Uefa Nations League: Netherlands' revival under Ronald Koeman could cost Germany dearly

Dutchmen's victory on Monday could push already relegated Germany out of top seedings for Euro 2020 qualifying

epa07171458 utch national soccer team player Memphis Depay celebrates his 2-0 lead during the UEFA Nations League soccer match Netherlands vs France in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 16 November 2018.  EPA/KOEN VAN WEEL
Powered by automated translation

High hopes in the low countries. In the space of two competitive games, the Netherlands have now picked off the last two winners of the World Cup with a net score of 5-0.

Next mission: to set up a possible confrontation with reigning European champions Portugal in the inaugural Uefa Nations League Final Four tournament in June.

Who would have thought it? Not their manager, apparently.

Ronald Koeman, who 12 months ago had just been dismissed by Everton, acknowledged that ahead of Monday's final fixture of Section A1 in Uefa's new, compelling tournament against Germany in Gelsenkirchen, he remains taken aback by his Dutch renaissance.

“We have a chance to finish top in a very tough pool,” he noted. “Nobody expected that. I didn’t.”

In Rotterdam on Friday, Koeman's slick Dutchmen beat France, the world champions by 2-0 going on 6-0. But for the excellence of Hugo Lloris in the away goal, the victory secured by Georginio Wijnaldum's strike and the dashing Memphis Depay's late penalty would have come via a more emphatic scoreline.

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 16:  Ronald Koeman, Manager of the Netherlands looks on during the UEFA Nations League Group A match between Netherlands and France at the Stadion Feijenoord on November 16, 2018 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Ronald Koeman is seeing better days after being dismissed by Everton last year. Getty Images

Add it to the 3-0 October win against the 2014 World Cup-winners Germany, and it paints a bright picture of how far the men in orange have come from the blushing duds of the last four years.

A reminder of what the Netherlands were up to while Germany and France were celebrating their World Cups and while Portugal - a nation who draw on a far smaller pool of potential talent than Holland - were winning Euro 2016.

The Dutch were looking on from afar. They contrived to not qualify at all for the last Euros, a competition which, enlarged, had invited 24 countries to its finals and, come Russia last summer, no sign of them there, either.

They had also run out of senior men to turn to as manager. Louis van Gaal, who oversaw a creditable third place at the Brazil World Cup, had finished his second spell in charge. Guus Hiddink came in for a second go. Dick Advocaat for a third and, in between, Danny Blind took charge across two failed qualifying tournaments.

Koeman was a gift, although a sceptic. He knew he would have to rummage through a pile of Dutch debris to locate the tools he wanted to work with.

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 16: Matthijs de Ligt of the Netherlands is challenged by Kylian Mbappe-Lottin of France during the UEFA Nations League Group A match between Netherlands and France at the Stadion Feijenoord on November 16, 2018 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Matthijs de Ligt, left, of the Netherlands kept Frenchman Kylian Mbappe at bay last week. Getty Images


Read more:

WATCH: Manchester United's Paul Pogba races a tortoise in Dubai

England have unfinished business against their new foes Croatia

Salah headed to Dubai after effort in Cup of Nations qualifier


Depay is one obvious beneficiary of the restored self-belief, a footballer whose speed and daring, properly channelled, can alarm any defence, and terrified Germany last month. Call-ups to the likes of Denzel Dumfries, a bold right-back, and Steven Bergwijn, a winger, have endorsed Koeman’s sound judgement.

The teenaged defender Matthijs de Ligt, a firm shackle on France’s Kylian Mbappe in Rotterdam, enhances his high reputation with each international. Wijnaldum and Virgil van Dijk are carrying the authority of their Liverpool performances smoothly into a Dutch team designed to be both reactive - they speared Germany on the counter-attack - and proactive: they took the game to France on Friday.

Take that momentum over the border on Monday, and the Netherlands can achieve several satisfying landmarks in the Koeman revival. Germany, with one point, are already relegated to League B for the next edition of the Nations League.

If the Dutch draw with their old rivals, then Koeman will be preparing his squad for June’s Nations League finale.

Beating Germany should also push the Germans out of the top seedings for Euro 2020 qualifying, doubly satisfying for a Netherlands side who know how much it hurts to lose prestige.