Jeremie Frimpong is taking his chance with the Netherlands – he’s going to be fun at Euros

For a warm-up game with supposedly little riding on it other than, well, warming up for the upcoming tournaments (the Euros for the Netherlands and a first Copa America for Canada), the second meeting of these two nations on a football field had a few narratives to keep an eye on.

Would new head coach Jesse Marsch give Canada wings and stun the Dutch with some Red Bull-style brilliance? A 4-0 defeat would suggest no.

Would Ajax forward Brian Brobbey answer criticism from his manager Ronald Koeman about his lack of finishing prowess by scoring when one-on-one with the goalkeeper? Nope.

And who would win the Bundesliga battle of Bayer Leverkusen’s 23-year-old pacey, athletic, attack-minded right-sided attacker Jeremie Frimpong versus Bayern Munich’s 23-year-old pacey, athletic, attack-minded left-sided defender Alphonso Davies?

As per the rest of 2023-24, it was another win for Leverkusen, but the manner of this individual victory was surprising in how utterly resounding it was.

Frimpong scored one goal, made another and was the standout performer, no mean feat when you consider that it was just his third cap, he was in a more advanced role than he has been used to playing for his club and he was up against, by some distance, Canada’s star player.

Bayern’s Davies, captaining Canada for the first time, endured a difficult night; the Netherlands’ first three goals all came from his side and, while he was left isolated with little cover, some of his attempts to stop crosses from Frimpong or his replacement, another Bundesliga forward in Borussia Dortmund’s Donyell Malen, were pretty meagre.

Frimpong took full advantage, whipping over a cross for Memphis Depay to turn in for the Netherlands’ opening goal, with Davies doing a Liam Gallagher impression with his hands behind his back.

For the second goal, Frimpong leapt clear of Davies from a simple Depay pass through the middle of the defence; Davies did brilliantly to race back and block the cross this time, but Frimpong merely curled the loose ball first-time into the far corner from a tight angle.

It was an instinctive finish that Frimpong did not have time to think about or dwell or, which probably helped, given he told The Athletic last month that composure hasn’t always been his strong suit in front of goal.

“In a sense, I’d get too excited,” he said. “Because I was coming from deep, I’d run all that way and be like… ‘I’m here now!’ and just have no control. So, sometimes I’d run into offside positions or make a bad decision.”

Talking of bad decisions, many Dutch fans feel that Koeman had been wrong to ignore Frimpong up until now.

This was only his second start for his country and it comes off the back of a stellar season of 14 goals (the first time he has reached double figures) and 12 assists in all competitions for Leverkusen, who won the Bundesliga and the German Cup and were only denied an unprecedented unbeaten treble by losing the Europa League final to Atalanta.

Koeman has made him wait. But while the Dutch were one-paced and ponderous for most of the first half in Rotterdam against a Canada side keen to make an impression under their new manager, Frimpong was buoyant, frisky and crowd-pleasing. He was one-paced too, but that pace was turbo.


Frimpong gave new Canada captain Davies a difficult night (Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

It was thought that, given he played the majority of last season at right wing-back, Frimpong was most likely battling Inter Milan’s fellow rampaging wing/full-back Denzel Dumfries (also 23) for a place in the Dutch XI at the Euros. Koeman utilised Frimpong as a right forward here — and the resulting man of the match performance — throws a curveball into the mix.

“Yes, he certainly stood out,” Koeman said. “He has of course played fairly deep on the right side (for Leverkusen). It is so important that you are good against a left back (Davies) who is also of a good level.

“He has played the way he plays at his club. I am happy for him. He has the action, the speed  He scores a goal and gives a great cross for Memphis’ goal. I cannot demand or ask more from Jeremie.”

With a reported release clause of around £35 million, a number of Europe’s top clubs will surely be looking at the possibility of signing Frimpong this summer. He is not a refined, finished product yet and his finishing and final ball still need improvement, but his versatility — Xabi Alonso has shifted him around including in a slightly more central role — and his obvious strengths of pace, flair and aggressive intent are attractive.

A year ago Frimpong upset Koeman by turning down the chance to play in the Under-21 Euros, after a long season which included the World Cup in Qatar, where he did not play a minute, and was not called up for the senior side last June. “Not good, I don’t think that’s OK. If a player thinks he’s gone beyond that level, you’re making the wrong decision.”

Twelve months later the damage looks to have been repaired and Frimpong will be at this edition of the Euros.

With his pace, his flair, but mostly via his boundless, unchecked enthusiasm, like a whippet chasing a ball around a park, he is fun to watch.

It was only a warm-up game against Canada, but Frimpong could be putting smiles on plenty of faces in Germany this summer.

(Top photo: Frimpong celebrates his goal with Memphis Depay. Andre Weening/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

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