Netherlands v Turkey was box-office viewing as Southgate must prepare for his biggest test yet

Ben Stewart
Cody Gakpo of the Netherlands, center, celebrates with his teammates after scoring
England await for the Netherlands

During a tournament in which we’ve been served up several mind-numbing ties, Netherlands versus Turkey delivered everything we could’ve asked for and more.

Turkey poured almost everything into their performance, but Netherlands’ quality and in-game management ultimately prevailed.

During an era of football that’s been defined by Pep Guardiola, most football matches these days can be likened to a chess match, with the ever-increasing tactical demands and structures of play.

However, almost none of that was on display this evening and it was brilliant. This was a full-blooded, old-school throwback that had a sprinkling of just about everything.

While the Netherlands will advance to face England in the semi-finals, it’s fair to say that Turkey have won the hearts of fans across Europe with their gutsy displays this summer.

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One player in particular who’s bound to receive plenty of plaudits is Arda Guler. The kid is an absolute star in the making.

After quickly being dubbed as the ‘Turkish Messi’, the expectation levels around the teenager were always going to be immense from the off.

His eye-catching switch to Real Madrid last summer only raised his profile, but this summer was when he really announced himself to Europe.

Carlo Ancelotti carefully managed his minutes last season and he only really got a stab in the starting XI when the league title had already been wrapped up.

At Real Madrid, he’s one of a dozen stars; in Turkey, he’s the crown jewel. Regardless of his nation falling short in the quarter-finals, he can be proud of the tournament he and his teammates have had.

Guler expertly conjured Turkey’s opening goal against the Netherlands with a fine cross and he came agonisingly close to doubling their lead with an audacious free-kick from range.

Turkey threw absolutely everything at the Netherlands in the final ten minutes of the game, but Ronald Koeman’s men managed to weather the storm.

Having leaders like Virgil van Dijk and Stefan de Vrij at the back cannot be underestimated and their ability to keep Turkey at bay towards the end was seriously impressive.

While the Netherlands haven’t always been at their fluid best throughout the tournament, they have played well in patches and have continued to deliver the goods when it matters.

Like England, Koeman’s side can be guilty of overplaying in the final third, but they do have the ability to stretch the game with pace – something the Three Lions have badly lacked throughout the tournament.

Memphis Depay certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but his ability to play on the shoulder coupled with the technical skills of Cody Gakpo and Xavi Simons is a recipe for goals.

The introduction of Wout Weghorst at half-time also has to be mentioned. Koeman was proactive enough to make the change early on and in the end, it paid off wonderfully. Along with being a nuisance in the final third, he also defended expertly at the back post when called upon.

It’s probably fair to say that the Netherlands will provide Southgate with his biggest test of the tournament so far. Turkey pushed them all the way this evening, but Koeman’s men are still very much alive and are ready to fight another day.

Hopefully, England v Netherlands is just as entertaining as this game was.

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