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Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman on winning the EURO, the current generation and Xavi Simons – interview

"Many countries are envious of the number of central defenders we have in our squad," said Koeman as he readies his side for UEFA EURO 2024.

Koeman: 'We need luck on our side'

Having taken charge of the Dutch national team for the second time at the start of 2023, Ronald Koeman is looking forward to leading the Oranje into the EURO finals again this summer.

A hugely decorated player with Groningen, Ajax, PSV, Barcelona and Feyenoord, he won four Dutch and Spanish titles apiece and the European Cup in 1992, when he scored the winning goal in the final against Sampdoria. Famed for his goalscoring ability as a defender, Koeman's crowning international glory came when he helped the Netherlands win EURO '88 in Germany. The 61-year-old spoke to UEFA.com about that memorable tournament and his team's hopes for the finals this time around.

Every team's EURO 2024 fixtures

On what it was like to be part of the 1988 EURO-winning team

Great and still unique because, unfortunately, the Netherlands just won a tournament once. It was of course a great tournament. First because, like this summer as well, it is our neighbours. At the time we were, and next summer we will be, supported by a lot of fans. It felt like home matches.

EURO 1988 final highlights: Netherlands 2-0 USSR

Everybody had the idea we could get a long way in the tournament. At the end we won matches, sometimes with a bit of luck, but that's all in the game, otherwise you can't win. It was magnificent. At the time I was a player at PSV Eindhoven. We won the championship, the [Dutch] cup and also the European Cup in 1988. EURO was like a dessert. The joy of the supporters, coming home, was a tremendously nice experience.

On why that is the only tournament the Oranje have won

Perhaps it can be explained by the fact that we are not the biggest country. We do not have a large pool of players to choose from but we always produce good, young players, players who develop themselves quite well in the Netherlands which means that we are always going to be a country that only just wins or only just loses.

We have of course played a number of finals, World Cup finals, that we have unfortunately lost. What the Netherlands as a nation has done in the last 40, 50 years is really quite good, but countries such as Germany, Brazil, Spain, have many more footballers than we do. Regarding the leagues, those sort of countries are that bit ahead of us. But Netherlands is a country that can compete and has a chance. It has not always been successful but that is also what sport is about.

Netherlands' road to Germany: Watch every goal

On the differences between his two spells in charges of the national team

In principle we still have a strong squad now. I think that we have been a little unlucky with quite a few injuries during the past year and also for sure a lot of injuries to players who were more than valuable for the national team. The players are five years older than in my first period and we are seeing younger players coming through again. Xavi Simons, Tijjani Reijnders, Lutsharel Geertruida, Quilindschy Hartman, Mats Wieffer, Jerdy Schouten, Joey Veerman, you name it. Many of these guys play in the Netherlands and have developed into national team players.

The current group is a very good one. I think many countries are envious of the number of central defenders we have in our squad. They all play for big clubs. We feel we still have a lot of quality in this squad. If we can make that work and create an atmosphere with a lot of fan support then the Netherlands could have an amazing tournament.

France vs Netherlands EURO history

On midfielder Xavi Simons

He is a big talent who makes conscious choices about where he will play. He made a deliberate choice to go from Paris to PSV, then moving on to Leipzig in the Bundesliga to go up a level. He is developing incredibly well. Sometimes we want too much, too soon of these young players. You have to give them time, including within the Dutch national team. It is different from playing at your club. But those are the types of players who will become big stars as they have so much quality and because they have played at the highest level from a young age. He has played against Real Madrid in the Champions League. It is wonderful that he has all these experiences already.

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