Frank de Boer has stepped down from his role as Netherlands boss after overseeing a disappointing Euro 2020 campaign.

The 51-year-old took charge of his country in late September 2020 following Ronald Koeman's departure for Barcelona.

He became the first Oranje boss to fail to win any of his first four games but oversaw improvement in the form of eight victories and a draw from the 10 subsequent fixtures.

Three of those triumphs came as the Netherlands cruised through the group stages of this tournament, setting up a last-16 meeting with the Czech Republic.

But the Dutch fell short of their quarter-final target as they lost 2-0 in Budapest; a result that has prompted De Boer to leave his role prior to a planned meeting with KNVB chiefs.

He said: "In anticipation of the evaluation, I have decided not to continue as national coach. The objective has not been achieved, that is clear. 

"When I was approached to become national coach in 2020, I thought it was an honour and a challenge, but I was also aware of the pressure that would come upon me from the moment I was appointed, that pressure is only increasing now, and that is not a healthy situation for me, nor for the squad in the run-up to such an important match for Dutch football on its way to World Cup qualification. 

"I want to thank everyone, of course the fans and the players. My compliments also to the management who have created a real top sports climate here on campus."

The Netherlands sit a point behind group leaders Turkey in their World Cup qualification section ahead of a triple-header of fixtures in September.

Frank de Boer has stepped down from his role as Netherlands boss after overseeing a disappointing Euro 2020 campaign.

The 51-year-old took charge of his country in late September 2020 following Ronald Koeman's departure for Barcelona.

He became the first Oranje boss to fail to win any of his first four games but oversaw improvement in the form of eight victories and a draw from the 10 subsequent fixtures.

Three of those triumphs came as the Netherlands cruised through the group stages of this tournament, setting up a last-16 meeting with the Czech Republic.

But the Dutch fell short of their quarter-final target as they lost 2-0 in Budapest; a result that has prompted De Boer to leave his role prior to a planned meeting with KNVB chiefs.

He said: "In anticipation of the evaluation, I have decided not to continue as national coach. The objective has not been achieved, that is clear. 

"When I was approached to become national coach in 2020, I thought it was an honour and a challenge, but I was also aware of the pressure that would come upon me from the moment I was appointed, that pressure is only increasing now, and that is not a healthy situation for me, nor for the squad in the run-up to such an important match for Dutch football on its way to World Cup qualification. 

"I want to thank everyone, of course the fans and the players. My compliments also to the management who have created a real top sports climate here on campus."

The Netherlands sit in a point behind group leaders Turkey in their World Cup qualification section ahead of a triple-header of fixtures in September.

Head coach Frank de Boer has warned his Netherlands players there must be "no slackening" in their bid for Euro 2020 glory.

The Netherlands face the Czech Republic in the last 16 of Euro 2020 on Sunday as they look to win their opening four games of a European Championship for just the second time.

The sides will face each other at the European Championship for the third time (excl. Czechoslovakia meetings), with both sides winning one game apiece previously. 

They last faced each other in a tournament at Euro 2004 when the Czechs came from two goals down to win 3-2, following an 88th-minute winner from Vladimir Smicer.

De Boer's men have looked in good form and were the top scorers during the group stage with eight goals ahead of the match in Budapest.

"After the win over North Macedonia, we pulled the plug for a while and had a day off," De Boer told a media conference on Saturday.

"But then we immediately picked up the thread again. The other members of the technical staff and the players themselves must ensure that there is no slackening. 

"Players have to hold each other accountable for that as well.

"The Czech Republic know what they want and can disrupt us. They have many people working without a ball, and it is a team that is difficult to fight. 

"We will have a lot of work to do and it will be great achievement to beat the Czech Republic."

De Boer claimed the Netherlands have the ability to win the tournament and acknowledged they have favourable recovery periods, but still need everything to click into gear 

"Of course it depends on the game we show," De Boer added.

"I'm especially happy with the schedule we have now if we keep winning. If we progress one round, we have five rest days and then three rest days I'm happy with that schedule.

"The tournament is only successful if we sail through those challenges. We have the qualities to become European champions, but then everything has to be right."

The Netherlands are looking to win their opening four games of a European Championship for just the second time when they take on the Czech Republic in the last 16 of Euro 2020 on Sunday. 

Head coach Frank de Boer played every minute when they last achieved that feat in 2000, the Oranje ultimately losing on penalties to Italy in the semi-finals. 

The Netherlands, who will be without Luuk de Jong after he was ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury, do not have a successful record in the knockout stages of this competition, progressing from just two of their seven standalone games since they won the tournament in 1988. They beat Yugoslavia 6-1 in the 2000 quarter-final and overcame Sweden on penalties at the same stage in 2004. 

Standing in their way of a quarter-final clash against either Wales or Denmark is a Czech Republic side who have a miserable record of their own when it comes to European Championship knockout games. 

Jaroslav Silhavy's side have been eliminated in three of their last four games in the knockout stages of the tournament – versus Germany in the final in 1996, Greece in the semi-final in 2004, and most recently, Portugal in the quarter-final of Euro 2012.

They will be without left-back Jan Boril after he picked up a second yellow card of the tournament in the final group game against England, with Ales Mateju in line to deputise.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Netherlands – Georginio Wijnaldum

Wijnaldum made a reasonably slow start in finding the back of the net at international level, scoring 10 goals in his first 53 appearances for the Oranje. He has accelerated in recent years, though, with no player scoring more for the Netherlands than his 15 in 25 games since the start of 2019. 

The new Paris Saint-Germain midfielder scored three goals in the group stage, including a brace in the 3-0 win over North Macedonia. The Czech Republic have been warned.

Czech Republic – Patrik Schick

Schick lit up Euro 2020 with his stunning long-range strike against Scotland in his side's opening game in Group D. 

The Bayer Leverkusen forward was responsible for six of his side's nine shots on target in the group stage – the highest percentage of any player for his team in the tournament (67 per cent).

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be the first meeting between the Netherlands and the Czech Republic since October 2015, when the Dutch were beaten 3-2 in a Euro 2016 qualifier. Indeed, they have lost each of their last two games against the Czech Republic – both coming in qualifying for the previous European Championship in 2016.
- The Czech Republic and the Netherlands will face each other at the European Championship for the third time (excl. Czechoslovakia meetings), with both sides winning one game apiece previously. Their last meeting in the competition was a thriller at Euro 2004, in which the Czechs came from two goals down to win 3-2, following an 88th minute winner from Vladimir Smicer.
- The Netherlands completed more high turnovers (open play sequences that start within 40 metres of the opponent’s goal line) than any other side in the Euro 2020 group stages (44), while only Spain (60) forced more pressed sequences (sequences where the opposition has three or fewer passes and the sequence ends within 40m of their own goal) than the Dutch (58).
- Memphis Depay has been directly involved in 13 goals in his last 10 appearances for Netherlands in all competitions (nine goals, four assists), while only Robert Lewandowski (12) attempted more shots than Depay (11) in the group stage at Euro 2020.

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."

Netherlands head coach Frank de Boer is relieved Memphis Depay's free transfer to Barcelona has gone through, because it removes a major distraction.

Barca confirmed on Saturday that the 27-year-old has agreed a two-year deal at Camp Nou that will officially go through when his Lyon contract expires at the end of this month.

Depay's future had been a hot topic of discussion ahead of the Netherlands' first two Euro 2020 matches – a 3-2 victory over Ukraine and a 2-0 win against Austria.

De Boer now wants Depay to do his talking on the pitch and is hopeful the forward can become an even better player after joining the Catalan giants.

"We are all looking for an improvement from him," De Boer said at a news conference on Sunday, previewing his side's final Group C clash with North Macedonia.

"It is a relief over the transfer to Barcelona, and maybe it can give him something extra to perform at the highest level.

"We need Memphis performing at his best level to reach as far as we can in this tournament. We are full of confidence and he is too.

"He knows what he wants, that's the reason why he's a special player for us."

Depay enjoyed an impressive final season in Ligue 1 with 20 goals, trailing only Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe (27).

The former Manchester United attacker's 12 assists and 94 chances created, meanwhile, were more than any other player managed in France's top flight.

He scored a penalty for the Netherlands in their win over Austria to make it eight goals since De Boer took charge last September – ahead of Sunday's Euros games, only Belgium's Romelu Lukaku had scored more across all competitions for a European nation over this period (10).

And while Depay has not been at his best in Oranje's two group games thus far, De Boer has full confidence in the PSV academy product.

"I think Memphis is the first person to criticise his own game, to say he can do better than he's shown so far," De Boer said.

"He's self-confident and knows exactly what he wants. He knows perfectly well if he played well or not, so let's hope for us that he can reach the level we have in mind.

"But still, he's really important for this team. In your eyes he maybe performs a little less than expected, but he won and scored a penalty, created some chances too, so we are confident about him."

The Netherlands are already assured of top spot in Group C ahead of Monday's match with North Macedonia, who are no longer able to reach the last 16 in their first major tournament.

De Boer plans to make changes to his starting line-up but has warned that his side will not take their foot off the gas at the Johan Cruijff Arena.

"North Macedonia want to get their first ever points at a tournament," he said. "They are proud to be here, but we want to win and will be taking it seriously.

"There is no way we will be taking them lightly. They beat Germany 2-1 recently so this will not be an easy game."

The Netherlands have never lost against North Macedonia, winning two and drawing two of their four previous meetings.

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."

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).

Frank de Boer said it is vital the Netherlands "grow into" Euro 2020 after they beat Austria 2-0 to reach the round of 16 as Group C winners.

A first-half penalty from Memphis Depay and Denzel Dumfries' second goal of the tournament were enough for the Netherlands to qualify with a game to spare at the Johan Cruijff ArenA on Thursday.

The Netherlands should have won by a more emphatic margin, with Depay wasting a glorious chance to double his tally in the first half.

De Boer's side will face one of the third-placed finishers at the Puskas Arena in Budapest a week on Sunday for a place in the quarter-finals after taking on North Macedonia in Amsterdam on Monday.

Netherlands head coach De Boer wants to see his side continue raising their standards after they became the first Oranje team to score at least two goals in nine consecutive games since 1935.

"You have to grow into a tournament and especially the feeling you have to playing together as a team, a union but also the system you play," De Boer said.

"The guys will have a discussion how we can improve, how you grow into a tournament. The union we have now is really important and you have to continue feeling this union during the rest of tournament."

De Boer will mull over how many changes to make against North Macedonia and whether to tinker with his system.

He said: "We need to have some words with performance coach and talk with team best thing over what is the best thing to do and prepare for North Macedonia.

"How will we play, do we maintain the pace of the last games so we can work on the system we have been playing or will give players extra time off and relax? 

"These are things we have to talk about. Only after Budapest will we know if it was the right thing to do, indeed it's a long time to go [until the round of 16 match]. But three games in a short period and it's warm, you have to take that into account, so we will see what happens and I hope I can make the right decisions."

Dumfries became only the second Dutchman to score in his first two European Championship appearances, with Ruud van Nistelrooy being the first.

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.

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.

Matthijs de Ligt will be back in the Netherlands team to face Austria in their second match of Euro 2020 on Thursday after recovering from an injury.

The Juventus defender missed out on the Oranje's 3-2 win over Ukraine on matchday one due to a groin strain, and they were hardly convincing defensively without him.

Ukraine had failed to score with any of their previous 72 shots at the Euros before Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk netted with consecutive efforts just four minutes and six seconds apart.

Those goals wiped out the Netherlands' 2-0 lead, though Denzel Dumfries did ensure Frank de Boer's men took all three points with his 85th-minute header, their latest winning goal at the Euros since the Dutch coach himself converted an 89th-minute penalty in Euro 2000.

The Netherlands' average starting position of 52.7 metres from their own goal represents the second-highest defensive line at the Euros so far (Poland, 53.2m), meaning that although dominant on the ball, they are potentially susceptible to being caught in behind.

But it will be hoped De Ligt's assuring presence negates some of the risk against Austria, who showed a desire to press high up the pitch in their 3-1 win over North Macedonia on Sunday, as they allowed the tournament debutants just 10 passes per defensive action (PPDA) in an attempt to suffocate them.

When asked if De Ligt would return, De Boer told reporters: "Yes, he will play, no doubt about it. Did you see any doubt in my eyes? [But] I can't tell you [who will be dropped]."

Daley Blind's withdrawal against Ukraine was a poignant moment, as the Ajax defender left the pitch seemingly in tears as he later revealed he had contemplated sitting out the match entirely after seeing his friend and former team-mate Christian Eriksen suffer a cardiac arrest for Denmark.

It stirred significant emotions in Blind, who in 2019 was fitted with an implanted defibrillator after being diagnosed with heart muscle inflammation in the wake of suffering dizzy spells in a Champions League match.

It remains to be seen whether Blind is mentally right to feature, but De Boer acknowledged that playing De Ligt on the left of the back three would not be ideal.

"I understand the reason he's not so comfortable on that side of the pitch, so it's not the best way to start and I take this into account, it's normal," he said.

It seems likely Wout Weghorst will lead the line once again, however, with the Wolfsburg striker something of a surprise choice in attack for the Ukraine game after Luuk de Jong had played the role with regularity beforehand.

Weghorst scored and showed a willingness to lead the Netherlands' press, with his two tackles the joint-most in the Dutch team and a solid contribution to their 20 high turnovers, the most by any team in the tournament so far.

"At the start I didn't want to change much, I had a good feeling with all the players. I wanted to play with the guys who qualified and that's the way I continued," De Boer continued.

"I think when you look at his [Weghorst] preparation and his matches before the tournament, I preferred Luuk as the striker.

"But I decided Wout because he performed really well in the last month and I think he deserved it with what he can bring for the team against a good team. He did not disappoint."

Frank de Boer acknowledged the Netherlands must tighten up after letting slip a two-goal lead before eventually overcoming Ukraine 3-2 in their Euro 2020 opener.

The Netherlands appeared to be in complete control of the Group C clash in Amsterdam when Georginio Wijnaldum and Wout Weghorst scored in a six-minute burst early in the second half on Sunday.

However, Andriy Yarmolenko's brilliant curling strike from distance halved the deficit, with Ukraine then drawing level when Roman Yaremchuk headed in from a free-kick.

Denzel Dumfries was the unlikely hero for the Netherlands with an 85th-minute winner, though De Boer was concerned at the way his team conceded twice to let slip such a commanding position.

"You know Yarmolenko is left-footed, he's famous for it. We have to defend it better, even if it was a great goal. It was not necessary," De Boer said in his post-match news conference.

"The second goal was a free-kick. Two players were too enthusiastic and that's the reason why there was no offside given.

"We have to learn from these mistakes so hopefully next time they do not happen. The opponents always get opportunities, but you hope it will not happen because of your own faults.

"These two goals, I'm sure, were not necessary."

All the drama came after a scoreless first 45 minutes, making it the first match in European Championship history to see five goals go in after the break having been 0-0 at half-time.

The contest followed a similar pattern to other games so far in the tournament: Euro 2020 has seen just four first-half goals compared to 15 after the interval, that second-half tally well above the 9.2 xG (expected goals) number, per Opta data.

The Netherlands have qualified for the finals for the first time since 2012, with this their first European Championship win since the 2008 edition.

"There were a few moments when we tried to counter but they could open up the game. We should be smarter on these opportunities, sometimes make a foul to stop the game," De Boer continued.

"We have to look for a better way. You cannot play 90 minutes without making a mistake, that's not realistic.

"We will have to analyse these things and see in what ways we need to improve. We have to try and not give away these dangerous moments for opponents."

Ukraine boss Andriy Shevchenko was pleased with how his players responded to the situation of finding themselves two goals down, even if their fightback eventually came to nothing.

"I think it was a quick and interesting game, loads of opportunities for both teams," he told the media.

"I want to thank my team for the reaction they showed, especially when down 2-0. We had a great reaction, found energy to change the attack and the formation. They showed themselves very well."

North Macedonia, who lost 3-1 to Austria in the earlier kick-off in the group, are next up for Ukraine.

Matthijs de Ligt will watch from the sidelines as both the Netherlands and Ukraine aim to end miserable runs in their Euro 2020 opener on Sunday.

De Ligt missed the Oranje's final warm-up friendly due to a groin issue and will not recover in time to face Ukraine in Amsterdam.

Coach Frank de Boer said: "The game comes a little too early. We don't want to take any chances. We've got two more group games.

"If it had been very important, he could have played. He's very close to it."

It is a blow to a Netherlands side who have not won at the European Championship since the 2008 group stage.

The Dutch were quickly beaten in the knockout phase of that competition, lost all three matches at Euro 2012 and then failed to qualify four years later.

Centre-back is suddenly a potential area of weakness, with Virgil van Dijk missing the tournament, while De Boer only confirmed the identity of his starting goalkeeper – 38-year-old Maarten Stekelenburg – on Saturday.

Regular number one Jasper Cillessen, cut from the squad following a positive coronavirus test, was the only ever-present in qualifying besides De Ligt.

Ukraine might make for accommodating opponents for Stekelenburg, though, having themselves lost five in a row at the Euros and failed to score in each defeat.

Andrey Shevchenko, now their coach, is the only player to have ever scored for Ukraine at the finals, as they have failed with 67 shots since his 2012 brace against Sweden.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Netherlands – Memphis Depay

Even with De Boer switching to an unpopular 5-3-2 formation, Depay will be the chief threat in attack. Although Georginio Wijnaldum (eight) outscored his team-mate in qualifying, Depay was involved in a goal every 38 minutes (six goals and seven assists in 495 minutes) – the best rate of any player involved in five or more.

Ukraine – Andriy Pyatov

If Depay is as involved as the Netherlands hope, that will mean another busy outing for Pyatov. The Ukraine goalkeeper saved 88.6 per cent of the shots he faced in qualifying (31 of 35), which was the best rate of any keeper to appear in six or more games.


KEY OPTA FACTS

– This is the first meeting between the Netherlands and Ukraine at a major tournament (World Cup or European Championship). The Dutch are unbeaten in their two friendly encounters – winning 3-0 in Rotterdam in May 2008 and drawing 1-1 in Donetsk in August 2010.
– The Netherlands are playing their first major tournament game at the Johan Cruyff Arena since the Euro 2000 semi-final against Italy, a game in which the Dutch failed to score despite having 31 shots and 71 per cent possession (0-0 after extra time, 1-3 on penalties).
– Since and including 1988, only Germany (six) have reached the semi-finals of the European Championship more often than the Netherlands (four). However, the Netherlands have not made the final four since 2004 and they have not won a game in the tournament since 2008.
– After winning their first game at the European Championship (2-1 v Sweden, 11 June 2012), Ukraine have subsequently lost their past five. In fact, only Yugoslavia have had a longer losing run in the history of the tournament (six in a row, from Euro 1968 to Euro 1984).

The 12-month delay to Euro 2020 has provided an easy angle for debate ahead of the finals this week.

Which teams might have benefited from the postponement? Italy are back in the groove, Spain were surely buoyed by a 6-0 win over Germany, and England continue to develop exciting young talents.

It works both ways, though, as Germany might have preferred the tournament to go ahead in 2020, prior to their heaviest competitive defeat and before Joachim Low confirmed his exit plans.

Meanwhile, neither situation necessarily suits the Netherlands.

The Oranje have a youthful, talented, newly settled side, but there is the suspicion they have already peaked.

Ronald Koeman, appointed in February 2018, had the Netherlands playing some thrilling, effective football in his first 18 months in charge, narrowly losing the showpiece match at the Nations League Finals while easing to Euros qualification.

Since then, the coach has departed, a number of his young charges have seen their careers stall somewhat and Virgil van Dijk, the team's standout star, has been ruled out by injury.

It means there is plenty of scepticism as Frank de Boer leads the Dutch into their first major tournament in seven years.

 

COACH ACCUSTOMED TO CRITICISM

Koeman left the national team to be appointed by Barcelona. It is highly unlikely De Boer could walk into such a role regardless of his success with the Netherlands.

Since leaving Ajax as a four-time Eredivisie champion in 2016, the coach has endured short, miserable stints with Inter, Crystal Palace and Atlanta United.

De Boer won just 36.4 per cent of his Serie A games, the second-worst rate of an Inter boss this century.

Only Gian Piero Gasperini was less impressive as he went winless, an unfortunate feat De Boer would repeat at Palace as the Eagles did not even score or earn a point in his four Premier League outings.

Atlanta faded from MLS Cup champions to also-rans under De Boer, too, before he was handed an unlikely Oranje opportunity, only to go four without a win at the start of his tenure.

The Netherlands' fortunes have since improved, winning five of seven – albeit while losing a key World Cup qualifier in Turkey and scraping to a friendly draw against Scotland.

Off-field faux pas have also persisted, including media conference mix-ups involving Queensy Menig and Donny van de Beek while Jasper Cillessen was controversially cut from the Euros squad following a positive COVID-19 test.

"It seems clear that things need to get better," De Boer acknowledged after the Scotland game, although he was more optimistic in the aftermath of a subsequent 3-0 win against Georgia.

Having made only two changes to his 5-3-2 line-up – one in goal, the other enforced by injury – De Boer declared: "We're ready."

 

YOUNG STARS' STUNTED PROGRESS

Six players who started the Nations League Finals matches should make De Boer's XI for the Ukraine game, but these stars are not necessarily in the same shape as they were in 2019.

Matthijs de Ligt, Daley Blind and Frenkie de Jong were all coming off an outstanding campaign with Ajax in which they reached the Champions League last four, swatting aside Real Madrid and Juventus on their way before coming within seconds of the final.

Van de Beek, called from the bench against England, was also part of that superb club side.

While Blind remains in Amsterdam and will surely now only start if De Ligt is injured – as he was against Georgia – the other three, who should fit well within De Boer's fluid formation, moved on with mixed success.

De Ligt's first season with Juve was tough, including two errors that led to shots (including one to a goal) and three penalties conceded, before he improved in 2020-21.

De Jong followed a similar path of slow progress at Barca, the highlight of his Camp Nou career so far – now under Koeman – a goal and two assists in April's Copa del Rey final.

That single-game contribution matched Van de Beek's meagre haul for his entire debut season at Manchester United, concerningly. A year behind his two younger international team-mates, the midfielder joined United in 2020 and his three goal involvements came across 36 games but just 15 starts.

Van de Beek's season has ended in miserable fashion, forced to withdraw from the Euros squad this week. Far from a regular at international level, too, this might be a bigger setback for the player than for the Netherlands.

 

DETERMINED TO MAKE THEIR MARK

The absence of Van Dijk means the other Ajax graduates unquestionably maintain key roles in the defensive third, but the Netherlands are relying on older heads in attack, even if they are without the sort of superstar Dutch forward of years past.

This country once had Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooy born on the same day; now they rely on a midfielder and a converted winger for their goals.

It was effective in qualifying, though. Georginio Wijnaldum, 30, was their leading marksman with eight, while Memphis Depay, 27, either scored or assisted every 38 minutes – six goals and seven assists in 495 minutes the best rate among the 54 players to have five or more goal involvements.

Depay netted twice against Scotland and once against Georgia, along with an assist, and will be eager to establish himself on the European stage.

The Barca-linked Lyon forward was an under-19 international when the Netherlands last appeared at the European Championship in 2012, while he made only a single start at the World Cup two years later.

Wijnaldum was at least a regular at Brazil 2014, scoring in the third-place play-off, but both he and Depay have been robbed of a huge chunk of their major tournament careers by the team's failings.

Even with a kind group-stage draw, as they chase a first Euros win since the first round in 2008, the Oranje will need Wijnaldum and Depay to deliver. Neither should be lacking motivation.

Memphis Depay scored one and created another in his latest dominant display as the Netherlands defeated Georgia 3-0 on Sunday ahead of Euro 2020.

Lyon striker Depay had scored both goals in the prior friendly against Scotland to rescue a draw and played a key role again a week out from the Oranje's tournament opener at home to Ukraine.

The first from Depay came from the penalty spot after 10 minutes and he then teased a gorgeous pass through for Wout Weghorst's first international goal in the second half. Ryan Gravenberch later broke his own duck.

Depay and Weghorst again headlined a Frank de Boer XI that showed only two changes from the team that faced Scotland, hinting at his finals line-up, but Matthijs de Ligt was one of those to make way due to a groin complaint.

He was a miss in the defence as Saba Lobzhanidze advanced inside two minutes and squandered a big chance with a tame finish.

The Netherlands would not be as wasteful when they forged a similarly straightforward path through the Georgia back line and Depay converted the penalty won from his pass by Denzel Dumfries, who was tripped by Lasha Dvali.

Dumfries and Depay soon combined again, but the latter's stretching effort was superbly saved by Giorgi Loria, a stop that should have allowed the visitors to equalise when Valeriane Gvilia instead steered wide.

Loria was at his best again to touch over Frenkie de Jong's drive, yet Weghorst's close-range strike escaped his clutches 10 minutes into the second half.

Although more agile goalkeeping kept out Depay's blast, pressure continued to build on Loria's goal and he blocked again from the same man only to see Gravenberch nod in.

A sensational Jambul Jigauri volley beat Maarten Stekelenburg five minutes from time but bounced away off the crossbar, ensuring a one-sided final scoreline.

 

What does it mean? Steady stuff from De Boer's men

De Boer clearly has a settled side, which might give the Netherlands an edge over some opponents, but they will have to beat better teams than Georgia to become champions of Europe.

This was not the most convincing display, although there could have been more home goals if not for some excellent work from Loria, who prevented 1.19 goals using expected goals on target data.

Depay devastating once again

Depay was involved in a goal every 38 minutes in qualifying (six goals and seven assists in 495 minutes), the best rate among the 54 players to have a hand in five or more. A goal and an assist in 90 minutes meant he was only marginally less effective on Sunday.

With the defence looking a little shaky and Weghorst still making his way on the international stage, the Netherlands' campaign will live or die by Depay's performances.

Daley a disappointing deputy

It was no surprise to see Daley Blind removed in De Boer's only half-time change, having replaced De Ligt in the line-up. The Ajax defender was preferred to Nathan Ake, the substitute that took his place.

Blind failed to complete a tackle or interception as he was exposed by the pace of Lobzhanidze. Euros opponents will be more clinical if Blind has to step in again for De Ligt.

What's next?

All eyes now are on the Euros, which begins for the Netherlands against Ukraine in Amsterdam next Sunday.

Frank de Boer admitted there is still plenty of room for improvement in his Netherlands team after they needed a late equaliser to draw 2-2 with Scotland.

Memphis Depay's 89th-minute free-kick made sure the Netherlands avoided defeat in the friendly fixture between two nations preparing for Euro 2020.

The influential forward had also scored in the first half, his left-footed volley cancelling out Jack Hendry's opener for a Scotland team left shorthanded following a positive coronavirus case within the squad.

Substitute Kevin Nisbet restored Scotland's lead soon after coming on as the Dutch looked defensively shaky when lining up in a wing-back formation, though De Boer made clear the squad had little time to work on systems ahead of the match in Faro.

"Has the experiment with the 5-3-2 system failed? No, it has not," De Boer said in his post-match interview with broadcasters NOS.

"I'm not worried at all. We only trained on it once, only three times for 10 minutes. In addition, we also played 4-3-3 at the time.

"In addition, Georginio Wijnaldum and Frenkie de Jong only joined later.

"It seems clear that things need to get better. I saw a few good moments, but there were too few."

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