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Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk gives a fascinating insight into the unique mentality of Dutch football in the February 2010 edition of the official UEFA publication The Technician, which also examines the role of science within the game, the part coaches play in protecting the sport's image, and whether experience will really matter come this summer's 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Van Marwijk's Netherlands side were the first European country to qualify for South Africa after a brilliant campaign in which they won all eight matches. They made it look easy, but Van Marwijk acknowledges the truth in the viewpoint of legendary compatriot Rinus Michels, who said it took a certain type of personality to take charge of the flamboyant Dutch.
"Rinus is right that it is very difficult to handle a Dutch team, because everyone wants to be an individual," said the ex-Feyenoord and BV Borussia Dortmund coach, who knows his team's talents are best exploited with the ball at their feet. "Some countries can perform well without the ball, while Dutch players only feel good when they have possession."
Van Marwijk is one of eight coaches leading European sides in South Africa to have been appointed in 2008 – "a statistic which underlines the trend towards relatively brief cycles of national team management and, in consequence, a limited amount of specific experience carried from one major event to another," says The Technician. The publication also takes a close look at all 13 men who will be on the bench for European teams under the microscope of the world's media.
The mass-media coverage of the game is central to the magazine's editorial written by UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh. Placing an emphasis on the coach's function in protecting football's image, he highlights the fact that a side's behaviour on the pitch "is also a reflection of the coach, because ultimately he is responsible for the way his team performs and acts", before adding: "Protecting the image of the product, the game itself, the brand, the club and the competition, therefore needs to be part and parcel of every coach's job."
Dealing with the press is just one aspect of the work of a modern-day coach, who now has a wealth of information at his disposal when he comes to consider which eleven names to put on his team sheet. While Wim Koevermans, high performance director of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), suggests three ways of practising the overlap on the training ground, The Technician also delves into the data a coach must analyse when the tracksuit comes off. Scientific methods are increasingly used to enhance player performance, and The Technician hones in on Chelsea FC's scientific coordinator, Bruno Demichelis, who is importing the innovative techniques he helped develop and implement at his previous club, AC Milan, and its state-of-the-art sports science complex, MilanLab.
The game itself is also evolving, and The Technician reports that the UEFA Football Committee, which met in its new structure for the first time last November, has given a 'so far, so good' thumbs-up to the ongoing experiment of using additional assistant referees in the UEFA Europa League. The magazine also notes that more than half of UEFA's 53 member associations have now joined the UEFA Referee Convention, and that the end of the 2011/12 season remains a realistic objective to have all countries meet the criteria.
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