Netherlands Euro 2020 Preview - Does no Virgil van Dijk mean no hope?
Frank de Boer's side enter Euro 2020 in patchy form, but the Netherlands still have the talent to make a run into the latter rounds of this summer's tournament. Virgil van Dijk might be missing for Oranje, but the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay will still cause problems for opposition sides.
Frenkie de Jong of Netherlands battles for possession with Koke of Spain during the international friendly match between Netherlands and Spain at Johan Cruijff Arena on November 11, 2020 in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Had Euro 2020 been played when originally planned, in 2020, the Netherlands would have been seen among the frontrunners. At that point, Oranje looked to be in very good shape. A lot has changed since then, though.
For starters, Ronald Koeman is gone as manager having led his country to their first European Championships since 2012. The Netherlands suffered just one defeat in 10 qualifying matches and finished as runners-up in the 2019 UEFA Nations League. The country appeared to be on the rise again.
However, Koeman left for Barcelona last year and was succeeded by Frank de Boer who has yet to prove himself. What’s more, a certain Liverpool centre back has ruled himself out of Euro 2020 through injury. What should we expect of the Netherlands this summer?
After a few lean years in the international game, the Netherlands appear to be resurgent as a football nation. In Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong, there is the spine of a team that could be in place for years to come.
Donny van de Beek was ruled out with a groin injury in a blow for the 24-year-old, who was hoping to regain confidence after struggling for first team football since making the move to Manchester United.
Donny van de Beek
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Georginio Wijnaldum will bring some much-needed experience and know-how in the centre of the pitch, but it’s not clear how the Netherlands will line up in attack. Between Memphis Depay, Luuk de Jong, Donyell Malen and Quincy Promes, they have a number of different options.
As already referenced, Koeman would have been the man to lead the Netherlands into Euro 2020 had the tournament not been pushed back a year. Now, it’s de Boer who will take Oranje into the competition and there are doubts over the former Crystal Palace manager’s suitability for the job.
De Boer has won just four of the five Netherlands matches he has taken charge of with a recent defeat to Turkey in World Cup qualifying raising questions of the 51-year-old. He has a point to prove. It’s just as well then he has a squad full of elite level talent to work with this summer.
Frank de Boer y Nico Jan Hoogma (Holanda)
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To continue a common theme, this would have been written very differently had Euro 2020 been played last year when Virgil van Dijk was fully fit. However, the Liverpool centre back has decided to skip the tournament to continue his recovery from injury and so de Jong could be the star man in orange this summer.
De Jong suffered a difficult first season at Barcelona, but has found his feet since then, shining for the Catalans over the last year. The only regret from an Oranje point of view is that Koeman, the man who has got the best out of de Jong at Barca, isn’t still in charge to do the same for the national team.
Until this season, the Netherlands lacked a true goalscorer to lead the line. Now, however, they have Malen, one of the brightest young strikers in the game. The 22-year-old netted 25 times for PSV Eindhoven over the 2020/21 campaign and could offer Oranje some much-needed cutting edge in attack.
It’s not entirely clear where Malen will play, or if he will start, as Memphis remains the Netherlands’ primary attacking apex. However, Malen could grow in confidence as the competition progresses. One should be surprised if he is his country’s first-choice centre forward by the end of Euro 2020.
The biggest surprise in de Boer’s Netherlands squad isn’t an inclusion, but an omission. Steven Bergwijn has been left out of the 26-man roster after enduring a difficult season at club level with Tottenham Hotspur, with uncapped PSV Eindhoven winger Cody Gakpo picked in his place.
There’s also a place for 38-year-old goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg. The former Everton shot-stopper will be one of the oldest players at Euro 2020. Anwar El Ghazi can also consider himself unlucky to not be included in the squad after an impressive end of the season for Aston Villa.
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De Boer has so far favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation as Netherlands boss over the last year. Of course, this differs from the 4-3-3 shape traditionally favoured by Dutch teams, but the former Barcelona defender wants his players to be as fluid as possible. He wants movement all over the pitch.
While Koeman predominantly used Memphis as a central striker, de Boer has so far deployed the Lyon attacker on the left side. With the exception of the 4-2 defeat to Turkey, the Netherlands have kept things tight at the back. However, doing that in a major tournament without van Dijk will be tougher.
The Netherlands should make it out of Group C with relative ease, but might find it more difficult to progress through the latter rounds. Round of 16.