Dominant Netherlands reach knockout stages as Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt shine

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·15-min read
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Frenkie de Jong (right) gets a pass away under pressure from Xaver Schlager - AFP
Frenkie de Jong (right) gets a pass away under pressure from Xaver Schlager - AFP

We are no closer to solving the riddle that is Memphis Depay after he scored a goal, helped create another and somehow still managed to leave the impression he struggles whenever burdened with the pressure of expectation.

On a night that brought out the best in two of Amsterdam’s favourite sons on their return home, Frenkie de Jong and Mathijis de Ligt, the focus also fell on Depay who is looking to secure a move back to the top tier of European club football this summer.

View the highlights of this game and you will see a player who converted a penalty and helped create the Netherland’s second goal. You will also see him miss an open goal from six yards, but what you perhaps will not be aware of is how badly that affected him.

Depay barely touched the ball after that horrible moment and, if anything, went missing, his confidence damaged to the extent he did not really want to show for it.

Even before one of the misses of the tournament so far, the Lyon player had been a target for home fan frustration, frequently losing the ball trying to dribble or with a misplaced pass.

Much of what he did was unconvincing, yet even so, it was his clever pass over the top of Austria’s high line defence that sent substitute Donyell Malen in on goal, where he squared for Denzel Dumfries to score his second of the tournament.

Denzel Dumfries celebrates with Memphis Depay after scoring the Netherlands' second goal - AFP
Denzel Dumfries celebrates with Memphis Depay after scoring the Netherlands' second goal - AFP

At the age of 27, Depay has a big move in him. Having flopped at Manchester United, he has rebuilt his reputation with Lyon where he has looked at ease with life and with it football. This summer he is believed to be on the verge of joining de Jong at Barcelona.

But under pressure, he remains less convincing. The fact he disappeared from the game after the open goal miss will also have been noted by those watching closely.

"He knows he can perform better," said Holland manager Frank de Boer. "But let's go into the tournament easily and hopefully he can save his quality and show it in the latter stages of the tournament."

Like Depay, de Jong and de Ligt have not always found things easy since leaving the familiarity of their parent clubs, but both were superb on their return to their former Ajax stomping ground.

De Jong, in particular, is starting to climb out of the hole he found himself at Barcelona. There were signs he was getting to grips with things in Spain last season and he ran the midfield against Austria. There was also a solid and imposing return to the side for de Ligt at centre back.

The Netherlands, though, were impressive again. The tone was set by de Jong, who brought the crowd to their feet early on. The way he spotted a gap in Austria’s midfield, drove through it, leaving three players trailing in his wake was simply sensational.

De Light, who had missed the win over Ukraine with a groin injury, was back in the centre of defence, the Juventus centre back also bringing fans to their feet with a piece of muscular defending to win the ball and then the skill to bring it forward. A tackle on Christoph Baumgartner, as the last defender, inside the area, was also as good as you will see in this tournament.

Austria, though, were chasing the game early after David Alaba decided to dive in to try and win a tackle when he never looked like getting to the ball before Dumfries.

Referee, Franco Foda, missed the contact in real time, but awarded the penalty, converted by Depay, after being advised to look at his screen by the Var official.

The Netherlands should have turned their control of the contest into a two goal lead just before the interval. Gini Wijnaldum’s pass was perfect for Wout Weghorst and he unselfishly pulled the ball back for Depay to somehow miss. His cry of anguish was drowned out by thousand screams of frustration in the stands.

08:58 PM

Full time, Netherlands 2 Austria 0

It wasn't a perfect performance, but the Netherlands can be satisfied with a comfortable 2-0 win.

Barring a few moments of quality, Austria were profoundly uninspired. Their best spell came in the last 10 minutes or so and, even then, they were vaguely moody as opposed to genuinely threatening.

Dutch fans wave flags in the stands - AFP
Dutch fans wave flags in the stands - AFP

08:51 PM

90+3 mins

Wijnaldum works himself an opening on the edge of the area, but Hinteregger harries him off the ball.

08:50 PM

89 mins

Austria have exerted more pressure as the game has drawn to a close, encroaching on the Netherlands' final third and winning several corners in quick succession.

There's a break in play, with De Ligt seemingly suffering with cramp. That should give the Netherlands a chance to regroup.

08:43 PM

84 mins

Karim Onisiwo comes on for Xaver Schlager and almost scores with his first touch, heading straight at Stekelenburg.

08:40 PM

80 mins

Alaba loses patience with his teammates and decides to have a go himself, sending a shot whistling narrowly wide from long range.

The Netherlands make their fifth substitution in the aftermath, Depay coming off for Luuk de Jong.

08:36 PM

78 mins

Bachmann dawdles on the ball and is almost dispossessed by Malen, but he just about manages to salvage the situation.

08:34 PM

More subs

Valentino Lazaro is on for Austria, replacing Baumgartner.

Meanwhile, De Roon makes way for Ajax youngster Ryan Gravenberch.

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08:31 PM

71 mins

Kalajdzic almost scores from a corner, glancing a header through a crowd of players only for the ball to trickle just wide of the upright.

The Netherlands need to tighten up at set pieces, where Austria look semi-dangerous.

08:28 PM

69 mins

Hinteregger gets a free header at a corner, but nods over.

08:27 PM

68 mins

Bachmann is booked in the aftermath of the goal for remonstrating with the linesman.

Given the presence of VAR, it's a fairly daft way to pick up a yellow card. Both Malen and Dumfries were well onside.

08:25 PM

GOAL! Netherlands 2 Austria 0

That should do it.

Depay clips a ball over the top to Malen, who bears down on goal. With Bachmann stranded, he picks out Dumfries who smashes home from close range.

Denzel Dumfries celebrates after making it 2-0 to the Netherlands - AFP
Denzel Dumfries celebrates after making it 2-0 to the Netherlands - AFP

08:23 PM

Netherlands make triple substitution

Weghorst, Van Aanholt and Blind are hooked, with Donyell Malen, Wijndal and Ake replacing them.

08:21 PM

Austria ring the changes

... with Gregoritsch and Laimer swapping out for Kalajdzic and Florian Grillitsch respectively.

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08:19 PM

59 mins

De Jong dances past Laimer in midfield and bursts into space before freeing up Van Aanholt on the left.

He exchanges passes with Depay before winning a corner. De Vrij gets a header on target which is saved by Bachmann, while De Ligt is inches away from making it 2-0 on the follow-up.

08:16 PM

57 mins

Wijnaldum looks to hook a ball over the top to Weghorst, but it's overhit and floats harmlessly out of play.

08:10 PM

52 mins

Austria win the first corner of the game and Alaba takes it.

He floats his delivery straight into the outstretched gloves of Maarten Stekelenburg. As you were.

Alaba has had a difficult night so far - GETTY IMAGES
Alaba has had a difficult night so far - GETTY IMAGES

08:08 PM

50 mins

Gregoritsch and Baumgartner attempt to play a one-two on the edge of the area, but Van Aanholt reads it and makes the interception.

08:06 PM

48 mins

Dumfries tees up Wijnaldum just outside the box, but his effort is blocked.

08:05 PM

46 mins

Austria make inroads down the right, but Lainer's final ball bounces off a wall of orange shirts.

08:03 PM

Teams back out

... and the second half is about to kick off.

Will the Netherlands extend their lead here? Or will Austria take inspiration from Ukraine and haul themselves back into the game? Let's find out.

07:54 PM

Half time, Netherlands 1 Austria 0

The Netherlands deserve their half-time lead, though they should be at least two goals ahead.

They've been dominant in all areas of the pitch and, had Weghorst and Depay not contrived to squander that opportunity, they would be well on top. As it is, Austria are still in the game even if they have shown little to suggest they can match their opponents' intensity.

Frenkie de Jong looks to dribble past Konrad Laimer - AFP
Frenkie de Jong looks to dribble past Konrad Laimer - AFP

07:49 PM

44 mins

Austria almost get themselves into trouble while trying to play out from the back, but the Netherlands can't capitalise.

At the other end, Konrad Laimer sends a searching ball into the box but Lainer can't get on the end of it.

07:44 PM

40 mins

Van Aanholt gets in behind on the left and picks out Wijnaldum in the box, but his shot is blocked.

07:43 PM

39 mins

Huge, huge chance for the Netherlands.

Van Aanholt chips a lovely ball up to Weghorst, who decides to square to Depay at the far post rather than shoot. It's the wrong decision, with Depay ballooning high and wide.

07:41 PM

38 mins

The foul count continues to mount, with Gregoritsch giving Blind a taste of his own medicine.

That's seven fouls for Austria and five for the Netherlands now. It's a spiky game, this.

07:38 PM

35 mins

Hinteregger gets forwards and unleashes a wicked effort from distance, but it whooshes over the crossbar.

07:36 PM

32 mins

De Vrij steps across to block off Baumgartner, body checking him in the process.

Much like Blind, he escapes without punishment. Austria's forwards have tried to up the tempo, but the Netherlands are determined not to let them assert themselves.

07:31 PM

29 mins

Baumgartner nips in behind but, just as he turns to shoot, De Ligt puts in a fantastic tackle to dispossess him.

07:30 PM

26 mins

Blind is lucky not to go into the book after catching Gregoritsch, who's been one of Austria's livelier players.

Moments later, the Austrians have their first decent chance of the match as Christoph Baumgartner cuts inside and blasts at goal only for De Ligt to make the block.

07:27 PM

24 mins

Depay gets in behind on the right after a throw-in bypasses Austria's entire defence, hitting the side netting.

Depay has a crack, but it's off target - REUTERS
Depay has a crack, but it's off target - REUTERS

07:25 PM

21 mins

The Netherlands are moving the ball around nicely as their opponents drop deep and try to frustrate them.

Frenkie de Jong is running the show in midfield, with nobody able to get near him. It'll be a long night for Austria at this rate.

07:16 PM

13 mins

Marten de Roon receives a yellow card after a mistimed challenge on Gregoritsch.

07:15 PM

GOAL! Netherlands 1 Austria 0

Depay makes no mistake, thrashing past Daniel Bachmann from 12 yards.

Alaba's challenge on Dumfries was the decisive foul. To add insult to injury, Grinfeld books him.

Depay celebrates with his teammates after scoring from the spot - GETTY IMAGES
Depay celebrates with his teammates after scoring from the spot - GETTY IMAGES

07:12 PM

PENALTY TO THE NETHERLANDS!

There's an extended VAR check after Martin Hinteregger nicks Stefan de Vrij on the edge of the area, before Alaba repeats the trick and catches Dumfries.

Having gone to the monitor, referee Orel Grinfeld points to the spot. Depay will take it.

07:10 PM

5 mins

It's been a slow start to the game, with both sides probing tentatively.

Weghorst ambles forwards, swaying in the wind like an ancient oak tree, but is crowded out before he can find Dumfries on the overlap.

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06:58 PM

Teams line up

... and we're about to get underway.

First up, it's time for the national anthems.

06:57 PM

Hasselbaink on Depay

Speaking in the BBC studio ahead of kick off, former Netherlands striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink suggests that Memphis Depay's struggles at Manchester United were down to coaching.

Depay has gone on to thrive at Lyon in recent years, making himself invaluable to the national team in the process. Asked about his difficulties at Old Trafford, especially under Jose Mourinho, Hasselbaink says: "We all know what kind of players Mourinho likes.

"He's somebody who's totally different, who needs other players to do the running for him and give him the ball so that he can produce. He needs to feel loved."

Memphis Depay practises his finishing in the warm-up - GETTY IMAGES
Memphis Depay practises his finishing in the warm-up - GETTY IMAGES

06:30 PM

Belgium have beaten Denmark

... in this evening's Group B fixture, with goals from Thorgan Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne overturning the Danes' early lead.

We've got blow-by-blow coverage of the match and an in-depth report right here.

06:25 PM

One change for Austria

Austria coach Franco Foda has also stuck with much the same starting XI, though he has tweaked his forward line.

Sasa Kalajdzic swaps out for Gregoritsch, who has been rewarded for coming off the bench to score against North Macedonia. Arnautovic was also a substitute last weekend, so his absence doesn't necessitate any further changes.

Michael Gregoritsch has earned himself a starting spot this evening - SHUTTERSTOCK
Michael Gregoritsch has earned himself a starting spot this evening - SHUTTERSTOCK

06:15 PM

De Ligt returns

In good news for De Boer, he has been able to restore Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt to his starting line-up.

De Ligt missed the Ukraine game having picked up a groin injury just before the start of the tournament. Ajax youngster Jurrien Timber drops to the bench, but otherwise the team is unchanged.

Matthijs de Ligt walks out onto the pitch ahead of the warm-up - GETTY IMAGES
Matthijs de Ligt walks out onto the pitch ahead of the warm-up - GETTY IMAGES

05:53 PM

Austria team news

... accompanied by a photo of Arnautovic, even though he's suspended. Odd.

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05:49 PM

Netherlands team news

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05:40 PM

Austria on their way

... to the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam, where the match will take place.

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05:30 PM

Austria pushed hard by North Macedonia

Though they kicked off their Euro 2020 campaign with a relatively straightforward 3-1 win against North Macedonia, Austria were also highly fallible in victory.

Facing the lowest-ranked team at the tournament, they were rattled midway through the first half when Goran Pandev pounced on a mistake in defence to cancel out Stefan Lainer's opener.

Late goals from Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic killed the game, giving Austria their first ever win at the Euros.

Arnautovic has since received a one-match ban, however, after directing insulting remarks towards Ezgjan Alioski while celebrating. He will miss this evening's game.

Marko Arnautovic (right) is restrained by Austria teammate David Alaba after scoring against North Macedonia - SHUTTERSTOCK
Marko Arnautovic (right) is restrained by Austria teammate David Alaba after scoring against North Macedonia - SHUTTERSTOCK

05:10 PM

De Boer wants Netherlands to learn from mistakes

It was all going so well for the Netherlands against Ukraine up until the 65-minute mark.

Having methodically worked their way to a 2-0 lead via goals from Georginio Wijnaldum and Wout Weghorst, they had produced a calm, measured performance against difficult opponents.

Then, in the aftermath of Weghorst's goal, Frank de Boer brought off Daley Blind and Patrick van Aanholt for Nathan Ake and Owen Wijndal. All of a sudden, his defence was thrown out of kilter and the team lost a measure of control.

Andriy Yarmolenko was first to exploit the confusion on the left of the Netherlands' back five, exchanging passes with Roman Yaremchuk before cutting inside Wijndal and curling one into the top corner from distance. A few minutes later, Yaremchuk rose highest to head Ruslan Malinovskyi's free kick delivery into the back of the net.

Just as it looked like the Netherlands were heading towards a demoralising draw, they were saved by Denzel Dumfries. Standing at 6ft 2in, the towering right wing-back popped up with a thumping header which, at that stage, was against the run of play.

Nonetheless, the Netherlands' win felt less impressive than it might have otherwise. Having switched from a more traditionally Cruyffian 4-3-3 to 5-3-2 earlier this year in an effort to shore up his back line, De Boer now faces calls to switch back again.

Speaking ahead of another potentially tricky fixture against Austria, De Boer suggested his side need to cut out basic errors. "When you concede two goals that is not what you want to see, but we played dominantly and that is what we want to see," he said.

"You have to defend Yarmolenko better and we did not do that. It was a great goal but it was not necessary. The second goal was from a free kick and you have to stop it.

"We have to learn from these mistakes. You cannot play 90 minutes without making an error – this is not realistic – but these things will have to be analysed to see what we need to improve.

"We can be proud, hopefully we can make more steps [in the right direction]."

Frank de Boer presides over a training session - AP
Frank de Boer presides over a training session - AP
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