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Wijnaldum leads Dutch team missing De Ligt against Ukraine

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In this handout photograph released by UEFA, Netherlands’ midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum speaks during a press conference at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam on June 12, 2021 on the eve of their Group C UEFA EURO 2020 match against Ukraine. (Photo by – / UEFA / AFP)


Georginio Wijnaldum captains the Netherlands in their Euro 2020 opener against Ukraine in Amsterdam on Sunday as the Oranje make their return to a major tournament for the first time in seven years.

The Dutch, who failed to qualify for Euro 2016 or the 2018 World Cup, are set to line up in a 3-5-2 formation which coach Frank de Boer has experimented with following the loss of several key players coming into the tournament.

Juventus centre-back Matthijs de Ligt is not fit to feature in this game as he recovers from a groin injury, meaning the Netherlands are without their two leading defenders.

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Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk is out of the tournament altogether as he recovers from a serious knee injury, while Manchester United’s Donny van de Beek has withdrawn due to injury too and first-choice goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was left out of the squad after testing positive for Covid-19.

Veteran Maarten Stekelenburg, 38, starts in goal, while Memphis Depay spearheads the attack with Wout Weghorst alongside him.

Ukraine, who topped their qualifying group ahead of Portugal, are at their third consecutive Euro but failed to make it beyond the group stage either as co-hosts in 2012 or in 2016 in France.

Their preparations for this match have been overshadowed by a row about their shirt — they angered Russia after unveiling Euro 2020 kits featuring patriotic slogans and showing the outline of Ukraine including Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.

Andriy Shevchenko’s team features Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko in midfield, while Roman Yaremchuk of Gent in Belgium spearheads their attack. Andriy Yarmolenko of West Ham United is the captain.

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Dutch authorities have allowed the Johan Cruyff Arena to be filled to one third of its capacity during the Euro, meaning around 16,000 fans are expected to attend the game which kicks off at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT).

Starting line-ups

Netherlands (3-5-2)

Maarten Stekelenburg; Jurrien Timber, Stefan de Vrij, Daley Blind; Denzel Dumfries, Frenkie de Jong, Georginio Wijnaldum (capt), Marten de Roon, Patrick van Aanholt; Memphis Depay, Wout Weghorst

Coach: Frank de Boer (NED)

Ukraine (4-3-3)

Georgiy Bushchan; Oleksandr Karavaev, Illia Zabarnyi, Mykola Matviyenko, Vitaliy Mykolenko; Serhiy Sydorchuk, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Ruslan Malinovskyi; Andriy Yarmolenko (capt), Roman Yaremchuk, Oleksandr Zubkov

Coach: Andriy Shevchenko (UKR)

Referee: Felix Brych (GER)

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