The Netherlands suffered a 3-2 defeat to a resurgent Germany in Amsterdam on Sunday in their second Euro 2020 qualifier. The classic clash between the two rivals provided a reality check for the Oranje, who have staged a remarkable comeback in the past year.
Seeking revenge for last autumn’s 3-0 Nations League defeat in the same stadium, Die Mannschaft got off to a bright start, dominating proceedings in the opening ten minutes. Germany’s mercurial strikers Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané tested the Dutch defence line, including goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen.
The visitors looked a lot sharper, gaining more possession as a result and eventually taking the lead on 14 minutes when Sané hammered home from a fine cross from Nico Schulz after an unfortunate slip by Matthijs de Ligt.
The hosts responded with two Ryan Babel strikes from close range, forcing Manuel Neuer to as many outstanding saves. Germany proved to be far more clinical in their finishing, evidenced by their second goal on 34 minutes, a curling strike into the top corner from Gnabry after a precision pass from Antonio Rüdiger.
Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman used the halftime break to set matters straight. With Steven Bergwijn replacing Ryan Babel, the Oranje showed much more inspiration at the start of the second half. In the 47th minute, centre-back De Ligt popped up on the edge of the six-yard box to nod home a cross from Memphis Depay and repair his mistake in the build-up to the first Germany goal.
The Dutch ratcheted up the pressure and Memphis levelled proceedings 15 minutes later. From inside the box, he placed the ball away from Neuer into the bottom corner after being teed up by Georginio Wijnaldum.
The hosts were close to scoring the winner on several occasions, but the decider came on the other side with just two minutes to go before the final whistle when Schulz netted a fine pass from substitute Marco Reus. A bitter pill for the Oranje who dominated most of the second half, until those fateful last minutes. Now, the Oranje will be seeking their revenge in the next qualifier; the return match in Germany on 6 September.
“The first half was simply not good enough,” captain Virgil van Dijk told reporters after the match. “I think we deserved one point after a solid second half in which we didn’t allow Germany to play their game. But the result shows that we’re not there yet; we'll have to work hard, because there’s still a long way to go.”
Prior to Sunday’s match in the Johan Cruijff ArenA, highlights were shown of the impressive career of the man who gave his name to the stadium, marking the third anniversary of his passing. The Dutch football legend led Ajax, Barcelona and the Netherlands national side to European and international elite status in the sport.
This was the Oranje’s 800th encounter; their first international math, away against neighbouring Belgium in 1905, ended in a 4-1 victory with all Dutch goals by Eddy de Neve.
Netherlands: Cillessen; Dumfries, De Ligt, Van Dijk, Blind; De Roon, Wijnaldum, De Jong; Promes, Babel, Depay.
Germany: Neuer; Ginter, Süle, Rüdiger; Kehrer, Kimmich, Kroos, Schulz; Gnabry, Goretzka, Sané.