Dutch national team: Het Elftal returns from pure teaching

Dutch national team: Het Elftal returns from pure teaching
  • After two missed tournaments, coach Ronald Koeman has made the Dutch national team competitive again within a very short time.
  • Koeman returns from the pure teaching of football in the Netherlands – which also causes criticism.


By Javier Cáceres, Zeist

Things have changed a lot with the Dutch, and that has something to do with Ronald Koeman, the somehow still new bond coach. It's late Thursday morning in Zeist, the sky is as bewitchingly clear as the air, and the autumn sun is so deep that it barely rises above the tops of the beech and pine trees, shimmering brownish orange around the Oranje training ground. Zeist, this is a code for the new era.

When Koeman, 55, started in February, he decreed that the national team would no longer prepare in Nordwijk, but in Zeist, in a secluded idyll near Utrecht. Retreat and work in the interior instead of being relaxed on the beach meant that. But what has really changed is the footballing output. The Dutch would be disappointed if the elftal Koeman did not beat France on Friday in Rotterdam and should not win against Germany on Monday, Koeman said these days. And he could have added, Who would have thought that?

For when he took office in February, the Dutch football was on the ground. Dazzled from second place at the 2010 World Cup and third place at the 2014 World Cup, the Dutch did not notice that they had missed the lineup: the European Championship in 2016 and the 2018 World Cup took place without a Dutchman. The media and the KNVB association sent experts to countries as diverse as Germany and Iceland to study what is being done better there; In addition, Danny Blind had to go as a national coach and hand over the business to just Koeman, who has one thing in his homeland, above all: the image of a winner.

Koeman has played for all the big clubs in the Netherlands – Ajax Amsterdam, PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord Rotterdam – and later, being the first ever, to coach all three teams. As one of the best defenders of his time, he won in 1988 the European Championship title with the Netherlands and the European Cup of Champions with a PSV team in the Guus Hiddink also played players like van Breukelen, Lerby, Gerets or Vanenburg.

And in 1992, he helped FC Barcelona to their first Champions League victory with a mythical goal in the final of Wembley against Sampdoria Genoa. Johan Cruyff, who is also omnipresent in Zeist, was coach of the Catalans: in the moving pictures of the World Cup final of 1974, which was lost 1: 2 against Germany, by sometimes absurd aphorisms, which are recorded on a blackboard ("before I have one Mistakes, I do not make it "), as well as a statue in a characteristic pose – he shows the way.

Cruyff's scaffolding on the one of the Totaalvoetbal is still omnipresent. A few years ago, Koeman said the style was "non-negotiable": "We Dutch are always looking for the hardest way to win, and football is a game." When he then started as a national coach, many a Dutchman rubbed his eyes. Koeman let play with a five-defensive chain and more reactive to slaughter the speed of his young strikers. That does not suit everyone.

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