Poor Dutch trip to Romania for a 1-0 loss

First, this is not a I-told-you-so entry. I love the Oranje so much that I’d not entertain deprecating comments about my beloved national football team. That said, their manner of performance in Romania hardly shocked me at all. I did say that their minor win against Bulgaria meant that they should not get carried away – even a 1-0 win against Albania in the most recent Euro 2008 qualification match was poor by any lofty Oranje standard. So is there any surprise that the Dutch got unstuck on a road trip to East Europe?
Here’s a short review of every player who played for the Oranje today:-
1. Maarten Stekelenburg – Edwin van der Sar’s understudy and his replacement today. I don’t think that he should be faulted for the goal of Dorin Goian. He parried the shot away but he probably should have done a lot better with the free-kick. By the time he saved the first shot, Goian was a yard away in a flash and scored. Not great but he did his job reasonably. -6/10
5. Wilfred Bouma – in a strange formation again, Bouma finds himself at leftback with Gio van Bronckhorst playing left midfield. I thought that he did just fine. 7/10.
2. Johnny Heitinga – I’d say this; if he exists at the rightback spot , there’s no way the Dutch can be world beaters at this current time. He didn’t put much of a foot wrong in the game but his forays down the right side were just laughable. He lacked the concentration. His style of play is unimaginative but tidy although I’m sure that there is probably no one better than him at these matters for the Dutch team right now. 6/10.
4. Joris Mathijsen – I concede that I really don’t know how to admire this centreback’s talents if there is at all. While not 100% culpable for the Romanian goal, his acute lack of concentration and lapse in keeping a tight lid on lurking attackers meant that he may never be a world class centreback. Notice that he was just watching the ball bounce from Stekelenburg’s palmed shot and he was at arm’s length away from Dorin Goian who may have been at an offside position when the freekick was taken. His performance in the game was quiet and did a neat job at the back although his fairly average display still apparently impressed Marco van Basten. Baffling is a diplomatic adjective in this context. 5/10.
3. Andre Ooijer – Not one of the most assuring of displays. His form has apparently dipped after he left PSV Eindhoven and he was not sharp at deflecting Romanian players such as Adrian Mutu and the effervescent Banel Nicolita. 5/10.
8. Giovanni van Bronckhorst – captain of the day and was strangely ok today. His workrate was commendable and did rather well in the first half. Then he switched off and allowed a sleek George Ogararu to better him on many occasions in the 2nd half. 6/10.
6. Demy de Zeeuw – if the Dutch are intending to keep him in midfield, that’s the end of the famous engine room in the Oranje 4-3-3 formation. He was unable to wrest control of midfield; took too long to pass; hardly provided stability for Rafael van der Vaart and Clarence Seedorf for something to work with. Fairly average player and the sad part is- that’s just about it. But really, take a look at the bench and you’ll see that his selection is the lesser of 2 necessary evils. Then again, the Oranje has lost Wesley Sneijder to suspension and so many midfield generals such as Mark van Bommel and the retired Philip Cocu and it’s hard to search for justification to blame him. 5/10.
10. Clarence Seedorf – maybe he’s a European Champions League winner with 3 different clubs but he’s had little to offer the Oranje in the late 2000s. He may have been considered by Pele as one of 125 greatest footballers but not today. Passing and delivery were out of the repertoire today. Another bad, patchy performance. 4/10.
7. Rafael van der Vaart – made up the pint-sized midfield of the Dutch with the 175cm-ish range. de Zeeuw = 174 cm, Seedorf is 176cm and van der Vaart is 175cms. Now wonder when these 3 midfielders slacked, the Romanians too charge and pushed forward, resulting in a goal. Their lack of aerial dominance plus their lax post-half time attitude has paid the price. It got my blood boiling that Ruud van Nistelrooy hardly got useful service after half-time when the mdifielders looked lost and cut out little flair to complement any useful attack. He was also poor when defending, resulting in a freekick near the penalty area. 4/10.
18. Arjen Robben – Real Madrid man at his worst. Couldn’t get past Ogararu for most times and his runs were not incisive to prove telling for the Dutch. Did not do enough for a player touted to be a great player someday. 5/10.
9. Ruud van Nistelrooy –  quiet match. Hardly can blame him – he had to descend deep into midfield to get the lazy midfield out of trouble at most times. I felt that he had worked hard and probably deserved more in the closing minutes of the match. 6/10.
N/A Marco van Basten – lost his first official qualifier game and it was not a bad way to lose. 1-0 was respectable just as it is expected with this string of continued average displays. The Dutch football greats criticised the Albania match which the Dutch won narrowly away 1-0 at the last few minutes and the manner at which the Dutch conducted their attacking brand of football. I think that van Basten must have been quite dense to select more or less the same squad which put up that aforesaid poor performance away and hope for a win today. Perhaps Holland do not enjoy the same luxury as before and msut scrape the bottom of the Eredivisie table to fish for decent recruits but for van Basten – defeat was a long time coming. If Claudio Ranieri and Rafael Benitez are called ‘tinkermen’, van Basten is the polar, magnetic opposite. Stubborn, unimpressive attacking football. It’s choking to be a Dutch fan now.
While it is always not good to lose- perhaps this may serve as a wake-up call for the Dutch who came out wanting to win the match in the first-half and then withered away in the 2nd half, allowing the Romanians too much set-pieces  skill-honing opportunities while the Dutch barely threatened at all. To be fair, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder are serving suspensions and may have created a difference in terms of scoring opportunities so the Dutch were probably heavily-reliant on them both. Maarten Stekelenburg was probably doing fine at the moment but deep down, here’s wishing to Van der Sar coming back as soon as possible even if he’s a Man Ure player.
Ryan Babel should have been brought on earlier I should think since Robben hardly committed himself to the game. The more experienced Nigel de Jong should have taken the place of Demy De Zeeuw and Danny Koevermans should probably not be brought on since it was already too late in the game and his skills are not well-suited to pressing situations. Off the pace for now but there are chances to make amends – against Slovenia this Wednesday at home.
Complacency may also have taken its effect here – the Dutch, before the Romania game- needed only 7 points from 4 matches to qualify. They need to win at least 2 more games and draw one now in their last 3 matches to make certain their spot. I believe that a cornered beast fights best compared to one perching high in apparent security – there’s no reason to screw up at home now. Also, this is not one of the most difficult groups to be honest – France and Italy duking out with Scotland now in Group B; Germany and Czech Republic in Group D; and Sweden, Spain and Denmark in Group F are tricky groups. Romania have not been in the global reckoning since their impressive 1990s record and are not really producing many top players like Adrian Mutu and (used to be) Adrian Ilie, Gheorghe Hagi, Dorinel Munteanu, Viorel Moldovan, and the efficient Dan Petrescu. I’ve written about the Bulgarians before this, so I hardly need repeat that this Group G is the Group of the Perennials ; too good for the rest of the group but are not currently the same quality as they were 9 years ago. It’s not wholesome to watch dour and spiritless football such as this- but can the pure romantics of football disagree? 
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