The Netherlands join England, Portugal and Switzerland in the finals of the UEFA Nations League after a last minute Virgil van Dijk strike secures a point in Germany, pipping the World Champions, France to the last remaining semi-final position.
The Netherlands made the finals of the UEFA Nations League by the skin of their skins after two late goals in the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen saw them snatch a point from Germany, edging out the World Champions, France with almost the last kick of the group.
It’s a solid shot to the arm of Dutch football, after the 2014 World Cup third-place finishers saw their reputation melt like butter on a hot stove after failing to qualify for the 2016 Euros in France and the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The Netherlands started the UEFA Nations League with a defeat against the World Champions France but gave themselves hope of qualification after beating Germany and France at home by 3-0 and 2-0 respectively.
It was nursery school math stuff.
A point for the Netherlands against Germany would send them through as group leaders, and a defeat would send France through. The Germans suffered the ignominy of relegation after losing to France in the previous tie.
It didn’t begin well for the Netherlands.
Joachim Löw’s team may have been relegated, but they still knew that a draw or defeat could end up with them dropping into the Euro 2020 second seed pot, and it showed, going two-nil up in the first half.
Tim Werner scored a delightful solo effort in the ninth minute when he beautifully controlled the ball on his chest before unleashing a half-volley past the despairing dive of Jasper Cillessen.
Germany went two ahead ten minutes later when a long ball from the back set Leroy Sané loose. The Man City star initially miscontrolled the ball and was soon surrounded by four Dutch defenders, before he swivelled and shot with his left peg. The ball took a slight deflection off a Dutch shin, and it was enough to send the ball past Cillessen, giving Germany a stranglehold on the game.
With the Netherlands pouring forward in the hope of pulling one back, Germany always looked dangerous on the break, no more so than the 61st minute when Serge Gnabry put Werner through on goal only for him to drag his left-footed shot wide of the post.
Then came the revolution.
It began in the 77th minute when Memphis Depay took on every German player from midfield through to defence before forcing a save from Manuel Neuer.
Then, in the 85th minute Quincy Promes received the ball on the edge of the box, and without hardly any backlift, stunned Neuer with a powerful shot and goal.
The Dutch poured forward like crabs unleashed on a hairy man’s chest, and as the game ebbed into injury time, Virgil van Dijk found space at the far stick, and after the ball fell to him off the head of a German defender, the Dutch captain volleyed home the winner.
The Netherlands has now gone four matches without defeat since losing to France in the UEFA Nations League opener, and they join England, Switzerland and Portugal in the finals.
The Germans have not won a competitive match since beating Sweden at the World Cup in Russia, and if Poland beat Portugal on Tuesday night, they will drop into the second seedings for the 2020 Euros draw.
Group A1 Final Table
1. Netherlands – 7
2. France – 7
3. Germany – 2
UEFA Nations League Odds
The finals take place in Portugal.
Here are the dates.
5 June – Semi Final
6 June – Semi Final
9 June – Third Place Playoff
9 June – Final
The knockout stages will take place at the Estádio do Dragão in Porto, and Estádio D. Afonso Henriques in Guimarães. The draw takes place in Dublin at 14:30 (CET) Monday 3 December.