The Netherlands clinched their place at the Euro 2024 football tournament with a scrappy, disjointed win against the Republic of Ireland in Amsterdam.
Wout Weghorst gave Oranje an early lead when he was allowed to run clear on the right-hand side and smash a high shot past Gavin Bazunu after 11 minutes.
But the Dutch were unable to take advantage as their front line of Weghorst, Cody Gakpo and Xavi Simons struggled to find a common wavelength.
Captain Virgil van Dijk said the players could be proud of themselves despite the narrow margin of victory. “For all the problems and injuries we’ve had, we’ve made it to the European Championships and we fought hard as a team to get there,” he told NOS.
The biggest threat in the first half came from midfielder Tijjani Reijnders, showing the form that has made him a first-choice player for AC Milan since his summer transfer from AZ Alkmaar.
Oranje showed more purpose at the start of the second half as right-back Denzel Dumfries pushed forward to bolster the attack.
Simons and Weghorst both saw close-range efforts saved, before Reijnders tested Bazunu with a low drive that the goalkeeper pushed against the post.
Ireland had posed little threat to Bart Verbruggen’s goal, but the Dutch had a scare after an hour when a shot by substitute Adam Idah slipped through Verbruggen’s fingers and over the goal-line. However, replays showed the Norwich City striker was just offside when he collected the ball deep in the Dutch half.
Weghorst found Gakpo with a deep pass to the edge of the area, but the striker’s lay-off to Dumfries was just too heavy, before Reijnders narrowly failed to connect with a cross by Gakpo.
Substitute Donyell Malen had a chance to seal the win in injury time when Weghorst sent him clear, but Bazunu rushed out of his goal to snatch the ball off Malen’s toes.
The Dutch will conclude their qualifying campaign on Tuesday evening with an away match in Portugal against Gibraltar, who lost 14-0 to France in the other match in Group B.
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