One of Europe’s less friendly local rivalries renews this weekend in Amsterdam as the Dutch, now under the management of Ronald Koeman, look to achieve their first decent result in a competitive game since approximately 2014. Facing Germany, themselves stinging after an uncharacteristically incompetent World Cup showing, it’s a game that must fill Oranje fans with equal parts longing and pessimism. A decent result here could launch their revival. Another defeat and their Nations League campaign is pretty much dead.
Jogi Low’s Nationalmannschaft, meanwhile, will hope to start rebuilding the match-winning machine they once were. Having endured a shambolic defence of the World Cup they won so impressively in 2014, they need to get back in winning ways. They’re unlikely to find it easy, though, against a neighbour with motivation to beat them.
Netherlands vs Germany Prediction: Netherlands 1-2 Germany
It’s not that the Dutch have a bad squad. A quick look at their 25-man slate for this contest shows individuals playing for Barcelona, Liverpool and Inter among others. There was a time, however, when up to half of the Barcelona starting XI was Dutch players, and the rest of the national team came from sides of similar pedigree. What they have today is a side with good players, but not a convincing XI no matter who you pick. They’ll have enough to give Germany a game, and even score against them – but Germany are likely to score more.
Our recommended tip: Germany to win
Any major tournament is generally the worse for not featuring the loud, colourful Dutch travelling support; a fact which has made Euro 2016 and this year’s summer spectacular less fun. There’s a reason they haven’t been at those competitions, though – they’re just not that good anymore. Most worryingly, there is not a single striker in the squad who would start for an elite European side. As such, Germany can show up in Amsterdam and take the game to their opponent without fear. Finding the visitors at 6/5 to win, with Unibet, looks like excellent value.
The last competitive meeting for these sides came in the group stages of Euro 2012, in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Germany took a 2-0 lead into half time, both goals scored by the graceless but effective Mario Gomez. The Dutch, needing something from the game having lost to Denmark in their first game, mounted a comeback in the second half, scoring through Robin van Persie, but fell short of levelling the score. Germany won 2-1 on the night.
They met again, later that year, in a friendly also played in Amsterdam, and drew 0-0. This will be their first meeting since that thriller.
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Players to watch: Memphis Depay & Thomas Muller
Depay arrived at Manchester United aged 21 and with an exciting reputation as a versatile forward with breakneck pace. He left, aged 22, with a reputation as someone Manchester United spent a lot of money on and rarely used. Since his move to Lyon, Depay’s career has been resurrected. He top-scored in Ligue 1 last season, and is one of the key players at a club that looks capable of taking on the best in Europe. Most effective off the wing, he’s the standout player among the Dutch attack.
If anyone can explain why Thomas Muller isn’t a constant candidate for the Golden Boot, and a household name across the planet, we’d be glad to hear from them. With 38 goals in 96 outings for his national side, and over 100 for his club Bayern Munich, he may be the most reliable footballer on the planet. The truth, however, is that he could probably score a hat-trick in this game and not make a single headline. At just 29, he could easily have another five years at the top of the game, which is bad news for opposing managers everywhere.