After years of struggling, Ronald Koeman has brought optimism back to the Oranje faithful, having guided them to the final of the inaugural League of Nations and starting a strong Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

  • By Spencer Steevensz

While this month’s Euro qualifiers are Koeman’s first back to back victories, its worth noting he has consistently faced much tougher opposition than his two predecessors – Guus Hiddink and Danny Blind. While under the reigns Hiddink the Netherlands were under-performing against marginal teams – losing multiple ties to Iceland, faltering against the Czech Republic and being embarrassed by the likes of Turkey and Bulgaria.

Under Koeman, Netherlands were first paired with France and Germany in the League of Nations group of death – prevailing over the two previous World Cup Winners, and have faced England and Portugal in both friendlies and the League of Nations. The Dutch also drew Germany in their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, losing 3-2 to a last minute winner in the home game, but coming out on top 4-2 in Germany, which will lead them to win the group in the likely situation they find themselves tied on points at the end of qualifying.

How Koeman has managed to get results with players like Ryan Babel, Memphis Depay, and Daley Blind – none of whom are considered world class; while previous coaches failed with the likes of, admittedly ageing, players like Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, and Robin van Persie comes down to consistency.

In 2019 to date, Koeman’s starting 11 consisted of only 15 players across 6 games. Barring injuries, don’t expect that number to change much with the year’s remaining 4 qualifiers. Compare that to Danny Blind in 2016 – where he fielded 32 different players in starting lineups across the 11 games that year.

Koeman’s choice to find a trusted eleven and stick with it is reaping benefits. The players are learning each other’s tendencies and they are able to hold possession while penetrating opposition defences and play quickly on the counter. A stark difference from a few years back where the two centre-backs would pass back and forth between each other for what seemed like ages. Additionally, the players know Koeman trusts them and will be willing to take risks, to try a pass, or take a shot they may not if they’re worried it may mean they’ll lose their spot as a starter in the next game, or even in the squad for the next round of international fixtures.

Spectacular young players have also greatly contributed to recent Dutch success, as has Virgil van Dijk’s fast development into the most lauded centre-back in the world. Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt have been instrumental in creating chances, scoring goals, and changing the way Holland play – and other young players like Steven Bergwijn and Donyell Malen are knocking on the door to become regular players as well.

As our young players continue to develop, in many cases at new clubs with added quality and expectations, Koeman’s group should continue to improve and impress for potentially the next decade.

Spencer Steevensz (104 Posts)

I'm a digital/social marketer out of Chicago. I grew up loving Dutch football - total football is the only way to play. I support PSV in the Eredivisie, and whatever team has the most Dutch guys on it in any other league. Hup Holland Hup!