Van Gaal had not been blinded by the 6-1 defeat of the Poles in the previous Nations League game against Belgium. “I think that 6-1 gives the wrong impression. It was 2-1 until the 65th minute and only later did they run out. That may be a characteristic of the Polish team, that they then let it run. That is not good, but there was not much difference in quality between Belgium and Poland.”
After the so-called B-choice had won the away game against Wales, Van Gaal fell back against Poland against the team, which had won so convincingly against the Belgians last Friday. The team had changed two positions from the 4-1 victory in Brussels. Captain Virgil van Dijk, who was sent on holiday, was replaced by Stefan de Vrij, who had worn the captain’s armband in Cardiff, but it was now on Memphis Depay’s arm. The national coach also made a change under the bar. Jasper Cillessen had to make way for Mark Fleks. That already meant the fourth international match for the Limburger, who at the age of 28 has never played an international match as a club football player.
Matty Cash celebrates Poland’s surprising opening goal.
Van Gaal is crazy about Fleks, because he is good at playing football and that is what the SC Freiburg goalkeeper has shown at times, but in terms of stopping balls, it is not yet very impressive what he has shown in Orange. In a rare attempt by Poland, the ball was directly in De Kuip. Flek was knocked out by a shot into the far corner from Matty Cash, who was given ample opportunity by Daley Blind to lash out.
The goal by Cash, an Englishman whose maternal grandparents emigrated from Poland to Great Britain, was the fifth goal in four international matches for Flek, who has never cleared the Dutch national team. After the break, goal six would also follow.
The Orange squad, which had already had a great chance to open the score through Davy Klaassen, offered the Poles exactly what they needed with the easily conceded goal. The Eastern Europeans who played a kind of home game in De Kuip, because half of the fans were of Polish descent and they were very noisy, built a solid wall in front of their goal and made football extremely difficult for the Orange. If necessary with the blunt ax, Frenkie noticed de Jong, who had to endure a strong kick.
Concerns at Louis van Gaal after the 1-0 deficit.
In this phase of the match it became clear that the 3-4-1-2 system so beloved by Van Gaal is more suitable against opponents, who also want to play football themselves, than against a team that erects a wall. The Orange was almost constantly in the opponent’s half, where the spaces were minimal. The ball often ended up at the wingbacks, who had no room for rushes, so that the effect of surprise was also much smaller. The most threatening moment was a shot by Steven Berghuis, where the Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski gave away a rebound. However, it was shot high over by Blind.
After the unattractive first half, the match ignited after half-time with three goals in ten minutes, which involved a VAR check three times. In all three cases, the goals stood. First, the offside trap opened incorrectly for the Orange, after which two Poles rushed towards Flek and Piotr Zielinksi tapped the ball into the goal. The assistant referee raised the flag, but the VAR concluded that it was not an offside.
Immediately after the 0-2, the Orange made the connecting goal via Davy Klaassen. The Poles protested because of an alleged violation by Steven Bergwijn, but the VAR again put the stamp ‘good’. And three minutes later it was hit again, this time via Denzel Dumfries, but also in this case the assistant referee raised his flag. This time, too, the goal remained intact after drawing the lines behind the screen.
Denzel Dumfries clenches his fist after the 2-2.
After the crazy opening phase of the second half, a more dynamic game image was seen in De Kuip. Poland left the defensive positions and went more on the attack, with the Orange failing to put as much pressure as against Belgium. It didn’t become very dangerous, but the Orange did not manage to become very dangerous in this phase of the match. Despite bringing in three fresh forces after 65 minutes of play. Cody Gakpo, Jordan Teze and Teun Koopmeiners joined the squad ahead of Klaassen, Jurriën Timber and Steven Berghuis. Fifteen minutes before the end, Van Gaal also exchanged Steven Bergwijn for Wout Weghorst, the match winner of the away game in Wales.
In the final phase, the Orange played full on winning and putting the Poles against the wall, but the ball just didn’t fall well. Depay botched a penalty and moments later he saw a handsome header being tapped under the bar by goalkeeper Skorupski. And so the deserved victory did not come for the Orange, which is still unbeaten under the national coachship of Van Gaal.