Josh Mol lists the 15 observations/opinions that  he took away from Netherlands 2-0 International Friendly loss to Italy on Thursday night.

  • By Josh Mol
  • Follow Josh on Twitter

it0-21.  Dirk Kuyt has not yet reached the point of irrelevancy.  This game proved that new Netherlands Coach Guus Hiddink does not view Dirk Kuyt as a player that is no longer useful for the national side.  Kuyt played extensively during the recent World Cup, but I felt as though Hiddink would begin looking ahead and focusing on players still on their upswing for the 2016 European Championship.  I disagree with utilizing Kuyt in the wing position.  Kuyt’s work rate and focus is still world class; however his offensive skills are not.  Kuyt lacks the pace to be dangerous coming up the flanks and his crosses in the World Cup and in this most recent friendly lacked class and did not challenge the opposition.

2. Daley Blind’s days as a Left Back are not fully over.  Many believe that Blind’s skill set is best utilized as a Defensive Midfielder.  The introduction of Erik Pieters into the roster seemed to be a precursor to Blind switching to a midfield role, but Blind once again played as a Left Back.  Blind maintaining his Left Back position could be attributed to the quality play of Wijnaldum in the midfield or potentially Pieters not impressing in training.  Overall it was a forgettable performance for Blind.  Blind’s recent transfer to Manchester United may have raised his profile, but this performance was not a glowing endorsement.

3.  The Backline still appeared accustomed to playing with three Centre Backs.  Spacing was a glaring issue for the backline of the Netherlands.  One glaring example of this was the third minute goal scored by Italian national Ciro Immobile.  Immobile found too much space available in the center of the defense.  When the Wing Backs would push up the flanks the Centre Backs would spread out and the well organized and efficient passing of the Italian side were able to find open players.

4. Jasper Cillessen did little to solidify his long term starting role.  Cillessen looked shaky early and his ill timed advance and jump lead to Immobile dribbling the ball passed him for the easy goal.  Although it may be unfair to judge; Cillessen also did little to increase the confidence in his ability to stop penalty shots.  Cillessen looked more composed later in the game and did make some nice stops. One area where I would criticize Cillessen is his desire to maintain possession and dribble the ball in the presence of the opposition.  With an oncoming attacker Cillessen has made a habit of faking the clearance and maintaining possession.  Although this move has been effective and has faked out opposing players his continued use of this play is bound to eventually backfire.  Players who watch game tape will be accustomed to this move and will be waiting for the inevitable fake.  It was a respectable game for Cillessen, but not a performance that will silence his doubters.

5.  Bruno Martins Indi struggled.  I discussed in a previous article that Martins Indi had to work on his tackling technique in order to become an elite defender.  Martins Indi was caught out of position and instead of trying to cut off the angle of the attacking player and attempt a tackle Martins Indi instead initiated physical contact which led to the penalty kick and red card which ultimately decided the game.

6.  Arjen Robben was clearly missed.  It seems obvious that a player of Robben’s capabilities would be missed, but his absence changed the entire flow of the game.  The Netherlands took a defensive approach during the World Cup, but were able to mount successful counter attacks due to the pace and creativity of Robben.  Robben draws so much attention to himself that it opens up lanes for other players joining in the attack, but without Robben these opportunities never materialized.

7.  Too early to judge the formation change back to a 4-3-3.  Like many Netherlands fans I was excited to see how the team would play once they changed back to their traditional 4-3-3 formation.  With several of the most explosive players absent from this game or unused it was not a clear indicator of how the Netherlands may play in this formation.  The unfortunate red card early in the game also ruined any chance of seeing how this team was capable of performing.

8.  Kevin Strootman is missed.  Sounds like an obvious statement, but this game made it abundantly clear why Louis van Gaal was forced to change his formation once Strootman was injured.  His versatility also would have come in handy when the Netherlands were forced to play with one less individual.  I understand the usefulness of an enforcer in the defensive midfielder role, but when playing with one less player versatility is increasingly important.  Nigel de Jong is a solid defensive force, but his immobility and lack of versatility became more noticeable.  It’s possible that the lack de Jong’s defensive prowess could have led to more offensive chances for the Italian side, but I also believe that the presence of two versatile box to box midfielders could have also led to the Dutch side mounting at least the occasional offensive attack.

9.  Centre Back’s versatility left the Netherlands susceptible to the counter attack.   The Dutch style of play encourages versatility and defensive players to have the necessary offensive skill to push forward and help in the attack.  Early after the inclusion of Veltman the two centre backs showed their versatility.   Stefan de Vrij and Joël Veltman each showcased their offensive skills by taking on defenders and pushing forward in the attack on separate occasions, but their advances left them out of position and lead to another scoring opportunity by Simone Zaza in the 20th minute.  For the remainder of the game the Netherlands played very defensive and their centre back’s were much less adventurous.

10.  The Netherlands had a stagnant offense.  The formation change back to a 4-3-3 led to the hope that the Netherlands would display a much more aggressive and effective offensive approach.  Instead the game led to the Netherlands continuing their defensive approach, but this time with one less player and a severe lack of pace to pose any real threat.  With Arjen Robben missing this game the Netherlands could have started the game with players like Memphis Depay and Luciano Narsingh as the wingers to provide pace in the attack.  Hiddink instead decide to start Jeremain Lens and Dirk Kuyt who possessed more experience, but much less pace.

11.  I believe that the penalty kick and red card combo is too severe a punishment.  I fully agree with issuing a red card and awarding a penalty kick when a severe foul is committed inside the box, but if the foul is not severe or malicious in nature I believe that a yellow card and awarding a penalty kick is sufficient.  This is a rule that has been debated for many years and everyone is entitled to their opinion, but to me the punishment seemed extensive.  It was apparent that the foul was not meant to deliberately bring the offensive player down.  Awarding a penalty kick and forcing a team to be down a player for the remainder of the game seems inappropriate for an ill-timed defensive effort.

12.  Memphis Depay is not a guaranteed starter.  With the World Cup behind the main emphasis now would undoubtedly be on the 2016 European Championship.  With the promise shown in the 2014 World Cup and his current form for PSV, many would expect Memphis Depay to feature predominantly for the Netherlands moving forward.  Although Depay’s game still needs some polish his potential is unquestioned, and he has almost two years to further develop his game before the 2016 European Championship.  Maybe Hiddink plans to feature Depay in the upcoming European Qualification vs Czech Republic, but if not many would question the absence of Depay in Hiddink’s plans.

13.  Wesley Sneijder covered a great deal of ground.  In recent years the defensive efforts of two defensive midfielders allowed Sneijder to mostly focus on the offensive aspects of the game and to find space to orchestrate the attack, but that was not the case in this game.  The Netherlands were playing with one less man and lacked pace moving forward. Sneijder covered a great deal of ground and routinely came back to help give the backline an outlet pass.  Sneijder’s mobility and activity was a positive sign of his preparation and conditioning, but ultimately took Sneijder away from what he does best.

14.  Louis van Gaal was eager to develop young players and Guus Hiddink seems content to play the seasoned veterans.  It seems unfair to make assumptions based on one game, but if there is a game where young players can develop their skills and gain valuable experience with the senior team it would be in an International Friendly game.  Hiddink had several young players that he could feature in this game, but instead chose those who have a long resume and game film that showcases their capabilities.  It is possible that Hiddink had intended to substitute some of the younger players later in the game, but changed his mind when he was forced to play a man down.  Deciding to rely on proven talent and experience is a decision that is easy to understand, but developing young players that are able to fill the void left by aging players is a necessary undertaking.

15. Sometimes early losses lead to better teams.   The Netherlands far exceeded expectations in the 2014 World Cup, but this loss is a key reminder of their weaknesses and their need to improve.  Losing can pinpoint areas that need to be fixed; which can lead to roster changes and tactical changes that ultimately help create a better team.  Louis van Gaal lost his first game back in change of the Netherlands on August 15, 2012.  Despite losing his first game back in change van Gaal built a solid Dutch team that was a successful penalty kick shootout away from the championship game in the World Cup.   Guus Hiddink is an accomplished and intelligent coach; this loss can lead to positive change.

Josh Mol (12 Posts)

My name is Josh. I am an American with Dutch roots. I have always felt a connection with all things Dutch especially Dutch football. I love the strong rich history of total football and am a loyal supporter of the Oranje. My grandfather was from Rotterdam and for that reason I am also a big Feyenoord supporter. I don’t just love the game for its enjoyment factor, but I also love to study the tactical side of the game. I love watching the future generation and see the unproven players reach their potential.