Bergwijn stunner leads Netherlands to World Cup qualification
The Hague, Nov. 17 (IANS): The Netherlands qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup after a 2-0 win over Norway in Rotterdam.
It was D-day for both teams in De Kuip stadium on Tuesday night. The Netherlands would be certain of World Cup qualification with a win and a draw would normally also be sufficient with a superior goal difference compared to Turkey. Without injured star striker Erling Haaland, Norway needed a win and had to hope for Turkey to drop points at Montenegro.
The Netherlands could have already qualified on November 13 against Montenegro, but the “Oranje” squandered a 2-0 lead in Podgorica in the final minutes of that match. It was the first setback for head coach Louis van Gaal since he successfully took over from Frank de Boer after a disappointing Euro 2020.
Back in the Netherlands from Montenegro, Van Gaal suffered another personal setback. He slipped on his bike on November 14 and ended up with a hip injury, Xinhua reports. Therefore he had to be moved in a wheelchair and was not able to sit in the dugout. He followed the match from a skybox in the stands, keeping in touch with his staff by telephone.
Van Gaal made changes to the line-up for the crucial match, with Steven Bergwijn replacing Donyell Malen and Matthijs de Ligt and Jasper Cillessen coming in for injured defender Stefan de Vrij and goalkeeper Justin Bijlow.
In an empty stadium without spectators due to newly enforced COVID-19 measures, the home team had most ball possession but failed to create many openings in the tight Norwegian defence.
Arnaut Danjuma had the best chance halfway through the first half after dribbling from right to left. His shot went wide.
A header by Memphis Depay went in the hands of goalkeeper Orjan Nyland and a shot by the Dutch striker ended the same way. Norway hardly entered the Dutch side of the pitch in the goalless first half.
In the second half, with Turkey leading 2-1 in Montenegro, Norway needed to come and slowly moved towards the Dutch goal. The tension rose in Rotterdam, with the Dutch fearing to concede a goal, which would mean elimination. However, the first chance of the second half was for the Dutch. Depay ruined the opportunity in the 75th minute.
In the 84th minute, Bergwijn broke the deadlock and caused major relief in the Dutch soccer hearts. Danjuma passed to the right and Bergwijn smashed in the opening goal. After a counter in injury-time, Bergwijn wasn’t selfish and assisted Memphis Depay.
The win lifted the Netherlands to the top of the group with 23 points, while Turkey ended second with 21 points after a 2-1 win over Montenegro in Podgorica. The Turks now qualified for the play-offs and Norway was eliminated in third place.
The Netherlands qualified for the World Cup for the 11th time in history and for the first time since 2014. The Dutch were three-time finalists at the 1974, 1978 and 2010 World Cups and finished third in 2014.