June 22, 2024
  • June 22, 2024
Canada Soccer Liam Millar

Analysis: Canada Humbled By Netherlands Despite Bright Start

By on June 6, 2024 0 1080 Views

It was not the start Jesse Marsch was hoping for.

Despite a brilliant start to the match on Friday, the Canadian Men’s National Team could not keep the Netherlands at bay. The Dutch ran riot in the second half to secure a 4-0 win in front of their own fans.

New Era Brings Structure & Energy

For anyone who has followed Jesse Marsch throughout his career, the opening stages of this match should be no surprise.

Canada came out full of energy, pressing the Dutch in a 4-2-4 when they were playing out from the back, forcing turnovers and attacking vertically and directly. A high line from Canada invited the Dutch to try to play diagonal balls, but the high-speed duo of Moise Bombito and captain-on-the-night Alphonso Davies ensured that the back-line was able to deal with it.

As was expected, the Netherlands eventually grew into their game with their trademark possession-style football, which provided the opportunity for Canada to show off their structure out-of-possession. The 4-2-2-2 became super compact, choking the Dutch out of passing too much into the midfield, and allowing Canada to press out wide. There were a few times when the Netherlands were able to beat the press and break the high-line, but some fantastic recovery defending from Bombito, Davies, and Alistair Johnson keeping Canada level.

The greatest aspect, however, might have been the level of concentration and communication from the team inside that first half. Even when the Dutch started to dial up their pressure, Canada remained well-structued and prepared for most situations. Derek Cornelius made a goal-line clearence thanks to some good positioning, while Cyle Larin cleared a header across goal off a set-piece to deny the Dutch an opener. Even at the end, when Brian Brobbey looked to be clean through on goal, Dayne St. Clair made a fantastic save to block Brobbey’s shot, who was certaintly put-off by a lightining-quick recovery by Bombito.

“I thought that we represented ourselves really well and the version of football that I want the team to move towards [in the first half],” explained Marsch after the match. “You could see that we were compact, we were just pressing all the way up high, trying to control spaces a little bit and make it difficult for them to break us down, and for the most part in the first half, we had accomplished that in a good way.”

Overall, the opening half demonstrated how much Canada could hang with the big boys when they’re switched on and organized under Jesse Marsch’s philosophy – but the good times would only last so long.

Second Half Shows There’s Still Work to Do

If the first half showed the benefits of playing this aggressive, high-line, high-energy, high-press style of play, the start of the second half showed the weaknesses.

Conceding three goals inside 20 minutes is not a great look for Canada, as that structure and organization that they showcased in the first half was broken down. There seemed to be some miscommunication in the back-line on whether to defend in a zonal system or a man-marking system, as was evident in the first goal where Cornelius kept everyone onside.

Then there was simply moments where players switched off, which is deadly when playing in such a high-risk style of play. Davies was a fraction of a second behind Jeremy Frimpong and, while unlucky to block his first shot and have it bounce back to Frimpong, gave way for Frimpong to double the score-line. St. Clair, who did so well in the first half, just let the ball spill out after making a seemingly routine save from Jerdy Schouten to allow Wout Weghorst to tap it in. While the fourth saw many players fall asleep in a corner before Van Dijk headed it home.

“We made a few too many mistakes [in the second half] and we got punished for it because the opponent is very good,” remarked Marsch on his side’s second-half performance. “But we’ll learn from it and the biggest thing we need to take away from these matches playing against Holland and now playing against France is what the level of the game is at the highest.”

“Now we understand what the standards are and now we can show examples of, tactically, how to get better and then what the demands are playing against the best.”

It’s expected that a side who is new to such a demanding and intense style of play will tire and switch off, but it demonstrates how fragile this system can be while the squad adapts to it. Netherlands showed no mercy to Canada in this match as they were feeling out this new system, and its no doubt that France will be the same. Canadian fans must then be prepared to deal with these growing pains, as it will take time for Marsch to ingrain his philosophy properly.

Questions About Sustainability Before Copa America

While the 4-0 scoreline is certaintly a humbling one, one must remember how little time Marsch has had to try to impose his style of play into this side. The American has had one camp with his new side, and was tasked to face a Top 10 side in the Netherlands. It was always going to be difficult to get a result, especially given that his tactical philosophy is a stark contrast from what Canada played before, which was a team that defended deep and attacked in transition.

Yet, the nature of the defeat is what raises some questions for Marsch. The level of intensity and energy that Canada showcased in the first half was remarkable, but it was evident by the second half that they did not have enough in them to be consistent in it for the second half. Tired legs crept into the team, and the high-press and compactness started to fall to the wayside.

This drop in play gave Netherlands the inch of room that they turned into a mile by putting four past Canada in Rotterdam. Canada looked listless following the first goal, and never really threatened to come back in the match even with fresh legs being subbed in.

“We need to make improvements in probably of of those areas, in fitness, in behaviours, in tactical clarity,” described Marsch on what his side needs to work on after this match. “I thought our football [overall] was good and our understanding of how to play in all phases of the game, but then fatigue sets in a little bit more, they start to put their foot on the petal a little bit more which create a little bit more stress in our team, and we invite a little bit more pressure and make a few more mistake and they capitalize.”

“But, next time now we’re in a situation against a team like this, we’ll understand it a little better and we’ll be able to respond when the game gets tougher.”

With France and Argentina next inside 20 days, Canada will not have much time to fix some of these issues that reared their ugly heads, but the first half showed that there is certainly promise in this new era for the Men’s National Team, even if the results might not showcase it early on.

Header Image Photo Credit: Canada Soccer

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