Frank de Boer’s Dutch team on thin ice: Richard Buxton
Oranje's flaws exposed as they surrender 2-0 lead before pipping Ukraine 3-2
The Netherlands' Euro 2020 campaign will live and die by coach Frank de Boer's stubbornness.
On the pitch, the former Ajax Amsterdam and Barcelona defender's uncompromising approach won him friends and admirers across the world. But it now alienates him in the dugout.
Unrest is already brewing in the Oranje camp following a breathless 3-2 victory against Ukraine in their opening Group C encounter at Amsterdam's Johan Cruyff Arena yesterday morning (Singapore time).
De Boer resisted supporters' pleas to revert to their beloved 4-3-3 system, which was writ large in a message delivered by a plane to a training session on the eve of the clash.
Yet, his insistence on remaining wedded to a 3-5-2 formation is failing to convince anyone that the 51-year-old can play to his side's obvious technical strengths.
That match-winner Denzel Dumfries proved the sole beneficiary, regularly driving at the visitors' defence from right wing-back, underlines the flaws in de Boer's tactical blueprint for his country's first major tournament appearance since the 2014 World Cup.
Incidentally, Dumfries' 85th-minute header was the latest Dutch winner scored at the Euros since his coach's 89th-minute penalty snatched a 1-0 win over the Czech Republic at Euro 2000.
They went on to reach the semi-finals that summer, but a repeat appears unlikely under de Boer, who abandoned their "Total Football" principles for organised chaos during this five-goal thriller against Andriy Shevchenko's side.
For all their dominance in the opening stages, peppering Georgiy Bushchan's goal with seven shots in the first 10 minutes, they were unable to engineer a breakthrough due to wastefulness, with Dumfries, Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum the chief culprits.
Within six second-half minutes, they finally raced into a two-goal lead, just to throw it away in a further four as de Boer's in-game management took a head-scratching turn.
He attempted to replace like-for-like, with defenders Nathan Ake and Owen Wijndal sent on for Daley Blind and Patrick van Aanholt, but only served to gift Ukraine a lifeline.
There is a good reason why de Boer once found himself publicly castigated by Jose Mourinho for being "the worst manager in the history of the (English) Premier League".
His five-game stint with Crystal Palace in 2017 yielded zero top-flight goals, let alone an EPL win, before being sacked after 77 days. His tenure at Inter Milan a year earlier was only eight days longer.
Unlike predecessor Ronald Koeman, who belatedly fashioned a side capable of matching his on-field legacy while in charge of the national team, de Boer is doing little to dispel suggestions that he is still trading on his former glories as a player.
The Netherlands' perennial bridesmaid status makes them one of the most compelling sub-plots whenever a tournament lucky enough to be graced by their presence rolls around.
Seven years in the competitive wilderness, however, have raised expectations skywards after Koeman steered them to the cusp of winning the inaugural Nations League Finals.
Even without defensive totem Virgil van Dijk at his disposal, de Boer still possesses enough to emulate the current Barcelona coach's 2019 exploits.
An unshackled Netherlands team has the potential to take these Finals by genuine force - and de Boer can make it genuinely possible by simply swallowing some personal pride.
Failure to do so will only lead to another tiresome and all-too-familiar ending.
"I have seen a good Netherlands. We were compact, dominated and had chances. I think we can only be proud."
- Dutch coach Frank de Boer on the 3-2 win over Ukraine