Ronald Koeman’s new stint as Netherlands national manager started with defeat on Friday evening. At the Amsterdam ArenA, England proved too strong for a rejuvinated Dutch side; the friendly ended in a 1-0 defeat for the home side.
The Netherlands were looking to make a fresh start, steered by their recently appointed manager Ronald Koeman, without playmaker Wesley Sneijder but with Virgil van Dijk as the new captain and Hans Hateboer making his debut. The friendly against the Three Lions was to be both a starting point and a turning point on the long and difficult road to qualification for the 2020 European Championship.
Ahead of the match, there was much discussion about the formation: would it be 'old-fashioned' 4-3-3, or 5-3-2 - the system Louis van Gaal so successfully applied at the 2014 World Cup? Instead, Koeman opted for 3-4-3, with Hateboer and Patrick van Aanholt on the flanks and a deeper role for Bas Dost as central forward.
The Oranje were certainly trying, but failed to impress the capacity home crowd, barely creating any chances during the entire match. At the other end, PSV goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet intervened on a few occasions before Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard steered a low shot passed him in the 56th minute.
It was the one of the few highlights in a friendly that was far from brilliant. Led by the very active Memphis Depay, whose impressive footwork delighted the crowd, the Netherlands made some efforts to equalize, but apart from a free-kick seven minutes before the end of the match, the home side didn’t get anywhere near the level of the once potent Oranje machine they used to be.
The next friendly will be played this coming Monday, when the Netherlands face Portugal in Geneva.