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.
By the time this game started, both teams were aware of the fact that the winner would go on to face the defending champions Spain in the final. Both sides came into this game looking very impressive in the group stages. Holland had lost their final group game to Spain with a make-shift side, but the stars were back for this clash with Italy. Italy too, brought their rested players back into the side.
The game was set up in a fascinating manner, with the Dutch dictating and dominating the play, meaning that the Italians were forced to be satisfied with a secondary role. Eventually, the Oranje and the Azzuri displayed sides of their mental game that the seniors have shown for many years, with Holland conceding a crucial late goal after all their dominance, and Italy struggling through the game, only to grab a chance.
Tactical Player Report
The fact that the Oranje had 67% of the ball meant that Italy had a lot of defending to do. Donati in particular, would have to contend with the speed and skill of Ola John.
Throughout the tournament, Donati has been a regular member of the side, putting in some very consistent displays. In modern football, the trend is for most full backs to be attack minded, and we often see wingers being deployed there. Such a tactic ignores the defensive side of a full-back’s game. Donati, refreshingly, bucks the trend. The Italian is focused on his defensive duties first, and attack is of secondary importance.
Throughout the game against Italy, Donati was immense. In terms of numbers, 4 tackles and 5 interceptions along with 2 effective clearances demonstrate the contribution of the player. Technically, Donati displayed great skill in his tackling especially, with some good challenges executed to dispossess the tricky Ola John.
Tactically speaking, Donati is a very intelligent player. He got very narrow on a large number of occasions. This was in recognition of the threat that the Dutch pose from through balls. Ceding the wide areas may have been a dangerous tactic, but the risk paid off, as the Italians defended well enough to keep the crosses out. In terms of his dealing with John, Donati again applied a smart tactic. Early on in the game, he was getting close to John, and committing to challenges. This played into John’s hands, and allowed him to beat his makrer. After the initial exchanges, Donati began to stay a yard or two away from John, and stop committing to the challenge. This led to the Dutchman having to either cut inside, to the crowded centre, or attempt to beat Donati with his pace, which was very difficult due to the fact that Donati had a head start.
In terms of attack, he didn’t have much to do last night, but has shown decent pace, and a good cross in the past. An additional asset he brings to the table are long throws.
Son of former Ajax captain, Danny, Daley Blind has come through the ranks at Ajax, and cemented the left back spot in the side, winning their player of the year award this season. In the game against Italy, Blind was supposed to play more of an attacking role, to support John on the left hand side while they tried to break down the Italian defence.
The first thing one notices about Blind, and all Ajax players, is that they pass the ball very well, and very crisply. Apart from this, their skills in terms of their touch are also very sublime, and Blind is no exception. Due to this ability, he can play a role in attacking play, and build up play. He tends to do the latter, playing passes out from the back, mostly in the direction of the central midfield.
His forward runs are not down the line, like most full backs, but in the channel. This is to complement the play of Ola John, who usually takes up positions on the touch line. Running into such channels means that you often have to shoot, and play through balls or passes to team-mates, and Blind does all of the above well. In terms of how deep his runs usually are, he doesn’t venture all that far forward, and tends to stay around the half line, allowing players with greater skill, like Strootman and van Ginkel to move into dangerous areas of the pitch.
Defensively, he has a solid technique, and can tackle well. He generally works well as a defender, and as part of a unit, and knows which spaces to close down and which areas to monitor. This makes him an efficient and effective defender, despite the fact that personally, he isn’t exceptional like a Martins Indi for example. Like most full backs, he has good stamina, and covers a lot of ground over the course of a game.
The PSV starlet has been very good throughout the tournament, and his play from the right wing has won him a lot of plaudits. The player looks like he may have another big move or two in him, as he has shown the potential to create and score goals with his skillful play.
Any attacker who has the kind of pace that Wijnaldum has will cause opposition defenders problems. His running definitely had Bianchetti on the back foot for large parts of the game, and the Oranje are probably regretting the fact that he didn’t see more of the ball during the game last night. He complements this pace with excellent dribbling ability, and the combination of the aforementioned attributes enables him to get the better of many defenders.
The most troublesome aspect for defenders as far as Wijnaldum is concerned, is his ability to cause trouble while going from the outside, and while cutting inside. In this tournament alone, he has scored after cutting in, and beaten defenders to cross the ball while going down the line. With such diverse skills, it becomes tough for a defender to know which foot to show him onto, or where to focus. It often means he needs to be double marked, leaving space for a right back like van Rhijn.
As mentioned, he has cut inside to score a couple of goals in this tournament. He has been able to do so because he has a powerful shot, and gets the ball to move in the air as well. While he generally sticks to the touchline, he sometimes makes runs inside, especially if the ball is on the left, to play as a second striker in the box. This again opens space for his right back, and gives covering defenders a major headache, because his pace makes him hard to mark.
Defensively, he isn’t as impressive, with his tracking back especially lacking at times. Physically too, he’d do very well to bulk up a little bit. An addition of such strength would make him a complete package, and a winger to really watch out for.