Who are the dark horses at EURO 2020?
After a year-long wait, it's finally time for the EURO 2020. As always a lot of people will try to predict the outcomes of the matches and ultimately predict who is gonna win it. But who are the dark horses? Who is going to surprise us the most, will it be Netherlands, Denmark, or
This will be the first of the three long-reads in total, where we are going to take a look at the dark horses for the European Championship. We will start by looking at how the Netherlands squad is looking and what challenges they face.
For the first time since 2014, the Netherlands will finally make an appearance in a major tournament again. They didn't qualify for EURO 2016 and the 2018 World Cup and will be looking for some redemption during the tournament. The Netherlands has a very strong side but always performs inconsistently. According to data from Hypercube, the Netherlands have a 5.8% chance to win the Euros.
Before the tournament has even started the Netherlands has already taken a couple of big hits to the squad. Virgil van Dijk is not fit in time, Jasper Cillessen got Covid-19 and was left out of the squad, Donny van de Beek left with an Injury as well, and Matthijs de Ligt also got a minor injury during one of the training sessions. It will be very interesting to see how the Dutch team is going to adapt and who is going to take their place. In the article, we will look at the Defense, Midfield, and attack of the squad.
The Netherlands is going to play in a 5-3-2 system at the Euros, they have been training in this formation and also played the last two games like this. A huge blow to the Dutch defense is the absence of Virgil van Dijk, who got injured last October and is still recovering. This is not all, as Matthijs de Ligt also got injured during a training session and it is not clear if he will be fit in time to play the tournament opener against Ukraine on June 13.
The absence of the two central defenders has given the chance a 19-year-old Timber to shine in the defense of the Dutch. Timber had a very good season with Ajax and you can see this when looking at his stats. He made 9.39 defensive actions and won 72.33% of his defensive duels, which is the highest out of all defenders. It will be no surprise to see the young Timber next to de Vrij and Blind during the tournament.
At left-back, the Dutch have another talent in 21-year-old Owen Wijndal, he played the last five matches at left-back. Looking at his stats we can clearly see why, with 8.44 successful defensive actions and winning 68.42% of his defensive duels. Other left-back contenders like Aké and van Aanholt don't come close to this.
In midfield, Frank de Boer is almost always starting the same midfielders. He is always playing both Frenkie de Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum and is switching between Dave Klaassen and Marten de Roon. Looking at passing stats it is no surprise that de Jong and Wijnaldum are the regular starters as they have the highest accuracy by far on all, forward, and lateral passes.
Depending on how offensive or defensive de Boer wants to play he is switching between de Roon and Klaassen. De Roon is the more defensive-minded player who will be important to keep the balance on the midfield. The young talent Gravenberch can be a good back-up for de Roon as they are similar types of players, we will not be surprised to see Gravenberch coming on as a substitute. Klaassen is a more offensive-minded and deep-playing midfielder, so we expect him to play against some of the weaker opponents.
The Dutch are going to play with two strikers and it looks like de Boer has chosen to play the duo Depay and Weghorst, as they have been playing together for the last two games. No one is really surprised to see Depay up there as he is currently the best Dutch attacker however, we are surprised to see him pair up with Weghorst. Looking at the stats of Weghorst they aren't the best with both Malen and Gakpo outperforming him in both attacking and passing stats. We would not be surprised to see Malen come on as a substitute for Weghorst or as a starting replacement.
Another attacker that has an excellent season is right-winger Steven Berghuis, who has the most successful attacking actions per match with 7.77. He also scored 23 goals and gave 17 assists last season, with only Depay having a higher total when it comes to goals+assists.
We will now take a more in-depth look to find out which duo should be playing as strikers. To start off we take a quick look at goals vs assists as this is one of the most important stats for attackers and after we will analyze how many shots they take the percentage on target.
Goals vs assists
In the scatterplot above we can see that Gakpo and Malen are both excellent goal scorers, with a high number of goals and a decent amount of assists. On the other side, we see Berghuis and Depay who provide a lot of assists for their teammates.
Weghorst is a pure striker with only scoring goals and rarely providing an assist however, he gets beaten by both Gakpo and Malen when it comes to goal scoring and they also provide way more assists.
Shots vs percentage on target
Being pure strikers we see that Weghorst and de Jong have the highest percentage of shots on target. But if we look further we see that although they have a lower percentage Malen, Berghuis and Depay have a lot more shots per game. With only Gakpo shooting less per game than Weghorst.
This means that Malen, Berghuis, and Depay have more chances to score as they shoot much more often, as Johan Cruijff once said "You have got to shoot, otherwise you can't score"
We are also surprised to see Gakpo with such a low amount of shots, but looking back at the scatterplot above we see that only Malen scores more goals on average.