The Netherlands will be aiming to win all three of their group matches for just the third time in European Championship history when they take on North Macedonia on Monday.
Having opened with a 3-2 triumph over Ukraine, Frank de Boer’s side saw off Austria 2-0 in their second outing to make sure of their place in the last 16.
Indeed, the Oranje are already certain of finishing top of Group C no matter what the results in the final round of fixtures, though there are no plans to rest and rotate in great numbers.
The Netherlands won three from three in the round-robin stage at Euro 2000, when they went on to reach the last four before losing on penalties to Italy, and then again eight years later, a tournament that saw them knocked out in the quarter-finals by Russia.
De Boer told the media on Sunday that he plans to make two changes to his starting line-up, though stopped short of revealing any names. He also confirmed his plan to continue with three at the back, a formation that has led to success so far.
“There is enough space between this game and the next one, so we can play a full-strength team ahead of the knockout phase,” he said.
“We’ve had some really good moments against Ukraine and Austria, but there are still things that we can improve. That’s what we have to work on.”
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) June 20, 2021
While the Dutch are in good form, opponents North Macedonia are out to avoid losing their first three European Championship outings. Only two nations have achieved the unwanted hat-trick previously: Denmark in 1984 and Turkey in 1996.
They looked on course for a point in their opener against Austria, only to concede two late goals.
“Of course they want to have their first victory, but we want to win,” De Boer – who missed from the spot in the 2000 shoot-out exit to Italy – said when previewing the fixture in Budapest.
“There is no way we think too easily about them – they won 2-1 against Germany (in March). This is not an opponent that you can easily beat, and they made the games against both Austria and Ukraine difficult. You have to be really sharp.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
North Macedonia – Ezgjan Alioski
Alioski has scored in two of his last three matches in all competitions for North Macedonia, as many as in his previous 17 games for his country. Indeed, the versatile wide player is looking to score in consecutive matches for the first time since October 2018, when he netted in three in a row.
The Netherlands – Denzel Dumfries
Dumfries has found the net in each of his first two appearances in the competition, an unlikely scoring run considering he had not managed a goal in his previous 19 outings for the Netherlands. He has the chance to join illustrious company, too, as the only Dutchman to score in their first three European Championship games was Ruud van Nistelrooy, who did so at the 2004 edition.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– In four previous meetings between these sides, North Macedonia have not led for a single minute in any game, and they are yet to go ahead in a match at the European Championships, scoring both of their goals when trailing.
– North Macedonia are looking to avoid losing three consecutive matches for the first time since losing five in a row between June and November 2016.
– The Netherlands have scored two or more goals in each of their last nine games in all competitions, their longest run since May 1935 (also nine in a row). They have never scored two or more goals in 10 consecutive games in all competitions.
– Frenkie de Jong has completed five dribbles in each of his first two Euro 2020 matches. The last player to complete five or more dribbles in three consecutive European Championship matches was Zinedine Zidane for France, back at Euro 2000.
– Goran Pandev scored in his team’s first international fixture against the Netherlands, nearly 17 years ago – it was in a World Cup qualifier played in October 2004 (2-2).
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