Euro 2020 preview, Group C – Netherlands: James Rowe on Oranje’s first finals appearance since 2014
Our Matchday Squad will cover every nation at the Euros
For Euro 2020, we’ve assembled 24 expert journalists to give you the latest insight and tips on every team throughout the tournament.
Here, James Rowe gives us his take on the Netherlands…
Give us an overview of your team’s chances at Euro 2020
The Netherlands return to a major tournament again for the first time since 2014 with renewed optimism, but the team are still a long way away from their heady days of Euro 88, Euro 2000 and Euro 2004.
Missing two major tournaments in a row required a lot of soul searching from the KNVB. Former player and captain Frank De Boer leads them at Euro 2020 and I believe the chances for “Oranje “will be limited this summer with a squad of young, eager and experienced players ready to show their worth on the international stage one last time.
I would not say the Netherlands are favourites for the trophy and I believe they will reach the quarter-finals at best.
What would you say are your team’s major strengths?
In terms of the Netherlands major strengths, two players stand out. The creativity of Frenkie de Jong, who has held his own and been so important for Barcelona in La Liga this season, as well as Matthijs De Ligt’s leadership.
De Jong can keep possession, provide forward passes, he always looks to keep the ball moving and his ability to dictate the tempo in midfield will be key.
I watched De Ligt debut for Ajax at the age of 17 and his composure and confidence on the ball is really a joy to behold. He is also not afraid to pull up and cajole teammates and organise the defence. He really does play beyond his years now in Serie A with Juventus and the Dutch national team.
And any weaknesses?
In terms of weaknesses I think Frank De Boer’s tactical ability may be shown up at this tournament. He was relieved of his duties at Crystal Palace, Inter Milan and Atalanta United at club level and he must perform at international level.
He was a great captain for the national team but now he is the one making important decisions a la Rinus Michels, Frank Rijkaard and Dick Advocaat before him and there is a world of difference between playing and captaining the national team to managing it.
De Boer will have to make brave decisions especially in terms of the selection and the timing of his substitutes to make an impact in Euro 2020.
Give us the lowdown on your team’s star player?
The Dutch national team’s star player is Frenkie de Jong, the central attacking midfielder who now plays for Barcelona in Spain.
I watched him grow at my local club Ajax here in Amsterdam and he blossomed very quickly into a dangerous attacking midfielder with guile, vision and the physical attributes to make an impression at the top level in Europe. His best role in my opinion is as a deep lying midfielder pulling opponents out of position, making surging runs forward and picking a pass just like a quarterback in American Football.
He has grown in presence since moving to Barcelona. He has added a bit more steel to his game and I think being in the environment of a club that is hell bent on winning and playing pretty football is something that he has relished even at his tender age.
And tell us about a player from your team who could be a breakthrough star at this tournament?
A breakthrough star in this tournament could well be AZ Alkmaar left back Owen Wijndal. At the age of 21 he has recently broken into the Dutch national team having made his debut in a home defeat to Mexico in October 2020.
Wijndal came through the youth setup and debuted for AZ Alkmaar. He has been capped at all youth levels for the Netherlands and is known for his pace, eagerness to get forward and accurate crossing.
There is also talk of a transfer to a bigger European League if he has a good European Championship complimenting his consistent club form with AZ Alkmaar. He is not short on confidence either, recently proclaiming himself to be the best left-back in the Eredivisie.
How far do you think your team can go in this tournament?
I believe that the Netherlands will reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2020. Adulation and comments that they “were back” once they secured qualification were premature in my opinion.
The main difference between the famous Netherlands teams of the past featuring the likes of Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Dennis Bergkamp is that the current squad have different characteristics than their more illustrious counterparts.
The Netherlands often have a solid record in the European Championship, apart from Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine under Bert van Marwijk, when they did not get past the group phase due largely to in-house fighting and squabbles. The 2020 vintage are eager and industrious but are a little bit too inexperienced to make inroads and win Euro 2020.
Easy one to finish with, who wins the tournament, and who do you think will be top scorer?
I believe that France will win Euro 2020. They have a great spine and togetherness. My prediction is that Antoine Griezmann will be top scorer due to his inventiveness, heart and eye for goal.