Berliner Tageblatt - Dutch eyeing top spot in Euro 2024 group ahead of France

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Dutch eyeing top spot in Euro 2024 group ahead of France
Dutch eyeing top spot in Euro 2024 group ahead of France / Photo: © AFP/File

Dutch eyeing top spot in Euro 2024 group ahead of France

The Netherlands are hoping to pinch top spot in Group D at Euro 2024 ahead of France but on Tuesday face a confident Austria side who may need a positive result to reach the last 16.

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Dutch coach Ronald Koeman said his side "weren't up to scratch" in a goalless draw with France last time out which all but secured a place in the knockout phase.

A victory against Austria would wrap up top spot in the group, though, provided France do not win by a bigger margin in their simultaneous final game against Poland.

"If we think about the whole game there were times we weren't up to scratch," Koeman said on Sunday.

"We lost possession when we shouldn't have and our pressing wasn't great either, there was too much space in between the lines.

"France had better chances than we did."

The Netherlands have finished first in their groups at each of the past two major tournaments, although they were still dumped out by the Czech Republic in the last 16 at Euro 2020.

Despite a promising start to this campaign, there has been debate back home about the make-up of the team.

Memphis Depay, who released a song before the tournament called "Thanks for your opinion" in a thinly-veiled response to critics, struggled up front against France.

There have been calls for Wout Weghorst to be given a start, after he came off the bench to score the winner in the Netherlands' opening game against Poland.

"When a ball came to me, there was little support. Then you have to hold the ball and unfortunately that didn't work a number of times. That has to be improved," Depay admitted after the France stalemate.

Matthijs de Ligt, who impressed in the second half of last season for Bayern Munich, has been left on the bench with Inter Milan's Stefan de Vrij partnering Virgil van Dijk in central defence.

De Ligt has been speaking to a psychologist to help him process not being in the starting XI.

"These kinds of moments can be tough," he told Dutch media. "By talking about them you make it lighter and you can put the energy back on the field instead of wasting it on those kinds of thoughts."

- Austria search for 'best level' -

Austria will likely go through with a point as one of the best third-placed teams but could also still finish first with a win, if France fail to beat Poland.

Touted as one of the dark horses for the tournament, Ralf Rangnick's men impressed in a 3-1 victory over Poland last time out.

They had pushed France close in an opening 1-0 defeat but three points against the Dutch to guarantee a top-two finish would likely help them avoid the strongest teams in the last 16.

"If we calculate we're still not through, we at least need one more point. You can say with four points it's quite secure you go into the knockout round," said Rangnick. "Maybe we can win the group."

Austria made the knockout stage of a major tournament for the first time since 1954 three years ago, when they gave eventual Euros winners Italy a fright in the last 16 before losing in extra time.

They have never reached the quarter-finals at a European Championship.

"Somehow it is nice to be called that (dark horses)," said Christoph Baumgartner, who scored the crucial goal which put Austria 2-1 ahead against Poland.

"We won against Germany in the build-up, we had a really good period in the last few weeks and months, and then people start to think big quite quickly.

"But we as a team always knew how to assess the situation. We knew against France we weren't at our maximum. We know if we reach our best level we can beat a lot of nations."