Netherlands has fond memories of the last time the European Championship was hosted in Germany – its victory in the 1988 final remains its only major tournament success.

But while few would predict that there is any chance of the Dutch repeating their success 36 years later, coach Ronald Koeman is convinced they have a legitimate shot.

“Of course, we are not the big favourites but I think it is not very far away from those who are,” he told Dutch television recently.

“If you fight hard for it and things go well during the tournament, then it is possible. Nothing is impossible. But it has to go well. There will always be moments of luck that could turn things in your favour or not.”

Koeman was a defender in the 1988 winning side, packed with individual talent such as Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten. But these days the Dutch side are a more of a collective of competent rather than charismatic players to which the coach brings a pragmatic approach.


Honours: European Championship winners 1988

Previous Euro performances: 10 participations, best performance winners 1988

FIFA ranking: 7th

Nickname: Oranje

Coach: Ronald Koeman

Star players: Memphis Depay, Virgil van Dijk, Frenkie de Jong

Main clubs: Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord, AZ Alkmaar

How did it qualify: Second in Group B behind France

Pre-Euro friendlies:

Netherlands 4 Canada 0

Netherlands v Iceland (June 10)

Koeman has given short shrift to his compatriots’ obsession with attacking football and broken from the decades of playing a traditional 4-3-3 ‘Dutch way’ formation.

“The intention should always be to play well and to entertain the crowd. But if you cannot win, but you try to play nicely and offensively… that doesn’t look good,” he said.

Instead, Koeman has mixed and matched over the last 16 months since returning to the job he gave up in 2020 to become Barcelona coach, where he was fired after 14 months.

“We can play multiple systems. It may well be that we play with three, four or five at the back,” he said.

“We have a group of players in their late 20s and early 30s. That is the basis of this squad. You build the youth around that and you create a clear hierarchy in the group.”

But whether key elements such as Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay are injury-free and fit to play remains to seen, giving Koeman a selection headache.

De Jong, 27, has not played since suffering an ankle injury for Barcelona against Real Madrid in April but Atletico Madrid forward Depay, 30, has returned to action in the last weeks of the LaLiga season.

Netherlands, which will have the backing of tens of thousands of travelling fans, begin its Group D schedule against playoff winners Poland in Hamburg on June 16, before meeting France and Austria.

It lost twice to the French in the qualifiers – 4-0 in Paris and 2-1 in Amsterdam.

“But that means that a victory is getting closer,” quipped Koeman at the final draw last December. “It’s not an unfavourable draw, it could have been worse.” 


Provisional Squad

Goalkeepers: Justin Bijlow (Feyenoord), Mark Flekken (Brentford/ENG), Bart Verbruggen (Brighton/ENG)

Defenders: Nathan Ake (Manchester City/ENG), Daley Blind (Girona/ESP), Stefan de Vrij (Inter Milan/ITA), Lutsharel Geertruida (Feyenoord), Denzel Dumfries (Inter Milan/ITA), Matthijs de Ligt (Bayern Munich/GER), Jeremie Frimpong (Bayer Leverkusen/GER), Micky van de Ven (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool/ENG)

Midfielders: Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona/ESP), Ryan Gravenberch (Liverpool/ENG), Teun Koopmeiners (Atalanta/ITA), Tijjani Reijnders (AC Milan/ITA), Jerdy Schouten (PSV Eindhoven), Xavi Simons (RB Leipzig/GER), Joey Veerman (PSV Eindhoven), Georginio Wijnaldum (Al Ettifaq/KSA)

Forwards: Steven Bergwijn (Ajax), Brian Brobbey (Ajax), Memphis Depay (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Cody Gakpo (Liverpool/ENG), Donyell Malen (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Wout Weghorst (Hoffenheim/GER)


Netherlands vs Poland – June 16, Sunday – 6:30 PM

Netherlands vs France – June 22, Saturday – 12:30 AM

Netherlands vs Austria – June 25, Tuesday – 9:30 PM


All of Netheralnds’ matches at Euro 2024 will be telecasted on the Sony Sports Network. The matches will also be live-streamed on the SonyLIV app.

(With inputs from Reuters and AFP)