‘Surprising’ Geertruida impresses Orange icons: ‘Fantastic development’
Dutch national team editor
Dutch national team editor
National coach Ronald Koeman had seen good things in the Nations League semifinal duel with Croatia despite the disappointing result. Lutsharel Geertruida’s performance was among them.
The 22-year-old Feyenoord player had been given a special assignment as a replacement for the injured Matthijs de Ligt. He had to advance to midfield in the build-up and the Rotterdam native did so frequently. “Especially in the first half that went very well,” Koeman said at Saturday’s press conference.
Once Geertruida showed a little too much bravado in an attempt to run past Luka Modric on the edge of his own penalty area. That only just ended well, but underlined the self-confidence of the defender, who had a shaky Orange debut against France (4-0 loss).
At Feyenoord, Geertruida already showed not only his defensive qualities, but as a right back and central defender, his ability to come on from behind and strengthen the midfield. He was one of the key players in the championship team. According to Spanish media, FC Barcelona even had their eye on him.
Icons of Dutch soccer impressed. Ruud Krol (83 international matches): “I like players who take initiative. He dares to slide in. It’s often so predictable these days. Geertruida surprised me.” Arie Haan (35 internationals): “Geertruida has developed fantastically. He is doing very well.”
The consequence of inserting Geertruida in the build-up was that right back Denzel Dumfries had to be left with Virgil van Dijk and Nathan Aké as a three-man defense. Similarly, Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola did it with John Stones as an extra midfielder and Manuel Akanji, Rúben Dias and Aké as a three-man block at the back.
Set against the praise for Geertruida are the concerns for Van Dijk. Krol views the current play of the Orange captain with sorrow. “Van Dijk must learn again to defend forward and not run back,” said the 74-year-old Krol. “He needs to orient himself better defensively and provide leadership, set up his defense well.”
From Rooster to Krol
Haan was one of the important links in Oranje’s overall soccer at the 1974 World Cup as a sliding defender. He was actually a midfielder at the time, but for various reasons central defenders Rinus Israël (father deceased), Barry Hulshoff (injured) and Aad Mansveld (deemed not good enough) had been dropped.
“Then they ended up with me,” says the now 74-year-old Haan. “I wanted a real defender next to me, who was rock-hard. That became Wim Rijsbergen. My job was to play forward. Against Brazil, Rinus Michels told me not to play too many wide balls. Otherwise he might as well take me out. Everything had to be forward.”
Haan was the libero in 1974, as that position of free, sliding in, last man was called. Krol, still at left back at that World Cup, also played in that spot for much of his career and and current national coach Koeman was a prime example of it as a player. Not to mention Franz Beckenbauer, perhaps the best.
“And don’t forget Horst Blankenburg,” Haan said of the German libero who won the European Cup I with Ajax in 1971, 1972 and 1973. “If it hadn’t been for Beckenbauer, Blankenburg would have been in that German team.”
Watch what national team coach Ronald Koeman and Denzel Dumfries say about the move to move Lutsharel Geertruida to midfield below:
Koeman found Geertruida ‘very good’, Dumfries didn’t feel like a ‘caged tiger’
That reminds Haan that Blankenburg’s 76th birthday is coming up, which the former teammates usually celebrate together in Spain. Like Krol and Haan, the German is enjoying his old age in Spain. Haan is still waiting for a call from Krol about this. “Plenty of time,” Krol responds. “It is not yet July 10.”
‘Frenkie de Jong ideal libero’
The best last man in the current Oranje is clear to Haan. “That is Frenkie de Jong, he is the ideal libero,” said Haan. “As he also briefly played at Ajax alongside Matthijs de Ligt. That went fantastic. From the back I think he is the best. But yes, he prefers to play in midfield himself.”
It seems a hunch that is not obvious to Koeman. Frenkie de Jong will remain the engine in midfield and for Geertruida a new starting place in the consolation final against Italy beckons as a central defender. A new chance to develop in his role with Orange.
“That insertion should not come from one player,” Haan advises. “It used to be possible to do that. Now all defenders have to be able to do that. If the right back goes, everything shifts a little bit to the right, if the central defender goes, the back squeezes in a little bit, It has to be an interaction.”
Krol concurs. “It has to be surprising.”