The wonderful semi-final at the European Championship against Belgium had highlights in abundance. Jorrit Croon’s winning shoot-out. The incredibly important equalizer of Jip Janssen. And the beautiful first Dutch goal by Seve van Ass. But national coach Max Caldas also thoroughly enjoyed a moment before the game.
‘For the first time I really heard our people sing the Wilhelmus’, Caldas recalls. “It gave me goosebumps in the stadium. I thought: wow, is this the Netherlands? I know this mainly from Argentina. Here we are often quiet, we don’t show our chauvinism like that. Normally people will only sing the national anthem if there is also singing next to you. This was so spontaneous. So cool. Really crazy.’
The national coach noted that his team could have had more finesse in the game against Belgium. ‘It wasn’t that great. But we fought for every meter. I’m really happy that we made it – even though we weren’t that sharp and super.’
Captain Billy Bakker also didn’t think Orange was playing very well. ‘I liked Belgium better. After that we were able to force something by playing a little more opportunistically. We often played well in such a game and lost. Now it’s the other way around, we won ugly.’
While the Orange is waking up from its victory rush, the focus shifts to Germany. Caldas: ‘We have to play better in possession. Against Belgium I thought we were too static and too predictable. That is a point of attention. Then we’ll see what we’re going to do in the final. Germany is a team that is difficult to put under pressure because of their passing power.’
Caldas estimates Belgium higher than Germany. “But Germany has made steps under the current national coach. They coach with a lot of experience. Their resilience is always visible on the field. They’ve grown a lot in the last seven or eight months.’
Bakker: ‘Germany is just a good team. They have a strong front line and are patient in their build. There are also some weaknesses, I think. But I’d rather keep them to ourselves, I don’t want to wake them up.’
In the group stage, Germany fought back from a 0-2 deficit in the final phase, as a result of which the rivals tied. “It was a good game from our side, except for those last minutes. But does it say something? We recently played against Belgium and then we won 4-0. They were the better team on Thursday’, Bakker said.
Caldas thinks back to the crazy atmosphere of that semi-final battle. ‘The stadium. The people. The music. Viva Hollandia in the background. Our song from the Beijing Games, when I was Marc Lammers’ assistant and we went to the final with the women.’
The next final in his long Orange career awaits on Saturday. Netherlands-Germany, again a beautiful poster. One that can just cause new goosebumps moments.