AMSTERDAM (AP) — With Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman watching from the stands, Memphis Depay delivered a trademark performance for the Netherlands in a 2-0 victory over Austria at the European Championship.
The striker, who is out of contract with Lyon at the end of the month and widely expected to sign with Barcelona, scored a penalty and helped set up the Netherlands’ second goal. He also missed a good chance and created problems for his own team by losing the ball while attempting to beat defenders.
Memphis readily admits his style of play is high risk and some of his flashy dribbles, back heels and ambitious passes don’t always work. But Dutch coaches and his teammates are happy to take the good with the bad, knowing that he can turn a match in an instant of unorthodox creativity.
Netherlands coach Frank de Boer conceded that Depay has not yet been at his best in the team’s two Group C victories, a 3-2 win over Ukraine followed by Thursday’s victory over Austria.
“Let’s assume that Memphis can only make progress and that in coming matches — when it really matters — he will be the important man,” said De Boer, who pointed out that Depay converted his penalty and his pass set up a run by Donyell Malen that ended with Denzel Dumfries’ second goal of the tournament.
“Of course, he knows he can do better,” De Boer said. “But let’s grow in the tournament and let him save it for the round of 16 and hopefully more rounds after that.”
The last time the Netherlands played in a major soccer tournament, at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Depay was a precocious 20-year-old talent largely waiting in the wings behind established forwards Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.
Even so, he scored two goals in Brazil and moved from PSV Eindhoven to Manchester United a year later. However, he largely failed to impress at Old Trafford and transferred to Lyon in 2017.
In France, away from the pressure of the Premier League, he developed into a leader and has just completed his best scoring season with 20 goals. He also has grown into an undisputed leader in the Dutch national team, grabbing the ball whenever there is a free kick within range of the goal.
His penalty against Austria was his his 27th goal in 66 international matches. His six goals so far this year have already matched his most productive year in the orange shirt of the Netherlands.
While Depay hasn’t yet fully lived up to expectations at the European Championship, Dumfries is sure his time will come.
“I think he’s shown his quality in all our matches,” said Dumfries, a wing back who has scored a goal in each match at Euro 2020. “I have every confidence in Memphis. He’s a fantastic player. I’m not concerned about anything.”