Are the Netherlands back in the spotlight under Frank De Boer?
The Dutch side put in a well-rounded performance to begin their Euro campaign with a victory on Sunday.
Netherlands started their Euro 2020 campaign on a winning note, overcoming a tricky challenge from Ukraine. The Dutch outfit imposed their attacking quality on the game by regularly creating chances. Despite going into a 2-0 lead, they squandered their advantage when Ukraine equalized in the 76th minute.
But the Dutch made their attacking supremacy count with a winner in the 85th minute time from Denzel Dumfries to seal a victory on Sunday night in Amsterdam.
Having got their first points on board, the Netherlands are now favourites to top Group C. They are surely a team to keep an eye on as the tournament progresses.
Frank De Boer's tactics
In his first major tournament as Dutch manager, De Boer employed the attacking 3-5-2 formation. He set up his side in a free-flowing, fast-paced setup. The midfield led by Gini Wijnaldum started with pace, creating plenty of goal scoring opportunities and putting pressure on the Ukrainian defenders.
One of the reasons for the formation could have been the absence of regular centre-backs Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt. Missing out the ball-playing ability of his usual centre-backs, De Boer picked the trio of De Vrij, Daley Blind and 19-year-old Jurrien Timber.
Denzel Dumfries and Patrick Van Aanholt offered more creativity and width to the Oranje's play. Dumfries, in particular, was offered the license to go on the attack due to the consummate covering of his partner Jurrien Timber.
Although goalless at half-time, the Dutch continued their attacking threat. Eventually, Wijnaldum stroked off a parry from goalkeeper Bushchan to give Netherlands the lead.
Despite being pegged back at 2-2, De Boer stuck to his formation and rallied his side to attack. The Dutch eventually found the reward for their efforts five minutes before the final whistle.
Youngsters impress on the big stage
The Dutch went in with a good mix of youth and experience. The young core of Dumfries, Timber and Frenkie De Jong displayed impressive performances.
Dumfries, in particular, was troublesome on the right. His pace combined with his dribbling made life difficult for Zinchenko and Mykolenko. He continuously found himself into the box, creating plenty of scoring chances. Dumfries eventually had a hand in every goal, including his own winner in the 85th minute.
Jurrien Timber impressed in only his second appearance for the Oranje. He finished with eight ball recoveries and a 96% pass accuracy, having attempted 80 passes - the highest by any Dutch player. Eventually, these players made good on their promise and vindicated their selection in the squad with impressive performances.
Reason for optimism
The Dutch are back in a major international tournament after six years in the wilderness. Playing at home, the support could possibly be the galvanising factor that the squad need. So is their start to the tournament with three points against a tricky opponent.
There is still a lot to improve and a long way to go. However, there is no denying that the Dutch possess one of the most exciting squads at the tournament. Led by experienced players like Stefan De Vrij, Memphis Depay, Gini Wijnaldum, Daley Blind as well as youngsters De Ligt, Timber, De Jong and Dumfries - they possess a squad hungry for success.
Under De Boer, the Netherlands can certainly dream of bigger things. It is evident that his attacking tactics clearly suit them and is bringing fluency in players. They also contain good players in all departments of the game.
Despite inevitable hiccups, the defence is sure to improve with the return of Matthijs de Ligt. The absence of Van Djik notwithstanding, the Dutch now possess a core of youth and experience that is capable of challenging the top teams.
The team are also led by a motivated manager, in De Boer who is looking to build a core group of players that will lead his nation back to the highs of the last decade. De Boer was the assistant manager at the time. Now, he has a chance to create something meaningful with his nation after struggles at club level. It is still early days, but rest assured, the Dutch are back under the spotlight once more and look like a team that is here to stay.
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