Ronald Koeman left Holland for Barcelona but he is far from forgotten… Frank de Boer and the Oranje know they have him to thank for their brave new era
Ronald Koeman was a more than welcome spectator at the Johan Cruyff Arena last week when Holland booked their place in the knockout stages.
For while it is Frank de Boer who has steered the Dutch into a last-16 tie against the Czech Republic on Sunday it is Koeman who is credited with starting the process of lifting them out of the doldrums.
Koeman was appointed manager in 2018 but when Barcelona came calling two years later the opportunity to return to his former club was not one he could pass up. A year on Koeman may be gone but he is far from forgotten.
Ronald Koeman (right) is gone but far from forgotten at the Holland national side
In 2014, Holland finished third at the World Cup in Brazil under Louis van Gaal but did not qualify for another tournament until Koeman led them to Euro 2020. In between, Guus Hiddink succeeded Van Gaal but lasted just a year before being replaced by Danny Blind.
He failed to salvage their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign and made a poor start to their bid to reach World Cup 2018 and was sacked. Dick Advocaat was unable to repair the damage and he lost his job following a six-month reign. Enter former Southampton and Everton boss Koeman and finally some structure and order was restored, on and off the pitch.
Looking back, one of Koeman’s first decisions — to relocate the team’s base from the seaside location of the Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin back to Zeist — is seen as an increasingly important one.Zeist, with its high quality pitches, medical centre and research facilities, is ideal for a modern-day, international team. Such attention to detail was considered an indication that under Koeman things were getting serious again.
Frank de Boer’s side have impressed have coming under scrutiny before tournament began
It was also Koeman who began creating the group of leaders playing for Holland today.
The 2014 World Cup was the last time some of their biggest names — Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder — graced a major tournament.
As their careers wound down the need for a new generation to pick up the baton grew.
But it was not until Koeman came in and identified the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay that a new hierarchy and leaders in the squad began to emerge.
Koeman made them feel important, handed them responsibility, encouraged them to use their profiles and platforms to speak up and they relished their bigger roles in the culture he was creating.
Giving them the freedom they wanted to air their views on subjects like racism as the Black Lives Matter movement and football crossed over was further proof they had his trust and was a key move by Koeman.
It was Koeman, now at Barcelona, who began to left Holland out of the doldrums in 2018
On the pitch, Holland’s Nations League runners-up finish in 2019 was a sign of their development.
De Boer has now taken things on with Koeman’s key men Wijnaldum and Depay central figures in helping the current head coach defy his detractors during the group stages.
Having feared the worst, fans are starting to believe and De Boer’s players are embracing the growing hopes that they could win the Euros. ‘What we need to do is believe in what we are trying to achieve,’ De Boer said. ‘Let’s hope that it will stay like this so it means we are achieving good results or getting further in the tournament.’
Koeman’s role in any success the Dutch enjoy cannot be overlooked.