Koeman hopes “Munich spirit” will inspire Oranje against Romania

Ronald Koeman (back left) and captain Virgil van Dijk (second left) preside over a training session at the Dutch team's base in Wolfsburg. Photo: ANP/Koen van Weel

Ronald Koeman has invoked the spirit of the 1988 champions on the eve of the Netherlands’ last 16 tie against Romania in Euro 2024.

Koeman knows the match is likely to be his last as head coach if his team fails to progress against a side ranked 47th in the world, following the media mauling they endured in the wake of their 3-2 defeat to Austria a week ago.

One positive omen for Oranje is that they are playing in Munich, the city where the Dutch lost the 1974 World Cup final to West Germany but also won their only major title 14 years later, when Koeman was in the team along with Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard.

“If we have a bit of the luck that we had in 1988, we’ll win tomorrow as well,” Koeman said at a press conference on Monday.

The coach said the players had put the disappointment of the final group game against Austria behind them and had a frank discussion of where the team fell short of expectations.

“It was a long week. I’d have preferred it to be shorter,” Koeman said. “On the other hand, we’ve had a lot of time to look back at the last match.

Favourable draw

“We’ve been able to analyse where it went wrong, where we were in the wrong place, where we lacked energy. We’ve done that, the players and coaching staff were open about it. Everyone showed what we can and have to do differently, but we’ll only know if it’s worked on the pitch on Tuesday.”

Despite finishing third in their group Oranje have landed a benign draw, on the opposite side from France, Germany and Spain. However, a win over Romania could trigger a rematch with their Austrian tormentors if they can overcome Turkey in the final second-round game on Tuesday evening.

Koeman is expected to recall Denzel Dumfries, who was left out against Austria to protect a sore hamstring. Donyell Malen is set to retain his place in a rejigged formation, with Memphis Depay spearheading the attack.

Malen, Xavi Simons and Cody Gakpo are likely to play in an advanced midfield role, supported by Tijjani Reijnders and Jerdy Schouten. That means no place for PSV’s Joey Veerman, who was taken off against Austria after just 35 minutes.

“The important thing is that we give away less space and press better,” Koeman said. “What made it difficult against Austria is that we were sloppy on the ball. It’s very clear that we need to do everything better.”

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