Netherlands U21 v Germany U21 preview

It’s one of the biggest rivalries in international football. They have played out some incredible matches throughout the last few decades at senior level, but today, it’s the Dutch and German Under 21 teams who meet in one of the most enticing matches of this summer’s European Championship.

These two teams, along with Russia and Spain, have been drawn in the tougher of the two groups which will see at least one of the big-named favourites eliminated at the group stage. Therefore, today’s game could be crucial to either side’s campaign. A victory makes qualification to the semi-finals seem much more attainable, while defeat turns it into an uphill battle. As Spain coach Julen Lopetegui insists, “you cannot make a mistake.”

The squads of the Jong Oranje and DFB-jugend are strong enough to carry them through to the final as they are filled with wonderful talents, so the onus is on the coaches to mould them into a team which can actually do so.

Germany are missing some eligible and high profile players such as Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Mario Gotze, Julian Draxler and Ilkay Gundogan, while Jan Kirchhoff, Tolgay Arslan and Sebastian Jung were all kept out due to injury.

The Netherlands, on the other hand, include some of the best players from the top flight of Dutch football. Jurgen Locadia and Jean-Paul Boetius were both unavailable for the final 23-man squad due to injury but were replaced by bright players in the shape of Memphis Depay of PSV and Ajax’s Danny Hoesen.

Interestingly, there are a whopping 12 members of the Netherlands U21 squad who have featured for the senior national team, while Lewis Holtby is the only Germany player in Israel to have received a cap for Joachim Low’s charges. However, this doesn’t mean this current crop of Jong Oranje players is more talented than their German counterparts. This may be one of the brightest generations Holland has seen for some time, but the strength of the German squad is undeniable. The quality is spread throughout Rainer Adrion’s squad.

Bernd Leno is one of the best goalkeepers in a Bundesliga which is blessed with numerous exceptional shot stoppers, Oliver Baumann has proved a strong goalkeeper for a Freiburg side which lost out on the Champions League on the final day of the season. Those two are backed up by Koln’s first choice keeper Timo Horn.

In defence, the Germans have right-back Tony Jantschke, who has been a key player for Borussia Monchengladbach throughout the last two years, as well as Lasse Sobiech, Matthias Ginter and Oliver Sorg who all played a majority of their sides’ Bundesliga matches last season. Sead Kolasinac, Antonio Rüdiger and Shkodran Mustafi are all developing into exciting top flight players and show that this team has strength in depth.

The midfield and attack of this Germany team is particularly daunting. Holtby’s importance is unquestionable, but Patrick Herrman, Sebastian Rode, the similarly named Sebastian Rudy and Christian Clemens add a great deal of strength to the midfield and Christoph Moritz and Emre Can are available as good backup. Furthermore, in Kevin Volland, Peniel Mlapa and Sebastian Polter, Germany have three established Bundesliga forwards who round things off deliciously and there’s also the option of bringing Pierre-Michel Lasogga on if the need arises.

These exciting individuals combine to create a very talented squad and it is clear that this Germany team are as formidable as any other in this tournament.

The German national team is one with a great future and if these players develop in the correct way (which this tournament will help with), they will help elongate the dominance Die Nationalmannschaft seem to be building towards. The Netherlands, on the other hand, have seen many young players burst into the senior squad over the last year and a great number of them are present in Israel.

The thought of seeing these exemplary teams lineup against each other is extremely enticing.

The Oranje under 21 squad in training.

The Oranje under 21 squad in training.

Cor Pot has chosen a squad of 23 special talents from the Netherlands. Every area of the squad looks very strong, with some brilliant players available as backup.

There are two fantastic goalkeepers in the shape of Jeroen Zoet and Marco Bizot, while Nick Marsman is of obvious quality having played a crucial role in Go Ahead Eagles’ promotion to the Eredivisie.

The eight defenders in the squad are so strong that you could build another very capable backline out of the four players who won’t make the starting XI. Ricardo van Rhijn, Stefan de Vrij, Bruno Martins Indi and Daley Blind will make the first-team, leaving Mike van der Hoorn, Patrick van Aanholt, Bram Nuytinck and Kelvin Leerdam will be disappointed to be left out.

The six midfielders in this team are so exciting and electrifying that it’s a shame to see three of them left out. Kevin Strootman and Adam Maher will definitely start and it’s up to Marco van Ginkel and Jordy Clasie to take that final spot. Tonny Trindade de Vilhena and Leroy Fer must settle for a place on the bench, which will seem a bit unusual for both players.

Luuk de Jong will be the side’s out and out striker, likely supported by Georginio Wijnaldum and Ola John on the wings. Danny Hoesen is a good backup striker, which he has shown throughout the season at Ajax and Memphis Depay and Florian Jozefzoon are available to come on for the wingers.

This match will be two countries made up largely of first-team players from their respective top flights, with one or two expats included. Shkodran Mustafi (Sampdoria) and Lewis Holtby are the only players who don’t play in Germany, while Luuk de Jong and Ola John are the only Dutch starters who haven’t spent the last season in Eredivisie.

Both camps are very much looking forward to this, seemingly as much as the neutral.

The coaches both expect a high quality, attacking and entertaining match, which both sides are generally famous for producing.

“I expect the match to be played at a very high level,” said Adrion. “The Netherlands are very optimistic ahead of this European Championship, but so are we. I think it will be a very interesting match for the spectators.

“We won’t take a cautious approach. Of course we know that they have great attacking talent at their disposal. They have some good players, capable of using free space by dribbling and making full use of their speed. But during the qualifying campaign we scored a lot of goals and we are always capable of finding the net here as well. Our style of play is an attacking one and we will surely not be pushed back into defence.”

To add to that excitement, Netherlands coach Cor Pot has said the Dutch will play in a typically attacking manner.

“When Germany play an open game, then we will return the favour,” Pot told reporters. “Our style of play depends on Germany. We know Germany very well and they know us very well. There will be no surprises.

“We don’t talk about Germany’s strengths or weaknesses. We talk about our own qualities, that is more important. We have a philosophy in Holland that we always play 4-3-3. You can change that into different systems, but that is the main system we like to play. It is very flexible, though.”

With such strong squads and such a difficult group, both Germany and the Netherlands will be desperate to get off to a great start with a win over their old rivals. Holtby was correct when he described it as “a very prestigious game,” but it is also very important.

The stakes are high, the teams are strong, the talents are remarkable and the standards are high. Let’s hope for a match which lives up to the expectation which surrounds it.

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