James Rowe’s Netherlands v Czech Republic preview: Dutch can’t afford to underestimate opponents
Our Matchday Squad journalist will be covering the Netherlands throughout Euro 2020
So, it is the Czech Republic that will head to Budapest on Sunday to face the Netherlands in the last 16 of Euro 2020.
After a 2-0 win against Scotland, 1-1 draw against Croatia and a narrow 1-0 defeat against England at Wembley Stadium, they will provide a stern test for the Netherlands and they must not be underestimated in my opinion.
Naturally people will point out the attacking prowess of Patrik Schick but I believe that the width provided by Slavia Prague’s Tomáš Holeš will be key and as a team Czech Republic have nothing to lose.
Czech Republic manager Jaroslav Šilhavý is a very shrewd manager who did great work in his homeland at FC Slovan Liberec and Slavia Prague. He had a plan for Scotland, Croatia, England and I believe he will have a plan for the Netherlands.
The Netherlands would be well advised to remember their Euro 2004 group match against Czech Republic to guard against complacency. They were 2-0 up after 20 minutes, only to lose 3-2, conceding in the 88th minute. Although there is growing optimism here in the Netherlands about potentially reaching the semi-finals, the Netherlands have painful memories of playing against Czech Republic, including the last time the teams met in 2015, when the Netherlands lost 3-2 at home in Amsterdam and failed to qualify for Euro 2016.
The collective effort of “Oranje” will be key to this game as will the tempo, movement and trickery of Frenkie de Jong driving forward from the midfield and the midas touch of captain Georginio Wijnaldum, who appears to have been elevated to a different level in terms of becoming a goalscoring threat since recently signing for Paris Saint-Germain.
The Netherlands have played well in this tournament so far, particularly in their opening match against the Ukraine and they will take great confidence from winning all three group games, scoring eight goals and conceding only two. I am intrigued to see how they will get on without home advantage this time around, along with Italy and Spain, who all enjoyed full home advantage in the group phase and could be in for a surprise or two in the knockout rounds without that.
I believe there will indeed be shades of their match Euro 2004 against Czech Republic which was end-to-end and unpredictable, as well as there being moments of individual brilliance, and this could be a game where even the substitutions will once again prove vital. The Puskás Aréna in Budapest will have many Czech Republic and Netherlands fans in attendance and the crowd in the 67,000-seater stadium will play a huge part in the outcome. My prediction is a 2-1 win for the Netherlands.