Memphis Depay applauded Donyell Malen’s impact on his first start at Euro 2020 against North Macedonia as the young forward proved a frequent creative outlet.
The Oranje won 3-0 on Monday as they finished the group stage with a 100 per cent record for only the third time in European Championship history.
While North Macedonia were by no means lacking threat in attack, as their 1.14 xG (expected goals) value suggested they were unfortunate to not get on the scoresheet, the Dutch were a cut above.
Depay put them in front in the 24th minute, playing his part in a counter that released Malen into the box and he picked out the new Barcelona signing with a square pass.
That was one of four key passes on the day for Malen, twice as many as anyone else on the pitch – in fact, only Steven Zuber and Domenico Berardi (five) have managed to create more chances from open play in a single Euro 2020 match than him.
Malen had impressed as a substitute in each of the Netherlands’ first two matches, prompting fans to fly a plane over their training session on Sunday urging Frank de Boer to finally give him a start, and his team-mates were suitably impressed.
“Donyell and I haven’t played together very often, but you saw that when we got the ball we had so much threat attacking from deep,” Depay said.
“Perhaps that was also because of North Macedonia, but we did find each other a few times. He had his assist, I had my assist. I liked it.”
Frenkie de Jong added: “Malen is just a very good player, threatening in the depths and he can score a goal. Three goals is not bad, but it could have been more.”
Malen started in place of Wout Weghorst, who scored in the Oranje’s opener and hit the crossbar when he came on against North Macedonia.
While Malen’s pace in attack would appear to fit in better with the Netherlands’ high intensity in attack, which is identified by the fact their 44 high turnovers is more than any other team at the Euros, De Boer is yet to decide what he will do in the last 16.
“It looked good at times. Wout of course also wanted to play, but he expected me to try something different today,” the coach added.
“Whether we will do it again in the next game depends partly on the opponent. In any case, I think we have made progress in all aspects. At times it was a whirlwind and we are doing well.”
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