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Netherlands route to the Euro 2024 final: Potential knock-out opponents for Oranje

Netherlands route to the Euro 2024 final: Potential knock-out opponents for Oranje
Netherlands route to the Euro 2024 final: Potential knock-out opponents for Oranje

With Euro 2024 under way, we examine who the Netherlands might face on their way to the European Championships final.

Unlike in past tournaments, the Netherlands are not among the favourites to win the summer championship. However they came back beat Poland in their opener and Friday night’s 0-0 draw with France means they could still top Group D.

So, who could the Netherlands face in Europe’s biggest international football tournament?

The Netherlands’ potential route to Euro 2024 final

The Netherlands Group D fixtures

2-1 vs Poland – Netherlands had to come from behind to beat a resolute Poland side but they showed the grit and perseverance needed to find the victory. The Oranje ended the game with 20 shots and there was certainly some promise but their deficiencies were also on show, conceding seven shots on goal and being overrun in midfield at times. There’s definitely room for improvement for Ronald Koeman’s side but there are signs they could make a run deeper into the tournament.

0-0 France (21 June, 8pm BST) – In recent history France had been a dominant force against the Netherlands, winning seven of their last eight showdowns. They even won two contests 4-0, including on Koeman’s first game back in charge. This time we got the first 0-0 in 51 European Championship games. Xavi Simons even could have scored the winner, had his late strike not been disallowed by the referee in a contentious VAR decision.

vs Austria (25 June, 5pm BST) – Dutch fans would be hoping to visit Berlin more than once this summer. By now, Oranje would know what they must do to progress, and anything less than that would be considered a failure. Austria will be a formidable opponent. They finished as runners-up in their Euro 2024 qualifying group, just one point behind unbeaten Belgium, scoring an average of 2.1 goals per game. However, history favours the Netherlands as they have won their last seven meetings, including the previous encounter at Euro 2020, where they won 2-0.

If the Netherlands finish top of Group D

Last 16: If Koeman’s team wins Group D, they will face the runner-up of Group F next, likely to be Turkey based on the betting odds. Portugal are expected to win the group, and at the time of writing the Czech Republic are predicted to finish third ahead of newcomers Georgia.

Quarter-final: Would most likely face the winner of Group E, which as things stand by far the hardest to predict. Slovakia produced the shock of the tournament by beating Belgium but then lost to Ukraine. This means Romania (who beat Ukraine) are now slight favourites to top Group E — though that could change after they play Belgium on Saturday. Whoever it is, they play one of the third-place teams from Groups A through to D.

Semi-final: Either the winner of Group C or the runner-up of Group A/B. According to oddsmakers, England are most likely to win Group C, while Switzerland or Italy could be the runner-up of Group A/B. Beating England or the defending champions will be difficult.

Final: The winner from the other bracket, potentially Portugal or Germany.

If the Netherlands finish runner-up in Group D

Last 16: According to pre-tournament predictions, France are expected to win Group D. It’s still reasonable to assume that Oranje will finish second. In the round of 16, Oranje face the runners-up from Group E (see above for a reminder for how tough that groups is to call). It is not impossible this will be Belgium.

Quarter-final: Likely Portugal, a team that has eliminated them from previous competitions.

Semi-final: If they manage to break this hoodoo, they could face historic rivals Germany or Spain, both of whom have a past with Oranje, both good and bad.

Final: If the odds prove accurate, this route sets up a final against England or a rematch against France.

It’s a challenging route, with Portugal, Germany, and a final to win, but anything’s possible in a tournament setting, and we’ve seen lesser Dutch teams go deep before.

If the Netherlands finish third in Group D

In football, anything can happen; we’ve seen previous Dutch teams underperform in the European Championships, notably in 2012. Koeman’s job could be at risk if they finish third, especially if they don’t make it as one of the four best third-placed teams.

According to early betting odds, the third-placed team in Group D may progress to play against the winner of Group B, Group C or Group E, likely to be Spain, England and basically anyone in Group E.

If they play and defeat Spain, they will face the winner of Group A or Group C runner-up, probably Germany or Denmark, in the quarter-finals. Later, they will face Portugal, a tough opponent for Oranje, in the potential semi-finals.

If they beat the Group E winners, they could face France or Turkey in the quarter-finals before playing England or Italy in the last four.

The situation will be different if they go up against England in the round of 16, as they will face Group A/B runner-up in the quarter-finals before potentially meeting France (again) or Turkey in the semi-finals.

The Netherlands’ reasons for optimism

Oranje faced an existential crisis not long ago, failing to qualify for back-to-back tournaments. The dearth of talent and a lost generation were cited for this sharp decline on the international stage. Under Koeman’s initial leadership, the ship had turned, and now qualification is no longer taken for granted. He can call upon an exciting crop of emerging stars and credible veterans who are mainstays at Europe’s biggest clubs.

However, recent championship performances have seen the Dutch fall below expectations, and their exit from Qatar 2022 — losing to eventual winners Argentina on penalties after staging a remarkable turnaround — still hurts. But, again, the calibre of players at Koeman’s disposal can be described as an embarrassment of riches; there are match-winners capable of winning games from seemingly nowhere.

Oranje goes into Euro 2024 as the group behind the pre-tournament favourites. It may very well be where they want to be, but with no expectations, they can underpromise and then over-deliver.

The Netherlands potential roadblocks

It is said that a fish rots from the head down. There are doubts about Koeman’s ability to lead this generation of players, and questions about his tactical prowess remain. Since his re-appointment, the process hasn’t been smooth since his re-appointment, with a few uninspiring performances and questionable team selections.

Furthermore, they have struggled with the long-standing issue of players not being able to replicate their club form at the international level, with some high-profile players being singled out. This is where Oranje could unravel. Koeman’s pragmatism has frequently stifled any Dutch creativity, and if he goes into this competition with a defensive mindset, then Netherlands progression could be limited.

While the talent pool is not in question, the one pulling the strings determines whether they can recreate the summer of 1988 or endure another frustrating tournament campaign.

Ronald Koeman tactical insights

During the qualifying campaign, Koeman experimented with different formations, starting with a 4-3-3 variant before switching to a back-three, which for a while seemed likely how Oranje would play this summer, but he’s reverted back at least for their Euro 2024 opener:

Netherlands XI vs Poland: Verbruggen; Dumfries, De Vrij, Van Dijk, Aké; Schouten, Veerman; Simons, Reijnders, Gakpo; Depay

This back-three approach made sense since the Dutch team’s greatest strength lies in their defence. In the Premier League, Nathan Ake and Virgil van Dijk have shown their ability to join and build up attacks. At the same time, Denzel Dumfries or understudy Jeremie Frimpong is perfect for the right-wing-back role.

Frenkie de Jong was guaranteed to start in the heart of the Netherlands midfield but has been ruled out through injury, meaning PSV duo Jerdy Schouten and Joey Veerman occupy the central midfield positions alongside Tijjani Reijnders, who enjoyed a stellar debut campaign for AC Milan.

Oranje’s attack will be led by Memphis Depay, with Xavi Simons and Cody Gakpo if Koeman goes with a 4-3-3 variant.

Fan and media perspectives

“In the Netherlands, we have 17 million national-team managers,” said former Oranje head coach Frank de Boer once quipped.

Despite the Netherlands’ impressive footballing history, fans often have high expectations for their national team in tournaments. While the team has won one major trophy and appeared in three finals, expecting them to perform at the same level as Europe’s top teams is unrealistic.

Many observers now recognize this fact, and even though fan support remains strong, there is a growing sense of realism. However, missteps will be scrutinized and overanalyzed, especially since the Dutch will field a squad of talented players.

If the team clicks and goes on a successful run, expect enthusiastic support that could rival Max Verstappen’s popularity.

How the Netherlands qualified for Euro 2024

The Netherlands finished second in Group B to qualify for Euro 2024, losing twice to eventual winners France.