As a nation with such a vast footballing history, the Netherlands’ Euro 2012 campaign — in which they lost all three group games and were instantly eliminated — was a seemingly unthinkable capitulation. What would’ve been even more unthinkable at that point would be to predict that they would fail to even qualify for the subsequent Euros and World Cup in 2016 and 2018 respectively. Well it happened.
Following a seven year absence from major international tournaments, the Oranje will be desperate to return with a vengeance and have been in resurgent form in the build up to the tournament. The bookies have them at 14/1 to win Euro 2020.
The year-long delay to the tournament had initially been treasured by the Netherlands as it allowed for the return to fitness and form of Memphis Depay. Dutch fans did not expect to be without both Ronald Koeman — who left the Dutch manager role to take charge of Barcelona — and Virgil Van Dijk — who hasn’t played football since a serious ACL injury in October.
In part 8 of our Euro 2020 preview series, we’ll look deeper into the Netherlands Euro hopes, focusing on their form, playing style & formation and some key players in orange, before selecting a few key odds.
Euro 2020 Qualifying: WLWWWWDW
The Netherlands’ first successful qualifying campaign since they made the cut for the 2010 World Cup was navigated with relative ease, winning six of their eight games and finishing second behind Germany — with whom they had two incredible games against, losing 3–2 at home and then winning 4–2 away. They bagged 24 goals in total and conceded only seven (five of which game from the Germans).
It is important to caveat this, however, with the fact that these results were under Koeman. The arrival of Frank De Boer was surprising to say the least given that he had just been sacked by Atalanta in the MLS, and since his arrival the Netherlands have played 10, winning just four times and losing to Mexico and Turkey, whilst recently drawing with Scotland.
How De Boer’s Dutch side will fare this summer is hard to predict. There is no doubt about the quality that the 51 year old has at his disposal, and if you look far back enough to Ajax’s fourth consecutive Eredivisie triumph in 2014 it’s also easy to form a strong opinion of De Boer, but he and the Oranje both lack the consistency needed to be genuine world class teams/managers.
Since his arrival in September, De Boer has generally opted for a slight variation of the sacred 4–3–3 of Dutch Total Football, which looks more like a 4–2–3–1 in possession, however, one of the double-pivot usually has plenty of freedom to push on and create further forward.
Despite a stop-start season for Valencia, Jasper Cillessen looks set to remain as De Boer’s number one. In-front of him Matthijs de Ligt will be partnered, most likely, by Inter Stefan de Vrij in a solid partnership. The versatile Daley Blind will bring experience into the left-back role ahead of Patrick Van Aanholt, whilst Denzel Dumfries and Joel Veltman will fight for the right-back spot.
Within the midfield three there are only two quite likely starters in Frenkie De Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum — and even then the exact role of each is hard to pin down, and will be dependant on the third party. Marten De Roon and Davy Klaassen can add experience, whilst Donny Van De Beek and Teun Koopmeiners will add a youthful exuberance. 19 year old Ryan Gravenberch is a pure wildcard and definitely one to watch this summer — he has been likened to Paul Pogba and is regarded as a future Ballon D’or contender amongst his peers.
Either Luuk De Jong will offer a focal point up-top, despite struggling for goals this season (just nine in 48 appearances this season for Sevilla), or star-man Memphis Depay will form the central part of a fluid front three that will likely contain Steven Berghuis and one other. Wout Weghorst’s outstanding season with Wolfsburg will surely but him in the running for a starting spot also after he bagged 25 goals in 41 games for the Wolves.
Frenkie De Jong: Within every well-balanced midfield three lies a metronome, calmly ticking over and recycling possession, dictating the tempo of the game, and kicking a team’s attack into gear when the opportunity arises. And despite a far from straightforward season at Barcelona, Frenkie De Jong is widely regarded as one of the best metronomes in the world.
The adoration that the Dutch have for him knows no bounds. A calm and assured yet daring and expressive midfielder, his quality on the ball, his pure love for the game and his move from Ajax to Barca have encouraged comparisons of the great Johan Cruyff.
At just 24 years old, De Jong has mastered the immeasurables; composure, decision making, footballing intelligence, and has developed into a frightfully calm, faultlessly press-resistant central midfielder. If the Dutch are to go far this summer they need to build the team around ‘Frenkie’.
Memphis Depay: After a disappointing spell at Manchester United and subsequent move to Lyon in 2017, you would be forgiven for thinking that the then 22 year old had made his big move too early, and was destined to fizzle out in Ligue 1. In his 139 appearances for the French side since, however, Depay has redeployed as a right-winger-come-false-nine, ripped the French division to shreds and bagged himself 63 goals in the process.
Devastating to equal effect either as a right-winger cutting inside or a false nine within a fluid front three, the now 27 year old has established himself as De Boer’s (and definitely Koeman’s before him) main man. He bagged six goals in six games during Euro 2020 qualification, whilst also racking up eight assists.
If Depay’s form can cary through to the Euro’s he undoubtedly has the quality to carry this Dutch team into the serious stages of the tournament, and his clear desire to move to one of Europe’s biggest sides will almost definitely provide the extra motivation.
After a hefty period away from major tournaments, the Netherlands are understandably down the pecking order at 14/1 to win Euro 2020. Furthermore, they are coming in at 11/2 to reach the final, and 2/5 to win their group.
Depay is the most likely to win the Golden Boot for the Netherlands, coming in at 16/1, whilst you’d have to drop down to 50/1 to find PSV’s Donyell Malen.
The Oranje are 3/5 to beat Ukraine in their opening fixture.
The Netherlands are in Group C with Austria, North Macedonia and Ukraine.
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