Coach Frank de Boer on the Netherlands' EURO prospects
Saturday, June 12, 2021
"In the Netherlands we have 17 million national-team managers," says the Oranje coach.
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Hired as Netherlands coach in September 2020 after Ronald Koeman left to take charge at Barcelona, Frank de Boer weathered a rough start, and is now looking ahead to UEFA EURO 2020 with hope.
A star defender for Ajax and Barcelona, De Boer was assistant coach when the Oranje reached the 2010 FIFA World Cup final, and won four titles as Ajax boss. Now 50, he is hoping that his side will be at their best at this summer's EURO, and that they can thrive playing the Dutch way.
On taking the top job
I’m immensely proud to be allowed to coach the national team. If you had told me that two or three years ago, I would not have expected to be in this chair. Sometimes, an opportunity arises, and then you ask yourself: “Am I ready or not?” I felt I was ready.
I’m also coming back to a safe environment that I spent many years in as a player, and now I get to experience it as a manager Ronald Koeman left because he was offered his dream job at Barcelona. He achieved some incredible results and qualified us for the EURO. I will need to continue that success.
On the stresses of being Netherlands coach
They say in the Netherlands that we have 17 million national-team managers. There’s always pressure. I’ve played and managed at clubs where winning is essential, so the pressure is always there. It’s mostly healthy pressure that helps you perform. It’s the same with the national team; you always have to perform, although it’s not always justified.
We’re a small country, yet everyone expects us to make it to the final with ease. That’s not realistic, of course. We’ve only won one major trophy, we’ve played in three finals, and that’s extraordinary in my opinion.
On the national style
I played for Ajax for 15, more like 20 years, and you had to play in a certain way. For the Dutch national team, there’s that expectation as well. We try to dominate all of our opponents with quick ball recovery and attacking play. That’s always the expectation, and that’s part of our DNA. We’ll always try to take the initiative.
I do think that we’re on the right track. Players like being part of the Dutch national team. We’re a country that likes to be on the attack, but you can’t do that for 90 minutes. When we’re the dominant team, we’re attacking 60% of the time and defending 40% of the time. What do you do with that 40%? I think that we can improve on that. When we’re in good shape, we’ll always try to dominate, but we need to look at what we do when we lose the ball.
On their EURO group stage opponents
Austria are a good team. They’re an up-and-coming country with a lot of good players playing in the top leagues. Ukraine were beaten at home by Spain but then beat them 1-0 in the away game. They have some really good players, so they’re not easy to beat. North Macedonia are considered the weaker team, but they deserve to be at the EURO, and they’ll do everything in their power to get a good result. The Eastern European countries will always have quality players. I’m expecting three very tough group games, and, if we play our game, we should go through to the next round.
On the Netherlands’ title prospects
We need to be realistic. We have a good team. We will likely miss [Virgil] van Dijk unless there’s some miracle. Someone like him is a big miss in a tournament like that. Other countries will also likely have some players missing. We have a team that doesn’t have to fear anyone. If we play well, we can beat anyone. You have to beat seven countries who are also going for that title. You then have two or three big favourites, and I don’t count us as one of those favourites, to be honest. I think France, Belgium and Spain are the favourites. Then, you have countries like Germany, England, Italy and Portugal who can beat any country as well. It’ll be crowded at the top.