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The Netherlands consolidated their lead in World Cup qualifying Group G by beating Latvia by the narrowest of margins on Friday night. Their main rivals, Norway, were held to a one-all draw in Turkey.
This was not an easy match, Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk conceded after the match. “We knew in advance that Latvia would be a tough opponent. They have a strong fighting spirit and never give up, putting their cards on a quick counter attack. We dominated the game, scored relatively early and had sufficient opportunities to extend our lead but ultimately needed a brilliant last-minute save by our goalkeeper to bring home this 1-0 victory.”
It was a cold night in Riga, where the Daugava National Stadium, with a capacity of 10,500, was only half filled. Ten percent of the crowd were orange-clad and had travelled all the way to the Baltics to watch their heroes take on the number 135 on the FIFA world rankings.
As expected, the Dutch took immediate control of the match, creating a handful of solid chances in the first half. One of them came from a Memphis Depay corner and was deftly converted by Davy Klaassen in the 19th minute. It would remain the only goal for the guests despite their 75 percent possession and another half a dozen good opportunities in the second half. Latvia could have equalised in extra time, but a wonderful save by Justin Bijlow prevented what would have amounted to an unnecessary spillage of points.
The result counts, Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal told Dutch reporters with a smile. “It’s always tough to play Baltic nations and find some space in between their double defence lines. You need a creative spirit to break through this wall and you could say we lacked that tonight.”
Nonetheless, Van Gaal praised his squad’s commitment and overall performance. “Sure, we gave away some chances, but that was mainly because of the mistakes we made. Personal mistakes are hard to avoid. We could have won 4-0, 6-1 or even 2-1. In the end, we needed only one goal to emerge victorious. And this victory has proved to be very important, particularly given the draw between Norway and Turkey.”
The Netherlands’ next match will be against bottom-of-the-group Gibraltar on Monday night. After that, there will only be two more qualifies to go. These will be played in mid-November.
The latest news in Dutch about the Netherlands national team