Netherlands v Ukraine: Attacks to light up Amsterdam

The Dutch kick off their campaign in their capital city and, although Kevin Hatchard is backing them to score, he's tipping Ukraine to find the net too...

Dutch back in the big time

Having missed out on a place at Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, there is Dutch delight at a return to a major tournament. However, that joy has been tempered by events that have potentially stymied the Dutch challenge before it's even begun. There is trepidation about the ability of coach Frank de Boer to maximise the potential of the squad, after the legendary defender failed as a coach at Inter Milan, Crystal Palace and Atalanta United. Had Ronald Koeman not been lured by the glamour of his former club Barcelona, there may well be a more optimistic outlook.

It's also hard to overlook the absence of Virgil van Dijk, a true superstar of the modern game. The Liverpool centre-back's decision to miss the tournament after months on the sidelines with a serious knee injury was entirely sensible, but the fact that de Boer was giving credence to a potential return shows how keenly felt his absence will be. There are other notable absentees - first-choice keeper Jasper Cilessen was dropped after contracting COVID-19, and Donny van de Beek is injured.

There are however some stars in the team. Matthijs de Ligt excelled for Ajax and has held his own in Italy with Juventus (he is on track to recover from a groin injury), his friend Frenkie de Jong has found his feet at Barcelona under Koeman's familiar guidance, while Gini Wijnaldum is an outstanding box-to-box midfielder. Memphis Depay provides the attacking spark. He scored two excellent goals in the recent 2-2 friendly draw with Scotland, and he was involved in 32 Ligue 1 goals for Lyon this term, with 20 goals and 12 assists. Interestingly, he has partnered Wolfsburg striker Wout Weghorst in the last couple of games, and I believe that could be an effective mix of skill and strength.

Ukraine have the skill, but can they stay compact?

Just as their coach Andriy Shevchenko once dazzled with his goalscoring ability for club and country, so Ukraine have moments when they take the breath away. In qualifying for this tournament, they took four points off Portugal, and they held France to a draw during March's World Cup qualifiers. However, they also lost 7-1 to Les Bleus in an October friendly, and were bashed 4-0 in Spain.

Their best players are ones that play on the front foot. Oleksandar Zinchenko might be used as a left-back by Manchester City, but his intelligence and technical ability is used in a more offensive position by Shevchenko. Atalanta midfielder Ruslan Malinovskyi has a cannon of a shot, and the inconsistent Andriy Yarmolenko can still quicken the pulse with a piece of skill or a long-range curler into the top corner.

It's also worth keeping an eye out for 25-year-old striker Roman Yaremchuk, who has just had a superb season for Belgian side Gent, rattling in 20 league goals. Shevchenko has a big decision to make in goal, but is expected to leave out veteran Andriy Pyatov in favour of the younger and less erratic Heorhiy Bushchan.

Dutch have home advantage, but are a touch short

I suggested in our Euro 2020 mega guide that I'm not sold on this Dutch team, and I'm not even sure they'll reach the quarter-finals. De Boer is yet to convince as coach, although he may have stumbled upon an interesting partnership between Memphis Depay and Wout Weghorst.

Ukraine are a handy side who don't play with any fear, and it feels like the Dutch are too short at 1.65, even though they'll get raucous support in Amsterdam. You could back Ukraine +0.5 and +1.0 on the Asian Handicap at 2.12, which means a draw or a Ukraine win nets you an odds-against winner, and even a one-goal Ukrainian defeat only sees you lose half your stake.

Neither defence is watertight

Both Teams To Score is trading at 2.24 here, and despite all of the stats about cagey group-stage openers, both of these teams are best when they try to attack.

Ukraine have kept just three clean sheets in their last 15 matches, including 1-1 draws against Kazakhstan and Bahrain, but they have also only failed to score three times in that sequence.

As for the Dutch, they conceded twice to Scotland, leaked four goals against Turkey in the World Cup qualifiers, and BTTS has landed in six of their last nine games.

If you want an In-Play bet, back Over 2.5 Goals at 2.26 - there has been a goal in the first twenty minutes in seven of the Netherlands's last nine games, so you could be in a healthy position well before half time.

Weghorst can crown his rise with a goal

Keep an eye on the team news, but if de Boer persists with his divisive 3-5-2 formation, there's a good chance that Memphis Depay and Wout Weghorst will play together. Weghorst found the net against Georgia, and he just rattled in 20 goals for Wolfsburg, as they nailed down a top-four spot in the German Bundesliga.

I'd happily back Weghorst to score at any time at 3.0 on the Sportsbook, and if you want a Bet Builder, you could double up a Weghorst goal with Both Teams To Score at 5.1.

On the Ukraine side of things, Ruslan Malinovskyi finished the season by scoring in six of his final nine appearances for Atalanta. He is 6/1 to be the first Ukraine goalscorer, and 11/2 to score at any time.

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