A goal born in the boots of Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong and a goal from Sevilla’s Luuk de Jong gave the Netherlands the victory this Saturday 2-0 against Latvia that was limited to locking themselves in their own field.
The match was a veritable monologue for the Dutch, who dominated ball possession 75% of the time and fired 37 shots, eleven of them between the three sticks. The scoreboard could be much more bulky if it were not for the good performance of goalkeeper Roberts Ozols and, above all, for the lack of aim of the locals.
The Netherlands coach, Frank de Boer, needed like the air a victory that would erase the bad memory of the defeat of three days ago against Turkey (4-2). He finished the night with his homework done and, at the same time, with a bittersweet taste, as a higher-level team would not have forgiven so many mistakes in attack.
The party promised, to begin with, by the return of the public. Some 5,000 spectators were able to enter the Johan Cruyff Arena on condition that they showed a negative test for covid-19. They will have to undergo another test next week in order to assess the spread of infections in a football stadium.
On the other hand, it was the first World Cup qualifying match refereed by a woman, the French Stéphanie Frappart, who was also the pioneer in directing a Champions League match, in December last year, between Juventus and Dynamo Kiev .
Frank de Boer introduced changes from the Istanbul game, leaving De Roon and Malen on the bench and replacing Davy Klaassen and Luuk de Jong.
The first part was a real abuse of the “Clockwork Orange”, with Latvia putting a wall of men in defense. The visitors barely got close to Tim Krul’s goal, past an isolated shot from Ikaunieks. Unlike the duel against the Ottomans, the Dutch this time did not miss the injured Virgil van Dijk.
Memphis Depay was as willful as he was unsuccessful. At the start of the match, he kicked on goal four times in an eight-minute interval, all without success. Then Wijnaldum scrambled into the area’s crescent and fired from underneath, but the ball hit the Latvian players’ legs as if the grass had been turned into a pinball table.
Latvia’s left wing was a strainer. Berghuis entered the baseline as if at home, putting the ball into the small area in search of a friendly head. In one of those, Klasseen managed to bypass the goalkeeper, smashed his shot off the crossbar and the Latvian defense cleared as best they could.
The first goal fell under its own weight in the 32nd minute, in a play that was born in the boots of Frenkie de Jong. The Barcelona player, the best of the “Clockwork Orange”, advanced from his field to the vicinity of the opposing area, gave it to Klaassen and the latter to Steven Berghuis, who placed it as a screw in the Latvian goal square.
Despite the goal, Latvia remained entrenched in its area and the premises in a harassment and demolition mode. Luuk de Jong, in the 40th, crashed a header off the crossbar.
Latvia coach Dainis Kazakevics removed center forward Uldrikis, who had no chance to do anything, at halftime, and replaced Gutkovskis, who also did not improve his teammate’s performance. Both were an island disconnected from the rest of the team.
The second part was similar to the first, although with a point less intensity. Depay and Wijnaldum kept trying without luck, and when the ball went to goal there was the goalkeeper Ozols.
The second and final goal came from a corner kick thrown by Depay. Luuk de Jong got rid of his defense and made a header to the goal line that the goalkeeper’s leg missed.
The meeting from there was a formality. Ciganiks had Krul work on a counterattack, Latvia’s most dangerous play of the entire match, and both coaches introduced a merry-go-round of changes. The most prominent, the replacement of Wijnaldum in place of Donny van de Beek, who has barely enjoyed minutes at Manchester United and has just come out of injury.