Netherlands will be hoping to kick off their UEFA Euro 2020 campaign on a winning note when they take on Ukraine at the Amsterdam ArenA on Sunday night.
The first round of fixtures in the UEFA Euro 2020 continue on Sunday as the action kicks off in Group C with Austria taking on North Macedonia in first-up before Netherlands lock horns with Ukraine in Amsterdam, aiming to hit the ground running in the summer extravaganza.
After missing out on the last two major tournaments in international football, Netherlands are back on the big stages finally and will be intent on making up for the lost time. The Oranje navigated through the qualifiers without any major hiccups as Ronald Koeman guided them to a second-place finish in Group C, behind Germany, with six wins in eight games (D1 L1).
With Koeman resigning last year, Netherlands form suffered a bit under interim boss Dwight Lodeweges and new manager Frank de Boer, costing them a place in the UEFA Nations League finals. And, despite a loss to Turkey in their FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers, the Dutch team go into the Euros with a fairly positive mindset, with five wins in their last seven matches, including a 3-0 triumph over Georgia last weekend.
Ukraine, meanwhile, were one of the surprise packages in the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers as they topped Group B ahead of more fancied teams like Portugal and Serbia, not losing a single one of their eight matches (W6 D2). Andriy Shevchenko’s side, though, had a difficult 2020 as they were relegated to League B in the UEFA Nations League despite picking up wins over Switzerland and Spain.
Nonetheless, the Yellow and Blues haven’t lost a single game in 2021 (D4 W2), a run that includes a draw against France in the World Cup qualifiers and back-to-back wins over Northern Ireland (1-0) and Cyprus (4-0) in friendlies leading up to the European Championships.
The last time Netherlands and Ukraine clashed was over a decade ago in a friendly encounter that ended in a 1-1 draw. Ahead of what is a critical fixture in Group C of the UEFA Euro 2020, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Netherlands were dealt a double blow in the lead-up to the tournament as Donny van de Beek and Jasper Cillessen have been ruled out due to injury and coronavirus, respectively. Frank de Boer has decided not to call up a replacement for the Manchester United midfielder, though. Matthijs de Ligt will miss out of the contest as he recovers from a groin injury.
De Boer is likely to operate with a three-man defensive unit again on Sunday, with the inexperienced Jurrien Timber set to pair up alongside seasoned campaigners Stefan de Vrij and Daley Blind. The triumvirate will be shielding Maarten Stekelenburg in goal, with the manager confirming that the 38-year-old will be starting ahead of Tim Krul.
— OnsOranje (@OnsOranje) June 12, 2021
Denzel Dumfries and Owen Wijndal are certain to feature as the two wing-backs on the right and left sides, from where they will constantly look to push forward and offer width in the final third of the pitch.
The responsibility of keeping things in check in the centre of the park will fall onto the shoulders of Marten de Roon, who will be supported by Barcelona superstar Frenkie de Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum, both of whom will also have the licence to drive forward and offer the creative thrust for the home team.
Memphis Depay, who has been in red hot form coming into the tournament, will be the key man in attack as he pairs up with Wout Weghorst in the two-pronged strike-force for Netherlands.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Stekelenburg; Timber, de Vrij, Blind; Dumfries, Wijnaldum, de Roon, de Jong, Wijndal; Weghorst, Depay
Ukraine manager Andriy Shevchenko does not have any major fitness concerns heading into their first Group C encounter. However, the big question is whether the former AC Milan striker decides to use the 4-3-3 formation and stick to possession-based style or switches to a more cautious setup mirroring Netherlands’ shape. Given the importance of the game, the latter could be a strong possibility.
That should see Ukraine set up with a three-man backline comprising Illya Zabarnyi, who has been linked to Chelsea, along with Mykola Matviyenko and Vitaliy Mykolenko. The trio will be shielding Heorhiy Bushchan in goal, who is now the first-choice ahead of Andriy Pyatov. Oleksandr Karavayev and Eduard Sobol ought to line up as the two wing-backs on the right and left sides, respectively.
Veteran midfielders Taras Stepanenko and Serhiy Sydorchuk ought to form the double pivot for the visitors, where they will look to curtail the influence of their opposite numbers in Frenkie de Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum. Manchester City’s Premier League winner Oleksandr Zinchenko will take up a slightly advanced position in the middle of the park to try and provide attacking support while also helping out off the ball.
Roman Yaremchuk will be the target man at the top, while Ruslan Malinovksyi operates in a free role alongside him, hoping to pick apart the Netherlands defence.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Bushchan; Zabarnyi, Matviyenko, Mykolenko; Karavayev, Sydorchuk, Stepanenko, Zinchenko, Sobol; Yaremchuk, Malinovskyi
- This will only be the third meeting between Netherlands and Ukraine. Out of the previous two, the Oranje have one, while the other ended in a draw.
- After a run of six losses in eight games in 2020, Ukraine haven’t lost even one of their last six games since the turn of the year, although four games have ended in 1-1 draws.
- Netherlands have lost just one of their last ten matches, including friendlies. Frank de Boer’s side have picked up wins in three of their previous four encounters.
Player in Focus
Memphis Depay (Netherlands)
Even as talks about his club future rumble on, Memphis Depay enters the UEFA Euro 2020 as one of the most in-form players. Indeed, the 27-year-old ended the 2020/21 season with Olympique Lyon with a return of 22 goals and 2 assists, scoring six in his last six club appearances.
In addition to that, he has netted five times in his last three games for Netherlands, making him their biggest weapon on Sunday night. Likely to be given a free role, playing off of Wout Weghorst, Depay’s pace and incisive movement when he cuts in from the left could pose a major issue for the visitors.
Ruslan Malinovskyi (Ukraine)
Imagine talking of a creative playmaker without mentioning Ruslan Malinovskyi
What a player he has been
He helped Ukraine to finish ahead of Portugal by the way
Malinovskyi is a creative genius, he topped the assist chart in Serie A with Atalanta
Scored crucial goals too pic.twitter.com/PpiN3yLW1K
— Kasembeli◼ (@Kasembeli_) June 6, 2021
For Ukraine, who are likely to set up with a defensive outlook on Sunday, it becomes imperative that they make the most of whatever opportunities they get in the final third, which is where Ruslan Malinovskyi will be key. The 28-year-old enjoyed a fine season with Atalanta, scoring and creating goals in equal measure.
Set to play in a slightly more advanced role than he generally does, the attacking midfielder will not only have to engineer openings for his partner, Yaremchuk, but also make sure that he himself provides a serious goal threat on the night.
Netherlands 1-1 Ukraine
Both teams come into the game on the back of big wins, but the contest on Sunday is likely to be a cagey affair. A switch to 3-5-2 could take out some attacking threat for Ukraine. So, Netherlands, who will be without Matthijs de Ligt and Virgil van Dijk, should still be able to cope with the visitors’ attack.
At the same time, the Yellow and Blues have looked solid and disciplined in defence of late as well, meaning the hosts could find it difficult to break them open. All things considered, this could potentially end in a 1-1 draw at Amsterdam ArenA.