Netherlands vs England: Ronald Koeman kicks off Oranje tenure against Gareth Southgate

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 21 March 2018, 14:49

After a torrid time during the latter stages of his tenure at Everton, Ronald Koeman has picked himself up, dusted himself down and is ready to go again.

A three-month sabbatical followed his sacking from Goodison Park in October, but the lure of a call from his national team has proved irresistible as the 54-year-old returned to the dugout with the Netherlands.

“After Everton, where everyone knew it was really difficult towards the end, I needed time to focus again,” said Koeman to the Daily Mail recently.

“I needed to recover. I have had a good time to relax. I work because I want to work. Even after that decision, I was still crazy about football.I wanted to be involved as a coach, I wanted to be with the national team and this was the right time to try the challenge - for me and the national team.”

The Amsterdam Arena will provide the venue for his first game in charge as the Oranje face Gareth Southgate’s England on Friday evening. Both bosses will have very different objectives in this friendly meeting, as Koeman looks to a future rebuild beyond the World Cup, while his opposite number will be testing options for that very tournament this summer.

The home side failed to qualify for the second major tournament in a row earlier this year, the international retirement of seasoned professionals such as Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben forcing the new man at the helm to bring in some new blood. 18-year-old forward Justin Kluivert is expected to be handed his senior Netherlands debut at some point in the match, 24 years after his father Patrick did the same.

“I am thrilled,' said Kluivert, after Koeman gave him his first ever senior call-up. 'It was a good feeling. I know my father scored after seven minutes of his international debut and I want to do that, too! I hope it is against England. We shall see. Let's hope so.”

It is unclear whether the former Southampton and Everton boss will play with a back three or back four, but it is expected that Koeman will go with talented centre-backs Stefan De Vrij and Virgil Van Dijk behind Serie A midfield duo Marten De Roon and Kevin Strootman in either a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3. Forward Memphis Depay is a slight doubt after receiving stitches to his eye at the weekend, but is expected to start in attack.

Meanwhile his opposite number Southgate will be less worried about the score and more concerned with finding solutions to selection headaches ahead of this summer’s tournament in Russia. The goalkeeper slot is still up for grabs after some unconvincing performances from former number one Joe Hart. The Coach may opt for Jack Butland from the start in Amsterdam, but will likely use the opportunity to chop and change the XI as the match wears on.

The former England defender will likely go with three at the back during this international break, with Eric Dier and John Stones making up two of that trio. An unfortunate injury to striker Harry Kane means that England’s other attackers now have a perfect opportunity to show the boss what they are capable of, Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford in particular with a point to prove.

More than simply the fulfillment of an objective though, it seems like this match contains added significance for Ronald Koeman. The Dutchman left an extremely stressful situation at Everton with his reputation in tatters, meaning that it is not just restoring national pride for the Netherlands that is at stake here.

The Coach must prove that his failure at Goodison Park was a mere blip on the landscape, and that he does indeed possess the capability that he showed when he was back at Southampton. There will be never a better time to do it than in front of the assembled English press as he embarks on his new role in orange, to send a signal to the world that now is the time for the Netherlands – and indeed Ronald Koeman – to fight back.

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Last man down

Phil Parkinson
Phil Parkinson
(Bolton Wanderers)
21st August
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