A sense of justice prevailed at the Amsterdam ArenA on Wednesday. A radio-controlled Octocopter had annoyingly buzzed for a few minutes, filming the Netherlands team training behind closed doors in an attempt to glean hints of what Louis van Gaal has up his sleeve. The sight of it crashing onto the roof of the stadium seemed an appropriate ending.
"We just have to deal with it and not allow it to affect us," said the coach ahead of the first competitive game of his second spell at the Oranje helm – Friday's FIFA World Cup qualifying Group D opener against Turkey. "We are eager to train behind closed doors, but that camera intended to work out the lineup so they can publish it in the newspaper – then the Turkey coach would also discover it. At Barcelona they filmed our sessions from nearby apartments – it is not how it should be, but I will not lose any sleep over it."
Intrigue has heightened around the Netherlands team in the aftermath of last month's 4-2 friendly defeat by neighbours Belgium, completing a disappointing summer in which they lost all three of their games at UEFA EURO 2012. Van Gaal has rung the changes: out have gone Rafael van der Vaart, Gregory van der Wiel, Ibrahim Afellay and Nigel de Jong; in come Under-21 internationals Jordy Clasie and Daryl Janmaat.
The identity of the Netherlands XI to face Turkey in Amsterdam is a secret to those outside the camp, but many within it already know their role. "I am a coach who explains everything," Van Gaal said. "I think it is important that the players are able to focus, so it is better for them to know already. If the Turkish team find out about the lineup beforehand, so be it."
One thing Turkey boss Abdullah Avcı can anticipate with confidence is that he will be up against a 4-3-3, the 4-2-3-1 system used under Bert van Marwijk having been put aside. "The KNVB [Royal Netherlands Football Association] gave me a clear mission to play 'Dutch School' football and with the quality of this squad that must be possible," Van Gaal continued. "In the Netherlands, where a lot of these players play, this system is used a lot."
So the formation is firmed up; looking from the outside in, nothing about the individuals within it is. Van Gaal has said he prefers Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to Robin van Persie as a centre-forward, yet adds this caveat: "That can change after one match because the team is more important than 11 Huntelaars or 11 Van Persies.
"The competition [between players] is important. When a team already is set in stone, you lose that aspect." There appears no danger of that under Van Gaal – Octocopter pilots take note.
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