Netherlands have had a mixed start to the Euro 2020 qualifiers, beating Belarus 4-0 and then losing 3-2 to Germany. Michael Bell picks a few talking points around Oranje from the last week.

Memphis Depay once again the star-man of Oranje

He may be having a tough time at Lyon but when Memphis pulls on an Oranje shirt he is a player transformed.

Memphis clearly feels the confidence from Ronald Koeman and repaid his manager’s faith with three goals and three assists in the two games.

Right now, Memphis has solved the striker issue and is a major threat to any team. Let’s hope he stays fit for the Nations League clashes in June.

Wing issues for Koeman?

Memphis Depay may be starring up front for Netherlands but Koeman still has to decide who flanks the star striker.

Ryan Babel, Quincy Promes and Steven Bergwijn all got their chance but none of them fully convinced.

Babel looked slow and tired against Germany, while his two big misses in the first-half proved costly. Promes and Bergwijn pressed well and are a threat with pace but didn’t provide an end product.

Bergwijn is one of Netherlands biggest talents and should remain in the squad but Koeman isn’t short of other wing options for the summer ahead of Babel or Promes. Javairo Dilrosun, Arnaut Danjuma, Justin Kluivert, Steven Berghuis, Calvin Stengs and Donyell Malen could all be given a call-up if their form improves at club level.

Whoever, Koeman chooses in the summer it is clear that Netherlands needs more end product from its wingers. Memphis can’t be the only one scoring and assisting.

Van Dijk and De Ligt can have off-days

Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt are two of the best centre-backs in world football but even they can have off-days.

Sadly it was against Germany on Sunday when it went wrong. De Ligt slipped for the opener while Van Dijk backed off Gnabry for the second. Both then left Schulz completely free in the box to net the winning goal.

It was clear that Germany’s pace was a problem for the duo and that will become an issue again when England are the opponent in June. Their electric frontline could cause problems and Koeman will have to work on De Ligt and Van Dijk’s partnership ahead of the clash. Maybe it could be an option to add Nathan Ake into the middle and play a 5-3-2.

Seven out of eleven players decided?

Koeman has stated he likes playing with a settled group and the lack of changes for the two ties this week seems to prove that he has almost settled on his preferred XI.

The only question marks are the right-back slot, one midfield place and the two wing positions.

Jasper Cillessen is undoubtedly number one, while van Dijk and De Ligt will continue to play in the centre-back slots. Daley Blind seems undroppable for Koeman while Frenkie de Jong, Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay are settled.

Dumfries is currently the best right-back Netherlands have but Koeman likes Kenny Tete despite his lack of gametime at Lyon. Then there is Hans Hateboer and Rick Karsdorp, who are both at big Italian clubs.

In midfield, Marten de Roon and Davy Propper seem to be battling for the one free midfield slot but Tonny Vilhena should also be able to stake a claim.

Up front, any one of six or seven wingers could be picked to partner Memphis.

The competition for places is a good sign for Netherlands heading into the future.

Northern Ireland a threat?

Germany are clearly Netherlands biggest threat in this group and the German’s will now be big favourites to come out on top.

Netherlands must finish at least second and at the moment it seems like Northern Ireland are the biggest challenge to that. Michael O’Neill’s side have made a great start, beating Estonia and Belarus so far and they currently sit ahead of Netherlands.

In June, while Netherlands are in Nations League action, Northern Ireland face both Estonia and Belarus again, this time away from home. Should O’Neill’s side win both of those games it would increase the pressure on Netherlands massively.

Netherlands host Northern Ireland on the 10th of October and then travel to Belfast a month later in the final game of the qualifiers. Those could be the big games for Oranje.

Netherlands are clearly a step above Northern Ireland in terms of quality, but they should not be underestimated. Especially when you look back at Oranje’s struggles with Iceland, Turkey and the Czech Republic four years ago.

Still plenty to be positive about

Netherlands went into this week full of confidence and the narrow defeat against Germany shouldn’t take the positive vibes away.

Netherlands are still favourites to qualify in the top two and have the Nations League semi-final to look forward too in June. There is also the safety net of the Euro playoffs should it all go wrong.

Koeman’s side showed their real side in the second half of the Germany game and the way they fought back was very encouraging.

The good results for the U17’s, U19’s and U20’s this week also show that the future is bright and Koeman has plenty of options to mull over in the next few months.

It’s still a massively exciting time to be an Oranje fan!




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