Wout Weghorst divides opinion, but against Poland he proved he can be a vital asset off the bench for the Netherlands at Euro 2024. OptaJohan takes a look at the big striker’s impact.

The Dutch national team almost had a false start to Euro 2024, but Wout Weghorst came to the rescue. His goal in the 83rd minute against Poland meant the Netherlands won a European Championship game in which they conceded the opening goal for just the third time in tournament history. With Weghorst, Ronald Koeman has the perfect super sub in his squad.

Weghorst may be the most polarising footballer of recent years, at least in the Netherlands. Many people appreciate his work ethic and dedication, while others find his behaviour theatrical and don’t want him anywhere near the national team. To highlight his unique approach to the game, he told the Dutch press after the Poland match that he had “visualised himself scoring the winning goal” that morning.

The 31-year-old keeps proving his doubters wrong with his impact on the pitch, scoring seven goals in his last 11 matches for the Netherlands. Despite those impressive numbers, Ronald Koeman made it clear that Weghorst wouldn’t be his starting striker, but rather one of the ‘finishers’ on the Dutch bench. It’s the perfect role for the 6-foot-6 attacker.

Weghorst international goals last 11 games

As in the recent friendlies against Canada and Iceland, Weghorst entered the field against Poland from the bench and didn’t need much time to make an impact – just two minutes and 18 seconds, and one touch, to be precise. Against Canada, he needed just a minute and two seconds to find the net, while against Iceland, he scored within nine minutes of coming on.

Weghorst is the second player to ever play in three consecutive games for the Netherlands as a substitute and find the net in every single one, after Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink in 2007-2008 (also 3). Those goals brought his total tally for the Netherlands to 12 in 34 games, with seven of those coming off the bench. Only Pierre van Hooijdonk (10) and Klaas Jan Huntelaar (8) have scored more goals as a substitute for the Dutch national team.

Most goals as sub Netherlands

Koeman was a strong advocate for a 26-man squad at the Euros. One of the biggest benefits of a larger squad is the variety of options a manager can utilise. That’s why Koeman frequently talks about his ‘starters’ and ‘finishers’. With Donyell Malen, Jeremie Frimpong, Joshua Zirkzee, and Weghorst, the former Barcelona manager has significant firepower to bring off the bench.

His bench players have already proved their worth for the Netherlands this calendar year, with seven of their 15 goals scored in 2024 coming from substitutes (Weghorst 4, Malen 2, and Virgil van Dijk 1). The Netherlands have scored via a substitute in each of their last three games, the longest run for the team since March-May 2016 (also 3); the Oranje have never managed to score via a sub in four consecutive games.

However, perhaps the best Dutch super sub stayed at home for this tournament. Luuk de Jong announced his retirement from the national team in March 2022, but after an outstanding season with PSV, there were numerous calls for his return for this European Championship. He scored 38 goals in 48 games across all competitions (averaging a goal every 104 minutes), compared to Weghorst’s seven goals in 30 games (a goal every 310 minutes). Despite even Koeman personally calling De Jong to ask him to return, the striker stayed home and Weghorst joined the squad.

In Weghorst, though, the Netherlands have a player who thrives on the big stage and isn’t afraid of pressure. Nobody has scored more goals for the Dutch in the last three major tournaments than Weghorst (4 – along with Cody Gakpo), including two memorable goals against Argentina in the 2022 World Cup. He needed only 263 minutes and eight shots for those four goals, with three of those coming as a substitute. He has now scored more goals from the bench in major tournaments than any other Netherlands player.

Weghorst record at major tournaments

Due to his short stints in games and scoring in almost all of them, Weghorst averages just 108 minutes per goal for the national team. This efficiency ranks him higher than legendary Dutch strikers such as all-time top scorer Robin van Persie (147 minutes per goal, 50 goals) and Ruud van Nistelrooy (130 minutes per goal, 35 goals).

Over the last 50 years, only three players with 1,000+ minutes for the Netherlands have needed fewer minutes per goal; Van Hooijdonk (91 minutes per goal, 14 goals), Ruud Geels (101 minutes per goal, 11 goals), and Huntelaar (104 minutes per goal, 42 goals).

Fewest mins per goal Netherlands

Despite his heroic role against Poland, Weghorst most likely won’t start in the second Group D match against France either. However, the striker could still make a significant impact from the bench, and if he scores again, he will become the first player to score in four consecutive games for the Netherlands since Steven Bergwijn (4 in November 2021-June 2022).

Beyond his goals, Weghorst brings tremendous energy. In the few minutes he played against Poland, Weghorst applied 21 pressures, with 20 of those coming in the opposition’s half – almost the same number of pressures in the opposition’s half as starter Gakpo (22).

Weghorst pressures v Poland

Wout Weghorst may divide opinion, but he is the kind of option every country wants – or maybe even needs – to win the European Championship.

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