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Wout Weghorst Sends Turkey Back Home In Chaotic Clash

Wout Weghorst Sends Turkey Back Home In Chaotic Clash

Kai Iliev Kai Iliev

While most of the quarter-finals were relatively calm – England and France advanced through penalties, and Spain sent Germany back home in the last minute of extra time – only one encounter concluded within the regular 90 minutes.

The Netherlands-Turkey match was billed as the ‘outsider’ quarterfinal, as neither team was expected to make it this far. While Turkey looked set to make it to the semifinals, a giant named Wout Weghorst had other plans.

Turkey Was Close, But Not Close Enough

Football can be quite confusing. Turkey appeared dominant in the first half, playing to their usual strengths.

The Netherlands struggled with their opponents’ intensity and tempo, especially after an “easy” round of 16 match against Romania (3-0). Turkey, on the other hand, came off an already intense battle against Austria, where they ceded possession but made life difficult for their opponents.

Turkey’s plan looked perfect, as the Dutch struggled to match their tempo. In the first half, the storyline favored Turkey, making history seem within their grasp. 

Clear Heads Prevail: The Key to Netherlands’ Victory

As often remarked in EURO 2024, the most important factor isn’t necessarily having the best player but having a pragmatic game plan. Clarity is paramount, which is what allowed Slovenia and Slovakia to advance to the next round and nearly surprise their opponents (Portugal and England, respectively).

When the game moves at a fast pace, knowing what’s next is crucial. A few seconds of clarity can mean the difference between scoring and missing a goal, a pattern evident throughout the tournament. Underdogs such as Slovenia, Slovakia, and Georgia may not have had the best players, but they had the luxury of being led by coaches with clear strategies.

In the first half, the Netherlands didn’t exactly know what they were doing. Memphis Depay often dropped too deep, leaving nobody in the box, leading to confusion and allowing Turkey to capitalize on counter-attacks. Amid this chaos, Turkey managed to score; the Netherlands had to react and fast. Despite a few chances, the Oranje couldn’t find the back of the net.

On the other hand, it took Arda Güler one action to score at the end of the first half, forcing the Netherlands to attack, much to Turkey’s delight. Turkey ceded possession (41%) and let the Netherlands dictate play, knowing every attack was an opportunity for a counter. The game had a clear vibe: one side knew exactly what it was doing, while the other was still figuring out its offensive setup.

This highlighted that Turkey’s tournament was unique, with all their games being intensely competitive (except the match against Portugal). The fun was just beginning, but for whom?

A titan was about to awaken. While the Netherlands boasts flashy players – Xavi Simmons and Cody Gakpo (who also performed brilliantly) – and many other stars, one player remains inevitable. His name? Wout Weghorst.

The Weghorst Effect: How One Player Changed Everything

Wout Weghorst came on to solve what the Netherlands had been lacking in the first half. As soon as entered the pitch, clarity returned to the Dutch camp.

Standing tall as one of the tallest football players around, Weghorst became the focal point. The plan was straightforward: cross, rinse, and repeat. While simple, effective football strategies often don’t need to be complex.

The difference in the Dutch team’s performance before and after Weghorst’s arrival was palpable. His presence alone forced Turkey to fold back, dealing with one of the most effective strikers of his generation, even if he isn’t always praised for it. Sure, Weghorst is limited in his skill set, but does it matter if no one can stop him?

For the Netherlands, this meant that in the 70th minute, Stefan de Vrij found the goal and the equalizer. Breathe, because it is about to become intense. It was a breath of fresh air, but the intensity was far from over. Fortunately for the Dutch, they didn’t need to score another goal because the own goal once again played a pivotal role.

Momentum is often said to be a big differential in today’s game, as the game becomes increasingly more psychological. This was certainly true in the Turkey-Netherlands quarterfinal. Only six minutes after conceding, Turkey inadvertently netted the ball into their own goal, handing Oranje the lead in the most critical phase of the game.

Grey Wolves Gesture: Political Tensions Rise

In the end, Turkey can take pride in their football, but there’s no denying that their journey was marred by politics and intensity. Demiral’s Grey Wolf gesture resulted in a two-game ban from UEFA, which explains why Turkey was not as efficient in front of goal without him. 

Turkey’s President Erdogan was present in the stands, potentially sparking a diplomatic issue in the coming weeks as more fans defended the Grey Wolf Salute and continued to show support for the suspended Demiral.

As for football, Turkey thrived amidst chaos but was ultimately undone by it. Cody Gakpo repeatedly forced the defenders into panicked mistakes, leading to Turkey’s elimination as they struggled to maintain composure following Weghorst’s introduction.

Facing England: Koeman’s Next Big Test

For the Netherlands, now comes the greatest test. Nobody expected them to make it to the semifinals after being defeated by Austria (2-3) in the group stages. They were not particularly entertaining, without being terrible either. 

However, they will now face England, one of the favourites but also one of the most disappointing teams in terms of performance. The lack of offensive inspiration shown against Turkey (before Weghort’s introduction) could prove to be a problem against England’s rock-solid defence. 

Ronald Koeman will have to rethink his setup carefully if he wants to guide the Netherlands to the final, especially after landing on the favourable side of the draw. 

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