Euro 2020: Holland boss Frank de Boer has a huge call to make over who should partner Memphis Depay

The towering target man or exciting, ex-Arsenal alternative? Wout Weghorst or Donyell Malen?

Frank de Boer’s main calls have paid off so far during the Euros but the one he has to make over who partners Memphis Depay could now be defining, with the tournament entering the knockout stage and stakes rising.

Weghorst started the first two games, scoring once, before Malen made his case with an eye-catching display in their last group game, a 3-0 victory against North Macedonia.

Donyell Malen is vying for a starting spot for Holland when they take on the Czech Republic

Malen has set up two goals during the tournament but is yet to score.

His performance, though, being involved in all three goals, was enough to increase the clamour and questions about whether it is now his time.

Former Dutch strikers Roy Makaay and Pierre van Hooijdonk are two supporting Malen’s claims. The choice is a welcome and intriguing dilemma for De Boer.

Both strikers enjoyed prolific seasons, Weghorst scoring 25 goals and setting up nine more in 41 games for Wolfsburg and Malen produced a similar tally – 27 goals and ten assists in 45 games – for PSV.

But both offer very different attributes. Weghorst is a 6ft 6in, traditional No 9 who occupies defenders, is strong in the air and most effective in the box.

For a long time De Boer was reluctant to pick him, preferring to instead keep faith with players he inherited such as Luuk de Jong – ruled out of the Euros with a knee injury this week – up front.

But Weghorst’s Wolfsburg form eventually left De Boer with no choice and proving his worth is nothing new to the 27 year-old.

But Malen has competition from fellow striker Wout Weghorst, who started the first two games

‘He was not so talented at the beginning but after training he worked for himself at the gym, on the pitch, getting stronger, getting better,’ explained Harm Hensens, team manager of Weghorst’s first professional club FC Emmen.

‘He would do a lot of free-kicks, go with another player after training and work on his passing. Everything to get better technique. It was his own idea.

‘All those young guys, normally they might go directly home but he wanted to work himself. It was good to see.’

Hensens could see the results of Weghorst’s work a few years later when he was at AZ Alkmaar who he joined in 2016 from Heracles.

Still, then AZ coach Arne Slot admits he did not see international quality in Weghorst.

‘But what he also showed then was that he always adapted to the level and got better every year,’ Slot told Voetbal International.

‘Wout now proves where dedication and doing your best every day can lead to. Many players think they can do a little less if the trainer isn’t looking. Wout has never had that. He is an exception.’

Both Malen and Weghorst offer something very different up top alongside Memphis Depay

Malen at one stage was considered an exceptional talent as a youngster and certainly one to watch at Arsenal.

He earned comparisons with Alexis Sanchez while at Ajax and Arsene Wenger invited him to lunch as part of the charm offensive to persuade him to join Arsenal in 2015.

But Malen eventually found himself behind the likes of Stephy Mavididi and Eddie Nketiah in the pecking order, left to join PSV in 2017 and has flourished since.

He is now wanted by Borussia Dortmund as a replacement for Manchester United-bound Jadon Sancho.

Malen, 22, is the more versatile option for De Boer, capable of playing anywhere across the frontline.

With his superior technical ability, speed, intelligent runs, ability to carry the ball and work outside the box the Dutch look a more exciting side with him in it.

Holland boss Frank de Boer has a very big call on his hands heading into the knockout stage

What would help De Boer make his mind up is if Depay had a better connection with one over the other. However despite their differences in character, extrovert Depay has struck up a good connection with the more introverted Weghorst on and off the pitch.

Meanwhile, the chemistry between Depay and Malen was clear against North Macedonia.

Dutch assistant Ruud van Nistelrooy said: ‘It’s a strength that we have that we have a 6ft 6in striker. Sometimes we need a striker like that for the hold-up play, for games with a lot of crosses or players can use to play around him.

‘Other games require more speed up front. Even phases of the game, the end phase or last 15 minute, what do you need? It’s great to have these options.’

De Boer’s answer to what the Dutch need from the start could go a long way to determining how their Euros campaign ends.

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