Dutch deserve World Cup berth, says van Dijk

ROTTERDAM • Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk said his country's World Cup berth was deserved despite their unconvincing show in their last two qualifiers before eventually booking their place at next year's tournament in Qatar.

The Dutch, who missed out on the 2018 Finals in Russia, ensured top place in Group G with a 2-0 win over Norway in Rotterdam on Tuesday to finish ahead of Turkey.

They had let slip a chance in Montenegro at the weekend (2-2 draw) to earn early qualification and were anxious as they faced Norway. It was not until the last six minutes that they made sure with goals from Steve Bergwijn and Memphis Depay.

"It was deserved. I don't think we gave anything away, nothing at all," insisted van Dijk. "After Saturday, we were asked to respond and we did an excellent job. There is still a lot of room for improvement, but it was all about the result."

The Liverpool defender missed Euro 2020 in mid-year because of a knee injury suffered early last season, making World Cup qualification all the sweeter.

"I can't wait to lead this group of guys and create something beautiful," the 30-year-old added.

Dutch coach Louis van Gaal, who was sitting in a wheelchair in the VIP area after fracturing his hip falling off his bicycle on Sunday, communicated with his assistants via mobile on the bench.

"We had the game under control for the 90 minutes. The players executed our plans perfectly," he said.

Elsewhere, Wales held Belgium to a 1-1 draw and claimed the runner-up spot behind the world's top-ranked team in Group E to secure a play-off berth.

Kieffer Moore cancelled out Kevin de Bruyne's early opener to earn the Welsh the point they required to stay in front of the Czech Republic, who beat Estonia 2-0.

In Group D, Finland missed out on the play-offs as Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe scored in France's 2-0 victory in Helsinki. Ukraine finished second after a 2-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

All the 10 group winners confirmed their Qatar 2022 spots, while the runners-up - Portugal, Italy, Scotland, Russia, Sweden, Wales (all pot 1), Turkey, Poland, Ukraine and North Macedonia (all pot 2) - will go into the play-offs in March. Also in pot 2 for the Nov 26 draw for the play-offs are Austria and the Czechs, the two best Nations League group winners who finished outside the top two of their group.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2021, with the headline 'Dutch deserve World Cup berth, says van Dijk'. Subscribe