AMSTERDAM: Netherlands followed Italy and Belgium into the round of 16 at Euro 2020 with a comfortable 2-0 victory over an uninspired Austria in the Johan Cruyff ArenA in Amsterdam.
Dutch coach Frank de Boer will be content not only with the result and the certainty of progress but the lack of physical stress in seeing off first Ukraine and now the Austrians.
Group B has been one of the weaker sections in the finals but that can work to the Netherlands’ advantage in the latter, knockout stages.
Memphis Depay shot them ahead from the penalty spot in the 11th minutes after raiding right wingback Denzel Dumfries was tripped by Austrian captain David Alaba.
The Dutch continued to dominate the first half, moving the ball smoothly with Paris Saint-Germain-bound Ginio Wijnaldum an outstanding commander in midfield.
Austria lacked any threat in attack in the absence of Marco Arnautovic who had been suspended for this game by European federation UEFA after an insulting verbal outburst in the opening game against North Macedonia.
Netherlands carried on after the interval where they had left off and extended their lead in the 67th minute. Austria’s suicidally high-line defence was caught flat on the halfway line as Depay sent substitute Donyell Malen free to run 30 metres and then pass to his right to present Dumfries with an easy tap-in.
Austria, finally, stuttered into attacking life but substitutes Karim Onisiwo and Sasa Kalajdzic both wasted opportunities to create some late drama.
Frank de Boer, Netherlands coach: “Memphis can take some more steps during a tournament. In the matches to follow, where it will really get important, he will be the big man. I am full of confidence that he will do so. He created the penalty and gave a pre-assist tonight. He knows that he can do better but let’s grow into the tournament. He can show his quality in the later stages.”
Frenkie de Jong, Netherlands midfielder: “It’s a perfect scenario, winning the group with one match to go. The pressure is off for the last match, even though we still want to win it.”
Matthijs de Ligt, Netherlands defender: “It was a match in which we didn’t create too much but we were in control. I didn’t get the feeling that Austria had many chances. It wasn’t easy, but you don’t expect that at a tournament like this. I noticed that there’s more confidence in the team, in the way we play. I feel that everyone has that inner fire to fight for each other.”
Franco Foda, Austria coach: “We gave the ball away too easily in the first half; we invited the Netherlands to hit us on the break too often. We got into the final third a few times but didn’t get our crosses in. We didn’t create enough chances. Either we didn’t cross or we didn’t shoot. We weren’t determined enough, we lacked purpose. It wasn’t enough going forward.”
David Alaba, Austria captain: “I am proud of the team – we showed courage. We didn’t play as we well in the final third as we would have liked. I take responsibility for the penalty. That really hurts.”
Netherlands: Stekelenburg; Dumfries, De Vrij, De Ligt, Blind (Aké 64), Van Aanholt (Wijndal 65); De Roon (Gravenberch 74), Wijnaldum, F. de Jong; Weghorst (Malen 64), Depay (L. de Jong 82).
Austria: Bachmann; Lainer, Dragović (Lienhart 84), Hinteregger, Ulmer; Baumgartner (Lazaro 70), X. Schlager (Onisiwo 84), Laimer (Grillitsch 61), Alaba; Gregoritsch (Kalajdzic 62), Sabitzer.
Referee: Grinfeeld (Isr).