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Posted by Paul Klomp on 06/02/2010

In the build-up to Tuesday's match between Holland and Ghana there was one thought that I couldn't shake: please lovely Ghana, spare our vulnerable stars and let them leave the pitch unharmed.

The nightmare unfolding in my mind had something to do with Wesley Sneijder or Robin van Persie leaving the field in heart-breaking agony. Luckily, that didn't happen and Holland went on to win quite easily: 4-1. Since friendly games in which Holland participates usually bore the average football lover to death, or at least unconsciousness, I wasn't planning on paying any attention to this match on the ESPN Netherlands Blog.

But then I read the article on the Ghana blog about the match in which their players are being graded, and more specifically the polite announcement of my Ghanaian colleague that for those readers interested in the grades of the Dutch players, they would have to visit the Dutch World Cup blog, and I thought to myself; someone just forced me to actually write something about a friendly match involving Holland! Thanks, Gary Al-Smith for making me do this!

In short, Holland's play didn't excite anyone but Ghana's goalkeeper Kingson, who acted like a retired circus clown all night long. The first half saw a very weak Ghana and a lacklustre Dutch team that managed to put one in via Kuyt's rebound. Luckily, the second half provided some excitement, but only after Rafael van der Vaart entered the fray and did a nice job of proving to Van Marwijk why he needs to be in the starting line-up.

A nice combination with Sneijder and Van Bommel carried Van der Vaart cleanly through the middle of the Ghana defence and one-on-one with Kingson, after which scoring was a formality. After attempting a beautiful lob from forty meters out, which Kingson was barely able to tip over the bar, Van der Vaart swung-in a placed corner towards Sneijder, who had no problem netting it on the volley from 25 meters out. To put the cherry on the cake, Van der Vaart earned the penalty kick that Van Persie converted with a lot of confidence. Needless to say, Rafael van der Vaart played well, but what about the other Orangemen? Let's see..

GK: Michel Vorm - 6. Must have thought that Ghana was only Matthew Amoah and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, as they were the only ones who came inside the penalty area in the first half. Did a good job of picking up some lost Jabulani's from the pitch.

RB: Gregory van der Wiel - 8. Showed why he is Holland's number one right-back and a world-class player waiting to happen. Solid defence and some nice attacking moves, including the pass on Van der Vaart that led to the penalty kick.

CB: John Heitinga - 7. We're slowly starting to get used to these steady and convincing performances from John. That in itself is a huge compliment.

CB: Joris Mathijsen - 6. Played just as well as Heitinga, until his communication break-down with Van Bronckhorst that lead to Ghana's only goal. Cannot make those mistakes in SA.

LB: Giovanni van Bronckhorst - 7. Was quickly able to control Owusu-Abeyie and participated in attack as well. Was implicated in Ghana's goal too, but we'll forgive him, for now.

CDM: Mark van Bommel - 8. Slowly but surely starting to look very much like that fantastic captain playing for Bayern Munchen this season.

CDM: Nigel de Jong - 9. Did everything he was asked to do and then some. Tenacious, well-positioned, accurate in his passing and very dynamic. What more can you ask for?

RAM: Dirk Kuyt - 7. Worked hard and scored a goal; the things you expect from Kuyt. Will be instrumental in containing the opposition while providing a spark in offense when Holland faces the likes of Brazil or Spain; surplus to requirement when Holland faces a weaker opponent.

CAM: Wesley Sneijder - 8. This man has got some game! Exquisite passing, supreme vision and beautiful technique. With an in-form Sneijder, Holland can beat anyone.

LAM: Ibrahim Afellay - 7. Continued his great form and is becoming a serious option on the left-flank, at least as a back-up to Arjen Robben.

ST: Robin van Persie - 8. Didn't excel but showed his beautiful skill at times, like when he received a through-pass from Sneijder and positioned himself for the shot in one move while receiving the ball and spinning around. Pure class. I nominate him for Golden Ball winner, just in case.

Substitutes:
GK - Sander Boschker - 6. Had a quiet night on his debut at the age of 39 (!!!). Wasn't to blame for the conceded goal and showed himself a reliable back-up of the back-up.

AM: Rafael van der Vaart - 9. Was involved in three goals in the thirty minutes he played. Provided extra creativity and did almost everything right. This man deserves a spot in the starting eleven.

AM: Ryan Babel - 6. Recovering from injury, he wasn't able to show why Van Marwijk chose him over Lens. This will come though. Babel is the type of player that can turn around an entire game simply on the merits of his speed and agility.

AM: Eljero Elia - N/A. Didn't play long enough to be graded.

It’s obvious there are some players who will need the practice between now and the 14th of July, most notably Robin van Persie. I wouldn't worry about that too much though, since the real test will come much later; in the second round and beyond. With that in mind, Holland seems to be in good shape. The team is solid and the players know what to expect. With the games against Denmark, Japan and Cameroon possibly serving as a warm-up and build-up, Holland will hopefully peak at the right moment.

Comments

Posted by Gary on 06/02/2010

Good summary and thanks for the heads up too.

Posted by alec from belgrade on 06/02/2010

In my opinion Robin van Persie is a world class player,there's no doubt about it, but simply he isn't no. 9! I would like to see Robin like a winger or in some similar positions! To create game around Robin as a center forward player could be greatest van Marwijk's mistake. Bert, if it's not too late, please give Klaas-Jan Huntelaar a proper chance in his obvious position!!! With a plenty of right passes from the great middfield players (Sneijder, van der Vaart etc)and also from Robben, van Persie or Kuyt, he could score a lot of important goals in SA and become tournament's No.1 scorer! I doubt that this experiment with van Persie will be worked against Brasil or Espana! Klaas-Jan deserves to show his quality and Oranje could be a champion like Young Oranje was in 2006. with him as a best scorer! HUP ORANJE!!!

Posted by Mark B. on 06/02/2010

Very nice article...Hup Holland Hup! (This time we will win in the Final!!!/I was lucky enough to see Oranje play on closed-circuit TV in '74 &'78)

Posted by baxter on 06/03/2010

the best attractive,expensive attacking football!probably only thier defence is not gud enough to compete against spain,germans,brazil but attacking is the best form of defence,its now or never to win the world cup,go sneijder,robben,van persie,vandervaart,kuyt etc,they are the flying dutchmen,tis team deserves to win

Posted by crack on 06/03/2010

Holland to go all the way no doubt in my mind they peak at the right time unlike 4 years ago.

Posted by jbj in the USA on 06/04/2010

Not bad for something you were forced to write! I did detect a rising amount of confidence as you went along, and as a long time fan of The Oranje it scares me to death! Too many lost finals, too much team drama, WAY too much not living up to expectations to be getting all giddy about a friendly vs. Ghana (no offence). Just keep calm, let the world talk of Brazil and Spain and maybe, just maybe, we can right all those wrongs at last.

Posted by ted on 06/07/2010

Regarding Babel

He was dispossessed each time he touched the ball and made no positive impression.

If you want rate based on what he might do under other circumstances if he wasn't coming off an injury etc, then use the same rating scheme for all the players and rate them based on their potential, not their play.

Ted

Posted by Alex Milic on 06/07/2010

Holland always has a good side but they seem to buckle under pressure.Semi Finals in France 98 and Euro 2000, they should have won those tournaments.

imo Holland lacks a classic striker someone like Ruud Van Nisterlrooy or Mackay. Van Persie is more of a Anelka type of player. This is the last chance i reckon for this generation to win something.

Semi Final will be a success

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