Ryan Gravenberch looks firmly at home in the Netherlands midfield

OK, it may only have been North Macedonia, and it may largely have been a dead rubber game in Group C.

But there is plenty to be excited about after Ryan Gravenberch’s first start for the Netherlands.

Frank de Boer’s team had already sealed qualification to the next round of Euro 2020 when the time came to face the Lynxes in Amsterdam. But there wasn’t to be a host of changes, as the Dutch looked to make absolutely sure of their passage as group winners.

There were only two tweaks to the side who comfortably dispatched of Austria, and much to the excitement of the home fans, one of them saw Gravenberch step in for Marten de Roon.

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Did the 19-year-old look out of place alongside the likes of Matthijs de Ligt, Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay?

He did not.

The dextrous prodigy got straight to work imposing himself on proceedings, pressing aggressively and making four interceptions in the first half: the rest of the Dutch side had made five between them.

When he got the ball, he wasn’t too bad either. He caught the eye with one roulette shortly before half-time, as he defended the ball from three North Macedonian players on the edge of the area and kept his team on the ball when it looked impossible to do so.

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It was like watching Wijnaldum at his very best, and while it was Gravenberch’s more experienced teammate who went on to grab the headlines with a second-half double, it was the Ajax man who did the work that Wijnaldum is normally famed for.

He was a key part of what kept the Dutch moving forward, and his involvement was one of the driving factors behind their most fluid and watchable performance yet.

Eljif Elmas, Ryan GravenberchEljif Elmas, Ryan Gravenberch

Gravenberch was impressive on Monday / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

It seems likely that De Roon will return to his regular starting spot when the Netherlands run out for their last 16 tie on Sunday. But with a lack of real depth behind the starting midfield three, Gravenberch’s performance here will give De Boer real encouragement heading into the business end of the tournament.

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He’s got a midfielder in Gravenberch who can step out onto the pitch and perform every bit as well as his more established stars, and he should have no worries about throwing him in for one of the bigger occasions in the weeks ahead.

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