Again no prize for Orange, which keeps losing out to top countries
Dutch national team editor
Dutch national team editor
It seemed so close, a prize for the Dutch national team. The first prize for Orange since the 1988 European Championship.
A tribute on Museumplein and a canal cruise might not have made it, but winning the Nations League was certainly worth a celebration. “We are playing for a prize, there has to be that realization,” said captain Virgil van Dijk. “We have to do everything we can to win that cup.”
Only two games had to be won before that at the Final Four at home. It turned out to be an illusion. A prize is far away. To get prizes, you have to win from top countries and that proves difficult for the current Dutch Team. Against the real top countries, the Netherlands falls short.
Based on the above conclusion, previous national coach Louis van Gaal had decided to go into the World Cup with a conservative battle plan. Only in this way, according to Van Gaal, did Orange have a chance against the best teams in the world.
Waiting, lurking for counter moments, via so-called provocative pressing. That’s how Van Gaal wanted to win the World Cup. That went according to plan with first place in a group with Senegal, Ecuador and Qatar and in the eighth final against the United States. Against the first opponent of stature, things went wrong.
For a long time, the Dutch played a hopeless game in the quarter-finals against Argentina, until Van Gaal made a successful change and long balls to strikers Wout Weghorst and Luuk de Jong staggered the later world champion. Weghorst provided a miraculous escape with two goals, but after penalty kicks, the Netherlands still had to bow out.
Ronald Koeman, at the start of his second term as national team coach, immediately indicated he would move away from the 5-3-2 system of the World Cup under Van Gaal. “It can be done differently and I want to do it differently,” Koeman said.
He returned to 4-3-3, with which he was successful in his first term, including being too strong for top country and then world champion France.
That same France was again the opponent at the Stade de France in March. With the absence of Frenkie de Jong, Steven Bergwijn, the suspended Denzel Dumfries and five sick players, the Oranje started the match in the European Championship qualifier battered. Nothing, absolutely nothing had to contribute.
The difference with the fast, strong and fit French was huge. French star Kylian Mbappé put a thick end to the game (4-0) with a magnificent goal. “I expected more from everyone,” said a disappointed Koeman afterwards. “It’s an underwhelming performance against a very strong opponent.”
In the Nations League semifinals against Croatia, Koeman could not have a complete selection at De Kuip on Wednesday either. Matthijs de Ligt and Memphis Depay were absent due to injuries. Frenkie de Jong, however, was back.
With De Jong, the Dutch team lost the battle in midfield after halftime. Not De Jong, but Modric pulled the match towards him in magnificent fashion. De Jong also acknowledged that. “I think I wasn’t good enough tonight,” the FC Barcelona midfielder said. “I should have brought more.”
Watch the summary of Netherlands-Croatia here:
Watch the summary of the Netherlands – Croatia
Hat was painful for the Oranje to see how the Croatians prevailed in midfield. “Sometimes it’s also just the quality of the opponent,” Koeman said. “They are not the number three in the world for nothing, they showed that today.”
With that, Koeman basically drew the simple conclusion that the Croats put more quality on the mat than Orange. That the Netherlands did not have Luka Modric. Just as the Argentines with Lionel Messi could deliver more quality in Qatar and as the French with Kylian Mbappé showed more quality in Paris.
As the Dutch in 1988 with Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ronald Koeman were able to field more quality than their opponents. And that resulted in that one prize, the European title. A new prize is still some time away.
Orange does get another chance to win from a top country on Sunday. In the battle for third place, of course, against Spain or Italy.