Dutch into Nations League finals

by

November 20, 2018
Netherland's Kenny Tete (left) and Germany's Nico Schulz challenge for the ball during the UEFA Nations League match between Germany and The Netherlands in Gelsenkirchen, yesterday. The match ended 2-2.

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP):

A dramatic comeback sent the Netherlands to the UEFA Nations League finals after ending Germany's nightmare year with yet more disappointment in a 2-2 draw on yesterday.

The comeback meant the Dutch - who missed the last European Championship and World Cup - qualified ahead of World champion France to join England, Switzerland, and Portugal in next year's inaugural Final Four.

At 2-0 down to Germany in the 85th minute, Dutch hopes of reaching the Nations League finals looked long gone.

But Quincy Promes curled a shot past Manuel Neuer, and defender Virgil van Dijk - playing as a makeshift striker - volleyed in a second for the point the Netherlands needed. For all the talk of their young players, the Netherlands' more experienced personnel made the difference.

After failing to qualify for two consecutive major tournaments, the Netherlands were widely considered the favourite for relegation in the Nations League when drawn against Germany and France in January.

With Ronald Koeman in his first year as coach and Ajax's Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong giving the team a shot of youthful energy, the Netherlands' campaign proved it once again belonged with the continent's big names. At home, the Dutch beat Germany 3-0 and new World champion France 2-0, but struggled to maintain the same form away until the last five minutes of yesterday's game.

Germany had already been relegated to League B, capping a year coach Joachim Loew called "a slap in the face" after a group-stage exit at the World Cup. Some in the stands called for Loew to step down after 12 years in charge, though his team dominated most of the game against the Dutch before the sudden late collapse.

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