Netherlands vs Austria preview: Last-16 spot up for grabs in Amsterdam
Group C: Netherlands vs Austria, kick-off 8pm (UK time, BBC One)
The Netherlands host Austria in Amsterdam in a fixture that will almost certainly decide who progresses as Group C winners.
Both nations thrilled on matchday one while also showing some vulnerability in leaving it late to pick up maximum points against Ukraine and North Macedonia respectively.
Whoever wins will be assured of a place in the last 16 but a draw could also be enough in the long run.
Story so far
Strikes from Gini Wijnaldum and Wout Weghorst had put Frank de Boer’s men in control against Ukraine.
But two goals in four minutes from Andriy Shevchenko’s side turned what should have been a comfortable win into a nervy affair, with Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk drawing the visitors level.
Five minutes from time, right wing-back Denzel Dumfries popped up with a header to spare Dutch blushes.
Austria, meanwhile, were also made to work for their win over debutants North Macedonia, despite taking an 18th-minute lead through Stefan Lainer.
A mix-up at the back saw veteran Goran Pandev sneak home an equaliser and it looked as though the minnows would take a point.
However, substitutes Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic struck in the final 12 minutes to clinch Austria’s first-ever win at a European Championship finals.
Gini in a bottle
Dutch skipper Wijnaldum showed how important he is to his country in the opening game.
His goal in the 3-2 victory was his 13th in his last 23 games for the Netherlands and emphasises the different impact he has on the Oranje compared to his former club Liverpool.
Wijnaldum has netted just 22 times in 237 games for the Reds — one strike less than his Netherlands tally, which have came in just 76 caps in comparison.
Yet his finishing is not the only threat the Austrians need to be wary of tonight.
The Dutchman featured in each of Liverpool’s Premier League games this term, boasting a pass accuracy of 92.71% — the second-best in the division.
He was also in the league’s top 20 for completed passes into the final third, with 13.13 per 90 minutes.
All the focus has been on one Austrian playing in the Bundesliga — but RB Leipzig midfielder Marcel Sabitzer is every bit as important to Franco Foda’s side as Real Madrid-bound David Alaba
Foda deployed the RB Leipzig playmaker on the left flank during the win against North Macedonia and it was from there that Sabitzer found Lainer for the opener.
The 26-year-old scored eight times in the Bundesliga last season against an expected goals tally of 7.2, and weighed in with three assists.
A creator and goalscorer who has a tendency to take up positions on the left-hand side before drifting inside, Sabitzer leads his side for key passes (3) after matchday one and sits only behind Martin Hinteregger (18) and Alaba (16) for carries of more than five metres.
David the Goliath
Austria coach Foda typically deployed a back three in friendly fixtures, reserving a 4-2-3-1 system for competitive matches.
But in the North Macedonia win, the German tactician reverted to a back three with wing-backs.
Alaba’s nominal position was as the centre of three defenders between Aleksandar Dragovic and Hinteregger — but he still bombed forward at will.
He produced a phenomenal cross for Austria's second goal and routinely popped up on the left-hand side.
The Netherlands will have to pay special attention to Austria’s versatile captain, with his movement and comfort in a variety of positions having the potential to pull the Dutch out of shape.
Netherlands star man Memphis Depay publicly stated he prefers when Oranje coach De Boer utilises a two-striker system and was duly partnered with Weghorst in a 3-5-2 against Ukraine.
But he struggled to get into the game, taking just six touches inside Ukraine’s penalty area.
Speaking afterwards, he said: “Knowing the other guys can also find the net is a good feeling. We could even have scored more.
“I didn't have much space during the game, which means that others did, somewhere else on the pitch or in front of goal.”
With Donyell Malen, Luuk de Jong and the uncapped Cody Gakpo in the Dutch squad, De Boer isn’t short of alternatives.
Depay has established himself as a key man for the Netherlands with 26 goals in 65 caps, but he will need to sharpen up to hold onto his place in the side.
On the evidence of matchday one, this could be an entertaining and goal-filled encounter in Amsterdam.