Koeman’s intensity message not yet arriving at Orange: ‘Hup, hup, hup’
Dutch national team editor
Dutch national team editor
It is a key word for Ronald Koeman at the start of his second term as national team coach. Intensity. “The intensity with which Feyenoord plays its games, I believe in that at Oranje as well,” he said earlier.
Last Friday at the Stade de France, the intensity message apparently had not yet arrived. “There was a big difference between France and the Netherlands,” Koeman said. “That has to change, you can’t play like that.”
Foppe de Haan draws the same conclusion. At sc Heerenveen, Jong Oranje and as assistant of the Dutch national women, the 79-year-old Fries was constantly working on increasing the intensity. How do you make sure that the players on the field, from the moment the game starts, deliver the energy you want to see as a coach?
“You have to make sure the players are optimally prepared physically and that the focus is optimal,” says De Haan. “It’s also in the heads. If a lot of things happen in preparation, you can lose focus. Then you miss something.”
So there were a few things going on at Orange last week. Take the virus outbreak. Furthermore, according to De Haan, cultivating intensity starts with hard work on the training pitch.
De Haan: “Not always train equally hard, but in waves. Train and recover. With intelligence. Then you can increase the intensity. Then it turns out they can do more than they thought. How Arne Slot works at Feyenoord is the best example.”
“But Slot works with his players every day,” De Haan acknowledged. “For a national coach, you can’t manage that. It’s then a matter of discussing your ideas with the boys and selecting those players who can meet those high standards.”
Orange’s lack of intensity was visible against France, among other things, in the goals against. Kenneth Taylor lost the ball to Antoine Griezmann in the early stages. Instead of sprinting along with the Frenchman to prevent the 1-0, the Ajacied switched too slowly and Griezmann was able to score.
‘Absurd how that goal fell, painful’
Koeman cited the third goal against as an example at Sunday’s press conference. “Absurd how that goal falls,” he said. “Painful. I also know you don’t win a sprint duel from Mbappé easily, but there were players who didn’t go full steam ahead. That’s a lack of intensity. And helping each other.”
“It was a bit passive at Orange,” De Haan states. “I was at Liverpool-Everton the other day. There I saw intensity. Then you see sprints, duels, labor, locking up the opponent, all over the field, with two against one.”
“The players must also take a good look at themselves,” De Haan says. He cites the example of Swedish defender Petter Hansson, player of sc Heerenveen from 2002 to 2007. “Who did more than anyone else every day, in a smart and sensible way.”
Hulshoff steps up pace: ‘Hard, harder’
Not for nothing did Koeman add Feyenoord’s assistant coach to the technical staff with Sipke Hulshoff. The 48-year-old Fries has the specialty of translating match situations into practice forms. One of his tasks: bringing Feyenoord’s intensity to the Oranje.
“There is a thought behind every one of Hulshoff’s practice forms,” knows former pro Jan Bruin, who worked with Hulshoff on SC Cambuur’s technical staff from 2015 to 2018. Bruin completely understands Koeman’s choice of Hulshoff.
“He is very driven, tactically strong and knows how to get his message across to the players well,” Bruin said. “Just like Slot. Good practice material is one thing, but execution is important. He is on top of things at training sessions, makes sure everything happens at a high pace, that gas is given.”
That was evident last Monday during the open training of the Dutch national team in Zeist. Hulshoff was leading a passing drill in which the ball had to reach the enemy goal from behind via several drives. Hulshoff’s voice echoed across the training pitch.
“Indicate what you want, Nathan!”
“Higher, higher, turn, turn!”
“Hard, hard, harder, that ball needs to be harder, Virgil!”
Bruin immediately recognized Hulshoff’s approach. “The players will have to get used to it,” Brown believes. “But it will work out. You see that at Feyenoord, too. If the players have the belief, they will go with it. There are not many trainers who can do that, but Sipke can do it and so can Slot.”
De Haan also remains optimistic. “The first period under Koeman it went fantastic. Not waiting, but boom, wanting to win duels. On top of it. If you win duels, you win the game.”
Against soccer dwarf Gibraltar, the Orange will get a second chance Monday to show that the intensity message has arrived.