Dozens of documentaries have been made and countless books written about the football played by the Dutch national team in Germany, then West Germany. These are the magnificent rooms of the National Football Museum. Marco van Basten’s smash in the 1988 European Championship final against the Russians was the highlight of the only tournament won by the highest-ranking men’s team in the Dutch Football Association. With Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Ronald Koeman as deputies to the throne of eternity.
Johan Cruyff, Wim van Hanegem, Johnny Rep, Johan Neeskens and Ruud Kroll were the exponents of Total Football which is sung around the world to this day during the 1974 World Cup, by Rinus Michels, the coach in both aforementioned tournaments. Well, it was ugly too, playing football in Germany, at the exit from the World Cup in 2006, after the match against the Portuguese, with Marco van Basten, who is now coach of the national team.
About the author
Willem Visers has been a football correspondent for over 25 years De Volkskrant. He covered eight World Cup finals. In 2022, he was named Sports Journalist of the Year.
The Orange Circus is heading to Germany again. Not as a favorite, because strikers in particular do not belong to the absolute top bracket, while the striker often defines the championship, whether it is Cruyff or Gerd Müller, Van Basten, Kylian Mbappé or Lionel Messi. The Dutch national team does not have Cruyff. No, Van Basten. Not even Van Persie.
Hunger for improvement
The Dutch national team has Wout Weghorst. When national coach Ronald Koeman was asked what it means for Dutch football to have Weghorst, with all due respect, the top scorer in the qualifying series, he spoke of his excitement. About his hunger to improve, every day. Koeman said bitterly, “We” praise the Italian who sings the national anthem at the top of his voice, while “we” criticize the Dutchman who goes out of his way.
Orange football was nothing special, except for the stages. Koeman reiterated that the Netherlands owed its qualification position, which happened after the 1-0 win over Ireland, who had already been eliminated. A tough qualifier, with France topping Group A, Greece and Ireland the strong contenders, and Gibraltar (Tuesday in Faro) providing the final fireworks.
It was essentially a series with an unprecedented number of infections. Koeman used no less than 34 players in seven qualifying matches, including almost forgotten men such as Davy Klaassen, Jasper Cillessen and Gini Wijnaldum, and that was only more than six months ago. He called up 44 players. Only two footballers were in the starting team for all seven matches. Virgil van Dijk and Xavi Simons, the experienced leader who connects the ages and the young man who could be the star of the future, whose creativity and sophistication will one day produce goals.
Orange has a reasonable base level
Simons and many other players have great potential, but it is still impossible to say how far this potential will go in Germany. The positive thing is that sometimes it was not even noticeable that Memphis Depay or Frenkie de Jong were not involved. The main question is: What can this team change against opponents in a tournament that is in some ways more difficult than the World Cup? The initial answer is that the Dutch national team has a reasonable basic level. Depay’s goals, Noah Lange’s dribbles, Frenkie de Jong’s creativity; They will be extras later.
Stop defending again. Virgil van Dijk was the coach, Stefan de Vrij showed how good he is, and Daley Blind is ready when the coach needs him. Tijani Reynders and Gerdy Schouten enrich the midfield. An interesting period is coming. Honing the 3-4-3 system and pressing method then staying out of the field during the tournament from June 14 to July 14, after the group draw on December 2 in Hamburg.
At the moment, there was great joy about qualification, interspersed with a little anger, because of the eternal “Dutch” debate about whether only results are taken into account or also the aesthetics of the game, a discussion that was partly caused by those past tournaments in Germany. . It remains to be seen who will be fit enough after a full season to play a tough European tournament in the country that has given the Netherlands so many great memories, once in a World Cup, once in a European Championship.
Better performance in World Cup finals
It is noteworthy in this regard that the performance of the Dutch national team in the World Cup recently was much better than it was in the European Championship. Compared to the excellent World Cup list, second (2010), third (2014), non-participation (2018), quarter-finals (2022), there is the second round (2008), first round (2012), and non-participation (2016). And the second session (2021) in the European Championship. This is also explainable: Argentina may be in first place in the world rankings, but no less than eight European countries are in the top ten of the FIFA rankings. The Dutch national team rarely faced any European competitor in the aforementioned World Cup finals. Only two in 2010, one in 2014 (Spain), and none in 2022, after Senegal, Ecuador, Qatar, the United States and Argentina.
The World Cup is the most beautiful tournament, and the European Championship is relatively more difficult. The fond memories of playing football in Germany are sure to heighten the anticipation.
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