The Netherlands

Euro 2020 Team Analysis

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The Netherlands: Clockwork Oranje Perhaps?

It goes without saying that no World Cup/Euro Cup is complete without the Dutch. They bring a sense of vibrancy not just because of their vivid Orange strips, but also through their electrifying football. For a footballing nation, which contributed Cryuff, van Basten, van Persie, and countless other breathtaking players and even invented a football philosophy which revolutionized the game, to miss out on not just one major tournament but two in succession was football’s equivalent of the West Indies cricket team’s fall from grace. But football’s nearly men are back and in their quest to reinstate themselves on to the high grounds of football lies a hurdle that might look simple at first. But in Ukraine and Austria, they have two tricky customers in hand and North Macedonia just recently created shockwaves across the footballing world by toppling Germany ( that seems to be happening with a greater frequency than I have ever known, to be fair). It is also worth remembering that the pinnacle of Dutch football came in the 1988 Euros when the Oranje sealed the final via what is probably the greatest goal ever in a Euro by Marco van Basten and how much this current generation would give to stand where those legends stood, holding the glittering trophy aloft at Wembley on June 12th.

Squad
Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen (Valencia), Tim Krul (Norwich City), Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax Amsterdam)

Defenders: Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Daley Blind (Ajax Amsterdam), Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus), Stefan de Vrij (Inter Milan), Denzel Dumfries (PSV Eindhoven), Jurriem Timber (Ajax Amsterdam), Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace), Joel Veltman (Brighton & Hove Albion), Owen Wijndal (AZ Alkmaar)

Midfielders: Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Marten de Roon (Atalanta), Ryan Gravenberch, Davy Klaassen (both Ajax Amsterdam), Teun Koopmeiners (AZ Alkmaar), Donny van de Beek (Manchester United), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)

Forwards: Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord), Luuk de Jong (Sevilla), Memphis Depay (Olympique Lyonnais), Cody Gakpo, Donyell Malen (both PSV Eindhoven), Quincy Promes (Spartak Moscow), Wout Weghorst (Wolfsburg).

Frank de Boer inherited the Dutch football hot seat from the current Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman. His illustrious playing career spanned across clubs like Ajax and Barcelona and even captained the national team in the 1998 World cup and 2000 Euro and eliminated in the semis on both occasions.

His managerial career has seen some incredible heady highs and some gloomy lows. A successful spell at Ajax contradicts with doomed tenures at Crystal Palace and Inter Milan and was even labelled by Jose Mourinho, in his typical vicious style, as ‘The worst manager in the history of the Premier League’.

Predicted Lineup 

Despite briefly flirting with a 4-2-3-1 formation, de Boer is expected to persist with the 4-3-3, considered to be fundamental to the Dutch philosophy of football. de Ligt and de Vrij are assured starters at the heart of the defence. Wijnaldum and Frenkie de Jong are expected to form the spine of the team, linking the offence and defence with Depay leading line upfront along with, in my prediction, Wout Weghorst. De Boer has shown his tactical adaptability in the face of different types of opponents and he is definitely blessed with a wide variety of weapons to call upon from his squad to counter different scenarios.

Key Player
Wout Weghorst

The Oranje are blessed with some crafty talents spread across their side, ranging from de Ligt in defence, de Jong in midfield, and Depay upfront. But one thing which stood out in their revival over the last few years was the absence of a spearhead upfront, a proper goalscorer along the lines of RVP or Huntelaar. Their tryst with failed forwards or even no forwards might have ended in the form of a certain Dutch giant plying his trade in Germany – Wout Weghorst. Blessed with a phenomenal physique he is a neo-classic target man whose unselfish playing style would enable him to link up play for the other slick Dutch players including Depay and of course be a credible goal threat himself. His numbers for his club sides are on the rise and clubs including Spurs and Arsenal have taken notice of this under the radar striker. All that is required is for de Boer to shelve his hesitancy when it comes to Weghorst and embrace the unorthodoxy that he is and he could possibly the breakout star of the tournament. 

Strengths
The fact that the Dutch side has all 3 of their group matches played out, right at the Johan Cryuff Arena in Amsterdam would definitely be a huge stranglehold for the side in climbing out of this slippery pool. The presence of some enigmatic talents across the pitch should also be a source of hope for Oranje faithful. But in my opinion, what could possibly tilt the court in their favour, could be their desperation to put the horrors of the past few years to rest, which will invoke a sense of camaraderie and spirit and push them further than what they are capable of, just like how they fought their way through to the finals of the inaugural Nations League finals in 2019.

Weaknesses
What would Depay and co and have given for van Djik to be there alongside them in the Euros. He is a towering presence in the team both literally and figuratively. His absence has to be the most significant one of the entire tournament. But bygones are bygones and they have two able replacements in the de Ligt and de Vrij. What they genuinely lack is a proper creative outlet in the midfield. To expect that out of de Jong would be too big a burden on his shoulders. Their recent form is nothing worth going gaga over with and evident lack of composure when it comes to crunch situations. An over-dependence on Depay has also been counterproductive as teams have recognized the pattern and have found it easy to shut off the team entirely by cutting him off.

Even the most fanatic of Holland fans would be hesitant to claim that they are an outright title favourite. Maybe the presence of van Djik might have reduced the odds. Nevertheless, the Dutch side has a certain combination of outright stars and potential breakthrough players, which if clicks together could be the element of unexpected to this tournament, for who better to bring colour and radiance to an event than the mighty Dutch.

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