Four talking points ahead of Friday's internationals - Virgil van Dijk - Netherlands
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Four talking points ahead of Friday’s internationals

Four talking points ahead of Friday’s international football, featuring an impressive Dutch defence and the Scotland star shining in Serie A.

Dutch defence holds the key for Koeman

The Netherlands are a proud football nation with the history of the Oranje built on the principles of Total Football. Fluid, front-footed football has long been the hallmark of the Dutch, but the current squad appear to be built from the back.

Ronald Koeman has overcome a tricky start since returning to the national side to turn things around, with five wins from their last six games offering encouragement. Three consecutive clean sheets is a huge positive and the strength of this squad is in its defence.

Virgil van Dijk will captain the Oranje this summer and returned to his imperious best this season, with the options to flank the 32-year-old – in a back four or three – including Matthijs de Ligt, Nathan Ake, Lutsharel Geertruida, Stefan de Vrij and Micky van de Ven.

The latter in particular – though absent from the current squad with a hamstring issue – has been outstanding in the Premier League this season and a partnership between the Spurs centre-back and Van Dijk offers duel dominance and real recovery pace.

Add in full-back threat from Denzel Dumfries or Jeremie Frimpong and there’s real reason to be hopeful for the Dutch.

Ferguson can star for Scotland

Scotland take on the Netherlands in a pre-Euro 2024 warm-up on Friday, as Steve Clarke’s improving side test themselves ahead of another major tournament. After a drought-breaking return to tournament football at Euro 2020, hopes are high that Scotland can improve on a disappointing group-stage exit.

A handful of talents impressing in the upper echelons of Europe’s top five leagues have raised optimism, with Andy Robertson part of Liverpool’s title challenge in the Premier League, John McGinn driving Aston Villa’s top-four pursuit, and Scott McTominay the joint-leading league scorer for Manchester United.

One player who has broken into that bracket this season is Lewis Ferguson, developing impressively away from the British spotlight in Serie A.

The 24-year-old has been an integral figure in Bologna’s challenge for Champions League qualification. Currently fourth in the table, Bologna have not ended a campaign inside Serie A’s top four since 1967.

Ferguson has been outstanding in their season so far, scoring six league goals and adding three assists. The midfielder leads Serie A for attempted passes, passes into the final third, pass completion, and touches per 90 minutes across the last 12 months.

Napoli and Juventus have been linked with signing the Scotland star, who will have the chance to showcase his talent on the international stage this summer.

Grimaldo to take long-awaited Spain chance

It’s been impossible to ignore the impact of Alejandro Grimaldo this season. A free transfer signing for Bayer Leverkusen from Benfica in the summer, he has been arguably the outstanding signing of the European season.

The 28-year-old has been a creative force during Leverkusen’s bid for a maiden Bundesliga crown, scoring nine times and providing 11 assists in 26 league appearances. It’s an extraordinary return from full-back for the Spaniard, a crucial piece in the puzzle for Xabi Alonso’s side, who sit ten points clear at the top of the table and are rapidly closing in on a historic title success.

Grimaldo’s performances have earned long-awaited recognition with the national team, having been overlooked despite impressing at Benfica, with the now-retired Jordi Alba, José Gayà, Alejandro Balde and Juan Bernat preferred. He made his debut against Cyprus in November, providing a customary assist, and should get another chance to impress when La Roja take on Colombia at West Ham’s London Stadium on Friday.

Can Turkey bounce back from woeful Euro 2020?

Turkey have secured their place at Euro 2024, reaching the European Championship for the third consecutive edition. The Crescent-Stars were labelled as potential dark horses heading into that previous appearance after upsetting France in qualification but endured a nightmare tournament to lose all three group games, scoring once and conceding eight times.

After missing out on the 2022 World Cup, Turkey rebuilt during qualification for this summer’s tournament. Despite the unforeseen exit of Stefan Kuntz as head coach, Turkey topped a group containing World Cup semi-finalists Croatia and Wales to qualify in a fairly comfortable fashion.

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Vincenzo Montella took the reins from Kuntz and has overseen some impressive results, including a friendly win over Germany during November’s break.

Expectations will have been tempered after last time out, but Turkey will be confident of giving a better account of themselves in a group containing Portugal, Czech Republic and the winner of the play-off between Georgia and Greece. Inter Milan midfielder Hakan Çalhanoğlu will be the key, while Real Madrid teenager Arda Güler is one to watch.

Turkey face Hungary in a warm-up game on Friday before a meeting with Austria on Tuesday night.

Read – Five times England took teenagers to major tournaments

See more – Five of the worst international kits released this month

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