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Dutch begin new era after Koeman’s Barca defection

Amsterdam (AFP) – The Netherlands’ UEFA Nations League opener against Poland will be the start of a new era for the Dutch after coach Ronald Koeman jumped ship for his “dream job” at Barcelona.

The ‘Oranje’, one of Europe’s most exciting international teams, take on Robert Lewandowski and company in the League A, Group 1 clash in Amsterdam on Friday hoping to continue a thrilling rebirth that Koeman began over two years ago.

Interim coach Dwight Lodeweges is charged with carrying on where the Dutch left off way back in November, when they thrashed Estonia 5-0 in their last qualifying match for a Euro 2020 tournament that was pushed back to next year.

“Ronald leaves me a great legacy, but with huge pressure as this new generation is more than promising,” Lodeweges told Voetbal International magazine.

Koeman had revitalised a moribund Dutch team after taking over in February 2018, with his exciting young side playing a swashbuckling brand of football that had fans dreaming of a return to former glories at the Euros.

The tournament that was set to played earlier in the summer before the coronavirus ravaged Europe’s sporting calendar was hoped by fans to be a strong comeback for a storied national team that had not qualified for a major international tournament since the 2014 World Cup.

While Koeman has stepped into a storm at the Camp Nou, with superstar Lionel Messi agitating to leave and club presidential elections coming in the spring, the future looks bright for the Netherlands.

Many have questioned if the 57-year-old has made the right choice to abandon a team which has a potent mix of some of Europe’s established best as well as rising stars.

Stefan De Vrij and Virgil Van Dijk are possibly the continent’s strongest central defensive pairing, while Ajax graduates Donny van de Beek and Frenkie de Jong are playing their midfield trade at two of the world’s top clubs.

Meanwhile up front Memphis Depay, Ryan Babel and Quincy Promes provide the Oranje with all the attacking juice a team might require.

Their Nations League campaign will also pit them against another of Europe’s promising young outfits in Roberto Mancini’s Italy, who also have high hopes of a strong showing at next summer’s Euros.

However as serious international football restarts the Dutch remain without a clear candidate to replace Koeman and with a caretaker boss who seems unconvinced he could be the right man for the job.

“I’m not worried. I have a quality squad,” said Lodeweges.

“But I also know — and I’m well aware of this — that this squad needs a charismatic coach.”

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