Doubts on all fronts at Orange
Dutch national team editor
Dutch national team editor
It was neither the start he had hoped for nor the start he had reckoned with in his nightmares. Ronald Koeman has started his second term as national team coach of Orange downright lousy with three defeats in four games.
A 4-0 defeat in France (EC qualification), a meager 3-0 win over dwarf state Gibraltar (EC qualification), a 4-2 defeat after extension against Croatia (Nations League) and yesterday’s 3-2 loss against Italy (Nations League). Against the top nations, the Orange came up short. Eleven goals against in four games.
Not hopeful numbers with September’s European Championship qualifiers against Greece and Ireland ahead. It will be a summer full of headaches for Koeman.
Defense as leaky as a basket
The quality of Oranje is mainly in the defense, with top international players like captain Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Nathan Aké (Manchester City) and Matthijs de Ligt (Bayern Munich). Yet the defense of Oranje under Koeman is as leaky as a basket.
The 11 goals against in four internationals represent an almost historic low. It last happened in 1962, when the Netherlands was still a small soccer country, that the Dutch team had to concede so many goals in four international matches.
The eleven goals against in four internationals Oranje under Koeman
In the three top games against France, Croatia and Italy, Koeman started with Lutsharel Geertruida and Van Dijk as defensive centers. De Ligt was unavailable in those duels. Due to stomach flu he missed the game with France and in the Nations League he was missing because of an injury.
Sven Botman was available in the Nations League, though. A true defender who had a strong season in the Premier League. However, Koeman did not make use of Botman. The 23-year-old Newcaste United player is still waiting for his international debut. As a lock on the door in September, then?
Bijlow still not picking up any points
A blunder was not among them, but the goals Justin Bijlow conceded in the Nations League were certainly not all unstoppable. The Feyenoord player did not perform world-class saves. Almost every shot was a hit. “That’s very frustrating,” Bijlow said. “But it’s even more frustrating that we don’t win.”
Bijlow thinks Orange gets ‘far too many’ goals against: ‘Look at myself’
The Feyenoord goalkeeper may not yet feel sure of his place under the crossbar at Oranje. Andries Noppert proved to be a safe alternative at the World Cup.
Hoping for fit Depay
In Memphis Depay’s absence, Cody Gakpo was given a chance as a center striker, as he often played at Liverpool. The 24-year-old Eindhoven native did not convince. The chances he got, he missed.
A fit and strong Depay back in September would be a godsend for Koeman. But will the 29-year-old Depay, 44 goals in 88 international appearances, ever return to his top level? The same goes for 32-year-old midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum. Together they formed a king couple in Koeman’s first term.
Frenkie too flat, the rest too weak
Without Frenkie de Jong things went all wrong against France, with Frenkie de Jong things did not go much better this week. The FC Barcelona midfielder had to acknowledge his superiority to Luka Modric against Croatia and also failed to put the match to his liking against Italy. It was flat for his part, a six.
With Mats Wieffer, a companion of De Jong’s for the future presents itself. The Tukker from Feyenoord was given confidence by Koeman and showed nice things, especially against the Croatians. Against Italy he had a harder time. The question is whether Wieffer is ready for the big time.
To a greater or lesser extent, that is also the question with the alternatives for the position next to De Jong. Qualitatively, it does not hold up.
If Tijjani Reijnders continues to develop, the AZ midfielder can expect a first chance. And Branco van den Boomen can hope for Oranje now that he can show himself as a new Ajax player under Koeman’s eye.
Waiting for breakthrough Simons in Oranje
“I absolutely do not see it as an interim phase,” Koeman was resolute prior to the Nations League. The national coach now wants to perform with Orange. The fact is that Koeman was looking for something new in the four internationals of 2023 with debutants Geertruida, Wieffer and Joey Veerman.
The team against Croatia, at 25 years and 143 days, was the youngest Oranje since October 2018 (24 years and 314 days). Then the Netherlands under Koeman played a draw against Belgium (1-1). It shows that the national coach is rejuvenating. This is not always accompanied by performance.
One of the things we are waiting for is the breakthrough in Oranje of premier league tastemaker Xavi Simons, the biggest talent on Dutch fields. The PSV player was given a chance by Koeman in all 2023 internationals. As a left striker and number ten, he was not yet decisive in Oranje, which is not surprising given his age (20).
‘Without mentality we are very mediocre’
Koeman’s headaches this summer are not limited to the soccer qualities of one or the other. The first half against Italy left him shocked. Koeman saw a flawed attitude. Winger Donyell Malen did not run with his opponent and, like Noa Lang and Geertruida, was sacrificed at halftime.
“Now you talk about mentality and playing as a team,” the national coach said. “If we don’t have that, we are very mediocre.”
Koeman is white hot and going to ‘think’ about Orange: ‘This is big step back’
Similar words were spoken by the national coach after the loss in Paris against France. “I also know that you don’t win a sprint duel of Mbappé easily, but there were players who didn’t go full steam ahead. That’s a lack of intensity. Not helping each other.”
Looking out over the sea at home in Portugal, when the anger has subsided somewhat, sipping a glass of red wine, the last four internationals are bound to flash through Koeman’s mind again. We will see the resulting conclusions after the summer, when Orange continues its road to the European Championships in Eindhoven against Greece.