We at OOTB have introduced a new special feature for the U21 European Championship. Many of the players from these tournaments go onto bigger and better things in the future. With the plethora of young talent on show, we will try to compile lists of the best players from each game, to help you keep a better track of the stars of tomorrow. These reports will be detailed Tactical Player Reports to give you a better sense of how these players perform on a football pitch. For more detailed Scout Reports on the best young footballers, click here.
Coming off an excellent last gasp 3-2 win over the Germans, the Dutch headed into their 2nd game against Russia high on confidence and keen on securing their qualification to the next stage of the competition. Conversely, Russia had kept Spain at bay for a majority of the game but were ultimately left empty handed. This meant that a loss against the Russians would mean exit from the tournament. So there was all to play for as the 2 teams headed out.
The Dutch started the brighter of the 2 sides as the Russians looked content to sit deep, soak up the pressure and hit their opponents on the counter. The return of Dzagoev was a boost for the Russians as he turned out to be the focal point for the attack. In a match that eventually finished a whopping 5-1 in favour of the Oranje, the Russians would feel that the scoreline doesn’t tell the full story. Yes the Dutch were undoubtedly the better of the sides but an unfair red card to Chicherin in the 2nd half made an uphill task all the more difficult. As the legs of the 10 man Russian team tired, the clinical Dutch put them to the sword.
Tactical Player Reports
For the Dutch, wing play was the main area of attack and the focal point of attack was none other than Benfica winger Ola John.
Having 1 senior cap to his name already, John was impressive down Netherlands left wing. For most of the 1st half, John hugged the touchline and helped the Dutch widen the pitch against a deep Russian defence. Boasting of quick feet and trickery in his locker, John was a handful throughout the 1st half and was the best player on the pitch. The 1st chance of the game was from the left wing where a quick shift of the ball and an early cross came from the 21 year old into the famed ‘corridor of uncertainty’ between keeper and defence.The ex-Twente man’s crossing ability is commendable. Although he more or less stayed on the wide left channel throughout the first half, he showed that he was comfortable cutting in field in the 2nd. A couple of attempted through balls from the centre of the pitch showed that he’s no one trick pony.
For a player whose career is still in it’s fledgling stage, he has quite a good footballing brain and more often than not makes the right decision be it attacking the defender or going for the early cross. This was apparent in the dying stages when from the left hand side, John picked out an onrushing Leroy Fer with a perfectly weighted pull back at the edge of the area. John also capped off an excellent performance with a goal. Drifting into the inside left channel, he beat the offside trap and bore down on goal where he calmly lifted the ball over the onrushing keeper thus showcasing his composure in front of goal.
Ricardo Van Rhijn
In a domineering attacking performance by the Dutch team, it seems almost strange to list their right back as one of their top performers, but it also highlights the quality of the performance put in by the youngster.
Van Rhijn had a fine game, particularly going forward. The Dutch, as always, encourage their full backs to move forward and join in attacks, and van Rhijn accepted this invite with glee. The right back got into a number of good positions, and this was very helpful to Wijnaldum. Aside from this, his forward movement was also a method to fill up the space in the wide areas everytime Wijnaldum cut inside.
In terms of his passing, van Rhijn is from the Dutch school, and naturally a good passer. He played 8 long balls and all of them were accurate. His involvement in the build up play was also positive for the most part, as he took part in some of the slick passing moves that the Dutch put together. 59 passes played with a 92% completion rate certainly suggests that he knows what he’s doing on the all.
Crucially, for a full back, he has truck loads of energy, and ran up and down that flank all day long. His acceleration is also good, and his turn of pace helped him to beat his markers regularly.
Defensively, his positioning is a little suspect at times. He spent a lot of time in the other half, and had to run back to track back attackers. Overall, technically, he is a good one on one defender, and makes good, strong tackles.
The most important aspect of his game is the attacking side, and his tireless running from deeper areas. Such movement never ceases to give defenders a head-ache, and his partnership with Wijnaldum promises a lot.
The experience Russian attacker was the pre-game ‘Usual Suspect’ to perform against the Dutch. He already has 27 senior caps to his name and has far more experience than any player in this tournament (still only 22 mind you). Having missed the first game against Spain due to commitments to the national side, Dzagoev was a welcome addition to the staring eleven for the young Russians.
It must be said that his game after the sending off was fairly restricted, and he didn’t see the ball much. But with the Russians kicking off with an intent to come something out of the game, Dzagoev settled in comfortably into the game. His coordination with Fyodor Smolov was worrying the Dutch defence. The two combined well to string a few passes together and attack Zoet’s goal. This combination was seen at the start of the game when Smolov let a through ball go past him, knowing Dzagoev was waiting behind to trap the ball and take a shot on goal. A shot that whistled wide of the post.
His smart movement behind the striker is an example of his experience, as he knew the pitch better than anyone of the field. He understood the movement of his team-mates, picking his passes out and delaying them even in an advanced role unless he was certain of meeting a team-mate. An 84% pass completion rate (with only 8 other outfield players in the side) is a good number to maintain.
Followers of Russian football will tell you of Dzagoev’s impressive creative vision, something we saw very little of in this game. The man bursts of class.
It should be mentioned here that Pavel Yakoklev and Fyodor Smolov were our two other Russian options to go up in this piece. We decided against putting the latter, while Yakoklev has already been discussed in our prior Tactical Report (scroll down for the link).
Spain U21 1-0 Russia U21: Tactical Player Reports (including Pavel Yakoklev)