Preview: Portugal Under-21s vs. Netherlands Under-21s

Preview: Portugal Under-21s vs. Netherlands Under-21s

Having begun their bid for continental glory in the worst way possible, Portugal Under-21s meet Netherlands Under-21s in Group A of the Under-21 Euro 2023 Championships on Saturday.

Rui Jorge’s charges suffered a chastening 2-0 loss to co-hosts Georgia in their opening affair on Wednesday, while Jong Oranje played out a goalless draw with Belgium

In what was Georgia’s first-ever game at the finals of the Under-21 European Championships, the host nation could ostensibly not have been handed a more difficult assignment against 2021 runners-up Portugal, but a pair of defensive lapses cost Jorge’s side dear.

A 37th-minute strike from Giorgi Gagua and header from Saba Sazonov propelled Georgia into the unlikeliest of two-goal leads before the break, and despite the best efforts of the Hopes, their hopes of a comeback were ironically dashed when Tomas Araujo was given his marching orders late on.

Enjoying 69% possession and firing 17 shots on goal, such statistics proved meaningless against a well-drilled Georgian backline, and Portugal are already rooted to the bottom of the section after one game, albeit just one point worse off than their Dutch foes in second place.

Still searching for their first crown at this level after falling to Germany in the 2021 showpiece, Portugal have done themselves no favours early doors, and Jorge may be facing questions over his tactical setup from that opening loss – hindsight is a wonderful thing, though.

That two-goal defeat to Georgia also ended a 15-game scoring streak for Portugal since their 1-0 reverse to Germany in the final of the 2021 edition, and they would do well not to take a leaf out of Belgium’s book when it comes to trying to break down the Dutch.

Having failed to make their dominance count in the first half, the Netherlands would be forced to face wave after wave of Belgium attacks after the break on Wednesday night, but an inspired showing from goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen kept the Young Devils at bay.

With six saves on the day, Verbruggen – who is reportedly on the cusp of a transfer to Brighton & Hove Albion – collected the man of the match award while his side collected a hard-earned point, one which is currently good enough for a second-placed standing in Group A.

However, the Euros are still very much in their embryonic phase, and Erwin van de Looi’s men are only ahead of Belgium courtesy of their disciplinary record – the Dutch picked up two yellow cards on the opening day compared to three for the Young Devils.

Discipline in the backline has also been the Netherlands’ forte recently, as Wednesday’s shut-out marked their fourth clean sheet from their last five matches, and they have incredibly conceded just five goals in 16 games – avoiding defeat in all of them – since losing to Germany in the 2021 semi-finals.

Failing to find the net in three of their last five affairs is a slight cause for concern, though, and the Netherlands have only won one of their last seven games against Portugal at Under-21 level, most recently going down 2-1 during qualifying for Euro 2021.

Portugal Under-21s European Under-21 Championship form:

Portugal Under-21s form (all tournaments):

Netherlands Under-21s European Under-21 Championship form:

Netherlands Under-21s form (all tournaments):

We say: Portugal Under-21s 1-1 Netherlands Under-21s
With the volume of chances they created on the day, Portugal’s failure to make the net bulge against Georgia was surely an anomaly, and Jorge is blessed with options for change in the final third in a bid to get his side back on track.

Rectifying those midweek mistakes against a side as defensively sound as the Netherlands will be no easy task, though, and with a little more ruthlessness in the final third, the Dutch can also break their goalscoring duck to glean another point, albeit one which will not do either manager the world of good.

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