The Netherlands have a history of choking in major tournaments. For a country that produces such wonderfully sound technical player, when they put on the famous orange shirt they appear to crumble.
Their performance in World Cups over the years have been woeful, but they do have a European Championship in their sparse trophy cabinet – a Marco Van Basten lead team won the title for the Oranje back in 1988.
Ronald Koeman coached the Netherlands through Euro 2020 qualifying, giving several young players a chance, but quit to take over at Barcelona. His replacement, Frank de Boer, has struggled becoming the first Dutch coach to not win in any of his first four games.
De Boer’s appointment has been a real head scratcher for many people. Although he was a wonderful player, his club coaching career has been failure after failure, marked with poor decisions in players chosen and awkward press conferences.
Speaking of which, he left reporters and fans dumbfounded when he mentioned a player who he hadn’t picked (and no longer can as the squads have been submitted) as someone who could have a promising tournament.
The Dutch will have home ground advantage in Group C, playing all three of their matches — against Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia – in Amsterdam.
It looks like a relatively straightforward group that they should finish top of, but the other three teams have individuals than can turn a game. The Netherlands needs to tread very carefully in this group to advance.
There are holes in every part of this Dutch team, but the fate of the nation was cast in stone when the world’s best defender, Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, damaged ligaments in his knee and missed the rest of the season.
There are still good options for replacements in Nathan Ake, Daley Blind, Matthijs de Ligt and Stefan de Vrij, but having a Van Dijk in defence would allow De Boer’s team to not be so cautious.
If Van Dijk’s absence is a concern, who is going to get the glut of the goals is the other.
There is no one in the selected Steven Berghuis, Luuk de Jong, Memphis Depay, Gakpo, Donyell Malen, Quincy Promes or Wout Weghorst that you can see getting multiple goals that any team needs to go deep in an international tournament.
PSV Eindhoven’s Donyell Malen is a player to keep an eye on. His career has steadily been progressing and there are several club sides that could table a bid at the tournaments end.
The midfield at least has players such as Frenkie de Jong, Marten de Roon, Teun Koopmeiners, Donny van de Beek and Georginio Wijnaldum playing in big European leagues, but it’s the Ajax pair of Davy Klaassen and Ryan Gravenberch that represent the now and the future of the team.
At 28 years of age Klassen is in the peak years of his power.
His career was in tatters with a failed big money move to Everton and has spent the past few seasons getting it back on track in Germany and the Netherlands. Klassen is one of the most underrated midfielders of his generation.
Ryan Gravenberch is a 6’3, 19-year-old midfielder who has enjoyed a breakout season at Ajax. For a player of his size, he is very graceful on the ball and has a host of European club teams chasing his signature.
This is the first Dutch team in a long time to have a minimal amount of pressure placed on them, some fans are confident they will escape the group and go deep in the tournament; others think they will finish bottom.
Regardless, this is a Netherlands team that will be living in hope.