5 things we learnt from Poland vs Netherlands
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5 things we learnt from Poland vs Netherlands

17/06/24 09:08

Following a compelling opener to group D proceedings, where Netherlands scraped past a spirited Poland side lacking striker Robert Lewandowski, we take a deeper dive into 5 things we learnt from the game and what they could means for each nations tournament aspirations.

Cody Gakpo back to 2022 World Cup form?

After an up and down start to life at Anfield, Gakpo seems to be one of those that saves his best form for their country. Playing for the national badge just brings out a different side to the left winger, who wanted to turn and attack the man facing him every time the ball found his feet.

Showing flashes of superb individual skill and trickery, vision and passing, and grabbing an albeit deflected goal to equalize in the first half, his confidence will be high after setting such a high standard to maintain for the rest of the Dutch campaign.

Jakub Kiwior is the real deal

Jakub Kiwior is effectively the man who made Cody Gakpo look like a world-beater, and no it isn’t because he had a defensive howler. The Arsenal defender marshaled his left side of the defensive line superbly, and Dutch threats Xavi Simons and Denzel Dumfries had noticeably quieter days than Gakpo and Ake on the opposite flank.

Contesting everything within reach, and not afraid to put a solid challenge that leaves a mark on the opponent, Kiwior forced the Dutch right flank to play within themselves, forcing all of the responsibility onto Gakpo, which led to his excellent performance, and it isn't a coincidence that both Dutch goals came from threats on Gakpo’s side. Keep an eye on him during the tournament.

Dutch midfield maestros dearly missed

The loss of both Frenkie De Jong and Teun Koopmeiners to long term injuries stuck an unexpected spanner in the works for Koeman. I pointed out before the game that the lack of international experience so far given to replacements Joey Veerman and Jerdy Schouten could be a big miss for the side, and so it proved to be.

While the PSV midfield operators saw plenty of the ball, they rarely distributed forwards and were unwilling to take risks for most of the game, so much so that Veerman was substituted in after an hour for Georginio Wijnaldum, who had questions marks over his fitness and conditioning prior to the game. The midfield pair have two more guaranteed games at the tournament to adapt to the Dutch system to try and fill the hole left by Koopmeiners and De Jong, and if the Netherlands are to advance to the quarter-finals and beyond, there has to be marked improvements.

Buksa is a useful plan B to Lewandowski

I hadn't heard of Adam Buksa before this match. 27 years old and playing his football in the Turkish Super League, he has had a fair season, with 18 goal contributions in 33 games for side Antalyaspor, but that kind of form doesn’t set any alarms ringing, especially in a league that isn’t considered one of the top five.

But from minute one, against world class center-backs Virgil Van Dijk and Stefan De Vrijs, the 191cm forward held his own, providing a useful combination of nifty runs in behind and good, old fashioned targetman play. While the clinical edge of Lewandowski was clearly missed in the latter stages of the second half, Buksa created issues for the backline throughout the game with his football IQ, and topped it off with a superb header that flew past Bart Verbruggen in the Netherlands goal. He could be one of the surprise breakthroughs of the tournament.

Wout Weghorst - how does he do it?

This man hardly ever starts for Holland, but it seems that whenever he takes the field from the bench in the form of supersub, he somehow manages to get on the scoreboard. His winning goal, a typical poachers finish from eight yards out in the 83rd minute to break Polish hearts, was his seventh goal in his last 11 appearances for the national side, with five of these coming in the second half.

A player often maligned by English club fans for his profligacy in front of goal, Weghorst loves big international games and his finishing seems to be just a little bit keener and more accurate than in the regular club season. It is clear that Ronald Koeman loves him, and he will be massive off the bench for the Netherlands if they are to go far in this tournament.

The two sides now have five days to recuperate and re-think, with Poland playing Austria at 17:00 on Friday, followed by the biggest game of the group, Netherlands vs France, at 20:00.

Benji Kosartiyer
Journalist
Harry Pascoe

Football Writer

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