Spencer Steevensz looks at why Guus Hiddink has to take a big chunk of the blame for Netherlands 2-0 defeat against Italy on Thursday.

hiddnGuus Hiddink didn’t start his second spell in charge of the Dutch national team the way he would have liked to. In Soccernomics, Dutch fan Simon Kuper makes the claim a manager’s influence is only around 10% (somewhat higher for this instance, with national teams), and, unfortunately, that 10% made the difference in Bari.

The first goal Italy scored was from one of their first legitimate possessions of the game, when Ciro Immobile was given way too much space by defense, and keeper Jasper Cillissen did not react well. Then, just a few minutes later, Bruno Martins Indi, out of position, manhandled Zaza to the ground in the penalty box.

After that, approximately eleven minutes into the game, the Dutch parked the bus. Jeremain Lens was substituted for Joel Veltman, and the mighty Dutch, known for exploiting space, and free-flowing attacking football, only got 4 shots, 1 on target. The whole game.

Ironically, this is after Hiddink re-instated the “attacking” 4-3-3 formation veering away from Louis Van Gaal’s defensive 5-3-2 that saw Holland beat Spain 5-1 during the World Cup.

Bad luck aside, there were a few key starting 11 selection pieces that should have gone differently. Once Holland was reduced to ten men, attacking midfielder Wesley Sneijder had to fall back and play more defensively in order to keep Italy from scoring more goals. The wingers who started the game were Jeremain Lens and Dirk Kuyt. Lens was taken off, and replaced with a defender after ten minutes; and, Kuyt, at age 34, has lost the pace to play an attacking winger. While Kuyt proved he’s still worthy of a spot on the team, he’d be much more effective in a midfield or wingback position. For almost the entire game, Robin Van Persie was playing offense by himself, and squandered the only real chance the Dutch had.

A breadth of talent sat on the bench, watching unused. Namely, PSV winger Memphis Depay, who has drawn comparisons to Ronaldo and Robben, at only 21 years of age. He would have been much more effective in creating chances than Dirk Kuyt. Coming off the bench to score 2 goals in the World Cup, Depay has scored 5 goals and 1 assist in 4 games this season. While he was known last year for inconsistent play, he’s shedding that image quickly, in the best way possible.

While Cillissen is a fine goalkeeper, Tim Krul should be starting in goal; and, he probably should have played more in the World Cup. Jasper Cillissen went from playing in the Eerste Divisie to the World Cup third place playoff in a matter of 16 months. He has never saved a penalty. Tim Krul, known for his penalty heroics against Costa Rica, has played nearly 200 matches in the Premier League. He’s a greater presence on the field, he’s taller, and he’s more experienced. Watching Cillissen hop-up while Immobile easily maneuvered around him is evidence enough to see him to the bench for a while.

The Netherlands were missing many key players: Arjen Robben, Rafael Van der Vaart, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Ron Vlaar and Jordy Clasie were all unavailable; although of the men chosen, the right ones weren’t on the field. A more experienced goalkeeper, and a less-experienced, but every hungry attack would have done the Dutch well yesterday. While this friendly can be written off, Hiddink should make changes to his selection for the Euro qualifier against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.

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!