The Barcelona Inheritance: The Evolution of Winning Soccer Tactics from Cruyff to Guardiola – Jonathan Wilson

June 21, 2020

“From Cruyff’s ‘Total Football’ to the epic rivalry between Guardiola and Mourinho, a gripping chronicle of the rise and fall of Barcelona’s dominance in world soccer. Barcelona’s style of play–pressing and possessing–is the single biggest influence on modern soccer. In The Barcelona Inheritance, Jonathan Wilson reveals how and why this came to pass, offering a deep analysis of the evolution of soccer tactics and style. In the late 1990s, Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team was disintegrating and the revolutionary manager had departed, but his style gave birth to a new generation of thinkers, including Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho. Today, their teams are first and second in the Premier League, marking the latest installment in a rivalry that can be traced back twenty-five years. The Barcelona Inheritance is a book about the tactics, the personalities, the friendships, and, in one case, an apocalyptic falling-out that continue to shape the game today. …”
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A History of Soccer in Six Matches

April 18, 2020


Hungary’s visit to Wembley in 1953 was a seminal moment in the modern game.
“A few weeks ago, I asked readers to submit ideas for what they would like to see in this column. Not because I am short of them, you understand, but because in this bleak new reality of ours writing about sports very much falls into the category of ‘things you want,’ rather than ‘things you need.’ There was a flurry of suggestions, on every topic under the sun, most of which I know absolutely nothing about. One theme that stood out, though, was that many would welcome the chance to immerse themselves in the comforting nostalgia of soccer history. Even with my understanding editors and generous word counts, that is a vast, unwieldy subject. You can write soccer history in a million different ways: through the lens of teams and individuals, through tactics or geography or culture. …”
NY Times (Video)


Uefa Nations League – as it stands: Who are the winners and losers following the opening rounds of group games?

September 12, 2018

“A goalless draw on the opening day of the tournament may not have been the result the suits in Nyon had wanted, but the point earned by France in Munich provided the world champions the foundation to build upon. Goals from Kylian Mbappé and Olivier Giroud in their second game, the 2-1 defeat of Holland, leaves Didier Deschamps’ side top ahead of their return leg against Germany in Paris next month.” Telegraph


Neymar Can’t Quite Copy Cruyff, Football Might Really Be Coming Home, and More Takeaways From the World Cup Quarterfinals

July 8, 2018


1. European dominance continues. When Germany won the 2014 World Cup, it was the first time any continent had produced three-straight World Cup winners. And after the elimination of Brazil and Uruguay on Friday, that streak will now extend to four. In 2002, it seemed like we might be seeing a challenge to world soccer’s established hierarchy. Senegal and the United States both made the quarterfinals, while South Korea and Turkey both advanced to the semifinals. Of course, it ended with Brazil and Germany, the two all-time great soccer-playing nations, in the final, but even that was something of a surprise, as they were ranked 11th and 10th, respectively, in the pre-tournament Elo Ratings.” The Ringer (Video)


Possession lost on the World Cup stage as defences learn to adapt

July 5, 2018

“No side, perhaps, is ever so much itself as when it is going out of the World Cup. When teams – or at least those with aspirations to the title – fail, they tend to fail in their own way, and become too much of themselves: self-parody is a perennial danger. And so Spain and Germany went out of the World Cup after anaemic performances in which they seemed to fetishise possession rather than it being a means to an end. That doesn’t mean juego de posicion football is over, as some of the more excitable voices on social media have claimed; it just means that two teams who played football infected by Pep Guardiola had bad tournaments. Sides who play post-Cruyffian football won the league in Spain, England and Germany, while Napoli came second in Serie A.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


‘A daily nightmare’ – how four big nations not at the World Cup are coping

July 1, 2018

“People in Italy, the Netherlands, Chile and Ghana are watching the party in Russia from afar. For some it is a painful experience” Guardian


The Great Disgrace

June 25, 2018

“Two days before his eleventh birthday Richard Gaulke straddled his bicycle, the one without gears, and pedalled the fifteen miles from his hometown Monheim to Düsseldorf, where Germany were playing the Netherlands. Germany won 4-2. A Bayern Munich forward scored a hat-trick on his debut. His name was Josef Pöttinger. There were 60,000 on hand and they went wild. The date was 18 April 1926. It was Richard Gaulke’s first international. He was hooked for life.” The Blizzard


An Englishman Abroad

January 26, 2018

“Thirty years ago this summer, Gary Lineker came to the end of a highly successful first season with Barcelona. Signed from Everton after his exploits with England at the 1986 World Cup, where he won the Golden Boot, he was an instant hit at Camp Nou, scoring a match-winning hat-trick against Real Madrid in the Clásico and finishing his first season with 21 goals. …” The Blizzard


Where it went wrong for the teams who missed out on the World Cup

November 17, 2017

“Fans from 21 countries explain why they will be staying at home next summer. Holland were unlucky, Italy were mismanaged and Mongolia were a disaster” Guardian


Frank de Boer, Ronald Koeman and the strange decline of Dutch managers

November 17, 2017

“Whatever you think of Frank de Boer’s sacking by Crystal Palace, his short stay as manager reminds us of the diminished state of Dutch football. A previously unthinkable gap has opened up between the Netherlands and the top football nations. Feyenoord, Ajax and PSV have all been humiliated in Europe this season. And it’s been decades since the national team were so bad. The players who reached the 2010 World Cup final and came third in 2014 are mostly retired now and Holland’s new normal was exemplified by the 4-0 defeat by France in August. …” WSC


AJAX 2.0

October 31, 2017


“67 minutes into a game in the Eerste Divisie on the 16th September 2016, a young man, barely 16 years old, came off the substitute’s bench at the De Geusselt Stadium, MVV Maastricht’s home ground, to play for Ajax II, the mighty Ajax’s second team. This young man was different, not least because of his reputed talents, which the second-tier of Dutch football was about to witness first-hand for the first time, but because everyone in the relatively empty stadium on this cool, crisp evening had heard his name before. …” In Bed With Maradana


Ronald Koeman’s Everton story exposes shortcomings of the post-Cruyffians

October 27, 2017

“Long before he was sacked, a criticism of Ronald Koeman at Everton was that he seemed to regard the club as a stepping stone. ‘He called us Everton, he never called us us,’ as the former Everton captain Kevin Ratcliffe put it on Monday. Koeman’s ultimate ambition, as he has made clear since he took his first steps in management with Vitesse in 2000, is to manage Barcelona. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The Best Soccer Teams in History to Miss Out on Qualifying for the World Cup

October 8, 2017


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“As World Cup qualification reaches its final stages, a number of major nations find themselves in danger of missing out on Russia 2018. As Argentina, the Netherlands, Chile and Ghana struggle to make it, and with reigning African champion Cameroon already eliminated, we look back at the most shocking failures to qualify in World Cup history. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Faded Orange – The decline of a footballing superpower

September 25, 2017

“The Netherland’s recent dismantling by France symbolized the frightening predicament the national team now finds itself in. The side that gave us ‘total football’, previously a staple fixture in the latter rounds of major tournaments, now faces the prospect of failing to qualify for two in a row. In truth, the 4-0 score line flattered the Dutch, who were overran in midfield, ponderous at the back, and unimaginative up top. New manager Dick Advocaat was clueless as how to line up against a technically superior side, in stark contrast to his predecessors van Gaal and van Marwijk. Their problems go far beyond the manager however, and at the present moment Dutch football is facing an identity crisis and a lost generation of talent as they desperately attempt to scramble their side into the World Cup finals next summer. …” Backpage Football


The death of possession football

November 18, 2016

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“Former Bayern Munich manager and current Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, speaking after Bavarian side’s 5-1 triumph over Arsenal last season, was famously said: What I want, my desire, is to have one hundred percent possession. Bayern Munich had enjoyed sixty nine percent of possession in that game as goals from Robert Lewandowki, Thomas Muller, David Alaba and Arjen Robben gave Arsenal nightmares that probably suggested the extent of damage that possession football can usually do.” backpagefootball


Inside the Eredivisie

November 11, 2016

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“Aloha from your favourite ‘little brother’ league, from the land of the Nethers. It’s been quite an interesting season in the Eredivisie, 12 games in. For one, Feyenoord are top and were unbeaten until last weekend, and seem to have a team that is one of their most balanced in recent memory. Following sacking reports 3 weeks into his tenure, Peter Bosz has steered Ajax well back on track and they have not lost a single match since Hakim Ziyech’s arrival. Last year’s last-day champions PSV have struggled a bit more. Luuk de Jong has failed to replicate the scoring form he maintained for the last two years and their chance creation trend has been slightly erratic, but more on that to follow. PS: Admittedly, small sample size alert.” Stats Bomb


Tactical Analysis: Feyenoord 1-1 Ajax | All square in Der Klassieker

October 31, 2016

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“High-flyers Feyenoord had a chance to make it ten wins from ten in the Eredivisie and open up a sizable lead at the top of the league by recording their first league win over Ajax since January 2012 on Sunday afternoon. They failed to do so and just about managed to avoid defeat with a late equalizer, but still remain in control of first place in the standings early on in the campaign.” Outside of the Boot


Euro 2016 Power Rankings: Final 16 teams in France

June 23, 2016

France's Paul Pogba (2nd L) celebrates with team mates after scoring against Portugal during their friendly soccer match at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis near Paris October 11, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau (FRANCE - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) - RTR49T0J
“The dramatic end to the group stage couldn’t disguise the fact that, for the most part, this has been a slightly disappointing opening to the tournament, yielding just 1.92 goals per game and precious few games of real quality. No side won all three group games, while many of the less-fancied sides troubled their supposed betters. The suggestion is that this is a very open tournament, although there remains the possibility that one of the top sides will suddenly click into gear and surge through to success on July 10. The knockout bracket has yielded an unbalanced final 16, with powers France, Germany, Spain, Italy and England on one half, while Belgium and Portugal benefited from underperforming in the group stage by being given a more favorable rout to navigate on the road to the Stade de France.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Six things we’ve learned from the Euro 2016 group stages

June 23, 2016

“Fears that lowly ranked sides like Albania and Northern Ireland might dilute the quality of the competition have not materialised. Cynics might say the overall quality was so low that nobody noticed anyway, but the fact is that some of the more fancied teams – the likes of the Czech Republic, Austria, Turkey, Ukraine and Rumania – couldn’t make it past these minnows. The extended format has brought plenty of colour and amazing stories like Iceland’s success to the tournament, and have helped more than make up for the lack of excitement felt elsewhere. But UEFA also got very lucky. Groups E and F were clearly at an advantage, knowing just how many points were needed to advance ahead of other third-placed teams.” red bulletin


Euro 2016 group stage grades

June 23, 2016

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“The group stages of Euro 2016 have provided goals and controversies, outrageous skill and dreadful mistakes. With no team able to win every game, but only one side losing all three matches, the tournament has proved more competitive than anyone could have expected. After 36 matches, the action is only just hotting up, but having played three times each, we now have a decent idea about what shape the teams are in.” Daily Mail


Euro 2016: How Teams Can Advance to the Next Round

June 16, 2016

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“The group stage of Euro 2016 is well underway: From Wednesday until Saturday, all 24 teams will complete their second of three games of group play. And the minute those games are over, many serious fans will start to do math – in their heads, on cocktail napkins or even on spreadsheets – to determine what their teams must do to ensure a place in the knockout stage of the competition. It can be complicated, particularly in this expanded 24-team tournament, where four third-place teams will advance, but we’re here to help you sort through it all. This page provides a big-picture overview in real time, and as soon as teams have completed their first two games – as the teams in Group A and Group B have – we’ll publish a detailed page just for those teams, showing you all the ways they can make the Round of 16.” NY Times


Janssen Transition a Godsend for AZ and Netherlands

April 24, 2016

“Every once in a while an individual emerges from relative obscurity. A rags to riches tale. And there’s no better contemporary example than Vincent Janssen, a relentless forward with boundless potential, his debut season in a top-flight league has been nothing short of extraordinary. No doubt when signing for AZ last summer from second tier club Almere City – where he managed 32 goals in 74 games – he was assured of his own abilities but even Janssen couldn’t have envisaged what has since transpired.” Who Scored?


Johan Cruyff: The man who made Total Football reality

March 28, 2016

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“Johan Cruyff, who has died at the age of 68, was one of football’s greatest and most significant figures. The proof lies in two phrases with which he will always be synonymous. One is ‘Total Football’ – the style epitomised by the Netherlands team, with Cruyff as the centrepiece, who reached the 1974 World Cup final under Rinus Michels before losing to West Germany. It was a philosophy based on the theory that any outfield player could play in any other position on the pitch with comfort. Under his mentor Michels, Cruyff was the embodiment of the supremely skilled, multi-purpose footballer.” BBC (Video)


The Eredivisie Title Race – 2 teams, 1 champion

March 20, 2016

“With so much going on across Europe, it is very easy to forget about the Eredivisie. Napoli’s relentless chase of Juventus for the Serie A crown, Leicester’s astounding ascent to the top of the Premier League, PSG’s successful retainment of Ligue 1 and Barcelona’s utterly breath-taking performances over in Spain have caught the eyes of many. Over in Holland though, something equally as intriguing has been brewing. Two giants of the Dutch game, PSV and Ajax, sit atop the Eredivisie, separated by 1 point, and with 7 games each to go. Both have won exactly the same number of games this season. Things are tight, let’s say. But who will prevail?” Outside of the Boot


Scout Report: Oussama Tannane | The exciting Dutch forward

March 16, 2016

“Oussama Tannane is a Moroccan-Dutch footballer who currently plays for Ligue 1 side Saint-Etienne. He’s an exciting player who can get people on the edge of their seats with his creativity and pace. Born in Tetouan, Morocco in March 1994, Oussama Tannane also has a dual nationality with the Netherlands, and has made two appearances for the Netherlands U21 national team. Having spent his youth career at Zeeburgia, Ajax, FC Utrecht, PSV and SC Heerenveen. Tannane made his professional debut with SC Heerenveen at the age of 19 in the Netherlands Eredivisie league during the 2012-2013 season.” Outside of the Boot (Video)


A Soccer Team, Its Foreign Owner and Local Discontent

January 6, 2016

“A new Chinese owner arrived at the Dutch soccer club ADO Den Haag in early 2014, promising multimillion-dollar investments and better days ahead. Fans of the club liked the sound of that. Yes, the money to buy the team arrived a few months late, but it did arrive in the end, along with firm deadlines for further investments and a handful of new signings. Even if the most ardent fans were wary of the new owner’s intentions, they held their tongues. ADO, a 110-year-old club, has not won the top Dutch league, now known as the Eredivisie, since the end of World War II. But the new owner, a wealthy businessman named Wang Hui, promised to turn the team into a powerhouse — one that could challenge the likes of Ajax, P.S.V. Eindhoven and Feyenoord, clubs that have long dominated Dutch soccer, and play well enough to qualify for top European competitions like the Champions League.” NY Times


Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink: Heir to the Dutch coaching throne?

December 8, 2015

“Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink is a managerial rarity. He is, all at once, a young Dutch football manager (aged just forty-three), currently employed, and in the midst of a coaching career on an upward trajectory. As loveable Jimmy rocked up at Burton Albion in just over a year ago, he added his name to a diverse, and only sometimes illustrious list of names. From the collected wisdom, trophy cabinet and philosophies of Louis Van Gaal, to the plucky sojourners such as Marinius Dijkhuizen at Brentford, all of whom carry something seductively attractive to club owners and directors the world over; the DNA of a Dutch football coach.” Football Pink


PSV Eindhoven and the forgotten treble of 1988

November 28, 2015

“When PSV Eindhoven secured the treble of Dutch League, Dutch Cup and European Cup in May 1988, it was typical of a brief period of unprecedented egalitarianism in the European game. As surprising as it may look some 27 years later in an era of G-14 ‘Super Clubs’, the Dutch side’s European victory followed Champion Clubs’ Cup wins by Steaua Bucharest in 1986 and Porto in 1987.” backpagefootball


Façadism and the state of Dutch football

November 6, 2015

“Much like the Dutch national football team, Amsterdam is under significant re-construction. Tram lines are being updated, bike paths are being widened, new metro stations built and a number of buildings are still recovering from the reverberations of tunnelling the new metro line. In the case of Amsterdamse canal houses – picturesque, quintessentially Dutch and five hundred-years-old – preservation is paramount.” Football Pink


The Academy Series | 10 best Ajax Amsterdam products: Bergkamp, Sneijder & Vertonghen feature

November 1, 2015

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“It’s no surprise that the greatest Dutch club in history, and one of the most successful clubs in European competition, has arguably the best youth academy on the planet. No other club has produced more players to play in Europe’s top five leagues than Ajax Amsterdam. With a list both long and distinguished containing a ludicrous amount of incredibly gifted players (most notable of all, Johan Cruyff), the inventors of ‘Total Football’, its famed 4-3-3 system and it’s emphasis on ‘TIPS’ (Technique, Insight, Personality, Speed) will forever remain at or near the top of the youth pipeline discussion.” Outside of the Boot


Talent Radar Young Defender Rankings: Jordan Amavi, John Stones & Samuel Umtiti impress

September 27, 2015

“Judging the calibre of a young player is often a tricky task. Perceived potential has an important bearing in any consideration and is just one of the many parameters to consider when trying to quantify the ability of football’s young stars. To add a basis to what may be a leap of faith, it is useful to look back and trace the growth, or indeed lack thereof, in young players. Our Talent Radar Player Rankings, along-with our Talent Radar Team of the Weekdocuments the progress of youngsters across Europe, with those featuring in these regular pieces, eventually being recognised in our end of season Talent Radar Young Player Awards and 100 Best Young Players to Watch list. Read this document for all your queries on Talent Radar and explanation of the features under it.” Outside of the Boot


Goal Analysis: How PSV Eindhoven defeated Manchester United in the Champions League

September 18, 2015

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“In a game with several plot lines— Memphis’ return to PSV, Luke Shaw’s injury, Martial getting his first start after a great debut, Wayne Rooney’s injury prohibiting him from playing, as well as PSV’s coach, Phillip Cocu, a former player under Van Gaal, the three goals all being scored between the 40th and 60th minutes were just another piece of an already interesting game.” Outside of the Boot


Talent Radar Young Players Team of the Week #4 — Matthias Ginter, Raheem Sterling, and Nabil Fekir feature

September 1, 2015

“A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled into an XI from across Europe’s top six leagues. You can read this for all details on Talent Radar, who is eligible under it and what else we publish within this feature.” Outside of the Boot.


Champions League draw analysis: Picks to make it out of each group

August 29, 2015

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, left, and UEFA Competitions Director Giorgio Marchetti, right, remove the balls containing the names of the soccer clubs, during the draw for the Champions League 2015/16 play-offs, at the UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
“There was a twist to the Champions League group stage draw in Monaco Thursday. UEFA’s new seeding regulations meant that only reigning champions would be picked from Pot 1, leaving some dangerous contenders in the lower pots. And so it proved, as Manchester City was drawn with Juventus and Sevilla while Real Madrid drew Paris Saint-Germain and Shakhtar Donetsk. The draw resulted in some intriguing individual storylines, powerhouses going up against one another and the first steps on the road to the San Siro.” SI (Video)


When They Mattered: Ajax and its failed chance at a second dynasty

July 27, 2015

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“The high point was also the tipping point. The slow and torturous decline began almost at the very moment 18-year-old Patrick Kluivert’s 84th-minute toe-poke skittered past Sebastiano Rossi and into AC Milan’s net to win the 1994-95 Champions League, whereupon the teenaged striker wheeled away as he twisted his jersey around on his torso so everybody could see real well.” Fusion (Video)


Rafeal van der Vaart needs Real Betis; Real Betis needs Rafael van der Vaart

July 22, 2015

“Dolores travelled 80 miles up the E-5 autovia from Chiclana de la Frontera to Seville. She wanted to be at Real Betis’s Bentio Villamarín stadium when it presented its new signing. She wasn’t the only one, either. Around 4,000 fans, either without jobs, on their lunch break or skipping work, also made their way towards Avenida de Heliópolis, clad in green and white and looking forward to catching a glimpse of Rafael van der Vaart. Van der Vaart’s road to Betis has seen stops at Ajax, Hamburg, Real Madrid and Tottenham. The midfielder who has made 109 appearances for the Netherlands’ national team describes himself as a street fighter, someone desperate to enjoy himself on the pitch and entertain fans.” Fusion


Tactical Philosophy: Frank De Boer

July 5, 2015

“While this website has made it’s name focusing on the lesser known youth of this beautiful sport, and combined it with a tinge of tactical flavour meant for the football enthusiast, we found a large gap to be exploited in terms of combining the two. This mini-series thus focuses on young managers (below the age of 45) and their tactical philosophies, deriving what got them here and where they could go. In this piece, Rishad Bharucha focuses on the Ajax’ highly successful manager, Frank De Boer.” Outside of the Boot


Talent Radar Player Rankings: Top 10 Young Forwards in 2014/15

May 16, 2015

“In the past two weeks, we’ve updated our Talent Radar player rankings in the Goalkeepers, Defenders and Midfielders section. We’re now left with this season’s final issue of the Forward Rankings. It’s common tendency that players playing up front attract the most attention, from both fans and clubs. Many of the names on this list will be the subject of transfer speculation in the coming months. We’re going to leave any kind of speculation surrounding these players out of this and give you an unbiased judgement of how the players have done this past season to let you know the reason for the hype around them.” Outside of the Boot


What if they met? Brazil, Netherlands national teams in the early 1970s

April 29, 2015

“What if? It’s a question so often posed in the realm of sports. What if a certain player wasn’t suspended, traded or hurt? What if a controversial call went another way? What if a coach had called a different play? What if a certain matchup had occurred at a different time. That last question, above the others, has piqued our interest. In light of Floyd Mayweather finally facing Manny Pacquiao this Saturday in Las Vegas, years after both boxing greats were widely considered to be at their absolute best, it got us wondering: What if two soccer titans of their era who never got the chance to meet at their peaks actually did? All week in the build-up to Mayweather-Pacquiao, Planet Fútbol will take a historical deep dive into some of the greatest teams in soccer history, why they ultimately never got the chance to meet their equals and what might have happened if they had.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Scout Report | Anwar El Ghazi: Ajax’s proficient winger

April 24, 2015

“It’s an undeniable fact that Ajax has one of the best football academies and youth teams in world football. The Dutch club has had many talented youngsters in the club’s academy who turned out to be some of the best players to graze the surface of the earth: the names of Dennis Bergkamp, Marco Van Basten, Johan Cruyff and many more. One of the recent academy graduates is now considered as an upcoming hot prospect in football. He is the 19 year-old wonderkid, Anwar El Ghazi.” Outside of the Boot


Team Focus: Champions PSV Have Cocu to Thank For Eredivisie Success

April 20, 2015

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“It is often said a great player doesn’t always make a good manager, which neatly brings us to events in Eindhoven where Phillip Cocu – widely regarded as one of Europe’s brightest young coaching talents – is proving the old adage wrong and more importantly starting to realise his potential. Guiding PSV to their 22nd championship – their first since 2008 and secured with three games remaining – has been emphatic as any of those won during the halcyon days of Guus Hiddink, who must be proud of his protégé. Getting there, when you consider the resources at his disposal, was only a matter of time, however it shouldn’t reduce his coaching prowess to a mere afterthought. He is every part the reason behind their resurgence.” Who Scored?


Netherlands and Spain’s recent World Cup meetings have grown a rivalry

March 31, 2015

“Most football rivalries originate from geographic or political concerns, but the most intriguing are often those based purely upon football. In this respect, the 2010 and 2014 World Cup matches between the Netherlands and Spain, who meet again in Amsterdam on Tuesday night, have been significant enough to form a brand-new rivalry on the international stage. Before the 2010 final, these two countries had never previously met at a major tournament. They’d faced one another in friendlies, in qualifiers and in the Olympic Games of 1920, but there were no previous encounters to set the scene, to provide a backdrop for a chance of competitive revenge.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Ranking the Top 10 Young Midfielders so far in 2014-15: Sterling moves up as Liverpool begin late season resurgence

March 6, 2015

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“After another minor break, the Talent Radar Player Rankings return, with the men in the middle of the park the focus of our attentions. A lot has changed since the last time the rankings were out, Borussia Dortmund’s fall was only just starting, Liverpool were still in the Champions League and the Italian Serie A race actually looked interesting. While the rankings itself saw Marco Verratti on top, with a couple of challengers looking to dethrone him. Here’s who continue to impress us as we move into the business end of the football season.” Outside of the Boot


Tactical Analysis: PSV 1-3 Ajax | Ajax win despite PSV dominance

March 4, 2015

“Usually when the last ‘De Topper’ of the season is played, it’s often a title decider, but not this year. PSV came into the game with 14-point lead, and most pundits had already sent the title to Eindhoven before the game. Ajax knew if there should be even a little glimmer of hope, then they needed to claim all 3 points at the Phillips Stadium this Sunday. In a game dominated by PSV, Ajax managed to grab a 3-1 victory, and maybe put a little bit of doubt into the heads of the Eindhoven players.” Outside of the Boot


Player Focus: Kahn and Van der Sar Inspiring Cillessen’s Progression at Ajax

February 23, 2015

“It’s somewhat fitting that the loneliest position in football is identified with the number one. In some circles the role has transcended beyond traditional convention, but one contemporary exponent is following a well-trodden path. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, and at this moment in time the Oranje’s goalkeeper jersey belongs to Jasper Cillessen; it’s been that way for the last 16 months. It’s a testament given the many challengers breathing down his neck and ready to pounce, but so far he’s shown no signs of resting on his laurels. Competition after all breeds excellence.” Who Scored


The Velvet Revolution

December 17, 2014

“‘This isn’t Ajax anymore,’ Johan Cruyff wrote in his De Telegraaf column in September 2010, venting his frustration after Ajax’s Champions League performance against Real Madrid – a desperate 2-0 defeat at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. ‘Let me get to the point: this Ajax is even worse than the team from before Rinus Michels’s arrival in 1965.’” Blizzard


Ranking the Top 10 Young Forwards so far in 2014-15: Depay & Alcacer swap positions

November 21, 2014

“Our Talent Radar Player Rankings, along-with our Talent Radar Team of the Week documents the progress of youngsters across Europe’s top six leagues, with those featuring in these regular pieces, eventually being recognised in our end of season Talent Radar Young Player Awards and 100 Best Young Players to Watch list. Read this document for all your queries on Talent Radar and explanation of the features under it.” Outside of the Boot


Checking In on Europe’s World Cup Heavyweights: What’s New in the Old World?

November 14, 2014

“… But guess what? We’ve got another international break on our hands, so there’s no club soccer until next weekend. And since it’s the last such intermission of the year, let’s check in with your favorite European World Cup squads as they’re about to put a bow on 2014.” Grantland


The sad reality of the Netherlands and Mexico: There’s no revenge to be had in international friendlies

November 12, 2014

“Here’s the riff: After surprisingly making it out of their World Cup group, playing some highly entertaining, attacking soccer along the way, Mexico faced the Netherlands in the Round of 16 in Fortaleza, Brazil. For much of the game, Mexico more than held their own. In fact, shortly after the half, Mexico took a 1-0 lead off of a lovely finish from Giovani Dos Santos. But two late Dutch goals ended Mexico’s dreams of advancing. To make matters worse, the Netherlands’ equalizer came from a rather dubious penalty called on many people’s favorite villain, Rafa Márquez, against the obvious culprit, Arjen Robben. For many, the final result was compromised. But life goes on. Or does it?” Soccer Gods


Team Focus: Ajax Should Look Back to Past Formations in Order to Move Forward

October 20, 2014

DeBoer-Top
“1984 is not only a great novel but also the year Johan Cruyff retired as a professional footballer. His decision to go into management forever altered the fortunes of his boyhood club Ajax and other love FC Barcelona – both competitively meeting for a third time on Tuesday – no individual has made a greater impact in both disciplines. Frank de Boer, with the way things are developing, ought to take a leaf out of Cruyff’s book and implement a 3-4-3 diamond or 3-1-2-1-3. Rinus Michels – whose ‘1-3-3-3’ system was the blueprint from which 3-1-2-1-3 derived – once described it as ‘spectacular but risky’. And that’s what’s missing from the Netherlands’ sole Champions League participant, a sense of vitality. The players seem to be just going through the motions, suffocated in the more rigid 4-3-3, when it is glaringly obvious – looking at the brand of football De Boer champions and the personnel at his disposal – that the Amsterdammers are better off going back to the future by deploying a 3-1-2-1-3.” Who Scored?


What’s the reason behind PSG’s current struggles?

September 19, 2014

“Usually clubs with wealthy benefactors aren’t simply attempting to buy success. They’re also attempting to buy style — and it’s extremely difficult to achieve both. … Paris Saint-Germain is a peculiar case, because there doesn’t seem to be any emphasis upon playing beautiful football. Since QSI bought the club in 2011, the results have been excellent — PSG have won the title for the past two seasons and have performed reasonably well in Europe, too.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Assessing Dutch football’s European chances

September 15, 2014

“With both the Champions League and Europa League group stages kicking off this week, what impact will Dutch sides AFC Ajax, Feyenoord Rotterdam and PSV Eindhoven make in their respective competitions? First things first: How did they get there? Ajax have made the groups this year by winning the Eredivise, as first place automatically qualify for the Champions League. Last season’s second place Feyenoord had a chance to qualify for the Champions League, but crashed out to Turkish giants Besiktas; they lost 5-2 on aggregate. Therefore Feyenoord had a chance to enter the Europa League, in a qualifying match against FC Zorya Luhansk, who Feyenoord defeated 5-4 on aggregate.” backpagefootball


Johan Cruyff: How will ‘militaristic’ Louis van Gaal manage all the egos at Manchester United?

September 12, 2014

Johan Cruyff
Johan Cruyff has come home to Amsterdam and, on a cloudy day in the old city where he was born, grew up and made his professional debut for Ajax 50 years ago this November, he moves with good-humoured elegance through the crowds calling out his name and trying to touch him. At the Olympic Stadium, walking around an arena which has been taken over for the day by his Foundation, this is an exercise in the familiar art of being Johan Cruyff. The 67-year-old reacts to the adoration, and even being cuddled by a grown man dressed up as a ‘Cruyffie’ mascot, with a wry smile. This is how it feels to have been a football icon for five decades.” Guardian


Dočkal celebrates Czechs’ Netherlands success

September 10, 2014

“Bořek Dočkal, Czech Republic midfielder. It is great, of course, but we definitely expected a really difficult game. We met a team that got to the semis in Brazil, they showed their quality. So we just tried to defend well and wait for counterattacks. It is a great victory for us. [For my opening goal] I received a good ball from our striker. I didn’t want to lose the ball, so I just tried to shoot and hit the top corner, so it was one of the best goals of my life.” UEFA


World Cup Spirits Dampened, Brazilians Show Waning Support for 4th-Place Team

July 13, 2014

“The yellow-clad fans arrived at Estádio Nacional later, more quietly and with far less face paint than usual. And no wonder: They were attending the World Cup’s third-place game, a match that newspapers around the world had called ‘a meaningless exercise,’ ‘a pointless sideshow’ and ‘the final insult.’ André Gonçalves, 48, an accountant in Brasília who was attending his fifth game in the stadium with his family, was struck by the difference in the scene outside the stadium Saturday afternoon before the Netherlands played Brazil. ‘This silence, this calm,’ he said. ‘It conveys sadness.’ André Galvão, a reporter for TV Bandeirantes, was having trouble finding the usual energy from Brazil fans.” NY Times


World Cup Tactical Analysis | Netherlands 0-0 Argentina ( 2-4 pens ) : Netherlands’ discipline and Argentina’s narrow midfield

July 11, 2014

“After the ridiculously one-sided affair in the first semi-final, the second was always going to be a tight game. After seeing hosts Brazil blown away by Germany, both sides were set-up to primarily not concede. Something that they were successful in not only for the course of the 90′ but through extra time as well. Argentina was labelled as a lot of people’s favourites but are yet to convincingly stamp their authority on the tournament as front-runners. It is a strange accusation to level at the finalists of the tournament and yet there it is. They’ve relied on individual ability on multiple occasions in this tournament and will do so once again this Sunday. While the Dutch too have been beholden to Arjen Robben’s exploits to a certain degree, their progression has been characterized by multiple rabbits being pulled out of the hat by Van Gaal and his staff.” Outside of the Boot


Let’s Get Metaphysical

July 11, 2014

“Argentina and the Netherlands played yesterday’s second semifinal. That’s as much as should be said about the match, which forced us to appreciate what this World Cup has been, while remembering what it could have been. Throughout 120 minutes of football, there was first, last, and above all an air of safety that had been refreshingly absent from most of the games thus far—and with that absence came gifts of goals and good play. But yesterday, there was so much at stake: safe passage to a World Cup final. Since both teams are middling, professional, and graced by the presence of once-in-a-lifetime, left-footed talents, they took no risks—no playing the ball patiently through the midfield, no attempts at a tactical surprise. It was a game of chicken, and a penalty kick shoot-out was the inevitable collision.” The Paris Review


Brazil’s nightmare gets worse: Argentina to play for World Cup title

July 10, 2014

ARGENTINACUP-master675
“A bad week for Brazil just got worse. There’s not much that could make the humiliation of Tuesday’s 7-1 defeat to Germany feel even grimmer, but Argentina winning the World Cup at the Maracana would be unbearable. The holiest of the holies has already been defiled once, by Uruguay in 1950, but that would be nothing to the desecration of seeing Lionel Messi and his side celebrating there on Sunday. Whether that’s likely is another matter. Argentina will go into the final as the underdog, and understandably so, given the respective performances in the semifinals, but it will not capitulate against Germany as Brazil did. This may be a limited side, but it is one with great character and spirit, a cold-eyed willingness to get the job done.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Argentina 0-0 Netherlands: Argentina through on penalties
“Sergio Romero was the hero after an extremely uneventful 120 minutes. Alejandro Sabella brought back Marcos Rojo after suspension, while Enzo Perez deputised for the injured Angel di Maria. Louis van Gaal was able to bring back Nigel de Jong after injury, meaning Daley Blind moved across to wing-back in place of Memphis Depay. There was obviously great tension here, but not much happened – of the 62 games at this World Cup so far, this game featured the lowest shot rate, and the lowest percentage of touches in the opposition third.” Zonal Marking

After Long Stalemate, Argentina Breaks Through in Shootout
“Regulation and extra time brought 120 minutes of scoreless exasperation in a World Cup semifinal on Wednesday that was by turns tense, cautious, clumsy, gripping and stubbornly unyielding. There was little space to move, few chances to score. Sometimes the match was as dreary as the misty evening chill. If it possessed any beauty, it was not in gracefulness but in stark, struggling exertion. And finally, when grind and strain and labor could not bring a resolution, whimsy and caprice did. Argentina defeated the Netherlands by 4-2 on penalty kicks and advanced to Sunday’s final against Germany.” NY Times

Netherlands 0 Argentina 0 (Argentina win 4-2 on penalties)
“Argentina will meet Germany in Sunday’s World Cup final at the Maracana after winning a penalty shootout to eliminate the Netherlands.After 120 tedious and goalless minutes that were in stark contrast to the spectacular shock of the first semi-final between Brazil and the Germans, Argentina prevailed and a repeat of the 1986 and 1990 finals – when they played West Germany – will be played out in Rio. Goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the hero with penalty saves from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder, while opposite number Jasper Cillessen was unable to repeat the feats of his deputy, Tim Krul, in the quarter-final win against Costa Rica.” BBC

World Cup Pass & Move: Semi-Charmed Lives
“Two semifinal matches, one penalty shootout, one plain old one-sided shootout. As the World Cup draws to a close, we look at some of the characters who made the semifinal round so wonderful, weird, glorious, ponderous, and heartbreaking.” Grantland


Is Arjen Robben a Jerk, or Does He Just Suffer From Jerk Face Syndrome?

July 9, 2014

Name: Arjen Robben Home country: Netherlands Known for: Cutting inside and shooting with his left foot, diving, apologizing for diving, diving after apologizing for diving, promising not to dive again, diving after promising not to dive again, inspiring memes, Jerk Face. Why he might be a jerk: He looks like a pretty big jerk. The main manifestation of this jerkiness is the way his entire body explodes in apparent death throes every time he’s touched or nearly touched in the penalty area. His theatrics at the 2014 World Cup have set off this year’s version of the perennial hand-wringing over diving and whether it ruins soccer.” Slate (Video)


Every Sport (Including Baseball!) Has Its Version of the Dive

July 8, 2014

“One very sunny day on a pitch somewhere in America near sprawling farms and a single loitering country road, my college soccer team was playing a tight match. We were getting kicked so high into the air we must have looked from the distance like maroon grasshoppers leaping over some malicious kids’ boots. The referee wasn’t calling anything. And, as tends to be the case when that happens, the tackles got worse and worse. But we were all doing the American thing, playing through it, shaking everything off, or trying to play through it and shake everything off. Yet it wasn’t minutes after I said to the referee that someone was going to get hurt that our best player had his tibia and fibula snapped in two, right in front of me. I remember the sound of the bones breaking: I remember his scream and then his screams and then the silence.” New Republic