The Netherlands kicked off their 2019 in emphatic fashion with a comprehensive 4-0 win, Belarus their victims in the first Euro 2020 qualifiers, rocketing to the top of their group.
This Oranje are doggedly, determinedly trying to make amends for the disappointment of not reaching the World Cup Finals in Russia last year, only the second time of missing out in the last ten international tournaments available.
With former Southampton and Everton coach Ronald Koeman at the helm, the Netherlands are now undefeated in five games, and have suffered just one defeat in their last ten fixtures.
In 2018 with the newly established UEFA Nations League, the Dutch side set to dispel memories of their absence in Russia by finishing top of a group which contained the two previous World Cup winners France and Germany.
Through this qualification, the Netherlands will face England on 6th June 2019 in their semi-finals at the Estádio D. Afonso Henriques in Guimarães, Portugal. They could face either Portugal or Switzerland in the final at Porto’s stadium, the Estádio do Dragão, to become the inaugural winners of the competition.
The 2020 UEFA European Football Championship will be undeniably at the forefront of their mind however, with the hope of breaking that irritating duck of failing to win a major tournament in over three decades despite the plethora of enviable talent that has seeped throughout the squad.
Currently sixth favourites to win the Euros - behind France, Spain, England, Germany, and Belgium - here are three reasons why this particular Netherlands side could very well take the glory.
Liverpool’s Success Is The Oranje’s Gain
Though Koeman of course managed Everton for a single full season, the gaffer seemingly has no qualms employing a substantial Liverpool contingent in his set-up.
Regardless of whether his club break their near-three decade Premier League hoodoo, Virgil van Dijk is well on course to become the first Liverpool player in five years to win the PFA Player of the Year award. Simply immense throughout the season, he has not been dribbled past once in 2755 minutes of league football, and has made the most clearances, blocks, interceptions, duels and aerials won, and passes of any Liverpool player this season.
Towering centre-back van Dijk now has three goals in his last five games for Holland. Standing tall next to 19-year-old Ajax captain Matthijs de Light, a partnership perhaps only rivalled by Atletico Madrid pair Diego Godin and José Giménez for Uruguay. Furthermore, Internazionale centre-back Stefan de Vrij is always waiting in the wings at any opportune moment.
Gigi Wijnaldum - who has also impressed for Liverpool throughout the league campaign in the heart of midfield - has two in his last three for country, the same amount of goals he has managed at club level all season.
Babel On The Pitch
Aside from Koeman’s first game in charge - a 1-0 defeat to England when he played for 24 minutes - Ryan Babel has started all but two games and hasn’t failed to make the Netherlands matchday squad on any occasion since.
Usually deployed on the left-wing but with the ability to play upfront, the 32-year-old - now plying his trade at Fulham - has really found favour.
Incredibly, the former Liverpool man didn’t play a single game for the national side for six years!
Though he travelled to South Africa for the World Cup in 2010, he didn’t make an on-pitch appearance as the side under Bert van Marwijk got all the way to the final.
Out in the cold during the subsequent regimes of Louis van Gaal, Guus Hiddink, and Danny Blind throughout the wilderness years when he should have been known as Ryan-Air, venturing to such regions as Turkey and Abu Dhabi.
90 minutes in a friendly defeat to Germany in November 2011 seemingly marked the end of his international career. Since July 2017, Babel has firmly been back in favour, certifiably part of the future and not reduced to bit-parts or cameos.
Now Babel’s back baby and a fundamental part of this well-tuned Dutch set-up.
Depay’s Club Form Completely Irrelevant
Memphis Depay has three in his last three appearances for the Netherlands; already half of his tally in his entire club domestic season. The former Manchester United man has only gone more than one game without scoring on a single occasion since August 2017.
Depay now spearheads this Dutch attack, dispelling the concern that he has scored just once for his club in Ligue 1 since mid-October. The Lyon forward was front and centre of the action at Stadio Feijenoord in Rotterdam, spearheading the attack once again as a loan Number 10.
Against Belarus, the 25-year-old got his brace after converting a spot-kick before the hour-mark having latched onto a loose back-pass in the opening, and was unlucky not to bag his hattrick after goalkeeper Andrey Gorbunov parried. Depay opportunistically turned it into an excellent cross for van Djik to head home and make it four.
No reason to celebrate with his fingers in his ears, Depay should no doubt be listening to those passionate Oranje crowd cheers on a regular basis.
It’s so de Jong but so de Right
"Cruyff would have enjoyed De Jong's game enormously," said the great Dutchman’s former assistant Bruins Slot (SportEnglish), who worked for Johan Cruyff at Ajax and FC Barcelona.
With Frenkie De Jong following the same trajectory as Cruyff after becoming Barca’s €75million man from die Godenzonen, the echoes are going to continually reverberate, despite their differing positions on the field.
De Jong is just a magnificent player and at 21-years-old, he’s certainly an old experienced head on young shoulders. Carried the play against Belarus and if you can find a moment where he put a foot wrong, we’ll buy you a pint.