Netherlands players Memphis Depay (r.) And Wout Weghorst
Photo: via www.imago-images.de / imago images / Pro Shots
Netherlands: Not a big chest, despite several top players
It's been seven years since Oranje was last represented at a major tournament. Now the Elftal is back (at 9 p.m. against Ukraine, live ticker SPIEGEL.de; TV: ARD; Stream: MagentaTV) - and after years of sporting decline, the favorite in Group C. That has more to do with the Netherlands simply has the most top players: Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong or Matthijs de Ligt are stars, many of their skills are world class or on the way there.
Nevertheless, the Dutch do not go into the tournament with the broadest chest. The trust in coach Frank de Boer is crumbling - not only because of de Boer's latest lapse when he highlighted the not even nominated Queensy Menig as an excellent option for the right-wing defense (and probably meant the trained right-winger Quincy Promes) during a press conference.
Rather, the results in 2021 were not optimal.
A 2: 2 in the test against Scotland, a 2: 4 in the World Cup qualification against Turkey: The Dutch did not always get their theoretical quality on the field, especially on the defensive.
Goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen is not in the squad after a corona infection, Virgil van Dijk (cruciate ligament tear) and Donny van Beek (groin problems) are injured.
The Dutch team is still strong - but not as strong as it could be.
Ukraine: Guardiola's left-back plays in the middle
The national coach Andrei Shevchenko had said in the run-up to the European Championship that the group stage would survive the “minimum goal”.
That may sound ambitious in that this declared minimum would mean the best result a Ukrainian team has ever done at a European Championship.
But the optimism that this time it could go beyond the preliminary round is justified: In qualifying, they prevailed as the unbeaten first in a group with defending champions Portugal, and the group draw meant it well with Ukraine afterwards.
Even the Netherlands, the only real chunk, could be beatable.
The Ukrainian team's greatest trump card is their central midfield: Oleksandr Zinchenko is not playing there, more or less David Alaba of Ukraine, who defends on the left at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola and moves forward and into the center for the national dream. Above all, with Ruslan Malinovskyi, the team has perhaps the best left foot of the tournament.
The 28-year-old only had his breakthrough in a top European league this year, when Atalanta Bergamo's scouting system was working extremely well. Malinovskyi found his way there straight away: Eight goals, twelve assists - the ten is a versatile top player who can shield the ball, dribble and play brilliant passes. Above all, Malinovskyi's long-range shot is feared - almost every goal of the Ukrainian is only possible through his fantastic shooting technique. Malinovskyi will be a weapon to Ukrainians regardless of the quality of the opponent.