson) S. de Jong (Sneijder) G. Wijnaldum (Maher)

- Robin van Persie (37)
- Georginio Wijnaldum (79)

Argentina Line Up: S. Romero, G. Peruzzi, N.Otamendi, M. Musacchio, M. Rojo, C. Yacob, R. Pereyra, F. Zuculini, E. Lamela, L. Messi, G. Higuain

- Erik Lamela (9)
- Lionel Messi (53)
- Lionel Messi (54)
- Lionel Messi (69)
- Arjen Robben OG (89)

I decided to go attacking against the Argentines using my main Total Football tactic, a mistake in hindsight. What I should have tried to do was keep ball possession, as even though we had more possession we did give the ball away too many times. Twice this happened in the build up to the first Argentine goal. Jetro Willems gave the ball away on the wing, Pereyra delivered a poor cross, but Martins Indi's header went straight back to Erik Lamela who thumped in a volley at the near post. Maarten Stekelenburg then made a good fingertip save from Gonzalo Higuain, and minutes later Jeffrey Bruma slid in to deny Higuain again. However, it was us that got the next goal, and it was Robin van Persie who scored. Gregory van der Wiel made a run down the right, and played the ball to van Persie who cut inside and beat Romero at his near post. The two sides went in at half time level, with the only chances in the last five minutes of the first going to Lionel Messi, who ballooned a lob over the bar with just Stekelenburg to beat. However, Messi made all the difference in the second half, as we failed to defend a Peruzzi throw which got past Martins Indi and fell straight at Messi's feet. Somehow, he scored again just a minute later. Wesley Sneijder booted the ball back to Sergio Romero straight from the kick off, and the goalkeeper's long ball was met by Erik Lamela who brought it down and crossed for substitute Agüero whose shot was deflected to Messi who stabbed home.

Then Argentina began to seriously dominate. Pereyra selfishly shot from an angle when he could have teed up Messi, but Messi got his hat-trick when unmarked at a corner, and he headed past the exposed Stekelenburg. Now 4-1 down, I made a few changes, putting Arjen Robben, Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Georginio Wijnaldum on. And it was Wijnaldum who got a goal back for us in the 79th minute, when Jetro Willems found himself free on the left, and squared the ball for Wijnaldum who took his touch back out wide before finishing with aplomb. Unfortunately for us, it wasn't the last goal of the game. Jeffrey Bruma blocked a Javier Mascherano shot off the line, but Jordy Clasie's resulting clearance bounced off Arjen Robben and flew past Maarten Stekelenburg. We were poor and to be honest, Argentina were the better side. They deserved to win.

Holland 3-1 Ukraine

9th September 2014 | De Kuip | Attendance: 51,137 | Euro 2016 Qualifying

Holland Line Up: M. Stekelenburg, D. Janmaat, Douglas, R.van Rhijn, D. Blind, K. Strootman, W. Sneijder, M. van Ginkel, G. Wijnaldum, J. Locadia, R. van Persie

Substitutions: K. Huntelaar (Locadia) A. Maher (Sneijder) A. Büttner (Blind)

- Daley Blind (37)
- Robin van Persie (66)
- Daryl Janmaat (90)

Ukraine Line Up: A. Pyatov, T. Mykhalyk, S. Kryvtsov, Y. Rakistkyi, M. Morozyuk, V. Polyovyi, D. Garmash, K. Kovalchuk, R. Rotan, E. Selezynov, A. Yarmolenko.

Douglas OG (11)

After the Argentina debacle, we would need to get a good result against Ukraine not just for the 3 points but to figure out where we really were. A win here could make all the difference, as we would know where Ukraine, and the rest of the group, stood in comparison to us. In the end, a 3-1 win didn't do us justice. We had 34 shots to Ukraine's 5, 65% possession to their 35%. They even doubled our foul count. We were unlucky too, having hit the woodwork 3 times. Yet Kevin Strootman was booked just a minute in, and despite a good chance for Robin van Persie after an excellent solo run, followed by Wesley Sneijder hitting the bar from 30 yards, it was Ukraine who took the lead. Polyovyi's corner to the far post was intercepted by Douglas just before Selezynov, but unfortunately deflected the ball past the stretching Stekelenburg. Strootman was unable to get the ball off the line, and Ukraine were 1-0 up.

Georginio Wijnaldum then had a shot deflected past the post, but on 37 minutes, Robin van Persie whipped in a corner which was headed across the goal by Kevin Strootman, and Daley Blind lunged forward to blast the ball home from close range and equalise. Now that we were back on level terms, we pressed to try and take the advantage. However, late in the first half, a Mykhalyk shot flew against the post and bounced back out to Andriy Yarmolenko who sensationally headed against the post from a yard out, before Wesley Sneijder cleared. Daryl Janmaat was then sensationally denied by Pyatov, but after an hour had been played, Danny Blind found Robin van Persie in the box, and he beat one defender and then Pyatov at his near post to make it 2-1. It was van Persie's 41st goal for Holland and how he celebrated! He now held the record for goals in an orange shirt, and there was no one more pleased for him than I. What followed was a tense half hour, as we looked desperately for a goal, and finally in stoppage time we got it. Before that though, Huntelaar was denied from just a few yards out, but Robin van Persie found Daryl Janmaat at the far post ready to turn it in and secure the victory.

It was a good game against Ukraine. I thought we played very well and were unlucky not to get 6 or even more. I was especially pleased for Robin van Persie. He overtook Patrick Kluivert's 40 having played just 8 more games for Holland. Sometimes he carries the team, and I responded by making him captain. Our next games are against minnows San Marino and Luxembourg. Both should be easy wins, but first I am off to Russia to see Dinamo Moscow's Nick Viergever and Douglas play against CSKA. And for next time I hope we can lady luck on your side. We were unlucky against both Argentina and Ukranie this time. But as they say,

"You make your own luck."

You are reading "totaalvoetbal.".

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