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Led by PSV playmaker Cody Gakpo, the Netherlands rose to the occasion and added a much-deserved 6-1 victory over hosts Hungary at the European Under-21 Championship. After two disappointing draws, the Dutch junior side grabbed their last chance to end at the top of Group A and earn a berth in the quarter-finals.
Throughout the first half of Tuesday’s do-or-die match at MOL Arena in Szekesfehervar, the guests in orange created a flurry of chances but often seemed too much in a hurry to score. They either found the post or the Hungarian goalkeeper in the way. Until four minutes before the break when Erwin van de Looi’s men launched a fast-paced counterattack through the centre in which man-of-the-match Cody Gakpo put his captain, Dani de Wit, in scoring position. As so often, De Wit didn’t fail in front of the goalkeeper.
Right after the start of the second period, the Netherlands were awarded a penalty after Gakpo was tripped in the box. Myron Boadu coolly converted. Ten minutes later, Gakpo himself extended the lead to three goals with a well-placed long-range effort.
After Hungary scored their consolation goal from the spot, it was Gakpo hitting the back of the net again in the 70 minute following a clever cross from Deyovaisio Zeefuik. Just minutes before the final whistle, Sven Botman’s header from six metres made it 5-1 before super-sub Brian Brobbey added a sixth goal.
The quarter-finals are part of the European Under-21 Championship knockout stage and will also take place in Hungary and Slovenia, from 31 May to 6 June 2021. The Netherlands will know tomorrow whether they will face Denmark, Russia or France.
Later in the evening, the senior team all but repeated the U21’s performance by trouncing Gibraltar 7-0 in their third World Cup qualifying Group E match. Here too, the Netherlands only scored one goal before the break (a curler by Steven Berghuis), despite at least a dozen good chances.
The guests were more productive against number 195 on the FIFA world ranking in the second half, with goals from Luuk de Jong (55'), Memphis Depay (61' and 88'), Giorginio Wijnaldum (62'), Donyell Malen (64') and Donny van de Beek (85').
“Frustrating”, is how Netherlands captain Giorginio Wijnaldum summed up the match. “It was pretty much the same story as against Latvia. We all felt disappointed and a bit angry, so during the break we had a good discussion in the dressing room and settled things straight in the second half. Of course, 7-0 is a fine result, but if you take the number of chances into account, we should have scored even more.”
Commenting on the surprise result in Turkey, where the group leaders failed to beat Latvia, Wijnaldum said: “Of course, that’s positive news, but we have to play our own game, look at ourselves and win all the remaining matches.”
Sadly, Daley Blind was carried off the pitch on a stretcher in the second half with what looked like a serious injury after he twisted his knee.
Before the match, Frank de Boer’s men entered the pitch wearing t-shirts with the slogan "football supports change" as part of their campaign to promote human rights in the run-up to next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
The latest news in Dutch about the Netherlands national team