Virgil van Dijk scored the winner as the Netherlands defeated Belgium 1-0 to win their Nations League group.
Roberto Martinez’s side needed to win by three goals to earn a place in the semi-final at the expense of their opponents but they created few chances and the Netherlands looked comfortable throughout.
The game was played at a friendly-like pace in the opening 45 minutes but after the break things did improve as Belgium upped their intensity.
Kevin De Bruyne pulled the strings in midfield creating the best chance for Amadou Onana but it was tipped wide excellently by Remko Pasveer.
However, the Netherlands broke the deadlock when Van Dijk headed in from a corner late on in the game to seal three points.
They nearly scored more but were denied by some Thibaut Cortious saves but Belgium then nearly rescued a draw when Dodi Lukebakio’s bicycle kick cannoned off the woodwork with the last kick of the match.
TALKING POINT – CONFIDENT LOOKING DUTCH
The team in orange have not lost since they crashed out of Euro 2020 with defeat to Czech Republic. Van Gaal has returned to the national team setup, his third spell in charge, and he has got them playing brilliantly. The truth is, tonight, in a slow paced game they rarely had to come out of a low gear. But, they knock the ball around with such confidence and have some fantastic technical players in their side with bundles of pace and trickery in attack. Defensively, they look strong and Van Dijk commands the back three really well.
There is a mix of youth and experience to the team – with a good draw in the World Cup facing Qatar, Senegla and Ecuador in Group A, perhaps they are ones to watch out for.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – REMKO PASVEER (NETHERLANDS)
Belgium only made him make one great save but Dutch keeper Remko Pasveer was brilliant. He commanded his box so well and his passing out from the back is fantastic. He is capable of playing eye of the needle passes that can beat the press and get his team moving up the pitch – it’s stuff a creative midfielder would be proud of. Pasveer recently got promoted to be Ajax’s No.1 and now he is his national team’s No.1 all at the age of 38 proving keepers get better with age.
Netherlands: Pasveer 8, Timber 7, Van Dijk 8, Ake 7, Dumfries 7, De Roon 6, Berghuis 6, Blind 6, Klaassen 6, Bergwijn 7, Jannsen 6. Subs: Gakpo 7, Taylor 6, Malacia 6, De Vrij 6, Gravenberch 6
Belgium: Courtois 8, Debast 5, Alderweireld 6, Vertonghen 6, Meunier 5, Onana 7, Witsel 6, Castagne 5, De Bruyne 7, Hazard 6, Batshuayi 5. Subs: De Ketelaere 6, Carrasco 6, Trossard 6, Tielemans 6, Lukebakio 6.
68’ – SAVE (PASVEER) – Exceptional by De Bruyne – he plays an-inch perfect ball into the box to the back post where Onana waits. He sticks out a leg and it looks to be going in but Pasveer flies across the goal to tip wide. A great save after a great pass and vision by De Bruyne.
73′ – GOAL (VAN DIJK) – That is Holland topping the group. Gakpo crosses from a corner – Van Dijk escapes Debast’s marking and heads it down into the net from close range. It’s a simple header from the Liverpool man.
90+5′ – CHANCE (LUKEBAKIO) – Lukebakio with the last kick of the game tries a bicycle kick and it comes off the crossbar. That would’ve been sensational.