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The Netherlands are back on track after their strong showing in their second triple header in just over a month. Following an impressive home draw in a friendly with Spain, Frank de Boer’s men recorded a convincing 3-1 Nations League victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina before beating Poland in Chorzow by 2-1.
The week started with a prestige encounter with Spain, number six in the FIFA world rankings and a force to be reckoned with. In the absence of their captain Virgil van Dijk, the Netherlands put up some strong opposition, holding the Red Fury to a one-all draw. Scoring the equaliser for the injury-ridden hosts after the break was Donny van de Beek. His powerful strike cancelled out Sergio Canales' opener in the first half.
Spain were the dominant side, but the Netherlands displayed signs of their former brilliance. The result was of course very welcome, boosting Dutch confidence after a disappointing previous triple-header. But also with a view to the draw for the World Cup 2022 qualifying series. This will be held on Monday, December 7 in Zurich. The ten highest-ranking European countries in the FIFA ranking will be in pot 1. They will be the group leaders in the tournament in Qatar.
The draw with Spain earned the Netherlands some vital points, their subsequent home victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina did the rest, securing pot 1. The men in orange were impressive in Sunday’s Nations League encounter. “We certainly started off well in the first half,” admitted skipper Georginio Wijnaldum, who netted a double in the first 15 minutes. “Unfortunately, we became a bit sloppy after the break. Perhaps we were too eager to attack, conceding more space to the opponent.” But overall, the entire squad were pleased to have shown strong attacking team play coupled with scoring power.
“Relieved? I would not call it that, but this is of course very pleasant,” Frank de Boer told Dutch reporters after the match. The nice thing is that we have seen today that this team has many possibilities. Of course, consistency is what we’re aiming at, but we can vary a lot with this team. For a manager that is only beautiful.”
The 3-1 win over Bosnia put the Netherlands on top of Group A, but only briefly. Italy took over top position a few hours later, beating the third rival, Poland, comfortably by 2-0. Only the side finishing top of the Nation League groups qualify for the Final Four play-offs. This meant the Netherlands needed nothing less than a victory in Poland on Wednesday to retain their chances of proceeding to the finals. And they needed Italy to drop some points in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In the end, both the Netherlands and Italy did what they needed to do. The Oranje secured a hard-fought 2-1 victory in Chorzow and the Azzurri reached the Final Four by beating Bosnia 2-0.
Nonetheless, Frank de Boer was pleased with his team’s performance and the second win in a row. “I saw many positive things today: we created a few dozen scoring opportunities and we all knew that some of these chances would be converted at some stage. It was a shame that we weren’t alert in the opening minutes, allowing Poland to score an early goal. But I’m happy that we managed to turn the game in the second half [with a Memphis penalty and a Wijnaldum header, ed]. We remained confident and kept believing in our ability to score. We deserved this win, we worked hard for it.”