Football Features

Netherlands’ “smiling TV chef” dazzles: Winners & losers from Euro 2020’s latest Group C action

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 22:16, 17 June 2021

The second gameweek of Group C at Euro 2020 got underway today when Ukraine hosted North Macedonia before the Netherlands squared off against Austria.

Andriy Shevchenko’s team and the championship’s newest participant were seeking a first tournament win. The same couldn’t be said for Oranje and their opponents as both sought to register a second win at the pan-European games.

The Blue and Yellow ran out 2-1 winners and later in the day Frank de Boer’s men comfortably bagged a 2-0 win and with that booked a ticket for the knockout phase as Group C winners. There were, as you would expect, individual winners and losers from these encounters.

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Winner: Memphis Depay

The Netherlands’ opening game against Ukraine was a rare outing for talismanic forward Memphis Depay in that he ended the game without registering a goal or assist. It was the first time since a 1-1 friendly draw against Spain in November 2020 where he’d play for more than 75 minutes and not contribute in such a fashion, ending a stretch of seven consecutive international appearances. During this time, Depay netted seven times and created four more.

Since former boss Ronald Koeman decided to play him in a ‘false nine’ role, the Moordrecht-born forward has become Oranje’s most important player. And you can’t keep a good player down and the soon-to-be Barcelona player broke his Euro 2020 duck when he converted an 11th minute spot-kick (his 27th strike across 66 appearances to date) after flying Dutch wing-back Denzel Dumfries was clipped just inside the penalty area. Dumfries wasn’t done yet. He popped up to score Oranje’s second of the game and his second of the competition in the second half after receiving a pass from PSV Eindhoven teammate Donyell Malen following a stunning counter.

Loser: David Alaba

The day after it was announced Sergio Ramos would be leaving Real Madrid after 16 years, all eyes were on Los Blancos’ newest defensive recruit David Alaba, who possesses an incredible footballing pedigree. He will be reuniting with former Bayern Munich boss Carlo Ancelotti in Spain’s capital and if the Italian tactician had tonight’s game on, chances are there was a grimace on his face after Alaba recklessly brought Dumfries down handing Oranje an early penalty. Able to play in either defence or midfield, national team boss Franco Foda opted to deploy Alaba centre of a back-three, consequently limiting his influence on the game.

Winner: Frenkie de Jong

Preceding the Netherlands game with Ukraine was neighbours Belgium booking a place in the next round. De Rode Duivels, as they have often before, were grateful to Kevin De Bruyne, arguably Europe’s classiest midfielder. Unquestionably in the conversation to succeed him is Dutch deep-lying playmaker Frenkie de Jong, who put on a passing clinic in Oranje’s game against Ukraine (completing 93 out of 101 for a 92% success rate). He was at it again this evening with Austria unable to lay a glove on him.

De Jong’s press resilience is well-documented but his metronomic ability places the Barcelona man on another stratosphere. He completed five mazy dribbles, more than anyone on the field and as many as the Austria team combined, while enjoying a 84% pass success and executing three perfect tackles. “Look at Frenkie and see a football instruction video,” Dutch columnist Frank Heinen once wrote. “Frenkie is the smiling TV chef, and other players are the clumsy viewers who attempt to use the recipe. You could blame him for looking for a difficult decision, but the word difficult has other meaning for Frenkie.”

Loser: Mykola Shaparenko

No one likes a cheat and despite there being different levels of transgressions, simulation (or taking a dive) should be greatly frowned upon. Already 2-0 up and seemingly cruising to victory, Ukrainian midfielder Mykola Shaparenko shamefully attempted to con Argentine referee Fernando Rapallini when he burst into the North Macadeonian penalty box with three minutes of the first half remaining. To resort to cheating when your side is comfortably leading is nothing short of embarrassing.

What made the whole scenario even more pitiful was that Shaparenko needn’t go down that road. He would have been clean through after bypassing last man Darko Velkovski with goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski to beat. As it turned out, he was anticipating contact and his intention was never to go past the defender. It was to draw a penalty. Instead he made a fool out of himself with this schwalbe, which rightfully earned him a yellow card.

Winner: Andriy Yarmolenko

It’s fair to say West Ham supporters didn’t see the best of Andriy Yarmolenko last season. The 31-year-old Ukrainian forward missed a chunk of the 2020/21 campaign after sustaining a serious knee injury. He’d ultimately make 15 league appearances, totalling 362 minutes, without finding the net. After his nation’s opening two Euro 2020 fixtures, he (at the time of writing) finds himself firmly in the hunt for the golden boot.

Yarmolenko scored a goal-of-the-championship contender against the Netherlands before putting Andriy Shevchenko’s men in front against North Macedonia. In the same game, he teed-up Roman Yaremchuk and both are now on two goals for the competition alongside five other players including Ciro Immobile, Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Loser: Darko Velkovski

Football is fundamentally a team sport but it’s often decided by moments of individual brilliance. The opposite is also true. North Macedonia did remarkably well to qualify for these championships, their first major international tournament, but on today’s showing they are leaving a lot to be desired. Both goals on second viewing were unavoidable.

On each occasion the aforementioned Velkovski, playing in the centre of a back-three, was seemingly guilty. He was reluctant to meet Oleksandr Karavaev, whose flick-on from a corner found Yarmolenko at the near post. For the second, he simply let Yaremchuk go and the Ukrainian marksman waltzed into the penalty area to double their lead. Not a good day at the office, and he was later booked for his troubles before manager Igor Angelovski subbed him off.

Next up at Euro 2020

  • Group E – Sweden vs. Slovakia (14:00 UK time): Arguably the biggest surprise of this championship was Slovakia running out 2-1 winners over Poland and they can take another big step towards escaping the group phase if they can register another win over Sweden, who held Spain to a goalless draw in Seville.
  • Group D – Croatia vs. Czech Republic (17:00 UK time): It was a disappointing start to Euro 2020 by the World Cup runners-up, who face a Czech Republic side buoyed following an impressive 2-0 win over Scotland at Hampden Park. If they can pick up three more points, a knockout berth certainly awaits.
  • Group D – England vs. Scotland (20:00 UK time): Gareth Southgate’s men can secure passage into the Round of 16 with another Wembley victory while their neighbours are seeking a first win over England since November 1999 to keep their own qualification hopes alive.

Get 50/1 on England to beat Scotland

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