The Netherlands get their first major tournament since 2012 underway on Sunday when they face Ukraine in their opening game of Euro 2020.
The Dutch banished their demons with an excellent qualification campaign under Ronald Koeman, but under current boss Frank de Boer, they’re yet to really get going and will be keen to finally put things together on the big stage.
To do that, they’ll need a big result against a Ukraine side who are unbeaten in 2021 and keen to make up for their own embarrassing exit from Euro 2016.
Here’s everything you need to know about the game.
When is kick off? Sunday 13 June, 20:00 (BST)
Where is the match being played? Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam
What TV Channel is it on? ITV (UK), ESPN (US)
Who is the referee? Felix Brych
Who’s on VAR duty? Marco Fritz
De Boer’s preparations for the tournament were hit by a handful of withdrawals from key players. Goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen tested positive for COVID-19 and replaced in the squad by PSV’s Marco Bizot, but expect the starting spot to be occupied by Ajax veteran Maarten Stekelenburg.
The biggest blow for De Boer came with the news that Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek was forced to withdraw through injury, but surprisingly, the manager declined to name a replacement.
“To join the squad at this stage of our preparations is not exactly ideal,” De Boer said of his decision. “We have been on the road for two weeks, and so I don’t like the idea of a new player arriving. I also have enough midfielders in my squad to absorb the blow. Of course, there can always be a situation where I change my mind, but at the moment I prefer to leave the squad as it is.”
The main concern for Ukraine boss Andriy Shevchenko is the fitness of Dynamo Kyiv winger Viktor Tsygankov. A calf injury kept him out of June’s friendlies, but there is some optimism that he could be back in time for this one.
Their build-up to the game was covered in chaos because of some controversy surrounding their kit. UEFA received a complaint from Russia about the Ukraine slogan ‘Glory to our heroes’, which was etched on the collar of their shirt, because they felt its military links made it too political.
Just one day before the tournament got underway, they were forced to bin all their old shirts and replace them with new ones without that slogan.
We’re all aware of Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum’s talents, but the real diamond of the Netherlands’ squad could be young star Ryan Gravenberch. He’s one of the most dynamic teenage midfielders in world football, and should have a role to play for De Boer’s side – perhaps from the bench to begin with.
Netherlands: Stekelenburg; De Vrij, De Ligt, Blind; Dumfries, De Jong, Wijnaldum, De Roon, Wijndal; Weghorst, Depay.
Ukraine: Bushchan; Karavaev, Zabarnyi, Matvienko, Mykolenko; Yarmolenko, Zinchenko, Malinovskyi, Sydorchuk, Zubkov; Yaremchuk.
This is a battle between two sides whose chances of a deep run in the tournament are almost equal to their chances of crashing out early on. Both have good players but lack the system and fluidity needed to make the most of that.
Of the two teams, you’d probably have to say it’s the Netherlands who will be favourites. De Boer has some huge names in his squad to call upon, and the hope will be that those stars will be able to drag the Dutch to glory.
It might not be a pretty victory, but at the Euros, just getting over the line is all that matters.
Prediction: Netherlands 2-1 Ukraine
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