After the Netherlands’ modest exhibition match against Scotland (2-2), Stéphane de Vries did not have to think about why his club, Inter, had perfected a system of five defenders so perfectly that they became Italy’s national champions. “We’ve practiced it almost every day for two years,” he said. “Then you get a lot of mechanisms that know how to behave and react better in every situation.”
Orange played against Scotland for the first time in a long time with a solid defense. And it was good to see him. Holland created few chances and faced rivals. “We’ve trained this system very well together only once,” admitted Frank de Boer, coach of the national team. “You can’t expect to play the stars in the sky. But that could and should be better, and that seems obvious to me.”
Louis van Gaal watched the friendly against Scotland from the main stands at Estádio Algarve. Amsterdam was still national coach when, after a hopeless defeat to France in March 2014, along with Arjen Robben and a few important players, he concluded that the Netherlands had little to look for in the World Cup in Brazil if they continued to play with four players. defenders.
When the Orange team met two months later for the world final round, they essentially used a lot of secret training sessions to get their international players accustomed to a system of five defenders. Joel Feltman accidentally revealed at the beginning of May that Van Gaal was considering a new tactic. More than a month later, defending champions Netherlands stunned Spain at the World Cup (5-1) and laid the foundation for a third final classification with a solid defense.
De Boer has only ten days left before the first match of the European Championship against Ukraine. Anyone who has seen Orange struggle against the Scots with five defenders wondered if it was long enough to master the system with five defenders. “But it’s not a spell for us,” said de Boer. “If you look at the qualities of the players, I think this is an excellent system. We also showed that in the first leg against Italy last year. I’m not worried about running out of time.”
“With five defenders, we take a little less risk than if we started chasing with three attackers from the start,” de Boer said. “It also takes a lot of strength. We ended up against Scotland with four defenders and three strikers. We manage that well, but I don’t just want to put aside a system of five defenders. How are we going to practice against Georgia on Sunday? But I think we can control both systems. Especially if we do some things differently from this game.”
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