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Netherlands v Scotland: Euro 2024 finals have given 'extra edge' to training - Steve Clarke

Netherlands captain Virgil Van Dijk leads his squad on a bike run
Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman took his squad on a bike run on his 61st birthday

International friendly: Netherlands v Scotland

Venue: Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam Date: Friday, 22 March Kick-off: 19:45 GMT

Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland Extra & BBC Sounds, live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app, highlights on BBC One Scotland & iPlayer from 22:40

Proximity to the Euro 2024 finals has added an "extra edge" in training as Scotland prepare for Friday's friendly against the Netherlands, head coach Steve Clarke has revealed.

Clarke says that the Euros still feel "a little distant" to him, but he acknowledges that the competition for places in his squad is hotting up.

He stressed that there are still decisions to be made about the final make-up of the party that will head to Germany, citing the amount of injuries before this game in Amsterdam.

"Training has been really intense, but it's normally very intense," Clarke said. "We have a good camaraderie within the squad, something we have built over the last four and a half years - and everyone understands I can only pick 23 players.

"They're all trying to show how good they are in training, which is fantastic. It drives standards up. Everybody wants to be part of the squad that goes to Germany in the summer."

Clarke suggested that he might experiment to an extent against the Dutch.

"I've asked them to do something a little bit different, but I won't tell you want it is," he said. "These are the kinds of games to try something a little bit different. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't."

Scotland have not won a game since for the Euros - drawing 3-3 with Norway and 2-2 against Georgia before losing 4-1 to France, 2-0 to Spain and 3-1 to England.

Asked what word he would use to describe that run of games, Clarke said "informative".

"The two results I don't like the most were the two draws in the two competitive games," Clarke, who puts Netherlands on a par with Spain, added.

"I feel if we want to improve then those are matches we should win, so that is something to improve on. We had good moments in some of the other games and we showed that we can be competitive."

Counterpart Ronald Koeman will also tinker with a three-man midfield, departing from their usual formation of two holding midfielders with another more attacking player further forward behind the strikers.

The head coach, speaking on his 61st birthday, said he wants to be "able to play different systems".

"I have the reputation of being a cautious coach, but I would like to have the ball, attack, put pressure on the opponent - that is possible with multiple systems," he said.

Team news

Scotland's John McGinn and Lewis Ferguson in training

Internazionale centre-half Stefan de Vrij and Feyenoord left-back Quilindschy Hartman are the latest withdrawals from the Dutch squad through injury.

Forwards Brian Brobbey and Joshua Zirkzee, midfielder Frenkie de Jong and defenders Micky van de Ven and Sven Botman were already missing, with 33-year-old Georginio Wijnaldum drafted back into the national set-up after an absence of nine months.

Scotland have also lost two central defenders after FC Copenhagen's Scott McKenna followed Norwich City's Grant Hanley in being ruled out this week.

They join midfielder Callum McGregor, full-back Aaron Hickey and forward Jacob Brown on the list of unavailable players.

What do we know about the Dutch?

Liam McLeod, BBC Scotland commentator

The Netherlands are back as a force to be reckoned with and are targeting winning this summer's Euros tournament in Germany with Koeman back at the wheel.

They lost twice to France in qualifying but finished a comfortable second by winning their other six games in the section and the current squad have the natives looking ahead with positivity for the first time in a while.

Captain Virgil Van Dijk, Wijnaldum and Daley Blind are now the old heads in the side, but youngsters are being bled with Feyenoord's title winners Lutsharel Geertruida, Mats Wiefer, Quinten Timber and the absent Hartman making an impact.

Meanwhile, former Celtic right-back Jeremie Frimpong has been starring for Bayer Leverkusen, who are on the brink of winning a first-ever Bundesliga title.

Paris St-Germain's exciting 20-year-old, Xavi Simons, on loan at RB Leipzig, looks like being the next star for the Oranje. He has scored nine goals and assisted with another 13 this season.

Liverpool's Cody Gakpo, his former PSV Eindoven team-mate, Joey Veerman, and Borussia Dortmund's flying machine, Donyel Malen, will all likely be aiming to make names for themselves at the upcoming Euro 2024.

The one area Koeman had not made his mind up on was the goalkeeping position, with seven prospective number ones in the squad over the past 12 months, although Brighton & Hove Albion's Bart Verbruggen has started the past four internationals and the gloves appear to be his to lose.

What they said

Netherlands defender Nathan Ake: "Scotland have a very strong team with a lot of Premier League players.

"I have played against many of their guys a lot. With John McGinn and Scott McTominay, they have really good players. Scotland is growing every year, so it's going to be a difficult game."

Scotland midfielder Billy Gilmour: "We want to get back to the way we started the campaign, which was being hard to break down and not conceding easy goals.

"Two massive games coming up. We want to get back to winning ways after five without a win. The Netherlands will be a tough opponent, but I think we're in a good place. There's lots of positivity."

Match statistics

  • Netherlands have lost only one of their last 12 games against Scotland (W7 D4), 1-0 away from home in November 2003 in a European Championship qualifying play-off match.

  • This is Scotland's first away game against the Netherlands since a 3-0 loss in March 2009. They are winless in their last seven there (D3 L4) since a 2-1 victory back in May 1959.

  • Netherlands have won their last three matches without conceding a single goal: two 1-0 wins over Greece and Republic of Ireland and a 6-0 win over Gibraltar. They haven't won four in a row without conceding since between March and June 2013.

  • Scotland are winless in their last five matches (D2 L3), shipping as many goals in those five games (14) as they did in their previous 18 matches combined. They haven't gone six games in a row without a win since doing so between October 2007 and September 2008.

  • Netherlands have only lost one of their last 17 home games in all competitions (W13 D3), a 2-1 defeat by France in October. Their last seven home defeats have all happened at the Johan Cruyff Arena, which is where this match will be played.

  • Scotland have won just two of their last 17 friendly matches (D4 L11), both 1-0 away victories against Hungary (March 2018) and Luxembourg (June 2021).

  • Cody Gakpo has scored three goals in his last four Netherlands appearances - indeed, since his debut in June 2021, only Memphis Depay (17) has more goals for his country than Gakpo (nine).

  • John McGinn's next goal for Scotland will be his 19th for the national team, which would put him joint-fifth in their all-time standings alongside Ally McCoist. Indeed, he's been involved in nine goals in his last 14 international starts (six goals, three assists).