FIFA World Cup

Netherlands knocks US out of World Cup

Reuters
Netherlands knocks US out of World Cup

KNOCKOUT. Christian Pulisic of the US (left) disputes the ball with the Netherlands' Denzel Dumfries.

Annegret Hilse/REUTERS

The Netherlands advances to the World Cup quarterfinals, eliminating a young US side that had their baptism of fire on the big stage

DOHA, Qatar – Winger Denzel Dumfries said recent criticism had helped fire him up for a match-winning performance in the Netherlands’ World Cup last 16 victory over the United States, 3-1, on Saturday, December 3 (Sunday, December 4, Manila time).

The Inter Milan player produced a virtuoso display as he set up first-half goals for Memphis Depay and Daley Blind, and then scored himself late on to kill off an American fightback.

Despite qualifying for the knockout stage by comfortably winning Group A, Louis Van Gaal’s side had not exactly set the tournament on fire with their forward line under the spotlight.

“The aim of the match was to win and I’m happy I was able to help the team,” said Dumfries, whose parents named him after American actor Denzel Washington.

“I was pleased for Daley (Blind) too. If I’m honest we’ve had some criticism recently. And I think it’s a good boost for both of us that we were important tonight for the group.”

The win put the Netherlands in a quarterfinal clash with Lionel Messi and Argentina.

United States coach Gregg Berhalter said their World Cup last 16 exit was difficult to accept but he took heart from the progress made by his young squad after their baptism of fire on the big stage.

The Americans made a bright start to the match and almost took an early lead through Christian Pulisic, who was brilliantly denied by goalkeeper Andries Noppert before the Dutch punished them with their first attack.

Depay and Blind scored almost identical goals, finishing off precise and free-flowing team moves, to deliver a sucker punch. And although Haji Wright pulled one back for the Americans, Dumfries swiftly extinguished any hopes of a comeback by restoring the two-goal cushion.

“This is a tough one to swallow for us. The guys put everything they had into it and tonight we came up short but it wasn’t for lack of trying or a lack of effort,” Berhalter told reporters.

“The first half was a great indication of the game being about moments. We were on top for a lot of the first half and two moments come and all of a sudden we’re 2-0 down. The message was soccer can be cruel sometimes.”

In a performance that encapsulated both the positives and weaknesses of the Americans’ World Cup campaign, they did not lack chances but struggled to finish them off and were made to pay for their complacency by a clinical Netherlands side.

Berhalter recognized it as a clear weakness of his young and inexperienced side and highlighted the gulf in quality between them and the Netherlands, but said he believed they were not too far off from competing with the world’s best.

“I think this group is close,” Berhalter said. “When you look at the difference of the two teams there’s some quality offensive finishing that Holland had that were lacking.

“But we’ve made progress. When you look at our team, there’s a very clear identity of what we’re trying to do. You have a group that’s extremely committed to each other in what they’re trying to accomplish.

“We have a very young group, we have players that are beginning in their careers and they’re going to catch up to that. It’s not to make an excuse for this group, they’re still very resilient. That stuff will come.”

The US will co-host the next World Cup in 2026.

The Dutch looked in command of the opening last 16 tie in front of a 44,846 crowd with two goals scored in similar fashion as Dumfries crossed from the right for Depay to net in the 10th minute and then Blind on the stroke of halftime.

But they allowed the Americans back into the contest as substitute Wright scored a bizarre goal, a cross from Pulisic hitting his heel and looping into the net.

It was another Dutch performance at the Qatar World Cup that will not please their demanding supporters as they were unusually cautious at times, played at a slow tempo, and lived dangerously by allowing the Americans plenty of possession.

Yet they still looked a notch better than their opponents – advancing to their seventh World Cup quarterfinal.

“We want to improve and every game it’s getting a little better, that’s my feeling,” said Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk. “We had two fantastic goals. What else do you want? And we had that goal against us, I have no idea how it went in.” – Rappler.com

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