Head out of Van Gaal: Three reasons why Orange didn’t win

The Dutch team started the third stage, Louis van Gaal, with a 1-1 draw with Norway. Was the hand of the national coach already visible? And why couldn’t the hard-line Norwegians break up?

Written by Everett Van Zoolen

Van Gal’s hand
Although the modifications are minor, Van Gaal’s hand is immediately apparent in Oslo. When Norway has the ball, Holland collapses in the opening stage around the halfway line. The method of pressing (the attacker towards the central defender, forwards with the back) is similar to the way Frank de Boer defended his team. The big difference lies in the mutual distances between the players: the distance was sometimes 40-50 meters under De Boer, now Orange is better organized.


Holland is very compact with only ten to fifteen meters between the lines. Source: NOS.

These mutual distances can be maintained, because Virgil van Dijk is back in the team. With the Liverpool central defender, the orange is able to play a very high last streak. This ensures that there is no space between lines for Norway to collect.

However, there is also a danger here: if the last line does not retreat when there is no pressure on the ball, then there are plenty of spaces for Norway – and Erling Haaland. In the first half it almost got worse several times. Sometimes there is no pressure on the ball, while the last line does not retreat. So Norway can hide its exceptional attacker.

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There is no pressure on the ball, but my orange defenders do not collapse. This allows Haaland to delve deeper into the space behind the defence. Source: NOS.

Van Gaal also made the necessary acquisition adjustments. The Netherlands starts with a 4-3-3 formation with Frenkie de Jong as the controller. When Holland is on the ball, De Jong drops next to or between the two center defenders. Their backs rise up and choose the position relative to the wings. If the wings are on the outside, then the backs come from the inside. If the wings are pulled inward, the backs keep the field wide.


De Jong withdraws between the central defense. Georginio Wijnaldum takes office. Cody gakbo keeps it wide on the outside, making the blind show on the inside. Source: NOS.

From this formation, the Dutch team is trying to create a surplus on one side. During the first half it worked well for once: Orange made a surplus on the right side, after which Davy Klassen scored from a low cross.


By moving cleverly, Holland has managed to create a two-for-one situation. Source: NOS.

The other thing that stands out in the Orange game are the positions of JurriĆ«n Timber and Daley Blind. The fullbacks are both very high in possession. The idea behind this is that they can participate in possession and cover immediately when the Netherlands lose the ball. This works well a few times, but when the Netherlands lose the match there is immediately plenty of room for Norway’s quick strikers.

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Why did you fail to differentiate the Norwegians

1. The rhythm of the ball
Orange tries to go through the sides, but only sporadically manages to find spaces here. One of the main reasons for this is that the cadence of the ball is low. The ball takes a long time to move from side to side. This partly has to do with players waiting too long to keep playing the ball and partly with occupying the orange team which is not always right. As a result, Norway is often able to flip to the side of the ball again and close spaces.


Because the cadence of the ball is very low, the orange is always in number on the sides. Source: NOS.

2. Lack of depth
Certainly in the second half, the lack of contrast appeared in Orange’s offensive match. Blind and De Jong mainly play ball, but Orange is unable to create real chances. One of the reasons for this is the lack of depth for players between the lines. Running behind the defense gives the player on the ball more options and creates space between lines where opposing defenders have to keep running. Only at the end of the game does the orange begin to perform these tasks, with immediate danger as a result.


Lack of depth: Memphis swings and pulls the center back, but Donyell Malen doesn’t use the space. Source: NOS.

3. Players are not played between lines
During a match, Orange always has three or four players between the lines, but the players who have had to form the building at the back often don’t know how to reach them. This is partly due to the above two points, which means that there was not enough space. But when the space was there, those players weren’t played either. For example, Davy Klassen was invisible for much of the second half, because the players in the ball did not dare to play with him.

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Players are not played between the lines in: Wijnaldum can play in Malen, but he chooses to play wide. Source: NOS.

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