It was far from a convincing performance, but with a 0-0 draw against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park on Saturday, the Netherlands clinched a major tournament berth for the first time since the 2014 World Cup and a first EURO since 2012.
Needing a sole point to qualify for next summer’s big-stage European competition, Ronald Koeman and company clinched wit luck and tight, defensive work on their side. Throughout the final 45 minutes, the Northern Ireland’s possession of the ball was a mere 29 percent, while recording a lone shot off target.
A big reason for the defensive solidity was contingent on the Netherland’s center back tandem composed of Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk and Juventus’ Matthijs de Ligt. The two defenders combined for three clearances, one blocked shot, one tackle and eight ariels won.
With the attack lacking in the finishing department despite accumulating 14 shots (three on target), the 28-year-old captain recognizes it was a tough, yet meaningful game for the team and for all of Netherlands, who failed to qualify for the 2016 EURO and 2018 World Cup.
“It was a tough game,” van Dijk said. “Unlucky for him (Davis), good for us! The lads are very happy in the dressing room. We’re back at a major tournament. It means a lot for us as players. Hopefully it means so much to the Dutch people.”
“We have to make sure we prepare very well for a big tournament,” he added. “We missed the last two. We want to perform well.”
With one game left against Estonia midweek, the Netherlands trails Group C leaders, Germany, by two points. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, qualified for the playoff round, with their opponent still to be determined.