The Netherlands, the uncrowned queen of the World Cup (she has lost three finals and lost in two semi-finals) who debuts today against Ukraine in Amsterdam, did win the European Championship once. The impossible volley that Van Basten struck before Dassaev’s astonished gaze at the Munich Olympics is part of the iconic images of the tournament. The Oranje is now the 16th team in the FIFA ranking. It is not the Clockwork Orange of ’74, nor that impressive team of ’88; not even the semifinalist that his current coach, Frank de Boer, led alongside Davids and Bergkamp in 1998. And he even has such a huge loss, Van Dijk, that he will condition his game system. But it always arouses illusions.
Amsterdam is hungry for football. And tonight’s Netherlands-Ukraine can have it (watch the game live on As.com). It’s the great moment of Frenkie de Jong, who comes to the European Championship after his confirmation season at Barça, where Koeman has added goal and character to his natural talent for playing football. The Euro Cup is an unbeatable showcase to show that you are one of the best players on the continent. Of course, in Amsterdam there is a storm surge and criticism of Frank de Boer for his decision to protect himself with three centrals. Depay, another player who will be watched with a magnifying glass by the Barça fans, is the other great claim of the Dutch in the premiere.
The debut of Ukraine, the 24th selection in the FIFA ranking, has been surrounded by political controversy over its finally allowed shirt, which outlines a map of the country that includes Crimea, territory annexed by Russia, and two slogans, “Glory to Ukraine and Glory to heroes”, used in the 2013 mobilizations in Maidan that overthrew the (pro-Russian) president Yanukovych. But this is football. Malinovskyi, Zinchenko or Yarmolenko are not Shevchenko, but they have things to offer. And any game is much bigger if it is played in a stadium called Johan Cruyff.