Guus Hiddink, the former Real Madrid, Chelsea and Netherlands head coach, announced his retirement at the age of 74.

Hiddink declared in a television interview that he had decided to quit as boss of Curacao and would not return to football.

The Dutch great told SBS 6: "Lately, with COVID, I haven't worked much. Coincidentally I was talking with the president of the Curacao federation and we came to the conclusion it was better that I stop for a while, because they are going in a new direction.

"But I'm going to stop totally. Am I going to do a Advocaat. No, no."

That was a reference to his fellow veteran coach Dick Advocaat, who was expected to retire after leaving Eredivisie giants Feyenoord last season but instead took on the job of coaching Asian nation Iraq.

Hiddink began his career at PSV and had two spells with the Eindhoven club, from 1987 to 1990 and 2002 to 2006, winning three Eredivisie titles in each successful stint.

His PSV side won the old European Cup in 1988, beating Benfica on penalties in Stuttgart following a goalless draw, clinching a treble after already landing the domestic league and cup titles.

He twice led teams to World Cup semi-finals – the Netherlands in 1998 and South Korea in 2002 – and helped Australia reach the second round of the 2006 tournament.

His Russia team reached the Euro 2008 semi-finals, where they lost 3-0 to Spain, and he had his first short spell as Chelsea interim manager while still in that national team job, helping the Blues win the 2009 FA Cup.

Hiddink was not a success at Madrid, failing to complete the 1998-99 season before he was sacked. He managed one trophy while at the Santiago Bernabeu, helping Madrid beat Vasco da Gama in the Intercontinental Cup.

A long career as a head coach also took in jobs at Valencia, Real Betis, Turkey, Fenerbahce and Anzhi Makhachkala.

Hiddink had a brief and unsuccessful second stint as Netherlands boss, then succeeded Jose Mourinho at Chelsea in December 2015 and helped the team recover from a shocking start to their title defence season, but that was just a half-season tenure.

A year as China Under-21 coach followed, and then the curtailed spell as Curacao boss, his final act, barring a change of heart.

Louis van Gaal insisted "it will only get better" for the Netherlands after turning on the style in Tuesday's 6-1 World Cup qualifying win over Turkey in Amsterdam.

Memphis Depay scored his first international hat-trick and was joined on the scoresheet by Davy Klaassen, Guus Til and Donyell Malen in a dominant display from the Dutch.

The Netherlands opened the scoring inside 54 seconds and were three up with 38 minutes played, the fastest they have led 3-0 in a competitive match in a decade.

Turkey lost Caglar Soyuncu to a red card before half-time but profited from a mix-up at the back to add a late consolation through Cengiz Under, though it was still their heaviest defeat since losing 8-0 to England in 1984.

Oranje have won two and drawn one of their three games since van Gaal replaced Frank de Boer, scoring 11 goals in the process, yet van Gaal can see room for improvement.

"If you win 6-1, you can expect a lap of honour," he told NOS. "This is what I signed up for, for the competition. 

"I projected my vision onto the players. I did a lot of what the players wanted. I said after the Norway and Montenegro games that it was a fantastic group, and I'm saying that again now.

"They boys have lasted the whole game, which is not normal. The first goal was college football. We haven't worked on that in training, it just comes out. 

"I'm dealing with a very happy group. I have passed the first threshold and I'm very happy with it. From now on it will only get better. We were too careless in possession."

 

Depay has scored five goals for the Netherlands in their last two games and has 12 in total for 2021, equalling the record for goals in a calendar year set by Patrick Kluivert in 2000.

The Barcelona forward is now joint eighth on Oranje's all-time top-scorers list, level with Johan Cruyff and Abe Lenstra with 33 goals in 71 caps.

Depay, who made his debut under in the first of van Gaal's three spells in charge in 2013, is now looking to climb further up that legendary list.

"Cruyff and Lenstra are legends," Depay told NOS. "They have meant so much to the Dutch national team and put our football on the map.

"You can't compare anyone with that. I now have to make sure that I remain important for the team with my game and with my goals.

"I am now in the top 10 of top scorers, but I want to be in the top three one day."

The only blemish for the Netherlands came in added time when Virgil van Dijk failed to get to a short Justin Bijlow pass under pressure from Halil Dervisoglu.

Under walked the ball into an empty net and van Dijk stayed on the ground after being caught by Dervisoglu in what appeared to be an injury scare for Liverpool.

However, the centre-back – who led the way with 88 passes at the Johan Cruijff ArenA – has provided a positive update on the ankle issue.

"I'm lucky. I'm already over it," he said. "Maybe because I am so big, they think I am acting.

"But all-in-all it was a very nice evening. There is no doubt in our minds that the next two games are very important in a month's time."

The Netherlands are top of Group G with four games to go, ahead of second-placed Norway – who they still have to face at home – on goal difference.

Memphis Depay scored a hat-trick and set up another as the Netherlands thumped 10-man Turkey 6-1 at the Johan Cruijff ArenA to move to the top of their World Cup qualifying group.

Barcelona forward Depay played in Davy Klaassen to put the Dutch in front inside 54 seconds and then added a couple of his own – a brilliant strike and a penalty – before half-time.

Turkey were reduced to 10 men prior to the interval when Caglar Soyuncu was sent off and the Netherlands did not hold back, with Depay heading in from a yard out for his third of the day.

Cengiz Under profited from a defensive mistake to net a consolation, but only after substitutes Guus Til and Donyell Malen had added their names to the scoresheet in an emphatic victory for Louis van Gaal's men.

Turkey had gone unbeaten in their first five games to lead the way at the top of Group G but were behind in Amsterdam within a minute when Klaassen played a one-two with Depay and slotted in off the post.

The pair linked up again as Klaassen flicked a return pass into the path of Depay, who kept his composure to tuck the ball away from Ugurcan Cakir and put the Netherlands well on course for an eighth straight home win.

Turkey found themselves three goals down with seven minutes of the first half still to play – Depay dinking the ball down the middle from the penalty spot after Soyuncu tripped Klaassen in the box.

Soyuncu was booked for that challenge and was issued another yellow card eight minutes later for a foul Depay, who completed his first international hat-trick early in the second half.

Feyenoord midfielder Til spun his marker and blasted in his maiden Netherlands goal and fellow substitute Malen rolled a sixth into an empty net, rendering Under's late tap-in nothing but a consolation on a night to forget for Turkey.

Louis van Gaal compared the self-confidence of his Netherlands side to being like that of Formula One star Max Verstappen.

Van Gaal's Netherlands will face Turkey in a crucial top-of-the-table World Cup Group G qualifier on Tuesday.

The Netherlands are a point adrift following their 4-0 rout of Montenegro last time out and Van Gaal is happy with his team since taking over from Frank de Boer.

Van Gaal likened the Netherlands' confidence to that of Dutch driver Verstappen, who reclaimed the F1 world championship lead from Lewis Hamilton with his Dutch Grand Prix success last week.

"The most important thing, which Max [Verstappen] also has, is to have self-confidence," Van Gaal told reporters.

"Very strong confidence, and you just heard from Memphis [Depay] that he also has very strong confidence in the team.

"I am happy about that because I also have a lot of self-confidence. So, we are all on the same wavelength."

After being held 1-1 by Norway in Van Gaal's first game in his third spell in charge, Oranje turned on the style in Saturday's World Cup qualifier with Montenegro at Philips Stadion.

Memphis Depay opened the scoring from the penalty spot and added a second just after the hour mark to put the Netherlands on course for a seventh straight home win.

That was the first time in 70 caps Depay had scored the first two goals for his country in a match, the Barcelona forward taking his goals tally to 30 across that period.

Captain Georginio Wijnaldum put the result beyond doubt with the hosts' third and Cody Gakpo rounded off the scoring 14 minutes from time with his first international goal.

On Turkey, Van Gaal added: "[Turkish coach Senol Gunes] has made his team play in a very disciplined way. It's really very good to have Turkey play with discipline, and Turkey has some smart players, with players who play at top clubs, actually.

"They only have two players who play in Turkey, at least in the team we're expecting to face."

Louis van Gaal praised the Netherlands for "completely outplaying" Montenegro and hopes his side's 4-0 win will fill them with confidence ahead of their crucial clash with Turkey. 

After being held 1-1 by Norway in van Gaal's first game in his third spell in charge, Oranje turned on the style in Saturday's World Cup qualifier with Montenegro at Philips Stadion.

Memphis Depay opened the scoring from the penalty spot and added a second just after the hour mark to put the Netherlands on course for a seventh straight home win.

That was the first time in 70 caps Depay had scored the first two goals for his country in a match, the Barcelona forward taking his goals tally to 30 across that period.

Captain Georginio Wijnaldum put the result beyond doubt with the hosts' third and Cody Gakpo rounded off the scoring 14 minutes from time with his first international goal.

Gakpo curled a sublime effort away from Matija Sarkic into the top-right corner, making him the fifth PSV player to score for the Netherlands in Eindhoven this century.

Montenegro wasted a number of chances throughout the contest, yet Van Gaal is pleased with the improvements made by his side in his short time in charge since replacing Frank de Boer.

"We started very badly, but in the end we were more careful than against Norway," he told NOS.

"In Norway we started well, but we were not very good throughout the game. Today, the 70 minutes after the opening phase were good.

"We had to win today. If we didn't we would have missed our target. I think that brought some pressure with it.

"We have completely outplayed Montenegro. We have had little time and still have to get to know each other better. 

"But if you can beat such a defensive team 4-0, it gives a boost to the next game."

 

That next game comes against Group G leaders Turkey in Amsterdam on Tuesday.

The Netherlands lost the reverse fixture 4-2 in March and trail Turkey by a point with five games remaining, while Norway are level on points with Oranje in third.

Buoyed by the dazzling attacking display and result against Montenegro, a side ranked 55 places below the Netherlands, Wijnaldum is already looking ahead to the Turkey match.

"Hopefully we can give Turkey, one of our director competitors, a slap," he told NOS.

"This was an important performance after our European Championship exit and the Norway game. We were disappointed with the result against Norway.

"It's difficult to explain why we started a bit slow today. They even got a few opportunities from our mistakes. That shouldn't happen and against another side it might have been 1-1 or 2-1 to them."

Depay was the star of the show with his two goals, while also leading the way by creating a game-high six big chances, albeit none of those opportunities leading to an assist.

"It's always special when I come here [to Eindhoven], and so I'm very happy to have scored twice," Depay told UEFA's official website.

"It felt like we had more creativity on the pitch than last time. It also felt like I received the ball more at the right time, so that I could be a threat or face an opponent. That was important."

Memphis Depay scored twice to help the Netherlands get their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Montenegro in Saturday's Group G clash.

Louis van Gaal's first game in his third spell in charge ended in a 1-1 draw in Norway on Wednesday, but the Oranje produced a much improved display at Philips Stadion.

Depay fired the Netherlands into a deserved first-half lead from the penalty spot and doubled his tally just after the hour mark with a clinical finish.

Georginio Wijnaldum added a third and Cody Gakpo scored his first international goal as the Netherlands picked up a win that keeps them level with Norway and one point behind Group G leaders Turkey, whom they face next.

Montenegro entered the game level on points with their opponents and felt they should have had a penalty when Adam Marusic went down under pressure from Frenkie de Jong.

The Netherlands were otherwise on top and went close through a Davy Klaassen header that hit the crossbar before their breakthrough arrived seven minutes before half-time.

Dusan Lagator dragged down Depay in the box and the Barcelona forward blasted the resulting penalty towards the top-right corner, sending Matija Sarkic the wrong way.

Milutin Osmajic wasted a promising opportunity for Montenegro early in the second half and Stefan Mugosa blazed over after pouncing on a terrible Tyrell Malacia backpass.

Those misses proved costly as Depay sent a zipping low strike past Sarkic at his near post after being played in by fellow forward Gakpo.

It was a familiar story eight minutes later as Wijnaldum collected Steven Berghuis' pass and calmly converted just moments after Mugosa scuffed a shot at Justin Bijlow.

The goal of the match belonged to PSV youngster Gakpo, who curled a glorious shot out of Sarkic's reach from outside the box, capping a wonderful night on Van Gaal's latest homecoming.

Erling Haaland was on target as Louis van Gaal had to settle for a 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with Norway in his first match back in charge of the Netherlands.

Haaland opened the scoring with his first goal of Norway's qualifying campaign at the Ullevaal Stadion on Wednesday, but Davy Klaassen equalised in the first half.

Prolific Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland struck the post in the second half in Oslo, where neither side could fashion a winner.

A draw in Van Gaal's first game in his third spell as coach of his country leaves both the Netherlands and Norway a point behind Group G leaders Turkey, who were held to a 2-2 draw by Montenegro.

Cody Gakpo was handed a first Netherlands start and he had two early chances to open the scoring, Andre Hansen palming his header wide before the forward bent a shot wide from just outside the penalty area.

Oranje debutant Justin Bijlow came out quickly and made himself big to deny Haaland when Jens Hauge sent him clear with an incisive pass, but the Dortmund frontman put Norway in front 20 minutes in.

Memphis Depay was at fault, losing possession in his own half, and Haaland controlled a ball over the top from Stefan Strandberg before poking into the far corner with his left foot as returning captain Virgil van Dijk's desperate last-ditch tackle was in vain.

The Netherlands responded well and they were level nine minutes before the break, Klaassen bursting into the box to convert Georginio Wijnaldum's cross from close range.

Depay stung Hansen's palms and Donyell Malen, who replaced Steven Berghuis at half-time, flashed a shot wide as the Oranje dictated the play after the interval.

Haaland ought to have restored Norway's lead on the break after 64 minutes, when he rattled the inside of the post with a left-foot strike after Martin Odegaard slipped him in.

Denzel Dumfries missed a great chance to snatch all three points with the last kick of the game, but a late Montenegro equaliser was a boost for both sides.

 

 

 

The first international break of the 2021-22 campaign has arrived, and with it comes an opportunity for many national teams to start afresh.

Following the conclusion of the Copa America, Gold Cup and Euro 2020 in quick succession, all roads now lead to the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

For a number of players, the September qualifiers provide an opportunity to make an impression, while for others it is potentially a first taste of international football. 

With the games coming thick and fast over the next week or so, Stats Perform has looked at those in contention to make their senior international debuts.

Albert Sambi Lokonga (Belgium)

Belgium's golden generation of talent missed another opportunity to turn promise into something more tangible when losing to eventual winners Italy in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals.

Roberto Martinez has decided against wholesale changes after that disappointment, with Lokonga the only outfield player in line for his first cap, having failed to get further than the bench – against Greece in June – after previous call-ups.

A product of the same Anderlecht youth system that oversaw the development of Romelu Lukaku, Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker, among others, Lokonga sealed a move to Arsenal in July after impressing in the Belgian top flight.

The £15million signing has not had the best of starts to life at Arsenal, the Gunners finding themselves bottom of the English top-flight table having played at least three league matches for the first time since October 1974.

Lokonga, noted for his ability to play in front of the defence, featured in just two of those games yet still trails Granit Xhaka alone in terms of passes (113 to 139) and successful passes (97 to 118) and is behind only Sead Kolasinac for interceptions.

 

Claudinho (Brazil)

Citing concerns over the availability of his European-based contingent due to clubs being reluctant to release players to red-list countries, Tite has named a bloated Brazil squad for this month's triple-header of World Cup qualifiers.

Those complications appear set to deny Raphinha a debut, having impressed during his first year in the Premier League with Leeds United. 

Raphinha ranks seventh in the division for dribbles attempted since the start of last season (142), completing 42.96 per cent of those. He also ranks in the top 10 for chances created over that period with 68.

But Claudinho remains in line to be capped for the first time, called up after helping his country secure Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020.

The midfielder, whose signing at Zenit was announced not long after the Olympic tournament had concluded, described his call-up as "a dream come true".

Theo Hernandez and Moussa Diaby (France)

It is out with the old and in with the new as far as France's first post-Euros squad is concerned – to an extent, at least, with Olivier Giroud one of nine players to make way from the previous group named by Didier Deschamps.

Injuries have also played a part in that, potentially giving a quartet of uncapped players the chance to impress in the upcoming qualifiers with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ukraine and Finland.

Hernandez, a more natural left-back option than brother Lucas, will feel his first call-up is long overdue following back-to-back campaigns as a regular for Milan, whom he joined from Real Madrid. 

Since making his Rossoneri bow in September 2019, no defender in Serie A has completed more dribbles than Hernandez (133), while only Federico Dimarco (87) and Juan Cuadrado (107) have created more chances than his 86.

Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni and Roma's Jordan Veretout may also feature during this international break, but perhaps the most exciting of the new additions is Bayer Leverkusen winger Diaby.

The Paris Saint-Germain product scored twice and assisted another in Leverkusen's opening two Bundesliga games of 2021-22, while Alphonso Davies is the only player in the division to have attempted more dribbles this term (24 to his 22).

Known for his blistering pace and ability to take on opponents, Diaby could well provide Deschamps with a different option in an attack already packed full of talent.

 

Otavio (Portugal)

Three new players have been called up by Fernando Santos, who is looking to the future after his Portugal side's reign as European champions came to an end in July.

Goncalo Inacio is injured, but Diogo Costa and Otavio could each make their senior debuts during this international window, with the latter the name on many lips right now.

Otavio has tallied 11 goal involvementss in each of the past two Primeira Liga campaigns for Porto and has made a fast start to the new season with two assists in his first four games.

Since the start of last season, only team-mate Mehdi Taremi has provided more assists (12) in the Portuguese top flight than Otavio's 10, coming from 51 chances created.

The Brazilian-born attacking midfielder was granted Portuguese citizenship earlier this year and will be eager to show that Brazil's loss is very much Portugal's gain should he get some minutes over the next week.

Ricardo Pepi (United States)

The dual-national drama surrounding Pepi appears to have reached a resolution as the FC Dallas forward has seemingly pledged his allegiance to the United States over Mexico.

After breaking into the Dallas side two years ago and featuring regularly last year, 2021 has been quite the season for the El Paso-born youngster.

Pepi, who does not turn 19 until next January, has 11 goals and two assists in 21 games this term and scored the decisive kick in last week's penalty shoot-out win for MLS against their Liga MX counterparts in the All-Star Game.

He has 13 MLS goals in total, the fourth-most ever by a teenager – ahead of Freddy Adu – and just nine short of the record held by Diego Fagundez.

On the basis of the past four months in particular, the USMNT could have a potentially world-class player to lead their line for a number of years to come.

 

Karim Adeyemi (Germany)

For the first time in 17 years, Germany will play a match without Joachim Low in their dugout either as assistant or head coach when they face Liechtenstein on Thursday.

Hansi Flick is tasked with ushering in a new generation of German talents, with help from the old guard, many of whom were key to his successful spell at Bayern Munich.

Away from regulars such as Thomas Muller, Leon Goretzka, Joshua Kimmich and Manuel Neuer, Flick has included four uncapped players in his first squad – David Raum, Nico Schlotterbeck, Florian Wirtz and Adeyemi.

A technically gifted and supremely fast winger, Adeyemi has long been considered one of Germany's most promising young players, having cost Salzburg a reported €3m when he was 16.

Adeyemi, who left Bayern six years earlier, has been given the chance to spread his wings with Salzburg and has been strongly linked with Red Bull sister club RB Leipzig.

He already has six goals in six Austrian Bundesliga appearances this term, just one less than he managed in 29 top-flight appearances last time out – a return he will be looking to build on if he is given the nod by Flick.

Justin Bijlow (Netherlands)

The Netherlands are another European heavyweight going through a transitional period of sorts after turning to veteran coach Louis van Gaal for a third stint in charge.

Frank de Boer failed to get the most out of this talented Dutch squad and already Van Gaal has put his own mark on the team by calling up a few newbies.

There will be plenty of focus on the goalkeeping position as, with Jasper Cillessen not fully fit and Maarten Stekelenburg recently retiring, Joel Drommel and Bijlow can stake a claim to be the long-term number one.

Bijlow is considered one of the finest young goalkeepers in Europe and already has 45 Eredivisie games under his belt for Feyenoord, where he is a real fan favourite.

The 23-year-old has kept 15 clean sheets across those appearances and boasts a save percentage of 72.16. Van Gaal can seemingly rely on the young stopper, as he has made just one error leading to a goal.

Virgil van Dijk was flattered by Erling Haaland's belief the Netherlands captain is "the best defender" in the world.

The pair are set to face off when the Oranje travel to Norway for their 2022 World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.

An intriguing duel should challenge both players, with Haaland full of praise for Van Dijk when he addressed the media on Monday.

"I think he is the best defender. I think quite a few others in the room agree with me on that," the Borussia Dortmund forward said.

"He is fast, strong and smart, and those are three important things you must have."

Those comments were on Tuesday put to Van Dijk, who replied: "Did he say that? That's nice of him."

The Liverpool man is relishing his return to the international stage, having missed Euro 2020 due to injury.

"I'm incredibly happy that I'm here again, with the guys, working towards a very important game," Van Dijk said.

"Everyone is sharp, looking forward to playing. Everyone is focused, which is great to see."

This will also be the Netherlands' first game since the return of Louis van Gaal, who is back for a third spell in charge.

Norway are tied with the visitors on six points from three games in Group G, one shy of early leaders Turkey.

Louis van Gaal has returned to football management after being named as the new head coach of the Netherlands.

The 69-year-old, who announced his retirement in 2019, is back for a third spell in charge of the national team as their World Cup qualifying campaign prepares to resume next month.

His first appointment since leaving Manchester United back in 2016, he takes over following the departure of Frank de Boer, who stepped down after the Netherlands' last-16 exit from Euro 2020.

Van Gaal, who will be assisted by Danny Blind and Henk Fraser with Frans Hoek serving as goalkeeping coach, was first in charge between 2000 and 2002 but stepped down after failing to secure qualification for the World Cup.

He returned for a second stint in 2012, guiding his nation to third place at the World Cup in Brazil two years later before departing for Old Trafford.

Van Gaal's first match back in charge sees the Dutch travel to Norway on September 1 in a World Cup qualifier.

Currently second in Group G with six points from three matches, the Netherlands then play back-to-back home games against Montenegro and table-topping Turkey.

Van Gaal said: "Dutch football has always been close to my heart and the national coach is, in my opinion, a key position for moving our football forward. 

"Moreover, I consider it an honour to coach the Dutch national team. There is little time until the next qualifiers, which are immediately crucial for participation in the World Cup. 

"The focus is, therefore, 100 per cent on the players and the approach. After all, that's what I'm assigned to do. It's good to be back. 

"I have already spoken to a number of players and together with the KNVB (the Dutch Football Association), the technical staff has been assembled. I'm really looking forward to getting the job done together."

Nico-Jan Hoogma, KNVB director, added: "In the coming months, we will be tasked with qualifying for the World Cup. For this, we have a minimum preparation period. 

"In view of this job, we were looking for a coach with exceptional qualities, who can also anticipate quickly. 

"With his experience and track record at the highest level, we have that coach in our eyes with Louis van Gaal. The contact was made quickly and we have spoken many times since then. 

"In the last few days, we have been able to carefully put the finishing touches together. We are happy that Louis is taking on this job."

 

A league winner in three different countries, having secured domestic titles while at Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Van Gaal has enjoyed a hugely successful managerial career.

He also won the Champions League with Ajax in 1995, then guided Bayern to the final 15 years later.

Van Gaal won 27 of the 44 games he oversaw during his first two spells with the Netherlands, drawing 13 and losing just four.

Italy and Argentina can prepare for the 2022 World Cup full of confidence after continental triumphs in the European Championship and Copa America.

The Azzurri have recovered in spectacular fashion from failing to qualify for Russia 2018, while Lionel Messi finally has an international honour to shout about.

Those teams were not alone in taking encouragement from this year's major international tournaments, but other potential Qatar contenders were not quite so impressive.

While some sides could reasonably point to mitigating factors – Belgium's injuries, Germany's final campaign under Joachim Low – plenty of big names underwhelmed.

With the World Cup finals, now just 16 months away, the next big target on the horizon, Stats Perform assesses which teams have put themselves in a better or worse position to challenge.

FULL OF HOPE...

Italy

Italy might have missed the previous World Cup after an awful qualifying campaign but, barring another such mishap, will enter the next tournament as defending European champions, and the Azzurri have in the past tended to perform better on the world stage than in the Euros, this their second continental championship to go alongside four global triumphs.

The only question mark against Roberto Mancini's side heading into Euro 2020 on a long unbeaten run was how they might fare against top teams, having largely avoided facing elite opposition since their most recent defeat to Portugal in September 2018. They then eliminated Belgium, Spain and England in succession to take the title and extend their stunning streak to 34 matches without a loss.

 

Only in the centre of defence, with Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, are Italy really ageing, and even then a swift turnaround could see the pair go again, having trailed for only 109 minutes of their undefeated stretch – 65 of those coming in the final against England.

Argentina

Argentina had been without a major honour since 1993, losing four Copa America finals and one World Cup decider since then. Messi had been involved in four of those five disappointments, but his and his country's fortunes finally changed for the better against Brazil.

The world's finest free agent was the obvious difference-maker, even if he did not score or create a goal in the 2021 final. Messi's goal involvements across the campaign improved from two in 2019 to a leading nine. He also created more chances (3.0, up from 2.0) and attempted more shots (4.0, up from 3.1) per 90 minutes.

But Messi also benefited from Argentina's sturdier foundations. Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez – a debutant last month – was a breakout star, with the defence in front of him limiting chances as La Albiceleste conceded only three goals, half as many as in more matches in two years earlier.

England

Qatar 2022 will feel a long way away right now for England, who were so close yet so far from glory at Wembley. It ended in disappointment, but just making a first major tournament final in 55 years can only be counted as a success.

And the Three Lions have now proven they can now regularly contend; having reached the semi-finals at the previous World Cup, they have won knockout matches at consecutive tournaments (excluding third-place play-offs) for the first time. This might well be England's best ever team and they still have age on their side heading to Qatar.

Gareth Southgate's side should at least continue to be hard to beat. Since his first game in charge in 2016, England have kept 35 clean sheets – four clear of Italy with the best tally for a European nation.

 

Spain

Two games into Euro 2020, it seemed unlikely Spain would emerge from the tournament in a particularly positive light. They had dominated against Sweden – setting records for possession (85 per cent), passes (917) and successful passes (830) – and Poland, yet drawn both matches.

But the next two outings were rather more uplifting as La Roja scored five times against both Slovakia and Croatia to become the first team in Euros history to do so in consecutive matches. After scraping past Switzerland on penalties, Spain were the better side against Italy in the last four, only to come up just short – this time beaten on spot-kicks.

If Luis Enrique can unearth a reliable forward before next November, having underperformed their expected goals total by an alarming 4.1, Spain will very much be back in business.

DOWNWARD SLOPE...

Netherlands

At the end of the group stage, the Netherlands looked to be on a comparable course to Italy. They had also missed out on the 2018 World Cup – and Euro 2016 – but then reached the final of the inaugural Nations League in 2019 and won their first three matches at Euro 2020.

Led by Memphis Depay, those victories had also extended a run of scoring at least twice to 10 consecutive games in an Oranje record. Only then, though, did their campaign fall apart.

 

Matthijs de Ligt's red card against the Czech Republic in the last 16 led to a shock 2-0 defeat and cost Frank de Boer his job. Rebuilding again, the Netherlands – who were missing Virgil van Dijk due to the injury he sustained in October 2020 – have work to do just to get to Qatar, one of three teams on six points in Group G in qualifying, behind Turkey.

France

France were the favourites for Euro 2020 and may well be the popular pick again next year, but their shock shoot-out exit to Switzerland raised plenty of questions.

Supposed to shine alongside the returning Karim Benzema, superstar forward Kylian Mbappe disappointed for the first time on the big stage, a solitary assist his only goal involvement. Yet even when the big names did combine to devastating effect, as Benzema scored twice within four minutes and three seconds of a Hugo Lloris penalty save against Switzerland, dismal defending cost Les Bleus.

France gave away a tournament-high three spot-kicks, not helped by Didier Deschamps' unsuccessful attempt to switch to a new 3-4-1-2 formation – one that will surely be left in the drawer for the World Cup.

Portugal

Will Cristiano Ronaldo consider this a successful tournament? Portugal lost their crown, but he took home the Golden Boot with five goals and an assist. The Juventus forward's contributions kept Fernando Santos' side in contention as far as the round of 16, although – as at times at club level – there was a suspicion this team might better be able to thrive without their talisman.

 

No other Portugal player tallied more than two goal involvements, with Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix, Bernardo Silva and Andre Silva each drawing blanks. Indeed, that highly talented quartet only attempted 10 shots – five fewer than Ronaldo alone – and created 13 chances between them.

In Qatar, Ronaldo may be less mobile but will surely remain front and centre, reluctant to step aside for Fernandes and Co as he takes one final shot at World Cup glory.

Brazil

Had a tense home final gone their way, Brazil would have again been big winners coming out of the Copa America. But Argentina's progress and decisive victory has seen the Selecao – for so long on top in South America – knocked off their perch.

After five consecutive successes, it was Brazil's first major tournament final defeat since the 1998 World Cup, while they had not been beaten in a knockout match at the Copa America (excluding penalties) since 2001 against Honduras. However, they did become world champions for a fifth time the following year.

That will be the hope as Tite's men regroup, having lost their scoring touch when it mattered most. Brazil netted only twice in three knockout games.

Italy ended their 53-year wait for a second European Championship crown with victory over England in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.

Leonardo Bonucci cancelled out an early Luke Shaw goal to take the game to extra time and then penalties, which the Azzurri edged 3-2 to inflict heartbreak on hosts England.

Italy's triumph was deserved on the basis of the qualifying campaign and the tournament itself; Roberto Mancini's side have now gone 34 games unbeaten in all competitions.

England can also be proud of their run, and it is perhaps no surprise that the two finalists dominate Stats Perform's best XI of the tournament.

Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo is also included in our Opta data-driven side, along with players from Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

 

Goalkeeper: Yann Sommer (Switzerland)

Gianluigi Donnarumma may have been named UEFA's Player of the Tournament for his penalty shoot-out heroics against Spain and Italy, but Sommer gets the nod after enjoying an incredible tournament.

The Swiss goalkeeper saved a Kylian Mbappe penalty in his side's shoot-out win against France in the last 16 and made a tournament-high 21 saves in total, 10 of those coming in the eventual defeat to Spain on penalties in the quarter-finals.

 

Right-back: Denzel Dumfries (Netherlands)

Dumfries' reputation was certainly enhanced during Euro 2020, even if the Netherlands were sent packing by the Czech Republic at the last-16 stage.

He became just the second ever Netherlands player, after Ruud van Nistelrooy, to score in his first two European Championship appearances, while also helping his side to a couple of clean sheets in his four outings.

Centre-back: Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)

Juventus defender Bonucci was a rock at the heart of Italy's defence, particularly in the quarter-finals when frustrating Belgium's plethora of attackers.

No defender made more interceptions than the 34-year-old (12, level with Ukraine's Mykola Matvienko), and it was his bundled finish that drew his country level against England in the final.

Centre-back: John Stones (England)

England conceded just two goals all tournament, with only one of those coming in open play. A large part of that was down to ever-present defender Stones, who carried his club form with Manchester City onto the international stage.

Stones won 20 aerial challenges – the joint-second most of any defender in the competition, one behind Harry Maguire – and his 447 successful passes placed him behind only Jordi Alba (458) and club-mate Aymeric Laporte (644).

Left-back: Luke Shaw (England)

Shaw was left out for England's opening game against Croatia, but the full-back soon made himself a consistent presence. He was even compared to the great Roberto Carlos after starring with two assists against Ukraine in the quarter-finals.

The Manchester United defender provided three assists in total and netted the fastest-ever goal in a European Championship final with his volley against Italy. Those four goal involvements were bettered only by Patrik Schick (five) and Ronaldo (six).

 

Central midfield: Marco Verratti (Italy)

The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder was a major fitness doubt for the tournament and sat out Italy's first two matches, but boy did he make an impact in the following five games.

Since his first game against Wales on June 20, all-rounder Verratti ranked first among all midfielders at Euro 2020 for chances created (14), passes completed (388), progressive carries (59), tackles (18) and recoveries of possession (37).

Central midfield: Pedri (Spain)

A number of young players enjoyed a breakthrough tournament at this edition of the Euros, arguably none more so than Barcelona superstar in the making Pedri, who made more passes in the opposing half (348) than any other player at the Euros.

He became the second European player to start as many as five games at the age of 18 or below in major tournament history, after Northern Ireland's Norman Whiteside. Proving age is just a number, Pedri completed all 55 of his passes in regular time in the semi-final loss to Italy.

Right wing: Federico Chiesa (Italy)

Versatile wide player Chiesa was always going to be one to watch at the Euros, having stepped up on the big occasions for Juventus last season with goals in key matches, including their Coppa Italia triumph against Atalanta.

He scored Italy's extra-time opener in their last-16 win against Austria and put his side ahead against Spain in the semi-finals. He was not afraid to shoot – only three others did so on more occasions – and was arguably Italy's most dangerous player in the final.

Attacking midfield: Patrik Schick (Czech Republic)

Schick not only scored the joint-most goals, his five strikes putting him level with Ronaldo, but he was responsible for surely the most memorable one of the lot - a 49.7-yard lob against Scotland, the furthest ever distance a goal has been scored at a European Championships.

The Bayer Leverkusen forward found the net in all but one of his side's games, with three of his goals coming from open play, compared to just two for Golden Boot winner Ronaldo.

 

Left wing: Raheem Sterling (England)

England's run to the final would not have been possible if not for the fine form of Sterling, the Manchester City winger responsible for his side's first three goals in the competition.

That includes winning strikes against Croatia and the Czech Republic in the group stage, followed by the opener against Germany in the last 16, before assisting Kane's early goal against Ukraine. Even when not scoring he was a real threat, leading the way with 20 dribbles completed – four more than next player on the list in Frenkie de Jong.

Centre-forward: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

Even though it was far from a vintage tournament for Ronaldo and dethroned champions Portugal, the Juventus superstar still claimed the Golden Boot accolade thanks to having one assist more than fellow five-goal forward Schick.

Ronaldo's 72 minutes per goal was the best return of any player to have played at least three times in the tournament. His haul also moved him level with Iran great Ali Daei as the all-time leading goalscorer in men's international football with 109, a record that he will get a chance to break later this year.

 

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.

Belgium and the Czech Republic booked their spots in the last eight of Euro 2020 on Sunday. 

The Red Devils' starting XI against Portugal had an average age of 30 years and 148 days – the oldest named by any of the remaining teams in the competition – and that experience seemingly paid off as they produced a stubborn display to edge past Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. 1-0. 

In the other game, the Czech Republic took full advantage of Matthijs de Ligt's red card early in the second half to seal a shock 2-0 win over the Netherlands. 

Stats Perform looks at the best stats from another absorbing day of action in Euro 2020.

Belgium 1-0 Portugal: Hazard strike seals Red Devils' progress

The Red Devils booked their place in the last eight with their first victory over Portugal since September 1989 (3-0 in a World Cup qualifier), ending a run of five meetings without a win against them.

The winning goal came from Thorgan Hazard in the first half, the Borussia Dortmund man scoring in consecutive games for his country for the first time.

He has also now scored four international goals since his brother, Eden, last scored for the national team, highlighting the older sibling's recent difficulties.

That goal ensured Roberto Martinez's side equalled their longest winning streak at major tournaments, sealing five victories in a row for the second time. Indeed, the Red Devils have won 10 of their 11 games across the World Cup and European Championship since Martinez took charge.

Portugal, meanwhile, will go away and lick their wounds after being eliminated with just one victory from their four games (D1 L2), their fewest in a single European Championship since their first appearance in 1984, when they also won one of four (D2 L1).

It should perhaps come as little surprise they were unable to bounce back from Hazard's goal. Since Euro 2004, they have only fought back to win in one of their 10 games in the competition when they have conceded the opening goal (D3 L6).

Netherlands 0-2 Czech Republic: De Ligt's dismissal proves costly

Frank de Boer's men became the first side to win 100 per cent of their group stage games before losing in 90 minutes in the first knockout round at a European Championship.

They can scarcely have any complaints either, given they failed to have a single shot on target in a European Championship and World Cup game for the first time since Opta records begin (1980). 

Their hopes suffered a blow in the 55th minute when De Ligt became the first player to be sent off at the European Championship for the Netherlands since John Heitinga in 2004 (also versus the Czech Republic). De Ligt (21y 319d) is now the fourth-youngest player to receive a red card in the tournament.

 

The Czech Republic took full advantage of his dismissal, winning their first game in the knockout stages of a major competition since Euro 2004 thanks to goals from Tomas Holes and Patrik Schick. 

Holes became the first Czech player to both score and assist in a single match at the European Championship since Jan Koller and Milan Baros also did so against the Netherlands at Euro 2004.

Schick's goal, meanwhile, was his fourth in four games at Euro 2020, with only Baros (five) now having scored more major tournament goals for the Czech Republic.

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