Depay repays Koeman's faith

The Netherlands' (from left) Memphis Depay, Steven Bergwijn, Ryan Babel and Georginio Wijnaldum "ignoring" the applause during their 4-0 win over Belarus in a Euro 2020 qualifier in Rotterdam on Thursday.
The Netherlands' (from left) Memphis Depay, Steven Bergwijn, Ryan Babel and Georginio Wijnaldum "ignoring" the applause during their 4-0 win over Belarus in a Euro 2020 qualifier in Rotterdam on Thursday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Lyon striker has missed 2 Ligue 1 games, but scores 2 and makes another 2 for Netherlands

ROTTERDAM • Memphis Depay might be battling for both game time and goals at club level, but his headline performance for his country at the start of the Euro 2022 qualifiers on Thursday has won him the full backing of Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman.

"A wonderful player. You saw what he is capable of, even if he is playing less at his club," the Dutch coach said, after the Lyon striker scored twice and made the other two goals in a comfortable 4-0 Group C win over Belarus.

"Memphis is very important pillar for us and he showed that," added Koeman, making clear the 25-year-old would be a starter when the Dutch host Germany in their next qualifier tomorrow.

"The ideal is to have a settled starting line-up to be able to work with. You see that with (world champions) France, how infrequently they change their team."

For Depay, the night could have gone a little better even after setting up Liverpool duo Georginio Wijnaldum and Virgil van Dijk for the other two goals.

"If you score twice, you always want a third," he said of missing out on a hat-trick in Rotterdam.

  • 12

  • Goals the Netherlands have scored in their last five games.

"But I'll save that for later," he added, with a wink to Dutch television station NOS.

Depay scored in the first minute as the visitors made an early defensive error to get the Dutch campaign off to a perfect start.

The Netherlands had missed out on the last European Championship in France and also last year's World Cup in Russia and are rebuilding under Koeman.

"It was a great start and, if you begin like that, it makes the rest of the evening easier," Depay added.

"We said that to each other before we went out that we wanted to push hard for a goal in the opening 10 minutes.

"But you've also got to have a little luck."

Depay has scored six Ligue 1 goals this season in comparison to 19 in the last campaign as his form has dipped in the French league.

He has also not played in the last two league matches.

"I don't think I need to say anything about that now," he said, when asked about his situation at his club.

"Here I am enjoying being home with my teammates and getting the confidence of the coach. We have a good squad and a good coaching staff.

"We've got to ensure we stick together as a team and that everyone buys into our ambitions."

Koeman's exciting young side are now top of Group C and level on three points with Northern Ireland, ahead of tomorrow's clash with Germany - whom they knocked out of the Nations League the last time they met in November.

The Dutch have been a revelation since Koeman took charge in the wake of their failure to qualify for the World Cup.

They beat both Germany and world champions France to win their Nations League group and set up a semi-final clash with England in June.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2019, with the headline 'Depay repays Koeman's faith'. Print Edition | Subscribe