All Action in Amsterdam. As the Dutch national anthem rang out in front of the 16,000 fans packed inside the iconic Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam for the Onsoranje first match of Euro 2020, both Ronald De Boer’s men and Ukrainian legend Andriy Shevchenko’s Ukraine side did not disappoint in a 5 goal thriller. The action started right from the get-go with end-to-end football showcasing itself in all its beauty from the first 5 minutes.
Georginio Wijnaldum’s finesse and the pace and power of Denzel Dumfries down the right-hand side caused the Ukrainians major problems which were first exposed from the PSV fullback’s shot which was well saved by Heorhiy Bushchan. Whilst the Ukrainians found themselves in some dangerous positions in the early stages of the first half, the second quarter of the match looked different. The Netherlands dominated the ball and key chances, with Frenkie De Jong and Gini Wijnaldum pulling the strings for a lively Memphis Depay who did all but score in the First Half.
The constant probing and dominance of the dutch would soon pay off in the 49’ minute where a wicked ball in from Denzel Dumfries was parried out only to the feet of an ice-cold G. Wijnaldum who slotted coolly away for the opener in Amsterdam. This effort was then quickly doubled by Wout Weghorst, a man in the form to make the score 2-0 to the Dutch. With hands-on heads, the match seemed to be over for the Ukrainians.
While the Ukrainian talisman was missing for ⅔ of the game, Andriy Yarmolenko, the Second top goal scorer in Ukrainian history (after his manager), in the 75’ minute cut inside onto his wand of a left foot and struck it past an aging Maartin Steklenbuurg in goal and the comeback was on. A freekick in the 78’ minute, an ace delivery from Atalanta star Ruslan Malinovsky, was slotted home by Roman Yaremchuk, and the comeback had seemingly been complete.
As all seemed poised for a draw, Dutch spirit and resilience found another way to break down the Ukranian rear guard, yet in a fortunate way with a lapse in concentration from keeper Bushchan, a Nathan Ake cross was met with a Cristiano Ronaldo-Esque leap from Denzel Dumfries to secure the 3 points for the Netherlands in the 86’ minute, breaking Ukrainian hearts right at the death, seeing the Dutch joint first behind Austria on goal difference in Group C.
Role Model performance from a Role Model Captain, Georginio Wijnaldum
Though there were arguably many stand-out performers for the Dutch, the work ethic and game management alongside the goal from Georginio Wijnaldum made him MOTM. Wijnaldum’s constant press on the ball, and his ability to be ice cold in front of the goal put the Dutch at ease with the opener, settling the nerves of fans who were seeing a dominant side fail to score. The Dutch captain’s pressure on the ball to push the Ukrainians into forcing errors particularly in midfield, intertwined with his precision on the ball, made him a constant menace for the Yellow and Blue men. With 89% pass possession throughout the game, the work ethic and technical flair shown by Wijnaldum can correspond with the work of Jurgen Klopp whose relationship with the midfielder has blossomed over recent years, which was shown in full effect in Amsterdam.
Alongside Wijnaldum the performances of both his midfield teammates in Marten De Roon and Frenkie De Jong aided the Dutch with honest efforts which saw the Dutch overrun the Ukrainians in midfield. Most notably F.De Jong turned defense into attack effectively for the Dutch receiving the ball from Daley Blind over 21 times, to then play it up-front to Memphis Depay 16 times representing the forward-thinking nature of De Boer’s men.
The Tipping Point & The Flop
Whilst the match ended 3-2 in favor of the Dutch which in the grand scheme of things presents a fair depiction of the game, though harsh the mistakes made by Ukrainian Goalkeeper Heorhiy Bushchan may have cost the Ukrainians more than their poor performance. The 85’ minute mistake from the Dynamo Kyiv keeper to not clear the ball, to rather pass without judgment to Owen Wijndal which led to the third and final goal from D. Dumfries which Bushchan on another day would have saved came from an easy error which was avoidable but ended up being so costly in the match ultimately resulting in a loss.
Whilst Bushchan saved some decisive shots notably from Gini Wijnaldum and Denzel Dumfries on either side of halftime, his lapses in concentration in the third and also the first goal tipped the game in great favor of the Netherlands who profited on both occasions. Though the Ukrainians played a back-to-the-wall performance for large parts of the game, for the first time in the tournament, this side went on the score and level the game, yet only to concede via lack of concentration and game management which cost dearly in tournament football.
Having said this, Heorhiy Bushchan’s ability to keep out M. Depay, D. Dumfries, and G. Wijnaldum at key points can sum up the dominance of the Dutch side. Atalanta star Ruslan Malinovskyi’s lack of impact on the game, considering he is one of Ukraine’s brightest players the inability for the technically gifted midfielder to get into the game showed accordingly with his performance against the Netherlands. Though getting an assist for Yaremchuk’s goal in the second half, Malinovskyi’s ineffectiveness going forward in open play showed greatly with just 2 key attacking passes and ¼ of the Atalanta star’s passes being off-target.
The Ukrainians will hope that Ruslan, who will play an integral part of the Ukrainian set up in the upcoming group games, can perform far better than against the Dutch. The quality is visibly there to see via the set-piece delivery for R. Yaremchuk, however, if Ukraine is to go far into the tournament, a firing Ruslan Malinovkyi will be a must.
Motivation for both sides amidst a costly result for the Ukrainians
While the Dutch carry the momentum going forward with the wind in their sails for their match against Austria on Thursday, the Ukrainians can also take positives going into their match against North Macedonia on the same day. Goals from both Andriy Yarmolenko and striker Roman Yaremchuk and the fighting spirit shown by the Ukrainians against a highly rated Dutch team should fill the Eastern Europeans with much confidence progressing through the tournament. As for the Dutch, 3 goals in front of home fans in Amsterdam put the team in good stead going forward, yet manager Frank De Boer will want to assure up the defense going forward as on another day the result could have been looking far less rosy, against better opposition with all due respect.
Author: Arnov Paul Choudhury (@ArnovPaul01)