The Flying Dutchmen, Ukranian Underdogs, and Underperforming Austria: EURO 2020 Group-C Roundup

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Netherlands

SQUAD UPDATE: Last year before the pandemic hit in March, Netherlands were one of the favourites to win the Euro 2020. Much has changed since then. Their skipper and arguably most influential player Virgil van Dijk suffered a long term injury leaving him out of commission for most of the last season and this competition as well and Ronald Koeman resigned as the head coach in August 2020. Memphis Depay has had another season to show his impeccable quality and Matthijs De Ligt has regained his form since his big money move to Juventus under the tutelage of veterans like Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.

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Jasper Cillessen will miss the Euros even after initially being called up after he contracted the coronavirus. Now Tim Krul and Maarten Stekelenburg will have to compete for the right to start between the sticks. Sven Botman, the prodigy who was instrumental in Lille’s title run against the Parisians, is a surprise omission from the squad. Gini Wjinaldum and Frenkie De Jong’s mid field duo are more than capable of controlling the middle of the park. In attack Memphis Depay, Luuk de Jong and Quincy Promes are only some of the great talents they possess.  

FORM: The Oranje attack is in blazing form scoring 16 goals in their 5 games in 2021. Their defense isn’t as strong as it would have been with their skipper but still there are some big names in their defense like Stefan de Vrij, Matthijs de Ligt, Daley Blind and Jurrien Timber. Although they haven’t looked the same since Ronald Koeman left last year, the Netherlands National team looks like it is regaining some of that previous quality from before the UCL winner left.

PREDICTION: Unarguably the strongest of the lot, the Dutch are expected to top their group and reach the deep end of the competition. They may not be the favourites to take the trophy home but they have enough fire power and defensive resilience to make any team sweat. They may not be the legendary 2010 Dutch team with the likes of Robben, Van Persie and Wesley Sneijder but this team still has some big names in it and capable of winning some silverware in the near future.

Austria

SQUAD UPDATE: On paper Austria has the second best squad of the lot with big names such as David Alaba, Marcel Sabitzer and Marco Arnautovic. All experienced players who have performed well for their respective clubs but when it comes to their national team, they have had little success. In defense, Martin Hinteregger could prove vital with his ability to cause troubles in the opposition goal while protecting his own.

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One of their most underrated but prized assets which could make the difference for the Burschen is the 6’7” beast Sasa Kalajdzic. Coming off the back of his most prolific season with 22 goal contributions in 33 games for the Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart, the striker has an eye for goal, is a massive threat in the air and will be a stand out threat on set pieces. Apart from that, the full backs of the team Stefan Lainer and Andreas Ulmer have a knack for bombing forward and putting in crosses which will suit him well.   

FORM: Coming into the competition with the worst form in their group, Austria has lost two, drew two and won only one of their last five games and that win was against the measly Faroe Islands. Austria needs to step it up a notch if they hope to make it to the knockouts.

PREDICTION: The Austrians have not been playing up to their potential lately and will not be brimming with confidence being unable to score a single goal in their friendlies against England and Slovakia. The other teams in their group will give them a run for their money but the Austrians can’t be counted out just yet.

Ukraine

SQUAD UPDATE: The Ukrainian squad under the legendary striker Andriy Shevchenko will look to make it in the knockout stages of the competition and with the teams in front of them it might not be an impractical dream. In goal the Ukrainian champion Heorhiy Buschan will undoubtedly start instead of the highly experienced Andriy Pyatov and the young rising star Anatoli Trubin. He conceded only 15 goals in the Ukranian Premier League and was influential in Dynamo’s title run.  

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The Manchester City player Oleksandr Zinchenko is the biggest name on the former Milan striker’s team. With him in the mid field will be the top assist giver in Serie A this season, Ruslan Malinovskiy who has been sensational for Atalanta. In the game against Northern Ireland he was subbed off due to injury but has been confirmed fit for the Euros. The other key players to look out for are the West Ham winger Andriy Yarmolenko and the Gent striker Roman Yaremchukwho is coming off the best season of his career scoring 20 goals in 33 games.

FORM: Since the 2020 Nations League where Ukraine finished bottom of their group losing 4 games, Ukraine has played 5 games and haven’t lost a single one of them despite playing World Champions France. Although they managed to score only 1 goal in each of these 5 matches, in their most recent game against Northern Ireland they would have scored a lot more if not for a bit of bad luck and acrobatics by Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

PREDICTION: Ukraine’s squad has enough quality to even challenge for the top spot in the group. However, In the knockout stages it will be difficult for them to make it far.

Northern Macedonia

SQUAD UPDATE: The Macedonian squad does not boast of several recognizable names, the only name which might be recognizable by fans widespread is Ezgjan Alioski, the Leeds United left wing back. Apart from him the names which be recognizable to some are the Napoli mid fielder Eljif Elmas, the Rayo Vallecano goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski and the Genoa striker Goran Pandev the 37 year old striker who was brought out of retirement in 2016.  

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FORM: Despite being the lowest ranked team by FIFA among all the teams competing in the Euros, Northern Macedonia are coming in great form winning 3 out of their past 5 matches in 2021. They eviscerated Kazakhstan in a 4-0 victory in their last game, which not only means they are high on confidence but have also a got a longer rest than any other team in their group.

PREDICTION: Northern Macedonia does not have a quality squad like Netherlands and Ukraine but they do have a tenacious one and they don’t have anything to lose. People aren’t expecting them to make it to the knockouts and several have even questioned their merit of even making it to the Euros. That might give them the extra drive to surprise everyone and make it into the lateral stage, if not by getting second then maybe by getting third and prove that they deserve to be among the elites of Europe.

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