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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Conceding twice in their opening European Championship clash against Ukraine must be seen as a blemish on the Netherlands defence, centre back Stefan de Vrij said on Tuesday.
The Dutch let Ukraine score two goals in the space of four minutes near the end of their Group C encounter on Sunday to surrender a 2-0 lead, only for Denzel Dumfries to score a late winner in an exciting conclusion to the contest.
“Certainly, the goals could have been prevented. As a defender I think those two goals against us were a blemish,” De Vrij told a news conference ahead Thursday's game against Austria.
Despite the victory, the Netherlands remains deep in debate about the playing system adopted by coach Frank de Boer, whose decision to play three centre backs evoked a media storm, given how it goes against the Dutch tradition of an attacking 4-3-3 formation.
“There's a lot of talk about 4-3-3 and 5-3-2, but it's always about interpretation and how you go into the game," De Vrij added.
“Against Ukraine we proved that 5-3-2 can be an attacking system, but if you attack a lot, your organisation and the remaining defence must also be good.
“We can certainly improve on that. We are working on it a lot in training and I think you can see progress in this area as well."
When De Boer tried it first in a warm-up friendly against Scotland, where the Dutch were held to 2-2 draw, there was some stinging criticism about the players making mistakes as they were not used to the format.
“After the Scotland game, we talked about communication and how important it is in this system. In any system, in fact,” said the 29-year-old De Vrij, who won Serie A with Inter Milan this season.
While De Boer is likely to stick to the system, in which his marauding wingbacks were particularly effective against Ukraine, he might still make a change at the back after Matthijs de Ligt completed a second day back at training and was pronounced fit to play.
The 21-year-old Juventus centre back missed the Ukraine match because of a groin injury.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)