Football

Holland forced to gamble on youth

Koeman will look to youngsters to replace veterans van Persie, Sneijder and Robben

New Holland coach Ronald Koeman is looking for his team to shine in his first match in charge against England on Saturday morning (Singapore time), but admitted the Dutch had lost a lot of quality players in recent years.

Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder both recently retired from international football, while fellow veteran Robin van Persie is lacking match fitness.

Koeman, 54, said he would have to gamble with youth for the match in Amsterdam on Saturday and then for their second game three days later in Geneva against Portugal.

"We have said goodbye to several creative players that you don't just replace that easily," he said.

"Now we have youngsters who still need to develop, and only the future will tell if they are able to reach the same heights."

One of those youngsters is 24-year-old Memphis Depay, whom he tried to sign when he was Everton manager.

When asked if the winger could be a key player for Holland, Koeman replied: "I hope so, yes.

"Of course, there are sometimes when you think: Do this differently.

"But that also applies to other players.

"I am a bit old-fashioned in a lot of things, but you also have to go with the times.

"He has a lot of qualities, so that's a fight that I like to go with him...

"I invited him to my home last year, when I wanted to get him to Everton. That did not work, he went to Lyon."

I don’t believe in either the goalkeeper or a striker being the captain. Virgil van Dijk is a possibility as captain. Holland coach Ronald Koeman

Despite his focus on youth, Koeman suggested Robben, 34, would still have a role to play in the Dutch team had he not retired.

He added that he was not ruling out a return for van Persie, also 34, once he proves his fitness at Feyenoord.

"He showed his class again yesterday," Koeman said of the striker's performance for his club on Sunday as he scored twice in a 4-3 win at PEC Zwolle in the Dutch Eredivisie.

The 33-year-old Sneijder, who holds the Dutch record of 133 caps, quit the international arena earlier this month.

With Koeman having been appointed coach of the national side last month, the upcoming friendlies represent the first chance he will have to assess the scale of the job he has taken on.

"Of course, we are playing to win. For me, what is also important is that when we've played these two games, I'm a lot wiser about the direction we will be taking going into the Nations League," he said.

"Friday and Monday's games will give me the opportunity to see more players at work."

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk could captain the side at the Amsterdam ArenA on Saturday, he added.

NO VOTE

"I'm still going to decide, I'm not a believer in a vote among the players, so I will choose," Koeman said.

"It does not mean I think there should be a new captain, but it must be someone who shines out in the squad and plays in a certain position.

"I don't believe in either the goalkeeper or a striker being the captain. Virgil van Dijk is a possibility as captain."

When asked about the prospect of captaining his country, the Reds defender said: "I'm just playing my game and trying to help my team."

As the sole world-class player in Holland's ranks, van Dijk believes he is getting better and better now that he has settled at Anfield.

He said: "Obviously you come here with expectations. I'm getting better and better and the understanding with all the players is getting much better."

Holland failed to qualify for this year's World Cup in Russia, marking the first time they have missed the tournament since 2002.

On a personal note, Koeman said he is over the disappointment of being sacked by Everton.

The European Cup and Euro 1988 winner lost his job in October after his £140 million (S$258 million) spending spree backfired spectacularly.

Koeman, who was capped 78 times between 1982-1994, scoring 14 goals, said he had had enough time to rediscover his managerial vim since the shattering disappointment of losing the Everton job.

"After Everton, where everyone knew it was really difficult towards the end, I needed time to focus again," he said.

"I needed to recover. I have had a good time to relax. I work because I want to work.

"Even after that decision (his sacking), I was still crazy about football.

"I wanted to be involved as a coach, I wanted to be with the national team and this was the right time to try the challenge - for me and the national team." - REUTERS, AFP

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