Poland 1-2 Netherlands: Late Weghorst strike earns perfect start

Goalscorer Cody Gakpo outpaces two Polish defenders in the first half. Photo: AFP/Gabriel Bouys via ANP

A late strike by Wout Weghorst within minutes of coming on as a substitute ensured the Netherlands got off to a winning start in their Euro 2024 campaign against Poland.

Poland took an early lead against the run of play through Adam Buksa, but Cody Gakpo’s deflected shot meant the teams went into the break all square.

The match looked to be heading for a draw as Oranje struggled to prise open a tight Polish defence. But the arrival of Weghorst and the quicksilver Jeremie Frimpong with 11 minutes to play paid almost immediate dividends as Weghorst pounced from close range in the 83rd minute.

Goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen made two important saves in the dying minutes as the enterprising Poles, who were without veteran striker Robert Lewandowski, tested the Netherlands’ defence to the limit.

“It’s a dream scenario for me personally,” Weghorst told NOS. “We had a good feeling in the squad and it’s so important for us to hold on to that feeling. The absolute goal is to win the trophy together.”


Head coach Ronald Koeman said he was pleased with his team’s performance overall even though they struggled to impose themselves in the second half.

“We played very good football for an hour and created a lot of chances,” he said. “We went behind from a set piece, which was a bad moment from a defensive point of view, but from a footballing point of view I thought we were great for the first hour.

“You could see towards the end of the game that it was getting very difficult for us, but I still felt we would get the second goal. It was hard-fought in the end, but more than deserved.”

Koeman singled out Weghorst for praise after the Burnley striker scored another crucial goal to go with his brace against Argentina in the last World Cup and the strike that secured qualification against Ireland in November.

“Wout has a history of being important for us and scoring winning goals,” Koeman said. “He’s a different type of player, physically strong and more aggressive and I think that’s what we needed in the team at that point.”

No surprises

There were no surprises in Koeman’s starting line-up, with Stefan de Vrij preferred to Matthijs de Ligt in central defence alongside Virgil van Dijk and a front line of Cody Gakpo, Memphis Depay and Xavi Simons.

The Dutch made a bright start, with Gakpo and Tijjani Reijnders both missing good chances in the first 10 minutes.

But it was Poland who struck first when Buksa outjumped Denzel Dumfries to head in a corner after 15 minutes, raising questions about Dutch vulnerability at set-pieces.

Van Dijk went close to equalising four minutes later when his header from a corner was well saved by Wojciech Szczęsny. Shortly afterwards Depay blasted over from a good position as Oranje continued to dominate.

The equaliser had a stroke of good fortune about it as Gakpo’s shot from outside the penalty area took a deflection off the leg of Bartosz Salamon that left Szczęsny stranded.

Depay had a golden opportunity to put Oranje in front on the stroke of half-time when he took down Natan Aké’s deep pass perfectly, only to drag his shot narrowly wide from a tight angle.

Poland confident

The second half began with the Dutch continuing to camp out in Poland’s half, but their opponents turned the match around the hour mark, with Jakub Kiwior drawing a good save from Verbruggen.

Koeman rang the changes as Oranje struggled to break down an increasingly confident Polish side, bringing on first Georginio Wijnaldum and Donyell Malen and then Frimpong and Weghorst to boost the attack.

And it was Weghorst who made the difference when he cut in front of the Polish defence to smash Wijnaldum’s cutback past Szczęsny from 10 metres out.

The Netherlands’ next match is against World Cup runners-up France on Friday, while Poland take on Austria earlier in the day.

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