Despite plenty of doubts heading into Euro 2020, Frank de Boer’s Netherlands side could well just be a surprise package.
The Netherlands joined Belgium and Italy in qualifying for the last 16 as they claimed a 2-0 victory over Austria in Amsterdam on Thursday, ensuring they will top Group C.
In truth, they came up against an Austria team who are failing to get the best from the talent Franco Foda has at his disposal, though that will not dispel the positivity surrounding the Oranje after two vibrant attacking displays.
With Matthijs de Ligt back at the heart of their defence and Frenkie de Jong commanding midfield, the Netherlands looked solid at the back, and this encounter seemed to pit a team with a set system – if sometimes overly offensive – against a side with little idea as to how they want to play.
Austria wasting Alaba’s talent
David Alaba is a player whose versatility has always come in handy both for Bayern Munich and Austria. Indeed, he has more often than not played in midfield for his country.
He managed to advance forward from a position on the left of a back three in the 3-1 win over North Macedonia on Sunday, providing the assist for Austria’s second goal, but in Amsterdam, stationed in the middle of the defence, he looked a shadow of the world-class talent he truly is.
While still managing to create two chances – matching his total from game one – he was too often forced to stay deep and marshall Austria’s line, subsequently becoming a victim of the Netherlands’ press. It was only at 2-0 down that Foda made the decision to move his talisman into a more advanced position, from which the Real Madrid-bound left-footer went close to a stunning goal which would have set up a grandstand finish.
It rounded out a frustrating night for the 28-year-old, whose rash lunge on Denzel Dumfries led to Austria falling behind.
De Jong serves up midfield masterclass
As Alaba became bogged down in defence, De Jong had free rein in midfield. The Barcelona man sure made the most of it.
The Netherlands actually had less possession (46.9 per cent) than their visitors, but they always looked to have the match under control and De Jong, whose 77 touches was a team-high, was crucial.
No player made more tackles (three) or regained possession on more occasions (12) than the former Ajax star, who was at his silky best when on the ball, effortlessly gliding through midfield and picking out his team-mates 49 times, out of 58 attempts, giving him a passing accuracy of 84.5 per cent.
With the bombarding Dumfries stretching the pitch down the right, De Jong was afforded the time and space to run the show.
Depay shows his best… and worst
Memphis Depay had five of the Netherlands’ six efforts at goal in the first half, with his penalty – won by the excellent Dumfries – putting the hosts ahead after 11 minutes.
Depay has scored 27 goals for his country, five more than any other Dutch player since his debut, with Georgino Wijnaldum (22) his closest challenger.
He really should have had added more to that total. Depay lashed into the side-netting in the 24th minute, but his glaring miss came when he sliced over with the goal gaping just before half-time.
Nevertheless, his talent is there for all to see, with his six efforts a game-high – albeit the only one which hit the target was his goal.
It helps that Depay has found support in the goalscoring stakes, Dumfries putting the seal on victory in this game and becoming only the second Dutchman to score in his first two appearances at the Euros, after Ruud van Nistelrooy.
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) June 17, 2021
Sabitzer crowded out as Arnautovic’s absence felt
Marko Arnautovic’s suspension for his over-zealous celebration against North Macedonia left Austria short of one of their best options in attack, but Foda is also struggling to find a way to bring Marcel Sabitzer’s creativity to the fore.
The RB Leipzig midfielder showed quality with a supreme cross for the opener against North Macedonia, yet he failed to create any chances for others throughout Thursday’s match, only managing one shot himself.
Sabitzer scored eight Bundesliga goals in 2020-21 for Leipzig, setting up a further three, but like Alaba, it feels as though his ability is not being sufficiently harnessed by a coach who has guided his team to just two wins in their last eight games.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!