Cody Gakpo Leads Netherlands Team in Organizing Inspiring Team Gatherings During Euro 2024 to Unite Squad for Semi-Final Clash Against England


In Germany, there is a running joke about the city of Wolfsburg with tales of train drivers on route to Berlin from the west occasionally missing the stop at Wolfsburg Hauptbahnhof.

It reached a stage where the national train operator, Deutsche Bahn, was forced to apologise and promise that it wouldn’t happen again.

Wolfsburg is that kind of place – quiet and unassuming and known as the home of Volkswagen but for the Euros, it has turned into home for the Netherlands after Ronald Koeman decided to base his side here.

Cody Gakpo described it as a ‘beautiful group’ on Monday, with Gakpo himself organising religious gatherings at their team hotel, which almost half the squad attend. 

The Dutch media insist this is one of the most united Netherlands squads they’ve ever seen

The Dutch media insist this is one of the most united Netherlands squads they’ve ever seen

Gakpo organised religious gatherings at their team hotel, with half of the squad attending

Gakpo organised religious gatherings at their team hotel, with half of the squad attending 

Such is the religious influence on the side that the official team account posts verses from the Bible on their Instagram.

For the Dutch officials, the pleasant surprise has been the lack of controversy within the squad despite the national uproar after their loss to Austria in the group stage – a performance which Koeman described parts of as a ‘disgrace’ – which ultimately saw them scrape through the group as one of the four best third-placed sides.

‘After Austria, the atmosphere didn’t go too sour but it was good because we told each other the truth,’ Gakpo insisted.

From that moment on, the Dutch players have approached it as a ‘new tournament,’ with Memphis Depay saying ‘the tournament is starting now’ before their win over Romania in the Round-of-16.

Alongside England, they have benefitted from avoiding the side of the draw that contained Germany, Spain, France and Portugal but England have needed extra time in both their knockout ties.

For the Dutch, wins over Romania and Turkey have been enough to reach their first semi-final since 2014 and their first in this competition since 2004 but their performances in the knockout rounds have boosted their confidence, showing they can play good football and win ugly.

In the aftermath of their win over Romania where they delivered their best performance of the tournament, Koeman spoke of the challenges at hand.

‘The win is important but we are Dutch and in Holland, we have to play well and play offensive football, he said.

Koeman's men performed poorly in the group stage and came third after loss against Austria

Koeman’s men performed poorly in the group stage and came third after loss against Austria

Then against Turkey, they came from behind to win after surviving a late Turkish onslaught.

‘In the final 10 minutes, we had to survive. So we really showed our mentality and we showed that we work as a team,’ said Van de Ven.

Yet there is perhaps a feeling of uncertainty when it comes to the possibility of penalties. At the 2022 World Cup, they were knocked out on penalties by Argentina with two senior players in Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis missing. In their history, they have only won two of their eight shoot-outs.

And though they remained coy about their own plans for preparing for a shoot-out when asked on Monday, Gakpo admitted they were well aware of England’s strengths from the penalty spot.

‘Their penalties were very good,’ said Gakpo. ‘I was impressed but not surprised because the quality is there and we know they are very good when it comes to penalties,’

On Monday evening, the Dutch squad will gather at The Ritz Carlton hotel, a short walk away from the central station, to analyse England before getting the train to Dortmund on Tuesday afternoon.

It is 28 years since the two nations last met in a major tournament, when England famously won 4-1. Not that the Dutch players will be weighed down by any of that.

When Gakpo and van de Ven were asked about the infamous 1993 clash where Koeman avoided a red card and then scored to ensure England missed out on the 1994 World Cup, both had no idea with Gakpo saying he wasn’t even born then. When they were informed about it, they laughed it off.

Gakpo admitted they were well aware of England’s strengths from the penalty spot

Gakpo admitted they were well aware of England’s strengths from the penalty spot

Like this England side, they aren’t too bothered about the past but will head west with ambitions of going all the way like Koeman and co did in 1988.

Beat England, and if the train driver forgets about stopping at Wolfsburg when they return back to base after the semi-final, there’ll be little cause for concern because Berlin will ultimately be their final destination.



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