The Netherlands have kicked off their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a resounding victory over Belarus. Ronald Koeman’s men defeated the East Europeans 4-0 in their first Group C match.
The home side lived up to expectations, keeping up their good form again after the winter break, following their hard-fought qualification for the Nations League semi-final. The Dutch left Belarus, placed 78th on FIFA's World Ranking, little chance.
Memphis Depay gave the hosts the lead inside the first minute, the fastest opening goal for the Netherlands since March 2005 when Phillip Cocu scored against Romania after just 38 seconds.
Twenty minutes later, Memphis set up the second goal by sending a cross for Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum to sweep home. And in the 55th minute, it was Memphis again, this time converting a penalty after a foul by Sivakov: 3-0.
The Dutch suffered a setback on 70 minutes when the third substitute, Kenny Tete, hobbled off the pitch with hamstring trouble. His night was over after no more than 40 seconds, forcing the Netherlands to play the final 20 minutes with 10 men in a 4-4-1 formation. It didn’t change the game much, although Belarus gained more possession and got their first shot on goal in the 77th minute.
Memphis picked up where he left off, sending a cross for captain Virgil van Dijk to nod home from close range. The 4-0 victory was a suitable birthday present for manager Ronald Koeman, who may be slightly worried about the number of injuries after this match.
The next opponent, Germany, will be tougher to beat on Sunday. Die Mannschaft will be seeking to rectify their poor performance against the Dutch in last autumn’s Nations League qualifiers. The first of the two matches, in October, ended in a 3-0 defeat followed by a 2-2 home draw a month later. Ceremonies will be held at Sunday’s match in the Johan Cruijff ArenA in Amsterdam to mark the third anniversary of the death of the Dutch football icon who gave his name to the stadium.
Netherlands: Cillessen; Dumfries, De Ligt, Van Dijk (c), Blind; Wijnaldum, De Roon, F De Jong; Bergwijn, Depay, Babel.
Belarus: Gorbunov; Shitov, Martynovich (c), Sivakov, Polyakov; Maevski, Dragun; Putilo, Kovalev, Stasevich; Signevich.