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The Netherlands have lifted their spirits ahead of the UEFA European Football Championship with a morale-boosting 3-0 warm-up win over Georgia. Their convincing performance in their final international friendly match before the Euros served to silence at least some of the critics of Frank de Boer’s choice in favour of a 5-3-2 system.
The vibes were excellent at De Grolsch Veste Stadium early on Sunday evening. Blissful spring weather, 7500 orange-clad fans in the stands and a steady 3-0 victory over the number 91 in the FIFA world ranking, Georgia. The victory produced happy faces all around and a particularly broad smile on the faces of two players who scored their first goal for the national team: VfL Wolfsburg striker Wout Weghorst and 19-year-old Ajax midfielder Ryan Gravenberch.
The man-of-the-match was Memphis Depay, who had opened the score in the first half by coolly converting from the spot after a foul on the impressive right-back Denzel Dumfries in the box. Depay also set up the two other goals, showing the same good form as he did during the first warm-up match against Scotland on Wednesday.
Placed 44 on the FIFA world ranking, the Scots held the Netherlands to a 2-2 draw in the Algarve in Portugal, with captain Depay equalising twice in stunning fashion. The draw, and particularly the Netherlands performance on the night, fuelled criticism of manager Frank de Boer’s choice of a 5-3-2 formation. The system is meant to make the Netherlands more stable in defence and less predictable in attack than the 4-3-3 setup, which the Oranje have been playing for years.
Atalanta Bergamo midfielder Marten de Roon, who played both friendlies, knows the system inside out. In his view, it’s been one of the factors behind his club’s recent successes. "5-3-2 gives you more security," De Roon explained at a press conference. "As a midfielder, it always gives you sufficient cover. So you’re more likely to move forward, press higher up on the pitch and be more aggressive too. I've been playing it for four years and with Atalanta we showed that 5-3-2 can also be an attractive and attacking playing style."
After the mediocre performance against the Scots, national coach Frank de Boer agreed that 3-5-2 formation did not quite work out. Nonetheless, he saw no need to worry. "We obviously need to improve and that's what we're going to do," he said.
“Considering the qualities of the players, this is an excellent system. With 4-3-3 you can put pressure on the opponents faster, but that requires a lot of power and energy. Do you want to use that from the start or possibly later in the match? We did the latter and brought more energy and threat at that point."
De Boer made the same move against Georgia, reverting to 4-3-3 late in the game after bringing in Steven Berghuis. This resulted in more chances on both sides, but no further goals. The Netherlands definitely performed better than against Scotland giving De Boer sufficient reason for optimism "We are ready," the Netherlands coach said afterwards. "There is still room to improve, but I could see from the happy faces of the players that they think the same."
Euro 2020 kicks off for the Netherlands against Ukraine on Sunday 13 June, followed by Group C fixtures against Austria on Thursday 17 June and North Macedonia on Monday 21 June. The venue for all matches: the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam.
Goalkeepers: Marco Bizot, Tim Krul, Maarten Stekelenburg
Defenders: Nathan Aké, Patrick van Aanholt, Daley Blind, Denzel Dumfries, Matthijs de Ligt, Jurrien Timber, Joel Veltman, Stefan de Vrij, Owen Wijndal
Midfielders: Donny van de Beek, Ryan Gravenberch, Frenkie de Jong, Davy Klaassen, Teun Koopmeiners, Marten de Roon, Georginio Wijnaldum
Forwards: Steven Berghuis, Memphis Depay, Cody Gakpo, Luuk de Jong, Donyell Malen, Quincy Promes, Wout Weghorst
The latest news in Dutch about the Netherlands national team