Koeman urges discipline as Dutch continue revival

Ryan Babel, 32, used his experience to score his first brace for the Netherlands in the 4-0 win over Estonia on Monday.
Ryan Babel, 32, used his experience to score his first brace for the Netherlands in the 4-0 win over Estonia on Monday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TALLINN • Such has been the Netherlands' progress after years of languishing in football's wilderness that coach Ronald Koeman called their 4-0 away thrashing of Estonia "normal".

Ryan Babel's first brace for his country and Memphis Depay's goal and two assists on his 50th international appearance helped the Dutch ease to a routine Euro 2020 qualifying win on Monday night.

Georginio Wijnaldum also scored for the second time in four days to boost their hopes.

Koeman's men sit third in Group C on nine points, three behind co-leaders Germany and Northern Ireland, and will be confident of pulling level with the Green and White Army after the crucial tie in Amsterdam next month.

Nations League runners-up Netherlands also have a game in hand and afterwards, Koeman reflected on his team taking "an important step" towards reaching their first major tournament since the 2014 World Cup.

He told national broadcaster NOS: "Estonia is less than it has been in the past. Their best player (Konstantin Vassiljev) did not participate.

"But we must be able to handle it, have the discipline to perform your duties. That is not always easy, I also know from my own past."

Of veteran Babel, who has been a mainstay of the squad since Koeman took over in February last year, the Netherlands coach claimed he was not surprised by the forward's impact.

He said: "I don't think that is surprising, because I know him. I know how fit he is and what he can bring.

"I know Ryan as a great professional. He's 32, but that doesn't mean it's over. He proves he can still make a difference. That was against Germany (4-2 win last Friday) and today with the first two goals."

Babel agreed with his boss' assessment that his qualities complemented his attacking teammates, saying: "It was great to score the first two goals - I'm a player who runs on confidence.

"I'm no longer one of the younger players in the team, so I try to compensate for the loss of speed by using my experience.

"Before the match, we realised that if we didn't get the focus right from the beginning, it could be a difficult evening."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2019, with the headline 'Koeman urges discipline as Dutch continue revival'. Print Edition | Subscribe