Netherlands ended the Euro 2020 group stages with a well-taken 3-0 win over North Macedonia at Amsterdam on on Monday (June 21).
Netherlands ended the Euro 2020 group stages with a well-taken 3-0 win over North Macedonia at Amsterdam on on Monday (June 21). Memphis Depay opened the scoring late in the first half before setting up Georginio Wijnaldum twice early in the second half. The win confirms Netherlands’ qualification into the next round as Group C winners. Not only that, they are so far one of two sides besides Italy to have won all their three group games.
North Macedonia, for whom this was a maiden appearance in a major international tournament, sign off with no wins and three losses. However, despite a last-placed finish, this was a decent tournament for them.
They showed heart and plenty of fight in key moments, but were let down mostly by lacking the quality of often superior opposition. As such, it is a proud moment for the country once part of Yugoslavia – even if they couldn’t make it to the next round.
With Netherlands already having qualified for the knockouts and North Macedonia all but out, the stakes weren’t high. But the Dutch were playing in front of a passionate home crowd who made a good deal of noise.
They certainly applauded when captain Wijnaldum presented North Macedonia skipper Goran Pandev with a custom Netherlands jersey. The shirt had Pandev’s name with the number 122 – the number of appearances he’s made for his country.
Pandev had announced prior to the game that this would be his final match for his country. Given that, one expected to see the little country go for the jugular early.
Instead, it was the home team who seized the initiative early on. Ryan Gravenberch had an early shot two minutes in but it was high and not so mighty.
The Dutch continued to attack, excelling at finding space in the middle areas. Yet North Macedonia almost scored an early goal that would have switched the game’s momentum.
Ivan Trichkovski ran onto a Pandev through-ball and beat Maarten Stekelenberg. However, VAR replays showed he was offside by the tiniest of margins and the goal was disallowed.
That lucky break served to initiate another passage of pressure from the Netherlands. Once again they attacked in droves, although they were susceptible to the odd counter-attack.
Somewhat ironically, it was the Dutch who benefitted the most from a well-worked counter. They broke in speed and Memphis Depay, who recently joined Barcelona, finished off the move.
They didn’t let their foot off the gas thereafter. Denzel Dumfries, the star of their win over Ukraine, was twice denied in quick succession after making superb runs from the deep.
But they were unable to add to Memphis’ first half goal, although their dominance was clear.
The second half wasn’t too much better for North Macedonia, who conceded a second goal just six minutes after the restart.
Memphis was central to the move once again, making a lovely run with the ball down the left wing. Once in a good position, he slotted home for Wijnaldum to slot home from close range.
The skipper would add a second soon thereafter. Memphis was put through by Donyell Malen but his shot was saved by the goalkeeper. However, he parried it straight into Wijnaldum’s path who converted the rebound.
By this point, the game looked all but over. Netherlands duly made a double change, withdrawing Memphis and Malen for Quincy Promes and Wout Weghorst.
Weghorst almost scored with his first touch but his shot narrowly scraped the crossbar. After that, North Macedonia had yet another effort ruled out for offside.
Darko Churlinov ran onto a Enis Bardhi through ball from deep and shot past Stekelenburg. However, the assistant’s flag went up shortly thereafter.
That was the last real chance for the little country, whose journey to the tournament itself was nothing short of spectacular. However, their journey in the cup ended not with a bang but with a whimper.
That being said, the game was a lot closer than the scoreline suggests – the Dutch just took their chances better, something that augurs well for the Euro 2020 knockout rounds.