Memphis Depay scored one and created another in his latest dominant display as the Netherlands defeated Georgia 3-0 on Sunday ahead of Euro 2020.

Lyon striker Depay had scored both goals in the prior friendly against Scotland to rescue a draw and played a key role again a week out from the Oranje's tournament opener at home to Ukraine.

The first from Depay came from the penalty spot after 10 minutes and he then teased a gorgeous pass through for Wout Weghorst's first international goal in the second half. Ryan Gravenberch later broke his own duck.

Depay and Weghorst again headlined a Frank de Boer XI that showed only two changes from the team that faced Scotland, hinting at his finals line-up, but Matthijs de Ligt was one of those to make way due to a groin complaint.

He was a miss in the defence as Saba Lobzhanidze advanced inside two minutes and squandered a big chance with a tame finish.

The Netherlands would not be as wasteful when they forged a similarly straightforward path through the Georgia back line and Depay converted the penalty won from his pass by Denzel Dumfries, who was tripped by Lasha Dvali.

Dumfries and Depay soon combined again, but the latter's stretching effort was superbly saved by Giorgi Loria, a stop that should have allowed the visitors to equalise when Valeriane Gvilia instead steered wide.

Loria was at his best again to touch over Frenkie de Jong's drive, yet Weghorst's close-range strike escaped his clutches 10 minutes into the second half.

Although more agile goalkeeping kept out Depay's blast, pressure continued to build on Loria's goal and he blocked again from the same man only to see Gravenberch nod in.

A sensational Jambul Jigauri volley beat Maarten Stekelenburg five minutes from time but bounced away off the crossbar, ensuring a one-sided final scoreline.

 

What does it mean? Steady stuff from De Boer's men

De Boer clearly has a settled side, which might give the Netherlands an edge over some opponents, but they will have to beat better teams than Georgia to become champions of Europe.

This was not the most convincing display, although there could have been more home goals if not for some excellent work from Loria, who prevented 1.19 goals using expected goals on target data.

Depay devastating once again

Depay was involved in a goal every 38 minutes in qualifying (six goals and seven assists in 495 minutes), the best rate among the 54 players to have a hand in five or more. A goal and an assist in 90 minutes meant he was only marginally less effective on Sunday.

With the defence looking a little shaky and Weghorst still making his way on the international stage, the Netherlands' campaign will live or die by Depay's performances.

Daley a disappointing deputy

It was no surprise to see Daley Blind removed in De Boer's only half-time change, having replaced De Ligt in the line-up. The Ajax defender was preferred to Nathan Ake, the substitute that took his place.

Blind failed to complete a tackle or interception as he was exposed by the pace of Lobzhanidze. Euros opponents will be more clinical if Blind has to step in again for De Ligt.

What's next?

All eyes now are on the Euros, which begins for the Netherlands against Ukraine in Amsterdam next Sunday.

Euro 2020 is just days away, and that means the rumour mill is about to go into overdrive.

International tournaments always represent something of a showcase for clubs seeking reinforcements and this year will be no different, even if the impact of the pandemic means spending may not quite reach levels of old.

There will be several players eager to impress at these finals: some will be long-term targets out to justify the hype, while others will be seeking a new challenge as contracts begin to wind down.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform has compiled a list of some of the candidates vying to be front and centre of this particular shop window...

 

Belgium: Jeremy Doku

One of Belgium's less-known attacking stars, Jeremy Doku was directly involved in 10 goals in the Jupiler League by the time he was 18 years and 115 days old, a record bettered only by Romelu Lukaku.

Previously wanted by Liverpool, the Rennes forward could become a target for Jurgen Klopp – thought to be exploring new attacking options – should he be given the chance to impress by Roberto Martinez.

Croatia: Bruno Petkovic

"Bruno Petkovic has to be at Euro 2020 what [Mario] Mandzukic was in Russia," said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic last month. No pressure, then.

Still, the Dinamo Zagreb forward impressed in last season's Europa League with four goals in nine starts and could represent a relatively low-cost option in the market.

England: Jadon Sancho

The star performer as Borussia Dortmund won the DFB-Pokal final, Jadon Sancho was the first English player since David Beckham 20 years ago to register at least 10 assists for three seasons in a row in Europe's top-five leagues.

Manchester United continue to be mooted as the winger's most likely destination should he leave Dortmund, but a star turn at the Euros could trigger a bidding war among some of the biggest clubs.

France: Jules Kounde

Getting into the France starting line-up is no easy task these days, but Jules Kounde could well force Didier Deschamps' hand given the qualities he brings to centre-back.

An accomplished stopper, the Sevilla man is also impeccable on the ball: he made 887 forward passes in LaLiga last season, the most of any outfield player. Little wonder that Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal have all been linked.

Germany: Florian Neuhaus

Given he has been linked with Bayern Munich for months now, Florian Neuhaus must be doing something right.

The 108th Germany debutant under Joachim Low, the Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder could well find himself in high demand in the transfer window should he earn a regular spot at the Euros.

Italy: Manuel Locatelli

The heartbeat of a vibrant Sassuolo side, Manuel Locatelli in January became the first Italian player born after January 1, 1998 to record 10 Serie A assists.

Juventus are considered his likely next destination, but there are reports of interest from the Premier League, which would likely only increase in number should he shine at the Euros.

Netherlands: Memphis Depay

It appears likely Memphis Depay will leave Lyon for Barcelona on a free transfer, but, as long as that deal is not concluded, other clubs may sense the chance to snap up the forward.

Depay just became the first Lyon player to register at least 20 goals and 10 assists in a single Ligue 1 season since at least 2006-07 and looks like one of the Oranje's form players.

Poland: Kacper Kozlowski

At just 17, Kacper Kozlowski has established himself in the Pogon Szczecin first team, something made all-the-more remarkable given he was badly injured in a car crash in January 2020.

Although a name not well known outside Poland, the midfielder has been scouted by Manchester United and interest across the continent could well pick up after this tournament.

 

Portugal: Nuno Mendes

Considered one of Portugal's brightest prospects, Nuno Mendes has already been linked with the Manchester clubs after shining for Sporting CP.

Interest in the 18-year-old is only likely to increase should he perform well at the Euros, especially if he ousts Raphael Guerreiro from the side, and Sporting would surely be prepared to sell for a handsome fee.

 

Russia: Denis Cheryshev

Zero goas in 21 games for Valencia in LaLiga last season underlined a frustrating spell for Denis Cheryshev at club level.

The 30-year-old was Russia's star performer at the World Cup three years ago, though, and the Euros offer a good chance to tempt any possible suitors as he considers his future.

Spain: Pau Torres

Pau Torres was at the heart of Villarreal's Europa League triumph. In fact, he made nine appearances without being dribbled past, a single-season tally only bettered twice in the competition's history.

The centre-back has made it clear he is happy at the club, but strong performances for Spain could tempt suitors including Manchester United to test Villarreal's resolve to keep him.

Sweden: Alexander Isak

Linked with Barcelona during the season, Real Sociedad's Alexander Isak broke Zlatan Ibrahimovic's record for most goals by a Swede in a single LaLiga campaign by scoring 17 in 2020-21.

With Ibrahimovic missing these finals due to injury, 21-year-old Isak has a good opportunity to impress on the international stage.

Switzerland: Denis Zakaria

With his contract expiring next year, Denis Zakaria could be a more affordable midfield signing for any clubs willing to tempt Borussia Monchengladbach into a sale.

The 24-year-old offers great variety to the Switzerland midfield and English sides are expected to be watching him closely at these finals.

Ukraine: Ruslan Malinovskiy

Ruslan Malinovskiy is another Atalanta player to catch the eye under Gian Piero Gasperini. He was directly involved in a goal every 94 minutes in Serie A in 2020-21, the most of any midfielder to play at least 15 times.

Now 28, this could be his best chance to secure a significant transfer should he decide to leave Bergamo, and there have been rumblings of interest from Chelsea.

Wales: Gareth Bale

With 11 goals in 10 Premier League starts in 2020-21, Gareth Bale registered the best minutes-per-goal ratio (84) of any of the competition's top goalscorers.

He is returning to Real Madrid following his loan at Tottenham and Carlo Ancelotti appears keen to keep him, but heroics for Wales could encourage suitors to bid.

After a year's delay, Euro 2020 will finally get under way when Italy take on Turkey in Rome on Friday, June 11.

Some of the world's top talents will be on display in the month-long tournament, including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane.

But away from the elite players, there are a clutch of others looking to overshadow those aforementioned names and leave their own mark on the pan-European competition.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform picks out eight under-the-radar stars – those that would not necessarily be considered as one of the favourites for individual honours before a ball is kicked – ahead of the tournament.

 

Federico Chiesa (Italy and Juventus)

Juventus may have endured one of their worst campaigns in recent memory last time out, but Chiesa can hold his head up high after impressing in his first year at the Allianz Stadium.

He was the man for the big occasions, scoring a couple of goals in January's league victory over Milan and the winner in Juve's Coppa Italia triumph against Atalanta.

The 23-year-old was a regular threat down both flanks ​– only Benevento forward Riccardo Improta (77, 29.87 per cent) had more open-play crosses in Serie A last season with a higher success rate than Chiesa (69, 27.54 per cent).

That ability to both create and score goals, plus his never-say-die spirit – best embodied by his three goals in two legs of the Champions League last-16 knockout defeat to Porto – means he is already a fan favourite in Turin.

"He tries to ignite the fans at home on the couch to let them feel the game like the players in the pitch," former Juve striker Fabrizio Ravanelli told Stats Perform. 

"He always sends a strong message to Juventus fans, the true DNA of Juventus of never giving up like it says in the motto: 'Till the end'."

 

Alexander Isak (Sweden and Real Sociedad)

Whisper it quietly, but Sweden may have a new superstar forward emerging to rival the legendary figure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Isak's 17 strikes in 34 league appearances for Real Sociedad last season saw him become the Swede with the most goals in a single LaLiga campaign, surpassing Ibrahimovic's 16 for Barcelona in 2009-10.

He may be tall and blessed with great technical ability, but Isak is a lot different to Ibrahimovic – ruled out of Euro 2020 with a knee injury – in terms of his playing style.

And with clubs such as Barcelona and Manchester City reportedly keeping a close eye on the 21-year-old, it may well be one day that other youngsters from the Scandinavian country are described as 'the next Isak'.

 

Unai Simon (Spain and Athletic Bilbao)

Luis Enrique has not shied away from putting his faith in youth at the expense of those who have been there and done it, with veteran centre-back Sergio Ramos arguably the most high-profile omission from any squad at Euro 2020.

That is also true between the sticks, where 23-year-old Athletic Bilbao stopper Simon has usurped David de Gea to take control of the number-one spot.

Unlike Manchester United keeper De Gea and Chelsea's Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has not made the cut for Spain, Simon played regularly for his club side in 2020-21.

Indeed, the only Spanish goalkeepers to play more minutes last term in Europe's top five leagues than Simon (3,330) were Alex Remiro and Fernando Pacheco of Real Sociedad and Deportivo Alaves respectively.

Simon saved 63.3 per cent of the shots he faced in LaLiga in 2020-21, compared to 65.22 per cent for De Gea in 26 Premier League games, and the six-cap keeper will need to be at his best if Spain are to banish their demons from the 2018 World Cup.

 

Jamal Musiala (Germany and Bayern Munich)

Musiala switched international allegiance from England to Germany four months ago in the same week he became Bayern's youngest Champions League goalscorer at the age of 17 years and 363 days.

Despite strong competition for places, Musiala featured regularly for the German champions last season with 35 appearances in all competitions, albeit the majority of those outings being as a substitute.

The former Chelsea product made his first two appearances for Germany in March's World Cup qualifiers and only adds to a plethora of options available to Joachim Low in the final third.

Musiala may not be considered a regular just yet, but the stats suggest Low should perhaps consider using the youngster from the beginning of games.

Bayern's win rate increased from 62.5 per cent without Musiala in their side in the Bundesliga last term to 73.1 per cent with him, while their average goals for climbed from 2.5 to 3.0, and their passing accuracy in the final third went from 72.4 to 74.1.

Not so much a lucky omen, but a player who is clearly already good enough to make a telling impact on even the biggest sides.

 

Marcus Thuram (France and Borussia Monchengladbach)

No nation boasts a collection of forwards quite like France, who can call upon Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Wissam Ben Yedder, Thomas Lemar, Kingsley Coman, Olivier Giroud and the returning Karim Benzema.

What chance does Borussia Monchengladbach forward Thuram have, then, of ousting any of those players from the side?

While the 23-year-old may not be used as a regular starter, he will provide an intriguing option for spoiled-for-choice head coach Didier Deschamps to choose from off the bench for group games against Germany, Portugal and Hungary.

Thuram, the son of World Cup winner Lilian, certainly knows how to make the most of his minutes on the field and has the ability to score via a range of different ways.

All eight of his Bundesliga goals last term were scored inside the box, but they were shared between his right foot (three), left foot (two), head (two) and other means (one).

In fact, he was one of just nine forwards to start 20 games or fewer in Europe's top five leagues last season and still score more than once with his right foot.

 

Aleksandr Golovin (Russia and Monaco)

Monaco midfielder Golovin was plagued by injuries and illness in 2020-21 but still played a starring role in Monaco's unlikely Ligue 1 title bid that went down to the final game.

The 25-year-old found the net five times and set up nine more in 21 appearances, three of those goals coming in one game against Nimes in early February.

That made Golovin the first Russian to score a hat-trick in Europe's top five leagues since ex-Fulham striker Pavel Pogrebnyak in 2012.

He is undoubtedly the key creative talent in the Russia squad and, in a group that contains a defensively-strong Denmark and Belgium, plus Finland, it will likely be the Monaco man that holds the key to his side's hopes of progression.

His effectiveness with set-piece deliveries could be particularly vital.

 

 

Yusuf Yazici (Turkey and Lille)

Lille's incredible Ligue 1 triumph was down to a collective effort, but a few players certainly stood out for the shock title winners.

Look no further than breakthrough star Yazici, whose return of a goal every 153.71 minutes was the fourth best of any midfielder with at least five goals in Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21, trailing just Joe Willock, Lars Stindl and Musiala.

The 24-year-old scored seven league goals in total and netted the same amount in the Europa League, where Lille made it to the knockout stages before being eliminated by Ajax.

That includes a couple of three-goal hauls in the group stage as he became the first player to score an away hat-trick against Milan in all competitions since Rivaldo in October 2000 for Barcelona.

With experience of scoring in big matches and winning silverware with rank outsiders, Yazici will now be looking to guide many people's dark horses Turkey deep into Euro 2020.

 

Ryan Gravenberch (Netherlands and Ajax)

A member of the Netherlands' Under-17s European Championship-winning squad in 2018, Gravenberch has gone from strength to strength in the three years since and is now a regular in Ajax's central midfield.

Gravenberch also has two Eredivisie titles and two Dutch Cups to his name to go with that age-grade continental triumph, all before he even turned 19 last month.

The teenage talent, another product of Ajax's fabled academy, made his senior international debut earlier this year and has a chance of starting – or at least playing a prominent part in – the Oranje's quest for a second European Championship crown.

If nothing else, Gravenberch will certainly bring a level of calmness to the Dutch midfield.

He had a pass accuracy rate of 87.21 per cent in the Eredivisie last season – the only midfielders younger in Europe's top five leagues to play 20 or more times with a better return were Pedri (87.66) and Lucas Gourna-Douath (87.29). 

Memphis Depay underlined his importance to the Netherlands with both goals as Frank de Boer's side twice fought back to secure a 2-2 draw against shorthanded Scotland.

Kevin Nisbet's first international goal appeared to have Scotland – without seven players following a positive coronavirus case within the squad – on course for a first victory over the Dutch since November 2003, only for Depay to curl in a free-kick and level the game.

The influential Netherlands forward had earlier cancelled out Jack Hendry's long-range opener as two nations preparing for the upcoming Euro 2020 tournament could not be separated after 90 minutes in Faro.

Hendry had broken the deadlock in spectacular fashion in the 11th minute, the centre-back drilling in a low, right-footed shot from just outside the penalty area, punishing the Netherlands as an attempt to play out from a goal kick led to a costly turnover.

However, after Lyndon Dykes was denied by Tim Krul, the Netherlands responded with an eye-catching strike of their own.

Picked out with a long pass after making a forward run into the penalty area, Georginio Wijnaldum headed the ball down into the path of supporting team-mate Depay, who sent a left-footed volley beyond Craig Gordon.

Wijnaldum did not feature for too much longer after his assist – De Boer replaced both his captain and also fellow midfielder Frenkie de Jong in the 31st minute. Substitutions became a common theme in the second half too, including the introduction of Nisbet.

The forward wasted little time in making an impact on proceedings after replacing Dykes, providing the finishing touch when picked out by Andy Robertson's inviting cross from Scotland's left flank.

Gordon denied Patrick van Aanholt to preserve the slender advantage, but there was nothing the goalkeeper could do with Depay's set-piece strike in the 89th minute.

With just nine days to go until the start of Euro 2020, preparations are hotting up.

There are systems to train, friendlies to navigate and injuries to heal – hopefully – for the 24 teams involved before the delayed competition begins on June 11.

That year-long wait for the finals has helped some, with certain players able to recover form and fitness after looking likely to miss out entirely had the tournament gone ahead last year.

However, there are others for whom the rescheduling has come as a bit of a blow.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform examines some of the major contenders for the trophy and why the postponement could prove a particular problem...

 

Belgium

Roberto Martinez has been left with a major headache around three of his biggest names.

Eden Hazard may have hoped the extra year would help him recover peak form with Real Madrid but, if anything, matters have become worse.

He was limited to just 21 Madrid appearances in 2020-21, scoring four goals and providing two assists from a mere nine chances created, as fitness problems and fan frustrations persisted.

There are also worries now around Kevin De Bruyne, whose magnificent season for Manchester City ended with broken facial bones in a losing Champions League final, while Axel Witsel has not played since January 9 due to an Achilles injury.

 

Croatia

Ivan Rakitic caused a shock last September when he announced his retirement from international football, having been all set to play at the Euros had they gone ahead as planned.

While the 2018 World Cup finalists still have Luka Modric at the heart of their midfield, the Real Madrid man will be 36 this year and has come off a hectic season in which he played 48 games.

Another veteran, Ivan Perisic, last played a full match for Inter in February and Mateo Kovacic missed seven of Chelsea's final nine games of the season through injury.

England

England have some concern around Raheem Sterling, who has scored one league goal since February and fell out of favour at Manchester City. There are also problems with Marcus Rashford, who has been managing an ankle issue for several weeks and only has four league goals to his name since the turn of the year.

In midfield, Jordan Henderson has not played since undergoing groin surgery in February, Jack Grealish missed three months of action for Aston Villa and Harry Maguire's ankle ligament damage has left him battling to be fit enough for the start of the group stage.

And what of Trent Alexander-Arnold? The Liverpool right-back, sensational in 2019-20, was left out of the World Cup qualifiers in March after an inconsistent season and is hardly guaranteed a starting spot under Gareth Southgate.

 

Netherlands

The Netherlands will have to make do without Virgil van Dijk. The Liverpool star was integral to the Oranje's run to the inaugural Nations League Finals and seemed destined to head into the tournament as Europe's best centre-back. As it is, he will watch from afar, having failed to recover from the knee injury he sustained in October.

Frank de Boer became the first Netherlands head coach to fail to win any of his first four fixtures, and though he managed to correct that dismal form, his record since leaving Ajax does not exactly bode well heading into a major tournament.

There is also the issue of Donny van de Beek, who has started just four Premier League games for Manchester United and finished his first season with the Red Devils as an unused substitute as they lost on penalties to Villarreal in the Europa League final.

Spain

Ansu Fati is the big new hope for Barcelona and Spain, but injury ended the winger's season prematurely and he has not recovered in time to make Luis Enrique's 24-man squad – a selection that does not feature Sergio Ramos or any of his Real Madrid team-mates.

Ramos has only played only once – in a Champions League defeat to Chelsea – since March, and it was felt he needed time to recover away from the international stage.

It also seemed as though Adama Traore would prove a valuable impact player in the Spain attack, but the Wolves forward managed only two goals and two assists in 37 Premier League games in 2020-21.

Netherlands goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen will miss Euro 2020 after testing positive for coronavirus.

The 32-year-old was forced to sit out the Netherlands' pre-tournament training camp in Portugal after returning a positive result last week.

Cillessen has 60 caps for his country and was expected to be first choice at the European Championship finals, but boss Frank de Boer has omitted the Valencia stopper from his squad.

AZ keeper Marco Bizot, who has been part of the Netherlands' warm-up preparations, has now been included in the final 26-man group.

The Dutch Football Association (KNVB) confirmed the news in a statement on Tuesday, a day before facing Scotland in their penultimate friendly in the Algarve ahead of the tournament.

Explaining his decision to leave out experienced keeper Cillessen, De Boer said at a news conference: "Let me start by saying this is incredibly sour for Jasper.

"I informed him of my decision this morning. I had to take the plunge. He tested positive for coronavirus and as a result missed an important part of our preparations.

"We don't know how long it will take until he is 100 per cent fit again. I don't want to taken any chances. We are on the eve of a European Championship and I want certainty."

Tim Krul and Maarten Stekelenburg, of Norwich City and Ajax respectively, will now battle it out to be first choice for the Netherlands, with late call-up Bizot acting as a back-up.

De Boer's side kick off their Group D campaign against Ukraine in Amsterdam on June 13 before facing Austria and North Macedonia.

A hectic, congested year of football culminates in the delayed European Championship, which starts on June 11 when Turkey take on Italy in Rome.

Euro 2020, hosted in 11 cities spread across the continent, was meant to be a celebration of the 60th anniversary of UEFA's international tournament. Instead, the coronavirus pandemic derailed the plans, forcing the postponement of the event until 2021.

Though the qualified teams had been readying themselves to play last year, and the pandemic has forced a much-altered football calendar in 2020-21, some countries may have benefitted from the delay.

For others, it may be a case of what might have been. Here, using Opta data, Stats Perform looks at how the main favourites to go all the way have been boosted by the postponement. 

Belgium

Romelu Lukaku – Belgium's record scorer – has built on a brilliant debut season with Inter, going on to help the Nerazzurri claim the Scudetto, with the 28-year-old netting 24 times in Serie A (a tally bettered only by Cristiano Ronaldo), at an average of one goal per 120 minutes, and providing 11 assists in the process.

Another player who has gone from strength to strength in 2020-21 has been Youri Tielemans, who lashed in an exceptional strike to win Leicester City's first FA Cup. The midfielder racked up 4,438 minutes of playing time, the sixth-highest total in Europe's top five leagues, so Roberto Martinez – whose future is uncertain – may have to manage him carefully.

England

Gareth Southgate named a 33-man provisional squad, and while the England boss does have doubts over the fitness of some key stars, he cannot complain at the wealth of talent at his disposal, with several players having come to the fore in the last year.

John Stones is back to his best, and right-backs Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier have won titles in England and Spain respectively. Ahead of them, Jude Bellingham – who could become the youngest Three Lions player to appear at the Euros – had an outstanding season with Borussia Dortmund, though it is in attack where Southgate really is spoilt for choice.

Harry Kane won the Premier League golden boot and topped the assist charts, while back-up Dominic Calvert-Lewin registered a top-flight goal every 179.63 minutes. Behind them, Phil Foden and Mason Mount are talismanic figures Champions League finalists City and Chelsea, while Jack Grealish created 81 chances – the third highest in the division – for Aston Villa, despite missing 12 games through injury. 

 

France

England's options somewhat pale in comparison to the depth Didier Deschamps has to play with. Eduardo Camavinga looked set to be one of the youngsters to break onto the scene for Les Bleus, but the Rennes teenager has not even made the squad for the rearranged tournament, while Anthony Martial is another big name to miss out.

Kylian Mbappe reached last season's Champions League final and has gone on to score 42 goals in 47 appearances across all competitions this term, averaging a strike every 89 minutes, while Antoine Griezmann is looking sharp.

As if it was not enough, Deschamps has also recalled Karim Benzema, who scored 30 goals in all competitions for Real Madrid to earn his first call up in over five years. In midfield, N'Golo Kante has been spectacular for Champions League winners Chelsea, with only six Premier League midfielders who have attempted over 75 tackles recording a higher success rate than his 53.16.

Germany

Joachim Low has decided to call it quits after the tournament, with Hansi Flick incoming. But surely that will only spur Germany on as they look to end Low's tenure on a high, and he has recalled 2014 World Cup winners Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels to help the cause.

With Timo Werner having struggled to convert chances into goals for Chelsea – scoring 12 times in 52 appearances and registering a shot conversion rate of just 7.59 in the Premier League – Muller, who created the most chances (93) and provided the most assists (18) in the Bundesliga – will share the burden, while Jamal Musiala, Bayern Munich's youngest Champions League goalscorer, is surely one of the youngsters to watch.

 

Italy

After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Italy were in need of a rebuild, and Roberto Mancini has provided the steady hand required.

Mancini is unbeaten in all 26 games of his Italy tenure, as he closes in on the all-time record of 30 set by Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930, and the Azzurri look well placed to challenge. One question mark could be over goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who seems destined for a move to Juventus.

Netherlands

Perhaps no team has undergone more change in the past year than the Netherlands. Ronald Koeman looked set to have a strong side heading into Euro 2020, albeit injuries would have shorn him of Memphis Depay and Donyell Malen.

As luck would have it, both of those attackers will be fit for the Oranje, and come in off the back of strong seasons with Lyon and PSV respectively. But it will not be Koeman who is in charge – he is of course now at the helm at Barcelona, though whether his tenure continues for much longer remains to be seen – with Frank de Boer his replacement.

Portugal

More records tumbled in 2020-21 for Ronaldo, though there is no doubt the 36-year-old's powers are waning slightly with age.

Portugal are, of course, the holders, having seen off France in 2016, but Fernando Santos' squad is arguably much stronger than it was five years ago, with Andre Silva – who finished behind only Robert Lewandowski in the Bundesliga scoring charts this season – providing a focal point up top, while Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota and Joao Felix have continued their trajectories of improvement in the last year.

But it is Ruben Dias' form over the last season that may benefit Portugal the most. The centre-back has been imperious for Man City, playing a crucial role in a defence that has conceded just 42 goals in all competitions.

Spain

With Sergio Ramos not judged to be fit, Luis Enrique has picked a relatively inexperienced – at least at international level – defence, with only 24 players named in his squad.

Pau Torres is certainly a player who has improved over the past 12 months. He has just helped Villarreal to a Europa League triumph, with the centre-back, who is sure to be interesting some of Europe's biggest clubs, being the defender with the most games played in the competition without being dribbled past (nine). Spain have also been buoyed by Aymeric Laporte's switch of allegiance from France.

Thiago Alcantara has not always hit his best form at Liverpool, though Spain's midfield is boosted by two title winners in Atletico Madrid duo Koke and Marcos Llorente, who was involved in 23 goals in 2020-21.

Up top, Gerard Moreno netted 30 goals in all competitions for Villarreal – among LaLiga players, only Lionel Messi played a part in more goals.

Memphis Depay hopes Barcelona keep faith with Ronald Koeman as president Joan Laporta scours for a superior alternative.

It appeared certain, until recent developments, that Depay and former Netherlands boss Koeman would be reunited at Barcelona in the coming weeks, but now it is unclear whether either will start the season with the Catalan giants.

Depay has looked destined to arrive as a free agent after deciding to leave Lyon, while Koeman was chasing a LaLiga and Copa del Rey double until Barcelona's league form deserted them in the closing weeks of the season.

Now Laporta is assessing whether there is a better coaching option available to Barcelona for the new campaign, at the same time as keeping Koeman on in the event he cannot find a more accomplished boss. Reports have even suggested Laporta would like to bring Pep Guardiola back to the club, which on the face of it looks highly unlikely.

Depay says his own prospects of a move to Barcelona do not hinge on Koeman being the man in charge.

"I don't think that matters if a club like Barcelona is interested," said Depay. "It's a fantastic club, but there are more great clubs.

"Regardless of where I go, I would like it if Koeman stays there. For himself anyway."

Laporta indicated on Friday that Barcelona would begin to announce new signings over the coming week, and Depay confirmed in his interview with Dutch broadcaster NOS that "interest is there".

He is with the Netherlands squad that is preparing for Euro 2020, having qualified under the guidance of Koeman before he was tempted away by Barcelona last August.

Frank de Boer now holds Koeman's old job and Depay promised to have "100 per cent focus" on national team duties, with a June 2 warm-up game against Scotland coming up.

Depay scored 22 goals in 40 games across all competitions for Lyon in the season just ended, at an average of one goal every 141.5 minutes, his second best rate since joining the French club in January 2017 from Manchester United.

He massively exceeded his expected goals (xG) tally of 12.38 and also had 12 assists, down on his 2017-18 best of 17 for the club but still immensely useful. Of all players from Ligue 1, only Paris Saint-Germain's Angel Di Maria beat that assists total, setting up 15 goals.

For those reasons, it is easy to see why Koeman would want him, but if a contract is not inked then any incoming Barcelona coach may take a different view.

Only Lionel Messi (38) beat Depay's goals haul in 2020-21 among current Barca players, and only Jordi Alba (13) had more assists.

Going into the Euros, Depay stands to be prominent for the Dutch, who last won the European Championship in 1988, when Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten, along with the likes of Koeman, made them a devastating side.

Koeman more recently lifted the gloom surrounding the national team, after they shockingly failed to qualify for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

"You see, as has already been shown in the past, that the Netherlands can go a long way. We want to do that again," Depay said. "I think this team can do a lot.

"We are finally back and everyone is super happy about that. But now it is time to show why we are there."

Netherlands head coach Frank de Boer agrees with Virgil van Dijk's decision to sit out Euro 2020 and expects Georginio Wijnaldum and Matthijs de Ligt to fill the leadership void.

Dutch skipper Van Dijk confirmed two weeks ago that he will miss the tournament to focus on getting fully fit for the start of pre-season with Liverpool.

The 29-year-old missed the majority of the 2020-21 campaign due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained against Everton in October, though he is now back in individual training.

De Boer accepts Van Dijk will be a big loss for Oranje in their quest to win a second European Championship title, but understands the decision taken by the centre-back.

"Virgil made the decision himself," De Boer said at a news conference on Wednesday. "I think that's the way it should be. 

"We all hoped that he would have been able to join us, that he would have had the same scenario as Daley Blind, that he would have been able to play one or two games. 

"If we would reach the final, he would have been fit to play, that's what he said himself. In the end, it's been a very well thought out choice of his, even though it sucks for us. 

"We hope we'll reach the World Cup, too, which will be played pretty soon. He doesn't want to miss two big tournaments and he also wants to be important for his club next season. 

"We have all seen how big of an impact his absence has had on us and on Liverpool."

Wijnaldum took over captaincy duties from club-mate Van Dijk last November and will wear the armband at the delayed Euro 2020 finals.

De Boer can also call upon the likes of Inter's Stefan de Vrij and Juventus defender De Ligt, who became the youngest captain in Ajax's history in 2017.

Asked who in his squad will spur the players on, De Boer said: "At this point, it's our captain [Wijnaldum]. 

"But there's different types of leaders: some are charismatic, some are very vocal. That's why you're asking this.

"I think Virgil van Dijk has everything: he has charisma, he's vocal and he looks like a true leader. Now we need to find others. 

"Matthijs de Ligt was captaining Ajax at 19. He is also a similar leader. Stefan de Vrij has proven to be able to do so as well in his recent years at the highest level at Inter. 

"It's something that has to grow within the squad. Daley Blind might not be a very physical leader, but he's very vocal and clear about what he wants others to do – a big plus for us.

"I don't think we have one single leader that has all of those qualities, but it's now time for multiple leaders to stand up and work as one, both on and off the pitch."

De Boer was speaking after naming his finalised 26-man squad for the Euros on Wednesday.

Tottenham forward Steven Bergwijn was the biggest casualty of the eight players cut from the initial 34-man group.

Anwar El Ghazi, Hans Hateboer, Rick Karsdorp, Marco Bizot, Jeremiah St. Juste, Kenny Tete and Tonny Vilhena were the other players omitted by De Boer.

The Netherlands begin their Group C campaign against Ukraine in Amsterdam on June 13, before facing Austria and North Macedonia.

 

Netherlands squad in full:

Jasper Cillessen (Valencia), Tim Krul (Norwich City), Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax); Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Daley Blind (Ajax), Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus), Stefan de Vrij (Inter), Denzel Dumfries (PSV), Jurrien Timber (Ajax), Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace), Joel Veltman (Brighton and Hove Albion), Owen Wijndal (AZ); Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Marten de Roon (Atalanta), Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax), Davy Klaassen (Ajax), Teun Koopmeiners (AZ), Donny van de Beek (Manchester United), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool); Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord), Luuk de Jong (Sevilla), Memphis Depay (Olympique Lyonnais), Cody Gakpo (PSV), Donyell Malen (PSV), Quincy Promes (Spartak Moscow), Wout Weghorst (Wolfsburg).

Daley Blind is hopeful he can be fit in time for the Netherlands' Euro 2020 campaign after being ruled out for the rest of Ajax's season with an ankle injury.

The 31-year-old sustained the damage during the second half of Tuesday's 7-0 World Cup 2022 qualifying victory over Gibraltar.

Blind was initially feared to have suffered knee ligament damage in the awkward fall, which left him wincing in pain and in need of a stretcher.

However, the versatile defender underwent a scan on Thursday and it was confirmed he has avoided a long-term lay-off, but he is unlikely to play again for Ajax this campaign.

Ajax provided an update on their official website and Blind said: "Today, after an examination in the hospital it turned out that fortunately there is no damage to the knee, but that the front ankle ligament of my left ankle is torn.

"I assume that my season at Ajax is over. I will have an operation next week. If everything goes well during rehabilitation, I hope that I can still make it to the Euros this summer."

"Of course I am terribly disappointed. You play football to win trophies and those trophies will be won in the coming months. Of course, I wanted to be there. It has been a wonderful season with Ajax so far. That now ends very abruptly for me."

Ajax are 11 points clear of PSV at the top of the Eredivisie, face Roma in the last eight of the Europa League and are into the final of the KNVB Beker, where Vitesse await later this month.

Vice-captain Blind has featured 34 times for Ajax in 2020-21 and started all three of the his country's World Cup qualifiers.

Fellow Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk is also in a race against time to be fit for the delayed European Championship finals, which begins for the Dutch on June 13 with a clash against Ukraine in Amsterdam. Ukraine and Austria are also in Group C.

Frank de Boer hit out at Gibraltar for perceived histrionics that he felt amounted to "anti-football" during Netherlands' 7-0 win on Tuesday.

The Oranje crushed their hosts in World Cup qualifying Group G, scoring six times in the second half as the Dutch took full advantage of their superiority – Gibraltar did not have a single shot.

Steven Berghuis, Luuk de Jong, Georginio Wijnaldum, Donyell Malen, Donny van de Beek and a Memphis Depay brace did the damage for the away side, who were challenged by De Boer to net at least five.

The former Ajax boss had been frustrated by his team's profligacy in the 2-0 win over Latvia at the weekend and made the curious decision to publicly set a goals target.

While he was largely pleased with the manner of the win, he took aim at Gibraltar for their conduct during the match.

"I am very satisfied with the seven goals, but it is really almost anti-football," he told NOS.

"All the players going down after a single touch, while every time the whole bench went crazy, complaining to the referee.

"The goalkeeper was taking a minute for a goal-kick… I got tired of it. I'm glad the game is behind us."

It was then relayed to De Boer that Latvia had held Turkey to a 3-3 draw in Istanbul, to which he replied with a hint of smugness following the criticism that came the Netherlands' away after Saturday's performance.

"We did well against Latvia then," he said with a wink.

But it was not all rosy for the Oranje, as they lost Daley Blind to injury early in the second half, the Ajax centre-back falling awkwardly as he bailed out Matthijs de Ligt and collided with Tjay de Barr.

While De Boer did allay fears of a nasty knee injury, as it initially appeared, it remains unclear how severe the issue is.

"I don't know how serious it is, but it wasn't his knee. He fell on his ankle," De Boer said.

Asked if Blind had gone to hospital, the coach added: "No, he's here, lying on the massage table. We wait and see – if it is serious, it will throw a dark cloud over this evening."

Victory moved Netherlands up to second in the group with six points from three games, one point adrift of leaders Turkey, who beat the Oranje 4-2 last week.

Netherlands had little difficulty seeing off Gibraltar in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier as their crushing 7-0 victory saw them meet coach Frank de Boer's pre-match expectations.

The Oranje were subject to criticism despite beating Latvia 2-0 in Saturday's meeting, with De Boer demanding a more clinical performance in Gibraltar, and that was exactly what he got.

Just as Latvia goalkeeper Roberts Ozols impressed at the weekend, Dayle Coleing proved a worthy adversary between the posts for Gibraltar until his goal was eventually breached just before half-time – Steven Berghuis netting in successive games for his country.

Luuk de Jong made it 2-0 with a well-taken finish early in the second half and the floodgates opened, with Memphis Depay, Georginio Wijnaldum and Donyell Malen all scoring in the following nine minutes.

Although a lull followed, Donny van de Beek and Depay added further gloss late on as the Dutch strolled to victory.

Unsurprisingly the Oranje were in control right from the start but their attempts to make an early breakthrough were unsuccessful as Coleing rose to the occasion.

The Gibraltar goalkeeper then watched gratefully as Denzel Dumfries headed wide in the 25th minute, before scooping away Davy Klaassen's close-range effort in unorthodox fashion as the hosts looked set to hold out until the break.

But Netherlands finally found a way through a minute later, Berghuis producing an emphatic finish into the top-left corner after the ball broke kindly for him in the crowded penalty area.

De Boer lost Daley Blind to injury early in the second half, though it had little impact on the dominant visitors and De Jong made it 2-0 less than 60 seconds later, steering in from Berghuis' delivery.

Depay's free-kick took a wicked deflection en route to the bottom-right corner for the Dutch's third in the 61st minute, and that was soon followed by Wijnaldum slamming in from 10 yards after Coleing parried the Liverpool man's header straight back to him.

Malen, brought on for Blind, got in on the act with a simple finish from Klaassen's squared pass.

Although the tempo dropped significantly after their fifth goal, Netherlands did add the extras in the final 10 minutes – Van de Beek took advantage of a kind bounce before converting from close range, before Depay turned in Owen Wijndal's drilled cross.

Frank de Boer is demanding a high-scoring victory when the Netherlands face Gibraltar in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Having started their campaign with a 4-2 defeat to Turkey, the Oranje responded with a 2-0 win over Latvia on Saturday courtesy of goals from Steven Berghuis and Luuk de Jong.

Head coach De Boer was disappointed his side did not win by a greater margin, though, given they had 76.5 per cent of the possession and 36 shots, with Latvia goalkeeper Roberts Ozols making eight saves.

With Gibraltar having conceded seven goals in their opening two qualifying games against Norway and Montenegro, De Boer wants a more clinical performance from his players and insists loading his starting line-up with forwards is not necessarily the correct approach.

"More players up front doesn't necessarily make the job easier," he said on Monday. "The spaces might be even more tight that way.

"We want to try to bait the opponents to leave their defensive positions, so we can profit from the open spaces through quick combinations. I don't believe that more attackers equals more opportunities.

"Look, a 2-0 victory against Latvia isn't good, especially if you look at the way we played. We should have scored at least seven times, looking at the chances we had. The same goes against Gibraltar: if you create that many chances, you need to score that many times.

"It all depends on how sharp we are. Norway have beaten them 3-0; Gibraltar lost their most recent away match 4-1.

"We need to make sure the tempo stays high. We can't let them breathe. We need to score at least five times, but preferably more."

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong believes a resounding win could help to boost morale within the Netherlands squad as they look to build on a run of three wins in their previous four matches.

"It's always fun to be playing for your country," he said. "In these games, you can have fun too: if all goes well, you score a lot, you can make some nice combinations.

"I think it could give us a good feeling."

Georginio Wijnaldum suggested the Netherlands must be more "eager" to score after a dominant display against Latvia only resulted in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying win.

Frank de Boer's Oranje bounced back from the 4-2 defeat to Turkey in their Group G opener with an excellent all-round performance in Amsterdam on Saturday.

The Netherlands had 36 shots in total – 16 more than the impressive 20 they managed in losing against Turkey – though only 11 hit the target.

Steven Berghuis and Luuk de Jong were responsible for the two goals, the former curling into the top-left corner before the latter headed in from Memphis Depay's corner.

The Netherlands had 96 touches in Latvia's box, the most since detailed Opta records began in August 2013, far surpassing the previous high of 51 (v Estonia in November 2019).

Though Latvia goalkeeper Roberts Ozols pulled off an impressive eight saves, Liverpool midfielder Wijnaldum, who had five attempts and created three chances, believes his side have to show more conviction in their finishing.

"In itself it was not too difficult tonight, finding the spaces was very easy," Wijnaldum told broadcasters NOS.

"I don't know how many balls they cleared off the line, but I think we should be a bit more eager to score.

"All in all, it is good that we have created so many opportunities. If you want to take a critical look at it, you have to say that we should have done even more to get that ball over the line."

Davy Klaassen and De Jong hit the crossbar either side of Berghuis' opener, the Feyenoord forward's first international goal in his 23rd Oranje appearance.

Meanwhile, Memphis Depay attempted a remarkable 10 shots and played seven key passes.

Captain Wijnaldum was replaced in the 79th minute, having registered an impressive pass completion rate of 90.6 per cent.

The Barcelona-linked 30-year-old was visibly frustrated but insisted that was purely down to feeling he still had more to offer.

"I was a bit disappointed," he said. "The coach and I talked about it. I really wanted to stay because I really had the feeling that I could score another goal.

"But otherwise it is nothing bad. We shouldn't make it bigger than it is."

Frank de Boer claimed a much-needed victory as his Netherlands team defeated Latvia 2-0 in World Cup qualifying.

Requiring a strong response following a 4-2 defeat to Turkey in their Group G opener, Netherlands turned in a much-improved display on Saturday.

With Steven Berghuis' first international strike, a brilliant shot from 20 yards out, having put them ahead, the Netherlands ensured victory thanks to Luuk de Jong's 69th-minute header.

The win relieves some of the mounting pressure on De Boer – taking charge of a Netherlands match in front of fans for the first time – lifting his side up to third.

Buoyed by a vociferous socially distanced crowd at Johan Cruijff ArenA, the Netherlands would have taken a sixth-minute lead through Davy Klaassen if not for Igors Tarasovs' exceptional goalline clearance.

With Janis Ikaunieks' blocked effort all Latvia managed in the opening exchanges, Klaassen had another opportunity in the 27th minute, only for his header to clatter back off the crossbar.

The pressure finally told five minutes later – Klaassen finding Berghuis, who created space on the edge of the area and curled a stunning effort into the top-left corner.

Somehow, the Netherlands failed to double their lead prior to the break, Memphis Depay curling inches wide before Dde Jong headed against the bar from point-blank range.

More profligacy followed after the restart – Klaassen then De Jong missing from a goalmouth scramble.

Vladimirs Kamess looked set to punish the duo moments later, only for his path to goal to be blocked by Owen Wijndal's perfectly timed challenge.

Any danger of a Latvia comeback was ended with a little over 20 minutes remaining, however, as De Jong atoned for his earlier misses with a powerful header from Depay's corner to get the Netherlands up and running.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.