Back at a major tournament after a seven-year absence

OVERVIEW

With six victories, one defeat and one draw, the Netherlands finished second behind Germany in what was a smooth qualifying campaign. It’s their first major tournament since the 2014 World Cup, where they finished third.

  • Netherlands won their only major silverware at Euro ’88. Since then they have finished World Cup runners-up in 2010, but never reached another Euros final. 2016 was only the second time they have failed to qualify since 1976.
  • Ajax and PSV are no longer the main purveyor of Oranje talent, but AZ Alkmaar. The inclusion of Teun Koopmeiners, Owen Wijndal, Calvin Stengs, Myron Boadu and Marco Bizot shows where the real talent is at the moment.
  • Coach Ronald Koeman decided to move to Barcelona when Euro 2020 was postponed. The Dutch FA opted for former international Frank de Boer, a disputed choice given that he has been sacked by his three previous employers.

TACTICS

De Boer can play a traditional 4-3-3 or a 5-3-2 system, where Memphis Depay is given a free role up front. Frenkie de Jong gives De Boer additional options, with the Barcelona man capable of playing at centre-back, as a controlling midfielder or in a more attacking role.

STAR MAN

Virgil Van Dijk

One of the world’s best defenders and a charismatic leader, De Boer is praying for a full recovery.

COACH

Frank De Boer

Former Dutch international has less than a year to install his own ideas and attempt to restore his reputation.

PLAYER PROFILE

Georginio Wijnaldum 

When it comes to Oranje the story often goes about the rock-steady defensive duo of Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong’s ability to find solutions, or the unpredictability of Memphis Depay. But one man is often overlooked, although he is just as crucial as the players above.

Liverpool’s Gini Wijnaldum plays an important role by keeping the team together on the pitch and by emerging up front at the right time.

For years, the Rotterdam-born midfielder was described as a “mailman” during his spells at Feyenoord and PSV in the Eredivisie, accused of running with the ball at his feet for too long, bringing the ball to a team-mate rather than passing it.

It was his Premier League switch from Newcastle United to Liverpool in 2016 that made the difference. In Jurgen Klopp’s system, the indefatigable Wijnaldum can do what he does best on the pitch: being everywhere he is needed. With eight goals during the qualifiers – Netherlands’ top scorer – Frank de Boer knows that he cannot do without his midfield motor.

Article by Klaas-Jan Droppert

This article first appeared in the January Edition of World Soccer. You can purchase old issues of the magazine by clicking here.

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