CZECH REPUBLIC 2-1 NETHERLANDS
Dire Defending from the Dutch costs them as Guus Hiddink’s first game ends in defeat and the Dutch lose a qualification game for the first time in nearly three years reports Ryan O’Grady.
The Road to France starts here and even though the Dutch are favourites to progress from their qualification group it won’t be straightforward. In their group they face tough games against teams like Turkey, Iceland and tonight’s opponents the Czech Republic. Turkey will be a tough opponent with players such as Arda Turan, Hakan Çalhanoğlu and even Nuri Şahin if he can recover from his injuries. Iceland will also be tough opponents as they only just missed out on this year’s World Cup after losing their play-off to Croatia and have dangerous players like Gylfi Sigurdsson and Alfred Finnbogason. The rest of the group is made up by Latvia and Kazakhstan where the Dutch should definitely pick up maximum points.
Tonight’s opponents are no walkovers either having qualified for the last Euros in 2012 but they are in something of a rebuild and haven’t recorded a victory in their last 4 games under their new coach Pavel Vrba. The Dutch are coming off the back of a very positive World Cup where they surpassed their own expectations but this positivity has been somewhat dampened by their recent loss to Italy where they were completely outclassed and didn’t record a single shot on target. That game was Hiddink’s first in his second spell as national team manager and saw him use a back four. Today’s game however saw the Dutch start with three centre-backs and two wingbacks, a system used under previous manager Louis van Gaal.
The opening 10 minutes of this game saw the Czech showing the Dutch players respect as they sat back not wanting to get caught out and as a result there were no chances in the opening period. However after the first 10 minutes the Czech Republic came out of their shell and were more forthcoming in attack. First Krejci had a decent cross into the box cleared well by Nigel de Jong for a corner. The Czechs took it short and worked it well and eventually the ball fell to Darida inside the box and his shot was blocked for a corner. Memphis Depay was by far the Netherlands’ best player in the first half and in the 14th minute he wiggled his way past a couple of defenders before giving the ball out to Daryl Janmaat on the right wing before the Newcastle defender crossed it for Robin van Persie and his flicked shot was deflected behind for a corner that came to nothing. Czech striker David Lafata appeared to suffer a serious head injury when he was caught on the jaw by an accidental knee from Stefan de Vrij. He went on to recover and was heavily involved in the next passage of play that resulted in a goal for the Czech Republic. Lafata received the ball inside the box with his back to goal and had Bruno Martins Indi behind him. His first touch was brilliant and with his second touch he laid the ball off to Bořek Dočkal who struck it beautifully first time and it hit the inside of the post before just sneaking inside the other post in the 21st minute. The Dutch had a really good chance to reply only 4 minutes later when Daley Blind supplied a sublime cross into the box that Georginio Wijnaldum ran onto but the bounce was a bit high and the PSV midfielder could only put it over with an outstretched leg. The Czech Republic had clearly worked on set-pieces on the training ground as nearly every single one caught out the Dutch defence, in the 30th minute they had a free kick that was played across the edge of the box and Darida allowed the ball to run through his legs before Limberský followed up with a shot that looked good but was blocked inside the box. The Dutch then had another guilt-edged chance to equalise only a minute later as Janmaat put in a low cross that van Persie looked like he was going to hit but then for some reason he left and it clearly surprised Petr Čech but he managed to stick a leg out and clear it although it wasn’t heading in. Hiddink clearly wasn’t happy with the way things were panning out and in the 38th minute he brought off Joel Veltman for Luciano Narsingh to revert back to a traditional 4-3-3 employed in the previous game against Italy. Depay then had a brilliant shot from distance that was destined for the corner of the net before Čech pushed it over. Substitute Narsingh also had a late chance in the half as he received the ball in the 6-yard box but it was at an awkward height and he couldn’t get any power on his shot and it was easily cleared.
The Dutch came out in the second half much the better side and in the 52nd minute Wesley Sneijder put through Depay with a wonderful ball but centre back Provcházka recovered well and won a goal kick for his side. Only 2 minutes later the Dutch equalised, an initial Dutch corner was half dealt with by the defence but Blind reintroduced the ball and De Vrij rose above the defence and sent a header across goal into the corner of the net. The Czechs then had another decent free kick, this the ball landed in the box and it looked like Provcházka was going to hit before Martins Indi recovered and put him off. For the next 10 minutes or so the only notable occurrences were substitutions from the Czech Republic. The Dutch had a great chance in the 78th minute to go ahead when Narsingh put in a lofted ball that Depay got his head to but it was easily saved by Čech because rather than putting any power behind his header, Depay appeared to just let the ball bounce off his head. This miss was almost punished from another set-piece from the Czech Republic, this time a short corner was put in by Darida and Kaderabek headed it on before Provcházka put it over from about 1 yard out with his header. This miss didn’t cost his side dearly however because at the beginning of stoppage time Limberský put in a cross that Janmaat attempted to head back to Cillessen but instead hit his own post before coming back across the goal behind the diving Cillessen and allowed substitute Pilař to snatch victory right at the death.
Czech Republic: Čech, Provcházka, Kadlec, Limberský, Rosický, Vácha (Kolář 81’), Dočkal (Pilař 66’), Krejci, Darida, Kaderabek, Lafata (Vydra 72’)
Goals: Dočkal 21’, Pilař 90+1’
Bookings: Provcházka 8’, Limberský 90+3’
Netherlands: Cillessen, Janmaat, Veltman (Narsingh 38’), de Vrij, Martins Indi, Sneijder, de Jong, Wijnaldum, Blind, van Persie, Depay
Goals: De Vrij 55’
Bookings: Martins Indi 71’
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