They failed to get the job done in Matchday 9 and needed to play a nervous final match at home with everything on the line, but the Netherlands have successfully guaranteed a spot in the 2022 World Cup Finals thanks to a 2-0 win over Norway in Rotterdam in the last European Qualifier game for both nations.
Because of a partial lockdown in the country the match was played behind closed doors, and the absence of the fans clearly showed in a game that felt slow and lacking urgency despite both teams having something to play for.
The Barcelona duo of Frenkie De Jong and Memphis Depay started and played all 90 minutes in the game, one that the Dutch didn’t need to win but still had to take seriously against a Norway team that still had a chance to finish second and go to the playoff. Louis Van Gaal’s team dominated possession from the start and created plenty of chances, with Memphis recording three shots on target in the first half.
Norway were missing their best player as Erling Haaland couldn’t play because of injury, and the visitors barely posed a threat all game despite needing a win. Even so, there was a strange feeling about the game as the Dutch dominated but couldn’t put it away allowing Norway to stay alive and hope for a late goal to change their fortunes.
The Netherlands’ pressure was eventually too much, however, and their two best players on the night secured the victory: first it was Steven Bergwijn who finished a beautiful counter-attack with a sensational strike into the roof of the net, then after Norway sent all of their players into the box for a late corner Bergwijn went all alone on a solo run into the box and gave Memphis a tap-in to make it 2-0 and remove any doubt about the result.
Haaland’s absence was clearly felt by Norway, who got just one point from their final two games and will miss the World Cup despite being in a three-way race with the Dutch and Turkey throughout the campaign. The Turkish clinched a place in the playoff with a victory over Montenegro and will fight for a place in Qatar in March.
But the story here is the Dutch, who are back in the biggest tournament in the sport after missing out in 2018. The turnaround is complete, and the Oranje is back where it belongs. Congrats, Memphis and Frenkie!