The last European Championship to date in Germany is something of a cultural asset in the Netherlands. Led by Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit, the Elftal stormed to the European Championship title in 1988, including a prestigious semi-final victory against their arch-rivals from the neighboring country to the east. Almost every child in the Netherlands can still recite the names of the football heroes from back then in their sleep.

When another European Championship is held in Germany next year, the Dutch want to cause a stir again – if they are there at all. Because three match days before the end of the qualification, the Orange team is only in third place in Group B. That would mean the complicated path through the playoffs. The pressure on Bonds coach Ronald Koeman’s team before the game against second-placed Greece this Monday (8.45 p.m.) is therefore great.

“Greece has certainly tasted blood. It will be a heated atmosphere. We know what to expect,” said Koeman before the game in Athens. If the Dutch get a point, they have it in their own hands to secure the Germany ticket thanks to the clear 3-0 win against Greece in the home game. Victories in the two encounters in November against the already eliminated teams from Ireland and Gibraltar would then be enough for direct qualification.

Important players are missing

But first you have to survive the cauldron of Athens. And that with a team in which many important players are missing. Koeman’s pillars such as Frenkie de Jong (FC Barcelona), Cody Gakpo (Liverpool FC) or Matthijs de Ligt (Bayern Munich) are not available, as was the case in the 2-1 defeat against France. Captain Virgil van Dijk is still confident. “If we want to go to the European Championships, we have to score points there,” said the Liverpool FC defense chief. “And we will do everything we can to achieve that.”

In all likelihood, Wout Weghorst can also help with this. The 1899 Hoffenheim striker had to go out injured against France, but was able to take part in the final training session before flying to Greece. With his mentality and emotionality, Weghorst could become an important key in Athens to avoid another disappointment.

The 2016 European Championships and the 2018 World Cup took place without the Netherlands. At the European Championships 2021 there was a sobering 0-2 defeat against the Czech Republic in the round of 16. At the World Cup last year, the Orange team only failed in the quarter-finals against eventual world champions Argentina. However, the team under Louis van Gaal was not really convincing in Qatar. It’s time for an exciting tournament again. Just like in 1988, when Gullit and van Basten scored in the final against the then USSR and made Oranje the kings of Europe.