Soccer-Van Dijk header secures top spot for Dutch in Nations League group

26/9/2022 12:02:00 AM

Soccer-Dutch win Nations League group with skipper Van Dijk's header

Soccer-Dutch win Nations League group with skipper Van Dijk's header

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -Captain Virgil van Dijk netted a second-half winner as the Netherlands beat neighbours Belgium 1-0 on Sunday to ensure top spot in their Nations League group and a place in next year’s finals tournament.

Van Dijk powered home a header from a corner in the 73rd minute at the Amsterdam Arena on Sunday to ensure the Dutch finished runaway winners in League A Group Four.Poland finished third in Group Four on seven points and remain in the competition's top tier.Van Dijk missed the last European Championship as he was sidelined with a knee injury but said on Saturday he was not worried about suffering the same setback again ahead of this year's finals, which kick off on Nov.The Dutch have a three-point lead at the head of League A Group Four and will win the group as long as they avoid a heavy defeat to Belgium at the Amsterdam Arena on Sunday.

They finished with 16 points, six more than Belgium who had a chance to leapfrog their neighbours, and take first place, but needed to win by three goals or more on Sunday to do so.Any hopes of a goal feast were quickly stymied, however, as the two sides effectively cancelled each other out in a tight tactical battle.Robert Lewandowski found himself on the edge of the box in the 57th minute and played a one-touch cross to Swiderski, who struck instinctively into the bottom right corner.The Dutch pressing game frustrated Belgian efforts at building up attacks, while a five-man defence for the visitors meant there was little room for the home strikers.It is indeed 13 games in two months but they are games that you want to play in.It meant the winner came from a simple setpiece with Van Dijk leaping over his marker, the 18-year-old Zeno Debast, to give Louis van Gaal his 37th victory in his three spells in charge of the national side, equalling the record for a Dutch coach held by Dick Advocaat.Wales dominated possession and pressed high in the opening minutes, but the visitors were first to take a shot on goal in the 25th minute when Lewandowski's header after a free kick was saved by keeper Wayne Hennessey.Belgium, whose own coach Roberto Martinez had to sit in the stands after being given a red card at the end of last week’s win over Wales, had a chance for a perfect start after only four minutes, with Eden Hazard set up by Amadou Onana only to blast his shot wide.“If that happens, it will be deserved,” said Van Gaal.

There were other first-half chances for Michy Batshauyi, Axel Witsel, Timothy Castagne and Onana as Belgium had the better of the half's opportunities while their goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was largely untroubled.The in-form Szczesny then prevented Gareth Bale's attempt from a tight angle metres away from his goal, while forward Brennan Johnson dragged a low shot just wide of the right post in the 41st minute.At Liverpool we are in a phase where we have to win anyway.The Dutch improved after a pair of halftime changes and Denzel Dumfries, Steven Bergwijn and Davy Klaassen were all thwarted as the home side began to find more room and Belgium lived dangerously at the back in the last stages of the game.Belgium might well have forced a draw as a spectacular effort from substitute Dodi Lukebakio came within inches of a last gasp equaliser with the final kick of the game.Wales set up camp in Poland's half in search of an equalizer in the closing stages, and Bale hit the woodwork from close-range in stoppage time as he returned to the national side after a year without playing a full game."We wanted to win but it wasn’t a great game.(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by xx) Article type: free.We could have done better but we also had to work hard against a team with a lot of quality players.(Reporting by Anita Kobylinska in Gdansk; Editing by Hugh Lawson) Article type: free.” The Netherlands coach said he did not expect much different from Belgium.

But winning was the most important," van Dijk told Dutch NOS television after the match.(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Hugh Lawson) Article type: free.

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