Netherlands square off with the Czech Republic on Sunday as they two hope to secure a place in the quarter-finals of UEFA Euro 2020.
Following an exciting round of group stage encounters, the knockout stages are now upon us, with nations like Italy, Wales, Denmark and Austria featuring on Saturday.
On Sunday, Netherlands will be bidding for a place in the quarter-finals, as they take on the Czech Republic at the Ferenc Puskas Arena. It will be the first time the Dutch travel out of their home city of Amsterdam in Euro 2020, having played all of their three group games at the Amsterdam ArenA.
Frank de Boer’s men convincingly won Group C as well, even emerging as one of the best performing teams in the competition with three wins in three games. They are, in fact, the current top-scorers of UEFA Euro 2020 with eight goals, with the Oranje hoping to further improve their tally on Sunday.
The Czech Republic, in contrast, qualified for the knockout stages as one of the four best third-placed teams in the group stages. They started the tournament on a healthy, securing a win over Scotland before holding Croatia to a draw. However, a final day defeat to England, coupled with Croatia’s 3-1 victory over Scotland, tipped the table in favour of the 2018 World Cup finalists.
The Czechs, nevertheless, will be hopeful of their chances, perhaps even replicating some of the magic from their memorable 3-2 comeback win against the Dutchmen in the 2004 edition of the European Championship. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at these two sides ahead of their blockbuster tie at the packed Ferenc Puskas Arena this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Frank de Boer did not make too many notable changes in their last group game despite having secured qualification to the knockout rounds. Maarten de Roon was the only key first-team star rested, with the young Ryan Gravenberch getting a call-up.
de Boer is likely to revert that change as the Atalanta midfielder is vital in the second line of press. His hard-working nature, combined with his aggression, defensive prowess, allows Frenkie de Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum to express themselves more going forward.
Wijnaldum, in particular, has been a key cog in Netherlands’ creative play. He will once again play a vital role in linking up alongside the likes of de Jong and the two marauding wingbacks in Denzel Dumfries and Patrick van Aanholt.
Given that the Netherlands’ main forward, Memphis Depay, likes to operate from the middle, the wingbacks are critical in making those overlapping runs out wide. It stretches the opposition defence, allowing Wijnaldum, Depay more space in the final third.
Who plays alongside Depay, though, remains an open question. Donyell Malen has made a solid impression, but Wout Weghorst appears to be the favourite. The VfL Wolfsburg forward’s towering figure could be useful in aerial crosses, while his strength is always a bonus in the opposition half.
Defensively, de Boer has no reason to tinker with the proven back-three of Daley Blind, Stefan de Vrij and Matthijs de Ligt. The Dutch coach does have the highly versatile Nathan Ake if required.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Stekelenburg; de Vrij, Blind, de Ligt; Dumfries, de Roon, de Jong, van Aanholt; Wijnaldum; Weghorst, Depay
The Czech Republic stumbled to a 1-0 defeat in their last game against England. However, coach Jaroslav Silhavy has no reason to tinker with the tried and tested 4-2-3-1 that can remain defensively resilient.
Tomas Kalas and Ondrej Celustka are two hard-working centre-backs who know how to defend deep in their lines. The onus, though, will mainly be on the fullbacks in Vladimir Coufal and Jan Boril as they look to deal with the marauding opposition fullbacks.
In fact, the potential numerical superiority that the Netherlands like to create in the final third might force Silhavy to instruct either of his central midfielders in Tomas Holes or Tomas Soucek to operate deeper.
Holes is the likely candidate, as Soucek can be very effective with his driving runs forward. Silhavy, though, has the option of Alex Kral, who is much more experienced in operating as a makeshift centre-back. We do, in fact, expect Kral to get the nod ahead of Holes in defensive midfield.
Kral’s role as an auxiliary centre-back may also force the number ten Vladimir Darida to operate deeper, alongside Soucek. The Czechs, therefore, might appear heavily reliant on counter-attacks, as the opposition dominate possession.
Fortunately for Silhavy, he has some talented wide players at his disposal. Both Lukas Masopust and Jakub Jankto can be considered as runners, along with the top-scorer Patrik Schick. Adam Hlozek is another exciting option from the bench, with the youngster recently being linked with a move to Arsenal and Liverpool.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Vaclik; Coufal, Celustka, Kalas, Boril; Kral, Soucek; Masopust, Darida, Jankto; Schick
Czech Republic: LDWWL
- 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. They have lost each of their last two games against the Czechs – both coming in qualifying for the previous European Championships in 2016.
- The Czech Republic and the Netherlands will face each other at the European Championship for the third time (excluding 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.
- Since winning the tournament in 1988, the Netherlands have progressed from just two of their seven knockout stage games in the European Championship, beating Yugoslavia 6-1 in the 2000 quarter-final and winning 5-4 on penalties against Sweden at the same stage in 2004.
- The Czech Republic have been eliminated in three of their last four games in the knockout stages of the European Championships. The final against Germany in Euro 1996, the semi-final against Greece in Euro 2004 and most recently, the quarter-final of Euro 2012 against Portugal.
- The Netherlands are looking to win their opening four games of a European Championship campaign for only the second time, having last done so at Euro 2000. Current manager Frank de Boer played in every minute of the four victories to open the tournament in 2000, with all of them being played on home soil in the Netherlands.
Players in Focus
Memphis Depay (Netherlands)
Even though Georginio Wijnaldum is the top scorer with three goals, Memphis Depay is undisputedly the most important player for the Netherlands as they take on the Czech Republic. The Lyon attacker has been sensational in this tournament, spearheading the Dutch attack with aplomb. He was also rewarded with a permanent move to FC Barcelona recently.
From a tactical perspective, Depay is expected to play the supporting role for striker Weghorst. He is expected to shift out wide if necessary as well as act as a runner in case of any counter-attacking opportunities. It is safe to say that the Dutchman provides the variety and productivity to de Boer’s attacking setup, with the Oranje hoping that he can replicate his performances once again in Budapest.
Patrik Schick (Czech Republic)
For the Czech Republic, there is only one player, and that is Patrik Schick. The Bayer Leverkusen forward has been a revelation in UEFA Euro 2020, netting three goals in three matches, becoming one of the top scorers in the competition. One of his goals against Scotland will even go down as the best goal in the tournament.
However, Schick needs to remain patient against a Netherlands side that won’t give him too much space or freedom in the final third. The former AS Roma forward may end up being heavily reliant on aerial crosses, but he also needs to be sharp in front of goal if Czechia are to have any chances of causing an upset this weekend.
Netherlands 1-0 Czech Republic
The Czech Republic are not an opposition to be taken lightly, not just by the Netherlands. The Oranje may have breezed through the group stages, but they might face difficulties finding too many breakthroughs against a Czech defence that like to operate deep in their lines. Not to mention, Silhavy’s men boast talented players in the attack who can hurt the Dutch on the counter.
However, the Netherlands’ superiority in the middle of the park might give them a huge advantage heading into this affair. We also don’t expect the Group C winners to concede, though the defenders certainly need to be at the top of their game.