The Netherlands have kept their hopes of qualifying for next year’s European Championship alive by defeating Germany in Hamburg 4-2 on Friday, followed by a comfortable 4-0 win over Estonia on Monday.
"The team is shaping up nicely and so is our game, which is showing more and more automatic patters," Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman told reporters after the match in Talinn. He singled out Ryan Babel, who scored two of the four goals, for particular praise: "I know Ryan as a great professional. I know how fit he is and what he can bring to the game. He has proven this week that he can still make a difference."
In Koeman's view, both victories were well-deserved, although the first half in both matches could have been better: "by putting up the pressure, we sometimes gave away space for counter-attacks." All in all, the Netherlands manager was pleased to see that the substitutions he made on Friday and Monday had the desired effect.
Six points out of three games, a maximum score to put the Netherlands firmly back in the running in qualifying Group C.
Friday's match in Hamburg had been particularly impressive. It was spectacular see-saw match in which the Dutch came from behind in a sensational second half to secure victory over their main Group C rivals with two late goals.
“We made more of an effort to win than our opponents," Koeman concluded on Friday. "Once again, this team showed remarkable resilience”.
The Netherlands manager admitted that Germany, which had taken the lead an early Serge Gnabry goal, were the better side during the first half. But the guests came back after two substitutions following the break with a wonderful finish by Frenkie de Jong and a Jonathan Tah own-goal.
Not much later, Germany levelled proceedings with a controversial penalty converted by Toni Kroos before one of the substitutes, PSV Eindhoven debutant Donyell Malen, struck 11 minutes from time to give the Dutch another lead. At the end of regular playing time, Memphis Depay teed up Georginio Wijnaldum to make sure of the points.
Germany now lead qualifying Group C with 12 points out of five matches, above Northern Ireland on goal difference, followed by the Netherlands, who have a game in hand, with nine points. The Oranje's next game will be against Northern Ireland in Rotterdam on 10 October. "We can then make a major step towards qualification," Koeman said.