NOORDWIJK, September 8 (World Cup Qualifying) - Holland coach Bert van Marwijk is hoping for an improved performance from his midfield in the World Cup qualifier in Macedonia on Wednesday - his first competitive match in charge.
The Dutchman, who replaced Marco van Basten after Euro 2008, highlighted the central midfield as an area of concern following the 2-1 friendly defeat to Australia on Saturday, a loss he described as "very disappointing''.
"There was no balance on the midfield,'' Van Marwijk said. "(Australia's) Brett Holman had all the time and space to do whatever he wanted. Nigel de Jong, Mark van Bommel and Rafael van der Vaart had trouble anticipating his movement and need to learn from this match.
"The opener (from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar) was a nice goal, but we missed the chance to extend our lead and our performance dropped to a disappointing level. Altogether, it was a very disappointing match for us and that seriously bothers me.''
Another problem area concerning Van Marwijk is in goal, although he is boosted by the availability of keeper Maarten Stekelenburg, whose red card against the Socceroos will not incur a ban.
"I am really relieved that he isn't suspended for Wednesday in the World Cup qualifier in Macedonia,'' the coach told De Telegraaf.
"It is ironic that in Holland, where the job as goalkeeping coach was first taken seriously, we have such goalkeeping problems.
"Don't misunderstand me, I do respect Henk Timmer a lot. Because of his experience and passion he is a reliable stopper for Feyenoord, but he knows himself that he is not a top keeper. And the same goes for others in Holland.''
Despite the problems, Van Marwijk is reluctant to tinker too much with his line-up, having previously stated the need for stability. However, winger Arjen Robben is likely to come in for Ryan Babel as the Real Madrid man has recovered from an ankle injury.
Van Marwijk picked out forward Robin van Persie for criticism before the Australia defeat, saying: "Players like Van Persie and Van der Vaart are very creative, but they have the tendency to gamble a bit when it comes to defending. I want them to take their responsibility and think about the team, too.''
The coach had several rows with Van Persie when he was coach of Feyenoord, but the Arsenal forward recently insisted there is no longer a problem and is looking forward to the tricky trip to Macedonia.
"It's not difficult to be motivated for this match,'' he said in De Telegraaf. "If you look at the results in Europe at the weekend, you have to be alert. Smaller teams no longer exist. You must be ready always for them.
"I think in this age the mentality of a team is more important than the technical aspect. I also want to bring my best mentality.''
Robben confirmed later on Monday he had taken part in training and would definitely be available for Wednesday's qualifier.
"Things are good, I don't feel any pain,'' said the former Chelsea winger. "I think I could have played on Saturday too but it was wise not to. I have to listen to my body.
"It was not an easy decision. For the first time in three years I had a good pre-season. I didn't miss a single training session at Real Madrid.
"Unfortunately I got a kick last week on my calf in the away match against Deportivo La Coruna, but that can happen to anyone.''