Injured players will travel but, despite the side’s star power, the Dutch need to improve fast on a shaky qualification

Memphis Depay and Virgil van Dijk lead a leisurely Dutch peloton during a training camp in March. Photograph: ANP/Getty Images

This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2024 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 24 countries who qualified. is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.


The Netherlands arrive at the Euros with some major concerns. The coach, Ronald Koeman, has three key uncertainties to deal with. They are all injury-related and concern Feyenoord’s Justin Bijlow in goal, Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong in midfield and Atlético Madrid’s Memphis Depay up front.

Under normal circumstances Koeman would not pick players with so little recent playing time but these are not normal circumstances. De Jong and Depay, along with the defender Virgil van Dijk, are the stars of the team and they will go to the Euros, fit or not. The national team coach is hopeful that, even if they are not ready to start the first group game, they will become available as the tournament goes on.

In goal Koeman has yet to make a decision who will start. The alternatives to Bijlow, Brentford’s Mark Flekken and Brighton’s Bart Verbruggen, lack international tournament experience.

The qualifying campaign was not as serene as hoped for and contained a lot of drama, no more so than before the first game, against France. In what later became known as “currygate”, several players at the national team retreat in Zeist fell ill on the eve of the game and were sent home in the middle of the night as the staff feared a bug. The chicken curry served earlier that night was later identified as the problem.

A weakened side quickly conceded twice in the first 10 minutes at Stade de France and went on to lose 4-0. They had to play catch-up from that moment and did not secure qualification until the penultimate game, against the Republic of Ireland. The key win came before that, a tense 1-0 victory against Greece in Athens.

Koeman is aware his side must play better in Germany to go far. “We really know that we need to improve in a number of areas to compete with the other top countries,” he said after qualification was secured. “It is clear that football can and must be improved.”