The Warm Down: Netherlands return to the global stage with a thrilling victory over Ukraine 
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JUNE 13: Denzel Dumfries of Holland celebrates 3-2 with Memphis Depay of Holland during the EURO match between Holland v Ukraine at the Johan Cruijff Arena on June 13, 2021 in Amsterdam Netherlands (Photo by Laurens Lindhout/Soccrates/Getty Images)

Netherlands started their Euro 2020 campaign with a scintillating victory over Ukraine, with both teams offensively brilliant but hindered by questionably defensive performances. 

Ultimately, it was Netherlands’ wealth of attacking potency that secured the victory as they rebounded from an absence from the past two major international tournaments and the laid the foundations for a path towards the latter stages of the competition. 

The game itself was simply enthralling, with all five of the goals occurring in the second half of the match. The Dutch had dominated much of the first half and saw seven shots besiege the Ukrainian goal inside the first ten minutes, to no avail. 

After the break the Dutch were rewarded for their persistence with two well taken goals from Gini Wijanldum and Wout Weghorst, before Ukraine responded with two stunning quick-fire efforts from Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuck before 80 minutes.

The incredible game was decided by right back Denzel Dumfries - who had squandered a handful of good chances earlier in the match - with a brilliant header to make sure his side left with all three points. 

A big win, but tougher tests to come

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Returning to a major tournament after a seven-year absence is an understandable nervy affair, however Netherlands displayed little sign of caution and appeared to realise that, in their case, attack is the best form of defence. 

Captain Virgil Van Dijk is absent from the tournament as he continues his recovery from an ACL injury, whilst Mattjis de Ligt missed the maiden match with a groin injury, and a more formidable defensive approach will need to be established if they are to prevail in the latter stages.

Netherlands have shown that they have the players to cause any team problems, but questions will be asked of their defensive efforts and if they will be able to sustain the advances of the competitions most prominent outfits.

With Austria and North Macedonia still to play, the Dutch would fancy their chances in finishing atop of the group and facing a more favourable opponent in the round-of-16, and an initial victory will have done them the world of good.

Outstanding offensive performances 

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Some of the defending might have been cheap, but the fluidity of the attacks and piercing vigour of the strikes cannot be undermined.

Wijnaldum continued his excellent scoring run for his country with a fiercely placed shot into the roof of the net after a rebound fell kindly to him and the opposing goalkeeper was diverted from the net. 

Weghorst scored his second goal for his country moments later after a VAR review confirmed the legality of the effort. All was going to plan for Holland.

Ukraine do deserve credit, and it would be a surprise if they fail to reach the knockout phase if the past performance is anything to go by; their goals was simply sublime and a reflection of the talents in the team.

Holland display their mentality

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Many teams would have crumbled after dropping a two-goal lead late on in a major tournament, but Netherlands demonstrated their resolve as they battled in solitude to secure the victory with mere minutes to go. 

This is a reflection of the vast improvements made as a team have rectified the issues that have plagued them over recent years despite the absence of key figures such as Van Dijk. 

Speaking to UEFA, head coach Frank de Boer detailed his pride towards his team, stating, “We knew Ukraine were a good team. When they encounter pressure from us, they are able to play against it and find new opportunities. You have to try not to give away dangerous moments to the opponents."