Netherlands began their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a resounding 4-0 win over Belarus in Rotterdam on Thursday, with Memphis Depay playing a crucial role.
The hosts were always firm favourites and they had little difficulty living up to the expectations, as Depay led the way with two goals and a pair of assists to give Netherlands a fine start to life in Group C.
Belarus looked doomed inside the first minute when Depay punished a defensive error to become the youngest player to reach 14 Netherlands goals since Patrick Kluivert, and he went on to set up Georginio Wijnaldum for their second in the 21st minute.
Netherlands showed no sign of letting their control slip after the break and Depay extended the lead from the penalty spot following the interval, before Virgil van Dijk wrapped things up as Ronald Koeman’s side cruised over the finish line.
Belarus’ backline held firm for just 50 seconds, as Depay latched on to a wayward back-pass and slotted home from a tight angle.
The Lyon star was key to their second 20 minutes later, controlling a right-wing cross in the middle of the box and skilfully flicking on for Wijnaldum, who fired in from close range.
Depay should have doubled his tally just before the break, but his effort from Ryan Babel’s delivery was scuffed wide of the left-hand post.
He was on the mark early in the second half, however, as he emphatically converted a spot-kick after Wijnaldum had been clumsily tripped by Mikhail Sivakov.
The away side did at least go close to pulling one back 13 minutes from time, but Jasper Cillessen expertly tipped Anton Saroka’s fierce strike over.
And a few moments later, Van Dijk got in on the act, nodding in at the back post after Depay blasted the ball across the face of goal.
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) March 21, 2019
What does it mean? Netherlands pick up where they left off
Topping a Nations League group that also contained Germany and France was a real feat, and they continued that form on Thursday. Belarus hardly got a sniff of a goal-scoring chance and at the other end Koeman’s side were ruthless. A great start to Euro 2020 qualifying.
Depay does the damage
Granted, Belarus are modest opposition, but you can only defeat the team that is in front of you and Depay produced a professional display. He showed great anticipation for the first goal, composure from the spot and fine awareness for his two assists.
Sivakov given the run-around
Belarus struggled to cope at the back throughout, with Netherlands just quicker, sharper and more switched-on. Sivakov summed that up when he haplessly bundled Wijnaldum over in the box, capping what was already a pretty poor performance from the defender.
Netherlands welcome Germany in their next qualifier on Sunday, in a match that will likely go some way to determining who tops Group C at the end of the campaign. Belarus travel to Northern Ireland the same day.