Euros Notebook - Joey Veerman

Euro 2024 Notebook: Wing-backs in focus, Croatia's showing & a Portugal worry

Here we are then, the week of the tournament.

The first edition of the Euros Notebook column put focus on a variety of topics, but the main thing was around penalty and set-piece takers. That is still relevant if you haven't had chance to have a read yet.

While many people were out socialising with mates or doing something worthwhile, I enjoyed sitting in silence and watching the international friendlies taking place - a genuine pleasure.

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I knew paying extra for a Premier Sports subscription would come in handy - it's previous sole usage was allowing me to stay up until the early hours of the morning watching the NHL.

England faced Iceland on Friday night and if you're here expecting some reaction to the surprise defeat for Gareth Southgate's side, you will be disappointed. To put it simply, I do not give a fuck.

The Three Lions were poor but there wasn't a great deal of stuff we could learn from it. No insights that we can carry into the tournament, just a dull atmosphere and the usual Wembley paper airplanes.

Now, you have to exercise caution when making judgements based upon friendlies, but some of the others have given us the insights we (I) so desperately desire.

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By the way, WE HAVE SOMETHING NEW! Clicking the link on a player's name will take you through to our brand new player stats pages on the website. The main things you'll need, split between overall and per 90, by club or country across all competitions. Pretty cool, huh?

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Anyway, here's a few of the things I've found interesting from those games...

Veer's the Man

  • NOTE: This was added on Tuesday morning after initial publication...

The Netherlands have been hit with two major injury blows in midfield. Both Frenkie de Jong and Teun Koopmeiners will miss the tournament.

Bad news for them and Ronald Koeman, but a massive chance for Joey Veerman to enjoy a good few weeks in Germany.

The PSV man is now nailed-on to start and his domestic showings throughout the course of the season may see him become the subject of transfer talk once Euro 2024 is over.

Veerman posted a huge 16 assists in 29 Eredivisie games, with his 4.5 key passes per game average the most in the Dutch top-flight by far.

In fact, he created more 'big chances' than any other player in Europe's top seven leagues (a stretch I know but I need to add the Eredivisie on here) throughout the most recent season.

If you think the Netherlands can go far in the tournament, which I do, then Veerman is one to consider at a big price (50s and 66s currently available) for Player of the Tournament.

Betfair, bet365 and Paddy Power also have Veerman at 66s for most assists, with each-way terms available to four places. A solid bet for a creative player who took corners in the friendlies.

Mæhle's making moves

The odds expect Denmark to finish as runners-up to England in Group C, but they're a strong side who are capable of potentially going far.

Christian Eriksen is their main figure - he takes everything for them - but Joakim Mæhle possesses such an attacking threat from wing-back.

Joakim Mæhle in action against Sweden
Joakim Mæhle in action against Sweden

His stats from the recent friendly vs Sweden highlight what a threat he can be:

  • Shots: 4 (2nd)
  • Chances created: 3 (2nd)
  • Take-ons attempted: 6 (1st)
  • Take-ons completed: 3 (2nd)

His ability to play on either the left or the right further enhances his chances of playing for the national team - it's a name that should be on most, if not all, of their team sheets throughout the tournament.

Consider the shot lines - particularly at a likely good price against England - while the opposition full-back to be carded on his side may be another worthwhile investment with the high number of take-ons.

Running down the wing...

Let's stay with left-sided wing-backs now, and one that I didn't quite expect to be writing about.

Tottenham's Micky van de Ven is known for his blistering pace - so much so that it seemingly makes him a good candidate to feature out wide.

He did play a brief period there against Greece in qualifying, but in only his third cap for his country vs Canada, he certainly caught the eye sprinting forward out of their different than usual back-four system.

Micky van de Ven's chance created against Canada
Micky van de Ven's chance created against Canada

The above is an example of a chance he created that almost registered an assist. After playing a one-two on halfway, he outpaces the opposition to complete a cross - Georginio Wijnaldum's shot was then blocked on the line.

The stats don't quite truly highlight the effect he had on the game from that position, and unfortunately it's unlikely he'll be the starter at the tournament.

BUT, if he is involved, there's a good chance he remains in a wider role. Some bookmakers may therefore price him up as a centre-back in the assists market which makes him great value as someone who will be in more advanced positions in attack.

Take it to the Max

Ah, why not, one more.

Maximilian Mittelstädt was already a name to target among the fantasy football nerds (I'm including myself in this), but his performances in the friendlies give plenty of hope to some attacking returns throughout the tournament.

Against Ukraine, the left-back created a total of five chances - the highest of anyone on the pitch - as he often found himself in advanced positions and contributing in attack.

Maximilian Mittelstädt crossing position vs Ukraine
Maximilian Mittelstädt crossing position vs Ukraine

He's a name worth considering in the assists markets across their group games, with the likelihood that the host nation are on the front foot for the majority of the time.

Bei-d your time

From one Maximilian to another, and the performance of Hoffenheim forward Maximilian Beier may see him deliver an impact from the bench at the tournament.

Germany will look to Kai Havertz as their centre forward, with Dortmund's target man Niclas Füllkrug next in line, but Beier's efforts against Ukraine may force Julian Nagelsmann into a bit of a rethink.

Introduced as a 59th minute substitute for Jamal Musiala, he took a total of four shots - the most of any player on the pitch - while he also created four chances - the second-most.

The 21-year-old was incredibly lively, rattling the crossbar less than a minute after coming on, and he heads into the tournament in good form anyway with 16 goals in 33 Bundesliga appearances.

Perhaps, based on some of those showings and the fact that we could consider dribbling a strength of his, he may be an option out wide as well.

His versatility is a huge positive and there is likely to be some decent value on him to have direct goal involvement if he is handed a start at some stage.

Injury disaster!

  • NOTE: This was added on Tuesday morning after initial publication...

Uh oh, it's very bad news for Poland on the eve of the tournament.

The final friendly against Turkey saw not one but TWO significant injury worries just six days before they face the Netherlands.

One of those is the one they really didn't want to happen - Robert Lewandowski. BUT, at this stage they are optimistic he will see involvement in the opener.

It is definitely one to monitor though in case things are made worst during the group stages.

The other was Karol Świderski, who bizarrely injured himself while celebrating the opener. They're not as clear on his availability status.

Poland are already without Arkadiusz Milik, so they're short on numbers up front.

Secondary penalty takers

The pre-tournament friendlies have given us some insight into who will be given spot kick duties if the usual taker isn't on the pitch.

This opens up some value in the goalscorer market, and they are well worth taking note of:

Romania's Dennis Man taking one - and seeing it saved - in their draw with Bulgaria is interesting as Nicolae Stanciu (the captain) was on the pitch. Perhaps spot kick duty now returns to the latter if they are awarded one at the tournament.

Also, Croatia's game with Portugal provided a point to note, as Luka Modric took - and converted - a spot kick with Andrej Kramaric on the pitch.

Croatia pass the tough test

Staying with that last game mentioned there, and Croatia were impressive in their performance as they secured victory on Saturday evening.

Their compact mid-block shape (remember that section from last week?) made it difficult for Portugal to play through at times, while they would also commit numbers forward to counter attack when they needed to.

Seven shots on target forced some top quality saves from Diogo Costa, and in truth they could have had three or four on their tally at the full-time whistle.

Portugal's out of possession approach was an interesting one, with a slightly inconsistent feel to it perhaps a sign they're not fully developed into a set way under Roberto Martinez.

Portugal shape 1 vs Croatia
Portugal looked to get back into a compact shape as Croatia approached halfway

Portugal shape 3 vs Croatia
But gaps left in the middle did create issues at stages of the game

They're by no means at the stage of 'being easy to play through' but I would have some slight concerns about them in meetings with other top nations for this reason.

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Slovakia weren't good enough to capitalise on this in qualifying.

A potential quarter-final against the Netherlands, a semi-final against Spain or if their attacking quality fires them to the final is where it could be their undoing.

Look beyond the scorelines

One final quick word on Romania again, who played out two 0-0 draws in their warm-up games for the tournament.

They did more than enough against minnows Liechtenstein though, posting a staggering 35 shots across the 90 minutes with 12 of those on target.

That made it 48 shots across the two games despite not scoring, and consideration should still be given to the 6/5 price across the board on Over 2.5 goals in their opening game against Ukraine on Monday.

Ukraine, meanwhile, were beaten 3-1 by Poland in their only friendly at the time of writing (they're back in action on Tuesday against Moldova).

Euro 2024: More from Sporting Life

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