DOHA — Now it’s Ronald Koeman’s turn to hop on the Netherlands’ coaching merry-go-round.
A day after Louis Van Gaal’s third stint as Oranje coach ended with a penalty shootout defeat to Argentina in the World Cup quarterfinals, Koeman’s second term began Saturday.
Koeman, 59, was hired in April to take over after the World Cup. Koeman has led Vitesse, Ajax, Benfica, PSV Eindhoven, AZ Alkmaar and Feyenoord in the Netherlands plus Everton and Southampton in England, Barcelona and Valencia in Spain and Benfica in Portugal.
Dutch coaches often return to the national team job. Over the past half-century, Rinus Michels has served four terms, Dick Advocaat three, and Leo Beenhakker and Guus Hiddink two each.
EXPECTATION VS. PERFORMANCE
Dutch media and some fans reviewed Van Gaal’s team as if they were ballet critics, souring on the lack of pleasing aesthetics and hoping for free-flowing offensive beauty of an earlier era.
“Football is evolving, and it is much more difficult than it was 20 years ago to play as offensively as Ajax used to play,” Van Gaal said through a translator. “And if you fail to see that or fail to understand, then it’s very difficult to understand that this is the way things go. And when in 2014 I started developing the more defensive system, people criticized me. But now half the world is playing that kind of football.”
The Dutch have lost the most World Cup finals of any nation, in 1974, 1978 and 2010, and they were eliminated by Argentina on penalty kicks in 2014 and this year, while failing to qualify for 2018.
No players appear to be aging out ahead of the Euros, which start in 18 months. Defenders Daley Blind (32) and Virgil van Dijk (31) are the oldest among the regular starters.
Midfielders Xavi Simons (19) and Jenneth Taylor (20) and defenders Jeremie Frimpong (22) and Tyrell Malacia (23) are among the young players at the World Cup who didn’t see much playing time and could have upcoming opportunities.
Van Gaal said he was forced to play a different system because of lack of true wingers.
“What I’m leaving behind is an excellent group,” Van Gaal said. “This is a team which was very close, is very close, team spirit, and a lot of football skill.”
The Dutch open European Championship qualifying at France on March 24 and host Gibraltar three days later, part of a group that includes Ireland and Greece. The Netherlands plays Spain, Italy or Croatia in the Nations League semifinals in June 14, followed four days later by the championship or third-place game.