On Friday Netherlands struggled to a 2-0 win over Latvia to keep hopes of automatically qualifying for the European Championships in their own hands. Michael Bell makes four observations from the match in Riga.

0000000000000000000000000000000000000 rvpIs Van Persie’s influence on the national team fading?

The striker seems to be heading out of Manchester United after a difficult season for the club, and the 31-year-old’s future in the national team is also coming under question after a disappointing performance against Latvia. The Oranje captain was pushed into a midfield role by Guus Hiddink, who wanted to utalise Van Persie’s link up and passing abilities, but Netherlands all time top scorer was unable to make a telling contribution and you would have been forgiven for thinking he wasn’t even on the pitch.

It was Hiddink’s decision to replace Van Persie with midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum at 0-0 that changed the game in Netherlands favour with the PSV star opening the scoring and nearly adding two other goals. With Klaas jan Huntelaar proving to be a more clinical striker for Netherlands, and the midfield role proving fruitless, is their a place in the starting line-up anymore for Van Persie?

00000000000000000000000 depayMemphis Depay isn’t Arjen Robben…..yet

At times against Latvia it seemed Memphis Depay was determined to win the game for Netherlands by himself. Like Arjen Robben is famed for, Depay constantly looked to cut in from the wing and shoot on sight, resulting in 11 efforts on goal. However only four of these attempts were on target and zero resulted in a goal.

The 21-year-old was excellent in the defeat to the USA and he terrorised the Latvian defence at times on Friday, but Depay needs to become more clinical around the box, and learn to pass to his teamates instead of automatically shooting. Huntelaar was starved of service from the wings, and this was mainly due to Depay’s constant shooting instead of looking to make a cross.

Depay is undoubtedly the biggest talent in the Netherlands squad, but he still has a lot to learn.

0000000hiddinkGuus Hiddink still struggling to find the right formation

4-2-3-1, 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 5-4-1, Netherlands formations have constantly changed under the rule of Guus Hiddink, but the under fire coach is yet to get the right balance. Against Latvia, Netherlands started in a 4-2-3-1 formation and although the Oranje completely dominated the possession, they couldn’t find a way to threaten the Latvian goalkeeper. Huntelaar was isolated up front and starved of service, while Van Persie was invisible in midfield.

In the second half Georginio Wijnaldum replaced Van Persie, Netherlands went to 4-3-3 and the change helped earn a 2-0 victory with the substitute influential in finding space around the Latvian defence. With crucial ties against Turkey, Iceland and the Czech Republic coming up, Hiddink needs to find the right formation from the start or Netherlands will struggle to automatically qualify for the Euros.

willems ora fJetro Willems will be crucial for Netherlands

In the defeat to the USA, the left back position was targeted by American attackers and Daley Blind was given a torrid time by the pace of DeAndre Yedlin, who set up two goals. However with Jetro Willems, Netherlands have a left back who is not only a lot more solid defensively, but also a weapon going forward.

Latvia failed to make any inroads on the right wing on Friday, while going forward Willems link up play with Memphis Depay and Wesley Sneijder’s was undoubtedly one of the positives for coach Guus Hiddink. The PSV youngster now has to be the undoubted starter on the left hand side of defence, even if it means Daley Blind is relegated to the bench.


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