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Canada loses 4-0 to the Netherlands in Copa America 2024 and Euro 2024 warm-up match – in-depth report

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Canada’s heavy 4-0 loss to the Netherlands in Rotterdam Thursday could be classified as a learning experience. And that’s how the new Canada men’s national team coach intends to see it.

“Honestly, it always feels tough when you walk away losing 4-0,” admitted Canada coach Jesse Marsch post-game. “I don’t think that was indicative of the game. I thought that in the first half, we represented ourselves really well and played the version of football that I want the team to move toward.

“I told them that certainly the first half and overall was better than I had hoped, and we know that we have some big challenges against our first opponents, but we’re going to learn from them. There are a lot of little things in there that I think we can adjust to be clearer and simpler in the way we want to play. But I think it was actually a pretty good performance.”

This was the first match against a top European side for Canada’s men since 2022 Qatar World Cup. And you have to play the best to be the best, they say.

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And there’s no doubt facing the Netherlands was a great opportunity to gain experience against a top team ahead of opening the 2024 Copa America against Lionel Messi and defending World Cup champions Argentina in Atlanta in two weeks. 

It was also Canada’s first match under new manager Marsch, appointed last month. And he is still in the process of developing a new identity and new tactics for his young squad.

There’s no denying, the result looks dismal. And it suggests the Netherlands dominated Canada all game.

But all the goals came in the second half, including three in 13 minutes.

For much of the game, especially in the first half, Canada was excellent defensively, organized, compact, and pressed well. Marsch said his squad’s defensive fortitude in the first 45 minutes is one of the many positives they can take out of a match with an otherwise uninspiring scoreline. 

He explained the second half is where the Dutch began to show their elite levels of experience and quality which overwhelmed his side.

“Then what you see in the second half is when the Dutch start to crank up the heat a little bit, you can see a little bit more of their quality and experience shine through and we get stressed a little bit more which forces us into making a few mistakes,” Marsch said. 

Bright start for Canada

Canada started the match filled with energy and created a handful of scoring chances early. Defensively, Canada was just as good. Their man-to-man marking was good, and they pressed well all over the pitch, particularly extremely well high up the pitch and in the final third, which helped Canada create numerous turnovers and prevented the Dutch from gaining possession and advancing up field. 

Marsch was happy with his team’s defensive efforts in the first half. 

“We were compact all over the field we weren’t just pressing high up the pitch. We were trying to control spaces a little bit and make it difficult for them to break us down and for the most part in the first half, we accomplished that in a good way,” Marsch said. 

Canada played on the front foot for the first 25 minutes, creating a handful of quality scoring chances while remaining compact and organized defensively in their high-press setup.

Canada’s coach praised many of his players including centre back Moïse Bombito.

“I thought he was very good,” said Marsch of Bombito. “I thought that he was tactically good, on the ball he made really good decisions, he was aggressive, won a lot of duels.

“I asked him and Derek (Cornelius) to both be very aggressive and confident in all situations so that tactically they’d provide a good foundation for us, and I think they both performed well.”

However, after 25 minutes, a switch seemed to flip, and the Netherlands heated up. The Dutch controlled the pace of the match, dominated possession, created numerous dangerous scoring chances, and pressured Canada’s defense – which remained resilient until halftime – with their all-out attack. 

Dayne St. Clair got the start in goal over Maxime Crepeau and was phenomenal. He made seven saves, consistently coming off his line to challenge Dutch attackers and take away shooting lanes. In the 27th minute, St. Clair came out to the penalty spot to make himself look big to challenge Dutch striker Brian Brobbey and made a huge save. 

St. Clair also had some help from his defenders and midfielders. Stephen Eustaquio had a crucial block inside the six-yard box to prevent a goal after a turnover. Both Alistair Johnston and Derek Cornelius also came up big for Canada, each recording crucial goal-line clearances within six minutes of each other to keep the game goalless. Both clearances resulted from Dutch counter attacks.

The best chances of the half for both sides came toward the end of the first 45. 

St. Clair denied Jeremie Frimpong from close range in the 42nd minute before coming to the edge of the 18-yard box to make himself look big and pressure the shooter which resulted in another brilliant save off a Memphis Depay breakaway in transition. 

Canada’s biggest chance came in the 45th minute when Kamal Miller made a great pass to Cyle Larin in the box from the byline. But Larin missed the net trying to pick out the bottom left corner. Opportunities like that need to be taken against big teams. And from Larin’s reaction, he knew it.

At halftime, the Dutch led possession 60-40 percent and outshot Canada 9-2 (3-0 on target).

A different story in the second half

Canada’s high-intensity press died out in the second half. Fatigue set in and they couldn’t maintain the high level of man-marking that the first half saw.

Marsch said he knew in training that Canada had a lot of potential but was also far from perfect.

“After the second day of training… I thought to myself, ‘Wow, this is going to be a fun group to work with and there’s real potential here.’ But I also knew that the reality is, given the opponents coming up, we would have some tough days and I knew that I would have to stay strong and positive and continue to reinforce the things that were going to help them improve and grow together.” 

Marsch added Canada made too many defensive mistakes in the second half and got punished for it because of the quality of the opponent but stressed that they’ll learn from it. 

He said the most important thing to take away from these matches against the Netherlands and France is understanding the level of play required to succeed at the highest level, the quality of the teams playing at the highest level, and how to adapt to play against the best teams in the world.

“But to do that we needed to also create a platform of how we wanted to play and insert it into the games against those opponents,” Marsch said. “Now we’ve done that, now we kind of understand what the standards are and now we can show examples of tactically how to get better and then what the speed of play is and what the demands are playing against the best.”

Less than five minutes into the second half, the Netherlands took advantage of Canada’s fatigue. Jeremie Frimpong had loads of space to run down the right flank and sent a great cross into the box. Memphis Depay snuck between two Canadian defenders and was left wide open to tap home the cross. The Dutch had been the better side and took a deserved lead.

Seven minutes later, the Dutch doubled their lead. Frimpong ran down the right sideline in transition, being trailed closely by Alphonso Davies. Frimpong’s initial shot was blocked by Davies. Frimpong collected the rebound and buried it into the left corner with composure. Frimpong consistently had plenty of time and space on the right flank all game long. The Netherlands led 2-0 after 57 minutes.

In the 63rd minute, a shot on target was spilled by St. Clair. Wout Weghorst found himself in the right place at the right time, wide open in six-yard box to tap home a rebound less than two minutes after he came on as a substitute. 3-0 Netherlands. 

The Dutch continued their all-out offensive barrage and continued searching for another goal. 

Liverpool captain Virgil Van Dijk made it 4-0 with an uncontested header off a corner kick in the 83rd minute. He jumped high above all surrounding Canadian defenders to smash the ball into the left corner.

The Dutch thoroughly outclassed Canada in the second half; the Netherlands dominated possession 65-35 percent and outshot Canada 11-2 (8-2 on target). At full-time, the Dutch outshot Canada 20-6 (11-2 on target) and had 17 shots in the box to Canada’s four. 

Canada’s areas to improve

In preparation for their next two matches, against France and Argentina, Marsch explained areas they need to see improvement.

“We need to make improvements in fitness, in behaviors, in tactical clarity to better adapt to playing against the best of the best,” Marsch said. “The Dutch are good at creating rotations. They have a lot of technical players, they have a lot of athleticism, and they have a great combination of what it takes to play the game at the highest level. So, it tests us at the highest level.”

He stressed his team held up well against the Netherlands in the first half and had some stretches where they played well in all three phases of the game. But then he explained fatigue begins in the second half and the other team raises the intensity which creates stress and causes them to make more mistakes which our opponent capitalizes on. 

“But now, the next time we’re in a situation against a top team like this, we’ll understand it a little better, and then we’ll be able to respond better. Even when the game gets tougher, we’ll be able to raise our level.”

It was a tough result, but this loss should provide many learning experiences for a young team like Canada who will only improve with time under a new manager.

Marsch said this is only the beginning of their plan and that he’s optimistic for the future despite playing against the cream of the crop in his first few matches.

“We’re just in our initial phase of establishing everything about how we’re going to move forward,” said Marsch. “The response in every way from every single person involved has been incredibly positive and gives me major optimism, even losing 4-0. I still know that our end goal is two years from now (at World Cup 2026), and we’re just starting our process.

“I think it’s almost unfair to have to have your first match against the Dutch and your second against the French. But so what? We’ve got to grow up as a team. We’ve got to grow up as a football nation. And we’ve got to figure out ways to get better and there’s no better way to do that than playing against opponents like this.


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