Oranje are heading to the Euros! Yes, the Netherlands have qualified for their first major tournament in six years, and round off their successful qualification campaign by hosting Estonia.
With a spot at Euro 2020 secured and circumstances meaning that being first seeds isn’t hugely important, Koeman will hopefully see the match as a chance to experiement with his side and give youngsters Calvin Stengs and Myron Boadu their debuts.
How things stand
Their 0-0 draw with Northern Ireland may have been enough to qualify, but it did lose the Dutch top spot in the group to Germany. They can reclaim it if they beat Estonia and the Germans fail to beat Northern Ireland, but, asides from bragging rights, there’s not much to be gained from finishing 1st rather than 2nd.
If the Netherlands win and finish 2nd, they will be in Pot 2 for the group stage draw and will play one team from Pot 1, which will contain England, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Ukraine. However, as host nations already have allocated groups, the Dutch can’t be drawn against the first four, meaning they have a 50/50 chance of getting Ukraine, which isn’t bad odds at all.
If they enter the draw in Pot 1, they’ll have a decent chance of getting France or Croatia, who will be in Pot 2. Surely it would be better to be in the same pot as the World Cup finalists and thus avoid facing them in the group stage?
Estonia meanwhile are guaranteed to finish bottom and have no chance of making the play-offs, so are out.
The big team news is that Virgil van Dijk will not be available for selection due to personal circumstances. The contenders to replace him are Stefan de Vrij and Nathan Ake, but with the former missing out on the last game through injury, Ake is more likely to get the nod.
Ryan Babel is also unavailable due to injury, meaning that at least one of Myron Boadu and Calvin Stengs will surely make their debut. Another man unavailable is Marten de Roon, who is suspended, so expect Davy Propper, who impressed against Northern Ireland, to start.
Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay struggled with health and fitness in the build up to the last game and were therefore not risked. However, both now say they’re ready to play and have been included in the squad, so may well start.
Potential starting XI
No pie chart needed for this one. We thought about it, but it’d just be a big orange circle with a smidgen of blue in the corner.
In their five meetings with Estonia, the Netherlands have won four of them and have scored three or more goals in each of them. The most recent game saw the Dutch prevail 4-0 thanks to goals from Babel (x2), Depay and Wijnaldum.
The one time Estonia came away with something was in 2013 when they drew 2-2. They were moments away from a historic victory, but those hopes were crushed in the 90th minute thanks to a Robin van Persie penalty.
Ronald Koeman has already achieved his goal of getting his nation to the Euros, so expect to see his team play with freedom and flair rather than another safe and cautious approach.
Many players know this will be a huge opportunity to impress the manager and stake a claim for a spot in the Euro 2020 squad and in some cases, the starting XI, so hopefully the likes of Stengs and Boadu will bring their a-game.
Add in the fact that Oranje, in front of their fans, will want to end what has been an excellent year on a high note and we should see a considerably more exciting display than we did against Northern Ireland. Prediction: the Netherlands 5-0 Estonia.
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