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Netherlands 2-1 Türkiye: How runs in behind made a big impact

Runs in behind were a major talking point of the Netherlands-Türkiye quarter-final according to UEFA technical observer Rafa Benítez.

Netherlands defeated Türkiye to reach the UEFA EURO 2024 semi-finals
Netherlands defeated Türkiye to reach the UEFA EURO 2024 semi-finals UEFA via Getty Images

Runs in behind have emerged as a significant tactical theme of EURO 2024 and the Netherlands' quarter-final comeback win over Türkiye offered a case in point.

As observed by UEFA Champions League-winning coach Rafa Benítez, this was a contest in which Türkiye took the game to the Dutch before a tactical switch by coach Ronald Koeman helped the Netherlands overturn their 1-0 half-time deficit to advance to Wednesday's semi-final against England.

Netherlands 2-1 Türkiye: As it happened

As the chart below shows, those runs behind in the opposition half by both teams provided a reflection of the game's swings in fortune. In the first half-hour, there were 21 from Türkiye and eight from the Netherlands, mirroring the aggressive start by Vincenzo Montella’s side, who opened the scoring through Samet Akaydin after 35 minutes.

"The first half was about Türkiye running behind, linking with players and playing counterattacks," said Benítez.

The Netherlands turned the tables in the second half when, between the 46th and 75th minutes, they produced 17 runs behind to six from their opponents as they chased the game. As we elaborate below, they did this with the help of the half-time introduction of Wout Weghorst.

As an illustration of Türkiye's first-half threat, this image above shows a 2v1 against Netherlands left-back Nathan Aké, with wing-back Mert Müldür high up the pitch to create the overload with winger Barış Alper Yılmaz. Yılmaz was the Türkiye player who recorded the top speed on Saturday night (35 km/h) and in this sequence he burst clear to deliver a dangerous cross.

"There were clear 2v1 situations," said Benítez, who also noted the threat when Arda Güler, the central attacker, swapped positions with Yılmaz, as well as the questions asked by Kenan Yıldız, the winger on the opposite side. "Yıldız was running into the pocket and [right-back Denzel] Dumfries and Stefan de Vrij had doubts in defence."

This second graphic underlines the impact of Yılmaz who, during that first period, made the most runs in behind in the opposition half with 11 – almost twice as many as any other player.

For the Netherlands, right-back Dumfries produced the most such runs (five) but it is telling that four of the six players listed are Turkish, with Yılmaz followed by fellow winger Yıldız, forward Güler and wing-back Müldür.

What changed the game was Koeman's above-mentioned introduction of Weghorst as a target striker, with Memphis Depay now dropping to join Xavi Simons at the top of their 3-2-2-3 midfield 'box'. In the first half Depay had been the central attacker while right winger Steven Bergwijn, now replaced by Weghorst, would tuck inside alongside Simons.

This image of Tijjani Reijnders poised to supply Cody Gapko out wide – with Depay running beyond to then collect from Gakpo – illustrates a further observation by Benítez about Koeman's tactical shuffle, which led to more passes out to the wide areas rather than trying to play through the middle.

"They now had a target man high and Xavi Simons and Depay a bit deeper with Gakpo wide and the two midfielders, Reijnders and Jerdy Schouten, dropping off to manage the play and push the ball wide," explained Benítez.

As a consequence, the Netherlands were able to search more behind the last line. "They didn't give us a lot of space but sometimes we were able to find it," said De Vrij, scorer of the equalising goal, afterwards, and Simons and Depay certainly profited with more runs between the lines.

The contrast with the start of the game is underlined in this final chart, which shows three Dutchmen among the top five runners in behind in the opposition half during the second period; Simons leads the way with six.

Most of these runs came before the 76th minute and the Müldür own goal which decided the outcome. To underline the intensity of Türkiye's subsequent late push for an equaliser, substitute Cenk Tosun – who was only on the pitch from the 82nd minute – ended with five runs in behind. In that closing spell from the 76th minute, Türkiye recorded 11 runs behind to three for the Netherlands and delivered eight of their total of ten open-play crosses.

As a final point, with just three matches of EURO 2024 remaining, Türkiye are the team ranked second for runs behind per minute in possession (2.54), highlighting that this was an important ingredient for Montella's men throughout an impressive, excitement-filled campaign here in Germany.