AMSTERDAM: The Netherlands are through to the last 16 at Euro 2020 after Memphis Depay’s penalty set up a 2-0 win over Austria on Thursday, their second straight victory securing top spot in Group C as coach Frank de Boer declared there is much more to come from his side.
Depay made no mistake from the spot in the 11th minute in Amsterdam after David Alaba’s foul on Denzel Dumfries was spotted by the Israeli referee only after he came across to review the images.
Dumfries, so impressive in the thrilling opening 3-2 win over Ukraine, added another midway through the second half, his second goal of the tournament.
The Dutch were comfortable at home in the Johan Cruyff Arena and De Boer’s side are so far making a success of their first major tournament since the 2014 World Cup.
That is great news for De Boer, whose predecessor as national coach, Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman, was among the spectators.
“I know we can beat anybody when we are at our best but I think other teams are thinking the same so let’s go game by game and see where that takes us,” De Boer said.
The Dutch now cannot be caught at the top of the group after Ukraine beat North Macedonia earlier in Bucharest, with the Balkan outsiders already eliminated.
That means De Boer can rest players for the final group game against North Macedonia, safe in the knowledge that the Dutch will go to Budapest for a last-16 tie on June 27 against a third-place finisher.
“We need to decide how to prepare for the next game, whether to keep working on the system and improve that or give some players extra time off,” De Boer added.
He had said coming into the Euro that the 1988 champions were “between the fourth and eighth-best team” and already they can see their path opening up to the quarter-finals.
They will still need to improve if they are to go further, but they appear to be finding their feet in the 3-5-2 system that De Boer has controversially opted for.
Austria, after all, are a mediocre side and were not helped by the penalty given away by Alaba, their captain.
Franco Foda’s side were also handicapped by the absence of Marko Arnautovic, suspended for insulting an opponent after coming off the bench and scoring against North Macedonia.
Foda had said he was in line to start here.
Austria can nevertheless still qualify with a game against Ukraine to come.
“We knew we couldn’t completely stop the Dutch,” said Alaba.
“I am proud of the team. We will go to Bucharest to try to beat Ukraine and stay in the tournament.”
If the Dutch King and Queen were present at their first match, this time FIFA president Gianni Infantino was in the stands, as well as Koeman.
Depay, out of contract at Lyon, hinted before this game that he is set to team up with Koeman in Barcelona.
The ex-Manchester United man believes he is good enough to play for a club of Barcelona’s stature, and he confidently stroked home the early spot-kick awarded following a VAR review for Alaba’s foul on Dumfries.
He then missed a sitter before half-time, failing to hit the target after Wout Weghorst teed him up.
It was from a Depay corner that Weghorst nodded down for Stefan de Vrij to see his effort from point-blank range saved by Austria goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann on the hour.
De Boer then made a triple change, including sending on PSV Eindhoven forward Donyell Malen for Weghorst.
And midway through the second half Depay released Malen to run through and square for Dumfries, one of the stars of the tournament so far, to score.
Koeman will also have been impressed with another assured display by Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong in midfield, while Matthijs de Ligt cruised through the game in defense on his return from injury.