Netherlands' wildcard

Striker Wout Weghorst has been the answer for Dutch manager Koeman when Plan A has failed to deliver in the ongoing Euros
Netherlands players during a training session in Wolfsburg ahead of their match against England on Tuesday
Netherlands players during a training session in Wolfsburg ahead of their match against England on Tuesday(Photo | AFP)

CHENNAI: One of football's most basic attacking ideals involves 'giving it to the big man up top'. While a few countries are moving away from the genre, a few nations still use this tactic as an effective Plan B. Within the contours of all elite European football nations, one country's Plan B appears to be one of the best going around.

Netherlands and Wout Weghorst.

The Dutch, aiming to reach a first European Championship final since they won the whole thing in 1988, have a fairly uniform look when they begin proceedings. Memphis Depay plays as the furthest attacker with Cody Gakpo on his left, Xavi Simons immediately behind him and Steven Bergwijn to his right.

If this doesn't work, Netherlands' first port of call is usually Weghorst. Ronald Koeman has already pressed this button twice. Before him, Louis van Gaal used to do the same thing — the former Manchester United manager pressed the forward into service and he changed the complexion of a meandering quarterfinal against Argentina at the 2022 World Cup.  
Depay likes to roam and he anyway isn't that much of a presence. That means the likes of Gakpo, Bergwijn and rapid Denzel Dumfries do not necessarily fling crosses into the box.

As and when Weghorst enters, there is a different dimension to the attack because he's a bigger presence in the box. He occupies defenders, can play with his back to goal and is adept at diverting the ball goalwards with his head.

You needn't go all that back to see how he can positively affect matches. In the quarterfinal against Turkiye, Weghorst was summoned from the bench after a slightly meh first half.

The line of attack immediately changed, crosses were frequent and Turkiye finally cracked under pressure. One Weghorst goalbound header was parried behind for a corner. From the resultant set-piece, Stefan de Vrij powered home to equalise.  

"We started quite well but it changed after 20 minutes, (then) they were dominating," Koeman had pointed out after the game against Turkiye.
"Then it was clear for me to make this substitution with Wout, with Cody on the wing and Denzel on the right, we had to have a lot more crosses than in the first half."

"It's different (with him on)... in this game when we wanted to play a little bit more opportunistically, then you can bring Wout because he's tall, he's good in the air, he fights for every ball that comes in the box," Gakpo had told reporters.

Defender Nathan Ake sang from the same hymn sheet. "Because of (Weghorst) you create a little bit more chaos in the box and they have to defend more, so I think Wout helped a lot.

"He's a nightmare to play against. He is strong, is a nuisance in a box and he fights for everything. He runs off everything. So for us he is a great asset."

Adding a subtext is his less than successful time in England. After a less than impressive time with Burnley, he even joined Manchester United on loan but endured a difficult spell where he went goalless across 17 games in the Premier League. That, though, will be forgotten if he can shapeshift another match.  

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