PREVIEW: CanMNT begin Marsch era with baptism of fire vs. Netherlands

Netherlands vs. Canada
International Friendly
June 6, 2024 at 8:45 p.m. CEST/2:45 p.m. ET
De Kuip in Rotterdam, Netherlands
Watch Live: OneSoccer & TVA Sports

The Canadian men’s national team will, for the first time, take to the pitch under Jesse Marsch this week. They begin a new chapter with perhaps the most challenging test they’ve faced since the World Cup in Qatar, as they do battle with the Netherlands at De Kuip.

Marsch’s tenure thus begins with a high-profile friendly against the world’s seventh-ranked team according to FIFA’s latest calculations. It’s the first of three incredibly tough games this month for Canada, who go from one European giant to another with their friendly against second-ranked France on Sunday — all in anticipation of June 20, when Canada will open the Copa América in Atlanta against Lionel Messi and top-ranked Argentina.

The famed Oranje will, like Canada, be well up for this contest, which also serves as their first tune-up match before they begin their Euro 2024 campaign in Germany.

RELATED: France, Netherlands friendlies a significant opportunity for Canada Soccer at every level

The Netherlands have played just twice in 2024 so far, beating Scotland 4-0 and losing 2-1 to Germany in the March window. In recent competitive action, they finished second in their qualifying group to earn their spot at the Euros, landing just behind France and ahead of Greece, the Republic of Ireland and Gibraltar with a 6-0-2 record (both losses coming against France). The Dutch also topped Group 4 in the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League A, going undefeated in a very tough group that included Belgium, Poland and Wales before bowing out to Croatia in the semifinal after extra time.

Since January 2023, the Netherlands have been managed by Ronald Koeman, who returned to coach the Oranje for a second time after just over a year in charge of Barcelona.

The former defender, who won the UEFA Champions League with Barcelona in 1992 as well as the European Championship with the Netherlands in 1988, actually does have some experience with Canada; Koeman started for the Oranje in the only previous meeting between these sides, a June 1994 friendly at Toronto’s Varsity Stadium where goals from Frank Rijkaard, Marc Overmars and Dennis Bergkamp secured a 3-0 win for the Dutch.

Ronald Koeman (L) and Eddie Berdusco in action during the 1994 friendly between Canada and the Netherlands. (Photo: Canada Soccer)

Koeman was named manager of the Netherlands following Louis van Gaal’s resignation after the 2022 FIFA World Cup, where the Dutch side topped Group A but went out to eventual champions Argentina on penalties in the quarter-final.

The current Netherlands team features plenty of star power, with 19 players currently at clubs in Europe’s top five leagues. Their squad includes the likes of Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk and recent Premier League champion Nathan Aké at the back, RB Leipzig standout Xavi Simons in attacking midfield, and plenty of other weapons like World Cup standout attacker Cody Gakpo.

According to Koeman, Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong and Atlético Madrid forward Memphis Depay are his side’s main injury concerns, both unlikely to be risked against Canada as they try to get back to fitness for the Euros.

RELATED: ‘You have to rise to the occasion’: Alphonso Davies on how Jesse Marsch has challenged him for CanMNT

With no time to waste before Canada kick off their Copa América campaign against Argentina on June 20, it’ll be a baptism of fire for Marsch who has just a couple of weeks to prepare his new team and instill some of his footballing philosophy. Although it’s unlikely Marsch will have time to establish and fine-tune a full tactical identity, we may see some early hints of how he’ll set up the Canadian team to play against strong opposition in matches where they won’t have much of the ball.

“There’s obvious challenges to being a national team coach, just because we don’t have all the time we’d wish to have together,” Marsch told reporters on Wednesday. “However, I think the eagerness and the excitement to do what we can as a national team, to show our country and to represent our country, means everyone’s on high attention span and high alert to try to do everything — to come together, to adapt, to learn, to grow, and so I’ve been careful about how much information I’ve given them, but at the same time I think they’ve responded in a really good way and are eager to try to put it into practice.”

Koeman suggested in some of his prematch comments that he’s done his homework on the high-pressing style Marsch favoured in his time at various Red Bull clubs, which might have some influence on how Canada play.

The lineup and formation Marsch chooses could provide some hints to how he sets up against Argentina. If he opts for a back four, will Alphonso Davies get the nod at left-back? Or is it more likely a back three, with Davies and perhaps Tajon Buchanan as wingbacks? Thankfully, it’s a pretty healthy Canadian group at his disposal, so he should have the opportunity to arrange it however he wishes.

That said, there’s little room for experimentation. Canada have 180 minutes of football to play before the Copa América, with this friendly plus Sunday’s against France. Bravery will be paramount for Les Rouges; over the next 15 days, they’ll play three of the best teams they’ve faced in a decade.

It’s not a prospect for the weak-willed. It is, however, a massive opportunity for Canada to make an impact on a global stage. A new era for the men’s national team is beginning with a bang, but what will its first impression be?


Netherlands: Verbruggen; Aké, van Dijk, de Ligt, Dumfries; Schouten, Reijnders, Wijnaldum; Simons, Weghorst, Gakpo

Canada: St. Clair; Johnston, Miller, Cornelius, Davies; Buchanan, Eustáquio, Koné, Shaffelburg; David, Larin


Canada wins: 0 || Netherlands wins: 1 || Draws: 0

Last meeting:

June 12, 1994 – Canada 0-3 Netherlands


“[Netherlands] is a team that I think is really good in all phases of the game, and is very dangerous on set-pieces. The Dutch have always been known for being good man-marking defensive teams, and this is what coach Koeman has them doing right now. … It’s such a massive challenge for us in our first time on the pitch together, and there’s a lot of things I’ve tried to address and make the players aware of in terms of what the game will look like, but I’ve also really tried to focus on ourselves and what we want to try to achieve, and how we want to lay a foundation for what we want to do in the future. We know we’re in for a very difficult match, but I think there’s a level of excitement for that as well.” — Canada head coach Jesse Marsch

“[Marsch] has brought his knowledge from coaching all over the world into this team. The quality of training sessions has raised drastically. Everybody’s invested in what he’s trying to teach us, trying to coach us. We know that we’re going into a difficult game, we know this month is going to be something special. But overall he’s tried to bring the intensity that we have, utilize our pace, utilize our defending and our hard work that we have. Everyone’s on board, everyone’s enjoying it, nobody’s complaining.” — Canada fullback Alphonso Davies