Spain and the Netherlands got their string of international fixtures off to a relatively positive start as they played out a 1-1 draw at the Amsterdam Arena earlier today. Frank de Boer and Luis Enrique made several changes to their line-ups for this game and will take plenty of heart from the performances of some of their players.
The two European giants are known for their ability to pass the ball out of defence and the encounter resulted in an interesting tactical battle between two sets of technically gifted players. Spain dominated the first half but the Netherlands improved towards the end of the game and were impressive under Frank de Boer.
Spain and the Netherlands named experimental line-ups for this game and both sides regularly exchanged bouts of possession in the opening stages of the game. Spain were marginally the better team and their persistence as creativity paid off as Alvaro Morata and Sergio Canales combined to score the first goal of the game.
The Netherlands pushed forward after the first goal with Frenkie de Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum seeing plenty of the ball but were unable to create concrete chances in the first half. Spain posed much more of a threat in the first half and went into half-time with a well-deserved lead.
Frank de Boer rang the changes at half-time and the Netherlands took to the pitch with a fresh mindset in the second half. In the absence of Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt, and Nathan Ake, Stefan de Vrij stepped up to organise the Dutch back-line and did a commendable job.
Donny van de Beek restored parity for the Dutch minutes into the second half and De Boer's side could have picked up a victory as chances fell to De Jong and Depay towards the end of the game. Spain also created several chances but failed to edge ahead in this encounter and will want to work on their final product ahead of a series of important fixtures.
#5 Hit - Rodri (Spain)
Spain's midfield has always been surrounded by a particularly special aura and Rodri may well be the rightful heir to the throne at the moment. The Manchester City midfielder's performance tonight was a throwback to Sergio Busquets in his prime and will give Luis Enrique a selection headache for the next few games.
Rodri combined well with Koke against the Netherlands and initiated most of Spain's attacks throughout the game. The midfielder also kept Memphis Depay quiet and put in a composed and understated performance.
With Spain assessing their options in a bid to revamp their squad and move on to the next generation, Rodri may well be the ideal fit for Luis Enrique's vision for the side and is set to feature in the starting eleven for years to come.
#4 Flop - Luuk de Jong (Netherlands)
Luuk de Jong cut a frustrated figure in the final third for the Netherlands and was largely deprived of service in the first half. The Sevilla striker used his physique well on a few occasions but his ball control will need to improve in a side that relies heavily on keeping the ball.
De Jong did not play a part in the Netherlands' build-up play and failed to threaten Spain's defence. The lanky striker also inexplicably failed to get a shot away after latching on to Denzel Dumfries' cross and will need to step up to the plate more often for the Netherlands.
With the likes of Steven Bergwijn and Quincy Promes waiting in the wings, Frank de Boer has a difficult decision to make ahead of the Netherlands' UEFA Nations League fixtures. Luuk de Jong has been given an extended run in the Dutch starting eleven but his performance against Spain will not hold him in good stead.
#3 Hit - Denzel Dumfries (Netherlands)
The Netherlands struggled to create chances of note in the first half and were blunt in the final third against Spain. The Dutch full-backs, in particular, were unable to threaten their Spanish counterparts and Frank de Boer need to make several changes at half-time to galvanise his troops.
Denzel Dumfries came on in the second half as a result and transformed the complexion of the game. The PSV Eindhoven star outpaced Sergio Reguilon on his flank and his excellent positioning skills allowed him to race into the Spanish penalty area on several occasions.
Dumfries created two of the best chances for the Netherlands and was unlucky not to bag an assist tonight. The right-back put in a much better performance than Hans Hateboer against Spain and should move up the pecking order for his national side.
#2 Flop - Memphis Depay (Netherlands)
Memphis Depay has not enjoyed his best year with the Netherlands and did not have a good game against Spain. The Dutch talisman did see plenty of the ball and attempted a few dribbles but sorely lacked a final product as the Netherlands struggled to create clear-cut chances throughout the game.
Depay was well-marshalled by an organised Spanish midfield and did not have much of an impact in the final third. The Lyon forward regularly dropped into deeper positions to pick up the ball but could not threaten Spain's organised defensive line.
The Netherlands showed significant improvement in the second half as the likes fo Davy Klaassen and Denzel Dumfries set up excellent counter-attacks. Dumfries, in particular, handed Depay a golden opportunity to score on a silver platter but the striker failed to find the back of Spain's net. Memphis Depay was well below his lofty standards today and will need to take it up a notch with his national team.
#1 Hit - Sergio Canales (Spain)
Sergio Canales has earned the trust of Spain manager Luis Enrique in recent weeks and is widely regarded as a gifted midfielder. The Real Betis star brought his technical skills to the fore against the Netherlands today and tormented the Dutch back-line with his ingenuity and poise.
Canales consistently made the right decisions throughout the game and gave Joel Veltman a torrid time in the first half. The Spaniard scored his first goal with his national team against the Netherlands tonight and will be thrilled with his performance against one of the most formidable sides in Europe.
Sergio Canales also participated in many of Spain's attacks in the second half and gave an excellent account of himself in the final third. The Real Betis man faces an uphill challenge to keep his place in the starting eleven and will need more of these performances to make his case.
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