We’ve had five utterly majestic international football years without hearing about them and just when people were beginning to forget about them, the Netherlands are here again. Back from the dead with somewhat of a bang and while Memphis Depay’s rap songs don’t completely suck, the Dutch side do.
Your team: Netherlands (Euro record: DNQ five times, four third place finishes, won it once)
Record since Euro 2016: 30 wins, 12 draws, 13 losses
Oh the Netherlands, how easy you make it for us. After all the hype around total football, the Dutch way, the beautiful way and yet you have achieved a grand total of nothing. Sure one Euro and a couple of third-place finishes but those are all nothing in comparison to what the hype was. Then you fail to qualify for not just the Euro 2016 but the 2018 World Cup as well. It’s like you wanted people to insult and abuse you, the fans to hate you and also make it really easy for me to write this.
And then you made it even easier when you let Ronald Koeman add that Barcelona clause in his contract and he left you high and dry. That’s a story for another point – see below – but the fact of the matter is that the Netherlands was good – centuries ago – had a spell of decent luck in the early 2010s and have sucked so very badly since then, like worse than anyone else and now we have this.
So it comes down to this but that’s not even the kicker. Go back and look at the Dutch national team’s record since Euro 2016. 30 wins isn't bad, and I’m being serious here, but 13 losses and 12 draws also look so very good, don’t they? Especially when the losses happen to be a 4-2 to Turkey, 1-0s to Italy, Mexico and Portugal (that last one in the Nations League final), four to France by a combined scoreline of 8-1 and 2-1 to Greece plus a 2-0 to Bulgaria.
All this just makes the Netherlands such an interesting prospect for the Euro 2020, like one of the favourites even with them going into the tournament with better odds than Denmark, Croatia, Poland, Sweden and Wales. The same Welsh side who reached the semi-finals at Euro 2016 but that may have something to do with the next point.
The man leading the charge: Frank de Boer
Had this been Ronald Koeman then this article would have been pointless because I would be waxing lyrical praise for the man who raised the Dutch national team back from the dead. Because he improved the team, he transformed the team and he created what was being called the Dutch new wave. A modern way of playing that took everything from the past and some from the future but like most Dutch teams, you guys let it go.
And for Frank de Boer. For Frank de Boer. For Frank de Boer.
If I was allowed to swear in an article, then this part would be filled with words, so many of them because it’s Frank de Boer. Was he a good player? No, he may have been a great one but a managerial talent tipped to do majestic things? Sure, like most Dutch players moving into a managerial career he was but like Ali Dia, he has done zilch. Open transfermarkt, Wikipedia or whatever and just look at his career post-retirement. For a man tipped to manage the greats, De Boer has been the definition of the word terrible.
84 days at Inter Milan before he was sacked, 77 days at Crystal Palace before he was sacked and then that spell at Atalanta United. Where his own players cheered when they heard that Ajax was knocked out of the Champions League, “just to piss him off”. And yet, the Dutch FA saw fit to replace Ronald Koeman with him despite the fact that they had just spent the better part of a year and three managers to find Koeman.
He wasn’t always bad, as a superb spell at a then chaotic Ajax proved, but De Boer’s talents simply haven’t shined since then and this will definitely suck for fans. Because their Dutch side wasn’t one to sit back and defend deep while playing on the break, but under De Boer that will change. It has already started and the fact that he hasn’t replaced Donny van de Beek, a key part of the side, is only making my job that much easier. Especially when Van de Beek was such a key part of the Manchester United team that finished second and won the Europa League final.
Virgil van Dijk: Injured.
Donny van de Beek: Injured.
Ronald Koeman: He’s at his dream job with Barcelona while simultaneously being on the verge of being fired from Barcelona, remember?
Memphis Depay: This could be it. The last chance that a once prodigal talent like Memphis Depay gets to show the world that is most definitely worth something more than whatever Manchester United once paid for him. Now Barcelona are going to get him for free but you get the point because Depay was the talent that everyone expected to shine like a superstar. Maybe, outside the football field?
Has it happened since then? Absolutely it has but in the French league, so technically it really hasn’t happened because football in the French league doesn’t matter. Yet, one good tournament and completely transforms the fate of Depay’s career. He won’t be a failure anymore to the eyes of those football pundits on Twitter, because that’s what really matters. Oh, and he’s a rap star so, yeah there is that..
Frenkie De Jong or Matthijs de Ligt: A former blonde superkid from Ajax or a former blonde superkid from Ajax? That is the real question but without a doubt, it has to be the man with the consistent smile on his face even though he plays for Barcelona. That is possibly the most bamboozling part of the way Frenkie de Jong plays because he does it with a smile despite the fact that he plays for Barcelona.
Yes, the-billionaire-in-debt-Barcelona-who-could-lose-Lionel-Messi-because-they’re-Barcelona Barcelona and yet Frenkie is a joy to watch. He swivels, he drives, his normality is extravagant, his extravagant is otherworldly, and he does absolutely everything you need a midfielder to do and some of the stuff he does – wait for it – resembles a certain Johan Cruyff, so how do you insult him?
What’s new that sucks:
The hype around the new wave. Is this the new wave of Dutch Football? They just might be but as a wave, they’ve done exactly nothing. Lost the Nations League final, qualified for the Euro 2020 and next on their list is the 2022 World Cup. Now could they produce a shock and stun the world at the Euros? Of course, they can and North Macedonia could win it but the question is will they and that’s a resounding maybe not. Because that’s where this nonsense about the new wave comes about and with no Virgil van Dijk, you’ve got a problem!
But then again unlike Liverpool, your options aren’t Nat Philips or Rhys Williams but Matthijs de Ligt, Daley Blind and Stefan De Vrij plus Nathan Ake, Jurrien Timber and Teun Koopmeiners. Yet, the hype around them is far more than they deserve and I’m not the only one saying it. “We are between the fourth and eighth [strongest team]. We are good enough to reach the semi-final,” said Frank de Boer. Very specific from the Dutch boss as well.
What’s old that sucks:
Their goalkeepers and I mean that nicely. Because having three men over the age of thirty between the sticks is fine especially given the age that keepers’ tend to peak, but having two over 33 is nuts. Like unthinkable stuff in the modern age when goalkeepers retire at 42 but having Tim Krul, Maarten Stekelenburg or even Jasper Cillessen as your first choice is just bad. With Virgil van Dijk in there, it’s fine but without him and those might be their weakest points.
Cillessen is the Dutch Pickford – aka has his moments of brilliance but is nothing more than an average keeper who can play with his feet – while Krul might actually be a good option. That’s despite him being 45, playing for Championship “total football” side Norwich City and getting relegated last season. Sure they’re back in the top flight now, but that’s beside the point.
And then there’s the 1000-year-old Stekelenburg. How on earth is this man still playing? No wonder Frank de Boer wants to turn Oranje into Crystal Palace or Burnley or any team that plays deep and defends like their lives are on the line.
What might give you some hope:
There is so much and that team sheet has a lot to do with it. Just look at it, go on, open Twitter, scroll through a thousand tweets that Oranje have posted and then look at the 26 man squad. Sorry, 25 cause apparently not using the chance to give your players a break by bringing one extra one is basic. Yes, so go look at it and tell me that doesn’t make you happy because it makes me happy just looking at the options in that midfield.
Frenkie de Jong, Ryan Gravenberch, Gini Wijnaldum, Teun Koopmeiners, Marten de Roon plus Stefan de Vrij, superstar De Light, Memphis Depay, Donyell Malen and the rest. This is a team everyone, this is a proper team and now all they’ve got to do is actually do something. And on a light note, this team actually looks like it could define the phrase “All vibes, no tactics”, especially under De Boer.