Holland has emulated England’s stirring comeback against Croatia to earn a place in next summer’s Uefa Nations League semi-final.
The Dutch had seemed dead and buried against Germany, trailing their hosts 2-0 in the Veltins-Arena with just five minutes of normal time remaining.
But goals from Quincy Promes and Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk earned Holland a draw, and that point was enough to take them above France on goal difference at the top of Nations League A group 1.
The result means that rather the World Cup winners France, the semis will see England, Switzerland and Portugal joined by the Dutch. The side certainly needed a boost, following a wretched run of results that saw them miss out on qualification for this year’s World Cup.
“Hopefully, [the future] holds a lot, but we don’t like to look too far ahead,” said Van Dijk. “We want to qualify for Euro 2020, that’s the main target. If we can win the Nations League, fantastic, but we all want to make sure we’re at the European Championships and do very well there to make our country proud.”
The thrilling climax to the League A group stage was a fitting denouement for an inaugural competition that has been a resounding success.
The draw for the semi-finals, on 5 and 6 June next year, will take place in Dublin on Monday 3 December – and the four nations in the hat will all fancy their chances of winning the final, on 9 June.
Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman praised his team’s fortitude in mounting their late comeback, saying: “We also showed that we can recover when playing opponents of this calibre. Let’s not forget, this Germany is an excellent team, maybe even better than France.”
Despite Koeman’s claims, most commentators would disagree that the current crop of Germans are an “excellent team”. Last night’s result capped Germany’s most calamitous year in football since 1938, the last time they failed to progress from the group stage of the World Cup.
In all, this year’s side have won just four of their 13 matches in 2018, and of that quartet only one – the 2-1 win against Sweden in the World Cup – was a competitive fixture, with the remainder just friendlies.
Against Holland, the Germans started strong and were two up at half-time, with Timo Werner and Leroy Sane the scorers.
Already relegated to the second tier of the Nations League, the Germans were playing for only their pride, but that wasn’t motivation enough as Holland pinched a point at the death.
“I am a bit disappointed by the result but overall I saw more positives than negatives,” said coach Joachim Low, now facing more calls for his head from the German media.
“We played a very good first half and should have scored a third in the second half to finish the game. But this kind of thing seems to be the story of our entire year.”