Resurgent Dutch on cusp of Euro 2020

Dutch national team coach Ronald Koeman talks with Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt during a training session in Zeist, Netherlands. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2019

Resurgent Dutch on cusp of Euro 2020

PARIS: A thrilling crop of young players has Euro 2020 in its sights as the Netherlands prepare for a return to the big stage, while Teemu Pukki’s Finland are on the brink of their first ever major tournament.

Ronald Koeman’s side need just a draw at Northern Ireland on Saturday to guarantee a spot at their first international tournament since coming third at the 2014 World Cup.

The Dutch had been in the doldrums since then until the arrival early in 2018 of Koeman, with the once mighty Oranje missing out on the previous European Championship and last year’s World Cup in Russia.

The 56-year-old has revitalized his country’s dormant national team with the help of a crop of young players who are putting a famous footballing nation back on the map.

Rising stars including Frenkie de Jong, Donny van de Beek and Matthijs de Ligt have joined more experienced campaigners Virgil van Dijk, Georginio Wijnaldum, Daley Blind and Ryan Babel to go top of Group C ahead of the final two rounds of qualifiers.

They are level on 15 points with fierce rivals Germany but above them on head-to-head record and three ahead of Northern Ireland, who realistically need a win to carry on their battle for a spot in the tournament.

A late double from 25-year-old Memphis Depay, a revelation in qualifying with six goals in five appearances, in Rotterdam last month helped sink the brave Northern Irish and means they just have to avoid defeat at Windsor Park to join the likes of Italy and Spain.

Germany meanwhile just need to better Northern Ireland’s result to make sure of their place.

The Finns are also on the verge of making history, with a win over lowly Liechtenstein in Helsinki on Friday enough to see them qualify for their first ever European Championship.

They lie second in Group J behind already-qualified Italy thanks to a magical run inspired by the incredible form of star man Pukki.

The Norwich City striker has scored seven of his side’s 12 goals in eight games, with his brace in a 3-0 win over Armenia last time out opening a five-point gap between them and their third-placed opposition.

France are among several big hitters also a hair’s breadth away from the main tournament. They might qualify before they even take the field against Moldova at the Stade de France on Thursday.

Didier Deschamps’ world champions will take their place at the finals should third-placed Iceland not beat Group H leaders Turkey, although a win for France over bottom side Moldova would be enough regardless of what happens in Istanbul.

England can rubber stamp what has long looked to be certain qualification with a draw over winless Montenegro at Wembley, with Gareth Southgate’s side another one pushing young players to the forefront.

Raheem Sterling will not play following a brief spat with Joe Gomez in the wake of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Manchester City, although Southgate insisted a line had been drawn under the incident.

“I love all of my players,” Southgate said. “We are like a family and all families have disagreements.”

Reigning European champions Portugal meanwhile will have the chance to defend their title with a win over Lithuania, who have collected just a point from seven Group B games, if Serbia fail to beat Luxembourg.

The Portuguese are a point ahead of the Serbs as coach Fernando Santos recalls Lokomotiv Moscow forward Eder, whose goal won Euro 2016, with teenage star Joao Felix sidelined.

They are also without Everton midfielder Andre Gomes after he suffered a horrific leg injury against Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the month.

De Silva hundred in rain-hit historic Pakistan Test

Updated 15 December 2019

De Silva hundred in rain-hit historic Pakistan Test

  • Sri Lanka declared their first innings at 308-6 after 20 minutes of batting on day five
  • The second Test will be played in Karachi from December 19

RAWALPINDI: Middle-order batsman Dhananjaya de Silva completed his century on the fifth and final day against Pakistan in Rawalpindi on Sunday, the first Test in the country since 2009 shooting.
The 28-year-old right-hander drove paceman Mohammad Abbas to cover boundary for his 15th boundary to complete his sixth Test hundred in his 28th Test.
Sri Lanka, who had won the toss and batted, declared their first innings at 308-6 after 20 minutes of batting on day five as the rain-affected Test is set to end in a draw after almost three days of play were lost.
De Silva remained unbeaten on 102 after 241 minutes of batting, having come at the score of 127-4 on Thursday. He hit 15 boundaries. Dilruwan Perera remained unbeaten on 16.
Any hopes of a result in Pakistan’s historic Test have been dashed by rain and bad light which ended the first day’s play after 68.1 overs.
Only 18.2 overs were possible on day two, 5.2 on the third and the fourth day’s play was abandoned without a ball being bowled.
The pick of the Pakistan bowlers were 16-year-old pace bowler Naseem Shah who took 2-92 and Shaheen Shah Afridi with 2-58.
The Test is the first in Pakistan since a militant attack on the Sri Lankan team bus killed eight people in March 2009, leading to the suspension of international cricket in the country as foreign teams refused to visit over security fears.
The second Test is in Karachi from December 19.