Netherlands, although greatly depreciated by injuries to key players, will be hoping make progress into the latter stages of the tournament and perhaps go all the way with the right balance of youth and experience in the squad.
The Dutch emerged champions at Euro 1988 following a dominant campaign in which they cruised through Soviet Union quite comprehensively by 2-0 goals in the finals.
The Euro winning Dutch side was managed by Rinus Michels and captained by Ruud Gullit, while it was overall a squad of supreme class with the presence of elite players such as Ronald Koeman, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard, up their ranks.
They have also secured a third-place finish at Euro 1976, while progressing up to the semi-final stage of the tournament in the years 1992, 2000 and 2004.
How They Qualified
After qualifying for the finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and emerging runners-up and winning the third place at the subsequent World Cup in 2014, the Oranje underwent a spell of misfortune and lackluster performances under Guus Hiddink, Danny Blind and Dick Advocaat, which saw them failing to even secure qualification for both Euro 2016 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
However, the succeeding appointment of Ronald Koeman as their head coach was a blessing in disguise for the Dutch as he managed to transform a squad that was in disarray into one of the most exciting teams in Europe.
It was under Koeman that they competed in Euro Qualifiers, where they procured their qualification from group C just behind Germany, winning 6 out of 8 matches while losing only one. Their solitary loss came against the group winners Germany in a 2-3 sharply contested encounter, which they later avenged in the reverse fixture trouncing them by 4-2 goals in an enthralling game of football.
In the meantime, they also had a dream run at the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League but just fell short of winning the inaugural edition of the competition as they emerged runners-up after a 1-0 close defeat against Portugal in the finals.
However, with Koeman waving goodbye to the Dutch to take up the Barcelona job, Frank de Boer was appointed as his successor, who would be now leading them in the Euros. In the recently concluded international friendlies, they recorded a 2-2 draw against Scotland before overcoming Georgia by 3-0 comprehensively.
Manager & Playing Style
Frank De Boer had the world at its feet when he led Ajax to four consecutive Eredivisie titles in his maiden managerial assignment, but eventually faded away from the spotlight following extremely disappointing managerial stints at Inter Milan and Crystal Palace, where he was sacked just a few days into the job. Thus, it was a move that no one saw coming when he was offered the Netherlands’ job out of nowhere, raising a good deal of eyebrows.
Performances of the Oranje under De Boer have been generally inconsistent and uninspiring compared to his predecessor, while at times he has also shown some great potential in exposing their attacking prowess.
He prefers a possession-based style of play similar to many managers in the top teams at Euro and favours a 4-2-3-1 formation in contrast to the classic 4-3-3 system, allowing his players to not be rigid during the run of play.
De Boer has been able to record only 6 victories in the 12 matched he has managed thus far and would have to step up his tactics if he is to guide the Dutch to conclude the tournament on a high.
Strengths & Weaknesses
The Oranje are equipped with a solid and reliable midfield owing to the likes of Captain Georginio Wijnaldum and the stalwart Frenkie de Jong, while they also have a trustworthy companion in the form of Marten de Roon to make things interesting.
This is a midfield that they can always count on to maintain the tempo of the game and create the much-needed attacking opportunities to the frontline. However, they would miss the heroics of Donny van de Beek in the midfield who was ruled out from the squad due to an injury.
They also have a decent attack with Memphis Depay in sublime form for both Club and country, while Wout Weghorst, Luuk de Jong and Donyell Malen are all up to snuff attacking options with experiences in major Clubs in Europe.
Surprisingly, their concerns at the back which is handicapped by the absence of the defensive powerhouse Virgil van Dijk who was originally expected to lead them at the Euros but was ruled out from the squad due to an injury is a weakness that cannot be overlooked.
Their defence is further weakened due to the exclusion of their main man in between the posts Jasper Cillessen who tested positive for COVID-19 a few days back and the goalkeeping responsibilities have now fallen upon Maarten Stekelenburg who has not even been a first-choice goalkeeper at Club level for the past five seasons.
The competence of De Boer to guide the team at a major international tournament like the Euro is beyond doubt questionable and his tactical limitations could pose a major threat to them during the knockout stages of the tournament although they are expected to ease through the group stage owing to being drawn in a rather favourable group.
Key Players & Ones to Watch
De Jong who is coming in the back of a stellar season with FC Barcelona would hold the key to the Oranje’s gameplan with his marshalling of defence being the center piece of the puzzle, while Wijnaldum’s experience, leadership, hardworking nature, and eye for goal would prove crucial for their success throughout the tournament.
Depay who had yet another impressive season with Lyon recording 20 goals and 12 assists in the French Ligue 1 would be their main man going forward as his consistent potent goalscoring ability during the last few seasons.
The Juventus centre-back Matthijs de Ligt is tasked with filling the massive shoes of his defensive counterpart van Dijk in taking the leadership at the back and making sure they remain firm against even the most powerful of attacking units.
The 22-year-old striker Malen who netted 27 times in all competitions for PSV Eindhoven in the past season would be the player to watch out for as he could prove to be a lethal companion to deal with upfront if given time and space.
Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen (Valencia), Tim Krul (Norwich City), Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax Amsterdam).
Defenders: Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Daley Blind (Ajax Amsterdam), Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus), Stefan de Vrij (Inter Milan), Denzel Dumfries (PSV Eindhoven), Jurriem Timber (Ajax Amsterdam), Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace), Joel Veltman (Brighton & Hove Albion), Owen Wijndal (AZ Alkmaar)
Midfielders: Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Marten de Roon (Atalanta), Ryan Gravenberch, Davy Klaassen (both Ajax Amsterdam), Teun Koopmeiners (AZ Alkmaar), Donny van de Beek (Manchester United), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)
Forwards: Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord), Luuk de Jong (Sevilla), Memphis Depay (Olympique Lyonnais), Cody Gakpo, Donyell Malen (both PSV Eindhoven), Quincy Promes (Spartak Moscow), Wout Weghorst (Wolfsburg)