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Latest Football News – The weakness of their match in Northern Ireland (0-0), Saturday at the 9th day, does not detract from the overall performance: the Netherlands will make their return to the Euro after a controlled campaign.
Do not trust this game. Jousted by opportunistic North-Irish who fail to be better, the Netherlands, absent from Euro 2016 and the World Cup 2018, wavered until the final whistle, Saturday in Belfast (0-0). But the Oranje have earned a point synonymous with qualifying for the next European Championship, after a meeting that does not reflect their campaign.
Their qualification could have taken off when a penalty kick was whistled at the half-hour mark in favor of their hosts. It was finally the ball that ended in the clouds, with the unintentional help of Captain Steven Davis. “Luckily they miss the penalty,” said Dutch coach Ronald Koeman at the end of the match. Same feeling of relief from Captain Virgil van Dijk, for whom “we could talk for hours, but we go to the Euro”.
The end would it have awarded the means for the Dutch? The judgment seems too severe, given the road traveled to this happy epilogue. In a group C including Germany, World Champion 2014, and Northern Ireland, the Oranje can boast an almost perfect record.
Defeated 3-2 at home by the “Mannschaft” in March, they gave change to the Germans by going to win in Hamburg, on the other side, at the beginning of September (4-2). Better: while awaiting the reception of Estonia, on Tuesday for the last day of qualifications, the Netherlands have not abandoned any point en route against the “small” group, namely the Baltics and Belarus.
“We are again a difficult team to beat,” Daley Blind garbed in Algemeen Dagblad (AD). The Ajax defender from Amsterdam knows what he is talking about, he who participated in the last big competition played by the Netherlands. In 2014, he was part of the Netherlands beaten on penalties by Argentina, in the semifinals of the World Cup.
A time apart
More recently, his team-mate Quincy Promes also salutes, in the same newspaper, “a team coming back from a distance”. And to add: “I think we are displaying a larger unit than before.” In the country of Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus of Turin), Frenkie de Jong (FC Barcelona) and Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), it is not the individual talents that are missing. It remained for Ronald Koeman to find the martingale for the collective score to sound just right.
From June, the Dutch are showing their ambition to return to the forefront by reaching the final of the first League of Nations (1-0 defeat against Portugal). But caution is still needed, because in the race to Euro 2020, Northern Ireland is six points ahead of the Netherlands (it will even carry its ascendancy to nine units on June 11, after having disputed all his matches against Estonia and Belarus.
The viaticum of the green and white, partially due to a favorable schedule at the beginning of qualifications, will finally melt in two small months. Between September and October, the Netherlands line up four straight victories, while the counter of their opponents remains blocked at 12 units.
After the draw on Saturday, the Koeman band is three points clear of Northern Ireland (16 against 13). Now that the ticket for the Euro is composted, she even allows herself to look higher.
“If Northern Ireland plays as it did against us …”
“We want to finish first in the pool, it’s always possible,” said the Dutch coach on Saturday. Germany are two points ahead of the Netherlands before the last day on Tuesday. “I do not think she will easily triumph over Northern Ireland, if she plays as she did against us,” Koeman maliciously assured the microphone of AD reporters.
He and his team will end a scarcity of six years at the Euro. They have seven months to take up a more ambitious challenge: to raise again the continental trophy, the only title won by the Oranje, in 1988.