Denzel Dumfries showed on Sunday evening that he will be a player to watch throughout the Netherlands’ Euro 2020 campaign this summer, with the defender’s value likely to have risen somewhat as reported suitors Everton and Napoli watched the 25-year-old in action against Ukraine in Amsterdam.
The Dutch blew a 2-0 lead over Ukraine but went on to win 3-2 as their Group C run began in intriguing fashion, with goals from captain Georginio Wijnaldum and Wout Weghorst cancelled out by an Andriy Yarmolenko stunner and Roman Yaremchuk header, before Dumfries headed the winner late on.
While the Netherlands exhibited plenty of flaws, there was much to enjoy about their performance. Next to Wijnaldum, Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong put on a smooth showing for the most part, with Memphis Depay of Lyon offering glimpses of his undeniable talent up top.
And another player in Frank de Boer’s Oranje side who caught the eye was right wing-back Dumfries.
The 25-year-old made 41 appearances for PSV Eindhoven across all competitions last season, with 40 of them coming at right-back and the sole other seeing him deployed on the right wing.
Those roles were combined within De Boer’s 3-5-2 system against Ukraine on Sunday, with Dumfries frequently bombing forward and benefitting from the sharp passing of Wijnaldum and De Jong as well as the space that Ukrainian defenders were vacating while trying to get close to Depay.
Netherlands supporters have almost harassed De Boer in recent weeks over his expected (and now confirmed) plans to play three at the back, a move that many Dutch fans believe betrays the nation’s footballing ideals.
But Dumfries’ ability to constantly put himself in promising positions was one of the most ideal elements of the Netherlands’ outing in Amsterdam, going some way to vindicating De Boer’s decision – although the rollercoaster nature of the game will not have erased any reservations in some Dutch onlookers.
Dumfries – whom Everton are reported to be interested in signing this summer amid competition from Napoli – and his defensive partners will have hoped for a more solid display, but there was merit in the 25-year-old’s attacking threat.
Dumfries, who recorded four goals and nine assists for PSV last season, was denied fantastically by Ukraine goalkeeper Georgi Bushchan from close range in the first half as the Dutchman looked to convert after a clever, flicked pass from Wijnaldum.
The defender then missed a header at the back post while completely unmarked, however, nodding the ball downwards and wide at the near post when he should have headed it back across goal.
The Netherlands’ first two goals did come from Dumfries’ persistence and considerable physical presence on the right, though, and the PSV man was able to seal the victory in the 85th minute by this time getting his header right for his first international goal – while Bushchan was inexplicably slow to react as the ball found the back of the Ukraine net.
It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how Dumfries – and his team-mates – perform in their next two fixtures, against Austria and North Macedonia.
Perhaps Premier League fans will get a closer look at the right-back next season – particularly the Goodison Park faithful.
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