Koeman’s Orange of yesteryear is not just back, he notes after turbulent week
Dutch national team editor
Dutch national team editor
With his head held high, Ronald Koeman retired as national coach in 2020. Under his leadership Orange had climbed out of a deep valley. The good feeling was back with the Dutch team, thanks to good results and refreshing play.
The reality upon his return: that good feeling doesn’t come back overnight.
Even in autumn, Koeman made the sun shine in Zeist in his first period as national coach. Everything was going well. Symbolic of the start of his second term, it was gray and dreary last Monday. The sun hid behind rain clouds at the first training session in Zeist and did not show itself again either. Everything was against it.
Without Frenkie de Jong
Luuk de Jong and Vincent Janssen quit as internationals, Denzel Dumfries was suspended against France, Steven Bergwijn and Frenkie de Jong reported themselves injured on Monday, Teun Koopmeiners was already injured and on Thursday Sven Botman, Cody Gakpo, Matthijs de Ligt, Joey Veerman and Bart Verbruggen also went home sick.
And then in the European Championship qualification, vice-world champion France awaited as an opponent in the Stade de France with the unstoppable Kylian Mbappé. It became a letdown: 4-0. From France to Gibraltar, from Mbappé to Liam Walker. The chagrin did not go away with a meager 3-0 victory last night at De Kuip.
The Netherlands continue European Championship qualification in September against Greece and Ireland:
The biggest loss for Koeman was the withdrawal of Frenkie de Jong. Oranje cannot do without the FC Barcelona midfielder. Partly thanks to debutant De Jong, things started to run smoothly at Oranje in Koeman’s first term. Suddenly the schwung was back. It was a world of difference from the period before.
The 25-year-old De Jong missed only five internationals since his debut against Peru in September 2018, including the last two this week in Koeman’s second term. Without De Jong, it is less. “Especially in the system the national coach wants to play, we need a Frenkie de Jong,” Memphis Depay spoke.
A comparable replacement is not available. The 20-year-old Ajacied Kenneth Taylor proved against France not yet ready for the big time and Gibraltar was not a measure for the 23-year-old Mats Wieffer. Although Koeman was positive about Wieffer: “In terms of positional play and functional technique, he is far.”
Break with Van Gaal
Full of confidence was Koeman on his return as national coach. “We are going to continue on that path later, that is a given for me,” he stated when signing a contract until 2026. He was referring to the path he had set out on at the time, not the path taken by his successors Frank de Boer and Louis van Gaal.
“There were quite a few moments at the World Cup when I thought: this has to be different,” Koeman spoke. He broke with Van Gaal’s 5-3-2 system and returned to 4-3-3. Even the mediocre start to his second term does not make him abandon that. “No doubt, not for a second,” he said.
Koeman also distanced himself from Van Gaal in other areas. Jasper Cillessen, who was passed over for the World Cup, returned and Georginio Wijnaldum was reinstated as vice captain of Orange after injury.
Concerns towards Nations League
But Koeman also knows now, exactly like in his first period, it won’t just be again. “I am shocked,” the national coach said after the game with Gibraltar. “Of the ball circulation, the positional play. Football-wise it has to be better.”
Watch Ronald Koeman’s analyses below:
Frenkie de Jong will come back. Koeman doesn’t have to worry about that. He will normally be there in the final round of the Nations League in June. In addition, Nathan Aké is developing great and a talent like Xavi Simons is emerging.
The concerns about the players of the skeleton of the team from his previous period are greater. Will Georginio Wijnaldum (AS Roma) and Memphis Depay (Atlético Madrid) manage to return to top level after a long period of inactivity? And will captain Virgil van Dijk hit top form at Liverpool this season?
Too little intensity
In addition, Koeman failed to transfer the intensity he praised from Feyenoord to Oranje this international period. “We need to get fitter,” he said. However, the players in question will return to their clubs. So much for Koeman’s influence.
Watch summaries of the duels with France and Gibraltar below:
The Dutch will play the Nations League final round at home with Croatia, Spain and Italy in June.
Koeman hinted at changes. “I will have to look carefully at the filling of my selection. Obviously you are going to evaluate that. If everyone is fit, there will be quite a few changes.”