• Liam Wraith

NETHERLANDS VS UKRAINE: SURPRISE CONTENDER FOR GAME OF THE TOURNAMENT - WIJNALDUM TOP EURO STAR


With some of the games that were set to be contested at the Euros like France v Portugal and England v Croatia, people won’t have been pencilling in the Netherlands v Ukraine as one of the most enticing watches of the tournament. However, it turned out to be just that. Both teams played with an attacking intent and provided a truly fascinating spectacle, here’s what happened in the game of the tournament so far and where it was won and lost:


Goals Galore


In the highest scoring game that the tournament has had to offer so far, The Dutch fought off Ukrainian hopes of a come back to win 3-2 at the Johan Cruyff Arena. The Netherlands dominated proceedings for the most part and were deserving of their victory with the run of play, but Ukraine’s valiant effort cannot be disregarded.


Holland had the majority of the chances in the first half of this encounter as a result of their considerable dominance in possession and putting Ukraine on the backfoot. Memphis, Dumfries and Wijnaldum all had chances which would have had Dutch fans clamouring. This willingness to sit back on Ukraine’s behalf, however, also provided them with a couple of chances on the counter attack. Despite the game being rather open, the first half remained goalless.


In the second half, the goals started to fly in. Wijnaldum started the scoring after Ukraine goalkeeper Bushchan failed to clear a cross properly and fell perfectly to the newly signed PSG man. He rifled the ball past the Ukrainian stopper with a drilled finish into the top corner, with the failed clearance giving almost all the goal to aim at. A deserved goal considering the former Liverpool man’s performance.


Wout Weghorst scored the second goal for the Dutch and looked to put the game beyond doubt. The in-form Wolfsburg striker scored 20 goals and assisted 9 for his club this season, so it was no surprise to see him among the scoring for OnsOranje. The mammoth forward scored after another failed clearance fell into his path and he powered an effort toward the keeper, and he couldn’t keep it out at his near post. It wasn’t Bushchan’s finest night, and the night looked finished for Ukraine.


However, Yarmolenko wasn’t ready to say good night, breathing life back into Shevchenko’s men. The West Ham winger fired a beautifully curved effort goalward from around 25 yards, leaving Stekelenburg grasping at thin air as the ball flew into the top corner. A goal of the tournament contender from a wand of a left foot to give Ukraine a lifeline with 15 minutes to go.


With momentum in their favour and deficit halved, 4 minutes later, Ukraine restored parity. Malinovskiy whipped in a beautiful in-swinging ball from a free kick which allowed Yaremchuk to ghost into the box unmarked and power a header past Stekelenburg, who was rooted to the spot. Ukraine worked hard throughout the game in their defensive shape with the willingness to play on the counter, and it looked like their hard work was about to pay off. Denzel Dumfries had other ideas.

The PSV right back had 2 big chances previously in the game, playing extremely high as a wing back and causing Ukraine all sorts of problems with his runs into the box. He was unable to convert these chances and could’ve put the game beyond doubt. However, it was third time lucky for the 25-year-old. Aké whipped in a wonderful cross from deep and Dumfries netted with a bouncing header evading the keepers grasps, 5 minutes from time to secure the three points for the Dutch.


An excellent game, with a dramatic ending- tournament football at its finest.


The Flying Dutchman


Wijnaldum has grown a reputation with Liverpool fans and watchers of the Premier League in recent years, as a player willing to sit back and cover spaces while the attacking players that Liverpool possess can do what they do best in attacking areas. The Dutchman scored some big goals in his time at the reds, notably his brace against Barcelona, but has always been considered a rather reserved reliable ball progressor than an attacking threat. For The Netherlands, Wijnaldum is a completely different player and that was shown against Ukraine.


Wijnaldum was everywhere for OnsOranje on Sunday night. His incredible ability to arrive late into the box and finish was shown with his goal as he capitalised on the spilt ball from Bushchan before rifling it into the roof of the net so the Ukrainian stopper couldn’t get near it. The willingness to shoot from the PSG midfielder wasn’t missed either as he had 5 efforts at goal.


Other sides of his more attacking side were on show too with Wijnaldum playing one key pass and creating a big chance as he played 90 minutes. His overall leadership is vital to the team too as captain for this tournament as former teammate and usual captain Virgil Van Dijk misses out with injury.


The 30-year-old’s ability to influence the game and dictate the tempo was on show too, with the Dutchman averaging a pass accuracy of 91.7%, completing 48 passes and touching the ball 71 times showing his influence on the game is huge and he’s an important cog in transition and game management for De Boer’s team. His key asset for Liverpool of ball progression was also showcased with 2 dribbles completed and several progressive carries from midfield.


Wijnaldum occupied lots of spaces in the attacking third and was readily an available option for teammates under pressure, as shown with his shot numbers and number of touches. This ability to be active various areas of the pitch, especially in attacking situations was key for the Netherlands against a good Ukraine side. Regular performances like this, and Gini could be one of the standout players at the tournament.