It may not have been as simple as it should have been but Netherlands have begun Euro 2020 with a victory and that is what matters most.

  • By Michael Bell
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On Sunday morning, I tweeted out that I was going to thoroughly enjoy Netherlands first major tournament game since 2014 regardless of what happens.

Now, I would be lying if I said that I did enjoy all of it, with the game an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish, but there was a feeling of happiness and just relief when the full-time whistle blew.

After the performances against Scotland and Georgia, I wasn’t expecting a great showing going into the game, but the first-half was a pleasant surprise. I thought Netherlands were dominant from the start and only some big saves and some poor finishing from Denzel Dumfries meant it wasn’t 2/3-0 at the break.

I have been outspoken about the 5-3-2 but against Ukraine it was more of a 3-5-2 and the full-backs caused so many problems for the opponents. Dumfries frustrated me with his finishing but the PSV captain was getting in time and time again, while Patrick van Aanholt also had a lot of freedom on the left. How it remained 0-0 for so long was a big surprise.

The opening goal from Gini Wijnaldum was thoroughly deserved and quickly making it 2-0 through Wout Weghorst should have killed the game.

Of course, Netherlands never do anything easily these days.

Not closing down Yarmalenko on his left-foot is just stupid with Owen Wijndal and Nathan Ake needing to do better in that situation However, it was an outstanding strike. The second goal was just poor marking from Weghorst, who lost his man.

I had the feeling that Ukraine were then going to push for the winner, but fair play to the Oranje players who picked themselves up and they regained control. The Ake cross was fantastic and what a header from Dumfries, who put the misses behind him to net the winner.

The way Netherlands then kept possession through injury time was terrific with Frenkie de Jong outstanding at winning free-kicks and driving past his opponents.

Three points on the board is what Netherlands wanted and it is what they got. A lot of pundits expected Netherlands to drop points against Ukraine but this performance fully deserved the victory and it deserves praise.

Wijnaldum, De Jong, De Vrij, and Dumfries were all excellent throughout the game, while Jurrien Timber continues to impress for a 19-year-old. The 3-5-2 did help Netherlands dominate possession and they created plenty of chances throughout.

Now, let’s not pretend that there weren’t issues. Netherlands were open at times and Ukraine did look like causing damage every time they broke. The left-back position is an issue and Ukraine looked their most dangerous when attacking down the right. De Boer needs to decide what to do as Patrick van Aanholt and Owen Wijndal have both struggled. Does he put Daley Blind there once Matthijs de Ligt is back?

Marten de Roon’s presence on the pitch still remains odd to me too. He puts in a few tackles here and there, but Ukraine passed the ball around him and he offers nothing in possession. De Boer has Ryan Gravenberch and Teun Koopmeiners on the bench and either would offer much more creativity. Blind could also push up to midfield if Timber retains his place at the back.

Up front, Memphis had an off-day especially in the second half and he was frustrating at times as he lost the ball. However, he remains the key player in this Oranje side and he will do better as the tournament goes on. Next to him, Wout Weghorst got his goal and he worked hard off the ball. He was also guilty of possession loss at times, and it would not be overly surprising if De Boer decided to go with Donyell Malen against Austria.

Yes, it was stressful and frustrating at times, but Netherlands has their first win in a European Championships since the 2-0 victory against Romania in 2008. Let’s just enjoy that for now and look forward to the clash with Austria on Thursday!

Hup Holland Hup!




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