Netherlands will be hoping to begin their bid to qualify for the UEFA Euro 2020 with a bang when they host Belarus at Stadion Feijenoord on Thursday.
International football resumes for the first time in 2019, with the qualification process for next year’s UEFA European Championship set to begin. And, Netherlands will be aiming to continue their resurgent run when they welcome Belarus to Stadion Feijenoord on Thursday night.
A Dutch renaissance has been in the works since Ronald Koeman took charge of the national side at this time last year. And, after being beaten in his first game in-charge, the 55-year-old has not looked back, inspiring the Oranje to the UEFA Nations League finals.
The next challenge for Netherlands will now be returning to the UEFA European Championship, having failed to qualify for the 2016 edition in France. Like their hosts, Belarus missed out on making it to UEFA Euro 2016, although they have never managed to reach the finals of any edition as an independent nation.
However, Igor Kriushenko’s men do approach the latest set of international fixtures on a high, having secured promotion to UEFA Nations League C in the second half of 2018. But, with their UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers group also containing Netherlands and Germany, making it to next year’s finals will be a tough ask.
Netherlands and Belarus were also a part of the same qualifying group for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with Thursday’s hosts winning both home and away. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
As has been the case throughout the last year, Ronald Koeman has stuck with the core group of players that have already brought him a lot of success since he took over. The only player missing from the last squad picked by the Netherlands head coach is Javairo Dilrosun, who was not a regular anyway.
Koeman has not tinkered much with his team selection for competitive fixtures, with the starting eleven largely remaining the same. To that end, Jasper Cillessen should continue in goal for the hosts, despite rarely featuring at club level for Barcelona.
The right-back slot will be a toss-up between Denzel Dumfries and Kenny Tete, with the latter likely to get the nod. At the heart of the Dutch defence, there is no looking past the usually impregnable partnership of Matthijs de Ligt and Virgil van Dijk, while experienced defender Daley Blind will line up as the left-back.
In midfield, Frenkie de Jong will have the responsibility of screening the backline while also pulling the strings from the deep lying position. The soon-to-be Barcelona superstar will be complemented by the tireless duo of Georginio Wijnaldum and Marten de Roon, although Davy Propper is another option at Koeman’s disposal.
Up ahead in attack, Memphis Depay has locked down one spot, and will lead the line for Netherlands. The other two slots will be contested between Quincy Promes, Ryan Babel and Steven Bergwijn, with the Ajax superstar likely to miss out on Thursday.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Cillessen; Tete, de Ligt, van Dijk, Blind; de Roon, de Jong, Wijnaldum; Promes, Depay, Babel
Like Koeman, Igor Kriushenko had named a preliminary squad for the latest round of international fixtures before narrowing down to his final squad. The Belarus boss though, has continued putting his faith in largely the same squad that achieved promotion to UEFA Nations League C, with Syarhey Chernik the major absentee.
In place of the 30-year-old, experienced goalkeeper Andrey Harbunow will likely be deployed between the sticks. Ahead of the veteran custodian, Kriushenko should line his side up in a familiar 4-1-4-1 formation, with Ivan Mayewski screening the defensive line.
The back four should see Igor Shitov and Dzyanis Palyakow ought to be the full-backs who will primarily be tasked with remaining disciplined in defence rather than bombing forward at every given opportunity. At the heart of the defence, Alyaksandr Martynovich is likely to be partnered by Maksim Valadzko.
The four-man attacking line behind the striker will line up with the aim of creating overloads, with Alexander Hleb and Stanislav Dragun manning central positions, while Pavel Savistki and Ihar Stasevich will be the wide midfielders. Meanwhile, Anton Saroka should continue to be the central striker for Belarus.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Harbunow; Shitov, Valadzko, Martynovich, Palyakow; Mayewski; Stasevich, Dragun, Hleb, Savitski; Saroka
- Netherlands lead the head-to-head record against Belarus, having won six of the eight meetings between the two sides (L2).
- Ronald Koeman has overseen just two losses in his ten games as the Netherlands head coach (W4 D4).
- Belarus were beaten just once in all of 2018, when Finland handed them a 2-0 defeat in Tampere (W6 D3).
- No player has scored more than Quincy Promes (2) in matches between Netherlands and Belarus.
Player to Watch
It has been a strange year so far for Memphis Depay, who is admittedly growing frustrated at Lyon. The former Manchester United star has managed to find the back of the net just twice in 2019 and was benched in Lyon’s most recent Ligue 1 game.
But, at the international stage, the 25-year-old has become a genuine superstar for Netherlands, having become the attacking talisman for the national side. Having also been given the backing by Ronald Koeman, Depay will now hope to return to top form and continue the Oranje resurgence.
Netherlands 2-0 Belarus
After being mired in mediocrity for years, Netherlands seem to have finally struck gold in Ronald Koeman, whose young side has been making waves in the last 12 months. But, Belarus are not a team to be taken lightly, especially owing to their incredible resilience at the back.
Under Koeman, the Dutch have been amassing a reputation of being really good grafters, a quality that should stand them in good stead on Thursday. The Hard Tackle predicts a keenly contested affair, but one that should be won by Netherlands. We are going for a 2-0 win for the hosts.