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WEURO 2022: Netherlands vs Portugal - tactical analysis tactics

Women’s EURO 2022: How the Netherlands kept it cool after losing their advantage against Portugal – tactical analysis

While they started their second game in the Women’s EURO 2022 Group C with confidence, the Netherlands had difficulties in keeping their advantage against Portugal, who surprised them and took advantage of their mistakes smartly.

A couple of early goals boosted their confidence and gave them the freedom to play their game and dominate but their opponents didn’t give up and pushed harder to get back in the game, equalising at the beginning of the second half.

A moment of brilliance from the Olympique Lyonnais‘ star Daniëlle van de Donk late on secured them the three points as Portugal were unable to counteract, leading to the final 3-2 win for Mark Parsons’ side.

Oranje’s set-piece proficiency resulted in them gaining the advantage in the first half, with the opposition failing in their marking and allowing the Netherlands to dominate in the air. A well-executed pressing strategy was also among the reasons for their win as it often gave them the chance to retain possession in the opposition half.

In this tactical analysis, we examine both teams’ tactics and explain how the Netherlands grabbed the three points to keep their leadership in the group along with Sweden.

Lineups and formations

WEURO 2022: Netherlands vs Portugal - tactical analysis tactics
Both teams’ starting XIs.

Mark Parsons relied on a slightly different starting eleven compared to the Netherlands game against Sweden. The goalscorer and Arsenal star Vivianne Miedema was left out of the squad after testing positive for Covid, which forced Parson to employ Juventus‘ Lineth Beerensteyn in the centre-forward position as the team had to deal with a number of absences due to injuries and illnesses.

They played in their usual 4-2-3-1 with Daphne Van Domselaar replacing the injured for the rest of the tournament Sari van Veenendaal on the goal. The defensive line consisted of Marisa Olislagers, Dominique Janssen, Stefanie Van der Gragt and Lynn Wilms.

In midfield operated Damaris Egurrola Wienke and Sherida Spitse, supporting Lieke Martens, Jill Roord and Van de Donk in front of them. Beerensteyn led the attack as already mentioned.

Egurrola and Spitse were crucial for the Netherlands defensively as they provided much-needed support in midfield and managed to stop many of Portugal’s attacks midway. Egurrola dominated in the air as well which allowed the team to retain possession of the ball and create more attacking opportunities.

Portugal didn’t change their formation nor their starting XI. They set up in a 4-3-1-2 with Ines Teixeira Pereira covering the goal. At the back, they relied on Joana Marchão, Carole Costa, Diana Gomes and Catarina Amado.

The midfield three was formed by Tatiana Pinto, Dolores Silva and Andreia Norton, with Diana Silva supporting the attack of Jessica Silva and Ana Borges.

The Netherlands’ set-piece proficiency

Oranje are known for their tendency to use their attacking set-pieces opportunities to threaten the goal and the game against Portugal was no different. The team focused on taking advantage of their chances and relied on their clear dominance in the air, winning 60.53% of their aerial duels, which helped them immensely in controlling the game and creating opportunities.

Not only did their aerial presence allow them to have more of the ball, but it also created havoc in the penalty area on a few occasions.

Despite the overload of Portugal players in front of the goal, the Netherlands’ first two goals came after corners, as they focused on outplaying their opponents in the air. Not only did they focus on directly shooting but they also made sure to have control over the second balls in order to retain possession in the opposition half and increase their chances to shoot again.

They directed all of their corner kicks to the goal area where they would try to overload and minimise the distance with the goalkeeper. Egurrola and Van der Gragt’s headed efforts were successful and gave Oranje the 2-0 advantage in the first half.

WEURO 2022: Netherlands vs Portugal - tactical analysis tactics
The Netherlands would target their kicks into the goal area.

Oranje’s pressing dominance

The Netherlands had the opportunity to press high and focused on recovering possession as early as possible in order to trouble Portugal’s build-up and have more time on the ball in the advanced areas.

They focused their efforts in the final third where they recovered the ball 19 times, but their efficiency in midfield helped them keep the opposition away from the goal. The players’ smart positioning and marking were the main reason for their success as they often forced Portugal into mistakes resulting in inaccurate passing, which made it easier for Oranje to steal the ball from the opposition and create attacking opportunities.

Portugal finished the game with only a 72.38% pass completion rate, which resulted in breaking their structure and struggling to advance the ball efficiently.

WEURO 2022: Netherlands vs Portugal - tactical analysis tactics
The Netherlands would block the passing lanes through their positioning, which often forced Portugal to switch play to be able to progress the ball.

The pressure applied by the Netherlands would often force their opponents to switch play or send the ball back but as they were lacking composure, their back passes were inaccurate as well, leading to Oranje successfully recovering the ball.

They averaged a PPDA of 7.33, showing their aim to dominate and limit the oppositions’ space for movement.

Portugal’s efforts

Despite being determined to reach the Netherlands’ goal, Portugal’s movement forward was limited. Not only because of Oranje’s pressing efforts but because they focused their efforts on the right and lacked balance in their attacking movement. Most of Portugal’s attacks were executed through the right flank, where they tried to expose Olislagers and Egurrola, who were the new starters in Oranje’s squad. However, their plans wouldn’t succeed as Egurrola pulled off a great defensive performance and managed to support the team’s actions off the ball successfully.

WEURO 2022: Netherlands vs Portugal - tactical analysis tactics
An example of Portugal’s attacking movement on the right, trying to advance the ball through link-up-play.
WEURO 2022: Netherlands vs Portugal - tactical analysis tactics
Oranje’s left-sided players communicated well defensively and managed to counteract Portugal’s efforts on the right.

Another struggle for Portugal was their poor work under pressure. As mentioned, they struggled to bypass the press and allowed being forced into mistakes which affected their build-up-play inevitably. They were forced to break their structure and seek empty spaces but failed in opening the passing lanes. The lack of supply of quality balls to the final third forced the attackers into dropping deep to pick up the ball, which made it difficult to re-organise afterwards.

Conclusion

As our analysis showed, focusing on their strengths helped the Netherlands to grab the three points against Portugal. While they had moments of disorganization, they stuck to their plan and relied on intense pressing in order to stop the opposition and have more of the ball. Portugal showed great character in this game and despite their limited access to the goal, managed to threaten the Netherlands and show them that defending their title won’t be that easy.