The Dutch national team continues its European Championship in Budapest and the Czech Republic is the next opponent. Jaroslav Silhavý’s side finished third in a group with England, Scotland and Croatia. What are the opportunities for the Netherlands and what should Orange watch out for? VoetbalPrimeur examines the Czechs.
By Evert van Zoelen
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Opportunities for Orange
1. Refuse Frenkie de Jong
The Czech Republic defend with a men’s cover in midfield. This was particularly evident in the game against Croatia. Pairs were forming all over the pitch: when a Croatian player moved in a certain direction, his Czech guard immediately followed him.
All Croats around the center line are guarded by a Czech. Source: BBC.
In this system, however, the mutual distances are quite large. This ensures that the Czechs are addicted to head-to-head duels, where defenders cannot get immediate help when played. In the game against England, the only goal of the game was scored in this way. Bukayo Saka dribbled past his direct opponent and no one from the Czech Republic was there to replace him. This allowed Saka to immediately step forward and launch an attack.
Saka dribbles past his direct opponent and can immediately take advantage of the resulting space. Source: ITV.
If one of the Orange internationals can play his opponent directly behind the back, that offers opportunities. Frenkie de Jong has these qualities like no other. But all three center-backs are also comfortable enough with the ball to put the opponent on the wrong foot with a body feint and play someone like that.
2. Play spaces in the middle of the field
In the game against Croatia, the strongman’s cover provided great spaces in the midfield. The Croats have always skillfully shot Czech Republic midfielders after which a striker could break into open space.
Between the lines it is totally open with the Czech Republic. Source: BBC.
When the Czech Republic opts for men’s cover again against the Netherlands, it is important for De Jong, Georginio Wijnaldum and Marten de Roon to move away from the center. This creates space for Memphis Depay, which can make itself available in the open space.
But it remains to be seen if that is possible: in the last group game against England, Silhavý decided to make his team a little more compact. At Wembley, no pairings were made on the pitch but England’s center-backs and sagging midfielders have been freed. England players therefore had more time on the ball, but the Czech Republic kept the occupation between the lines.
The Czech Republic release the sagging midfielder and England center-back in preparation. Source: ITV.
If the Czech Republic opts for this variant, then it is important for the Netherlands to “move” the surplus: not to the back, but mostly higher up the pitch. This is possible, for example, if Daley Blind dribbles in the midfield, in order to attract a player from the Czech Republic to him: in this way, an Orange midfielder can be released again. Another option is to let Blind and Stefan de Vrij – provided he plays right in the middle of the defense again – to manage the long ball, to immediately seek space behind the Czech defense.
The Czech Republic does not press the ball, so Raheem Sterling can be served with a through pass and a goal is almost scored. Source: ITV.
3. Make use of the spaces behind the back
Czech Republic full-backs have often stepped on them in previous matches to catch players to the sides. When Patrick van Aanholt and Denzel Dumfries are well placed, it will often happen against the Netherlands. After all, the Czech Republic’s full-backs will have to deal with the Netherlands wing defenders, unless the wingers are chosen to be sacked completely with Dumfries and Van Aanholt.
When one of the Czech Republic’s defenders passes, space is created behind him for Memphis and possibly Donyell Malen. It is very difficult for center-backs to follow that kind of course for Orange forwards as it means the center is becoming understaffed.
Right-back Vladimír Coufal comes out against Croatia, creating a gap behind his back. Source: BBC.
The right-back should stay in the man’s blanket to the side, so that the attacker can be released into the space between the back and the center-back. Source: BBC.
Dangers for Orange
1. Human blanket can cause problems
In possession of the ball, the Czech Republic are generally looking for a way forward as quickly as possible. However, this does not mean that every ball is played for a long time. The Czechs reinforce themselves from behind and try to find a free player. If found, it will immediately be read forward. Where countries like the Netherlands and Spain return the ball when an attack threatens to lead to a stalemate, the Czechs continue to play forward at all costs.
They want to do it by creating a surplus on the side of the field. When the ball is on the left, all players on that side move. If the attack goes to the right, all players move to the right side of the field. This style of play is somewhat reminiscent of Atalanta Bergamo, which also often combines side to side.
The Czech Republic is trying to make a surplus on the left against England. Source: ITV.
Such a surplus on the side can be a problem in the Netherlands, when Frank de Boer sticks to the strongman cover of the first matches. In this case, De Roon and De Jong move to the sides to cover their direct opponent, while space is created in front of the orange defense.
However, it must be said that the Czechs do not always execute this style of play well. The surplus situation has often not been played out in previous matches: when the opponent “bowed” towards the ball, he there was no opening to the other side of the field, where the space was created. Such an opening on the other flank is usually the way to create danger, but we hardly saw such passes with the Czechs. It is therefore not surprising that the Czechs have not yet scored this European Championship with a well-played attack. Patrik Schick scored all three European Championship goals from a reintroduced corner, a 40-meter shot and a penalty.
The Czech Republic is particularly dangerous on the rare occasions when it opens up on the other side, such as here against England. Source: ITV.
2. An exercise in patience
However, the biggest danger for Orange seems to be Orange himself, especially if the first goal is delayed. When that happens, the Czech Republic can keep the defensive organization and the Netherlands will have to be careful not to get impatient. If the Netherlands score, however, the Czechs will have to come, so they need to leave more space in the back. In short: the Czechs can hurt Orange, but also have many weak points. This is normally a game that Orange should be able to win.
Evert van Zoelen is an analyst for the YouTube channel TheNextManager, has written for tactics websites and magazines such as Spielverlagerung, TrainersMagazine and Futbol Netradince and watches important matches for VoetbalPrimeur.