Van Dijk on target as Netherlands reach Nations League finals

The Netherlands qualified for the Nations League finals as Virgil van Dijk’s header secured victory over Belgium at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

Louis van Gaal’s side needed to avoid defeat by three goals against second-placed Belgium, whom they beat 4-1 in the reverse fixture in June.

But they made certain of their progress when Liverpool defender Van Dijk met Cody Gakpo’s corner after 73 minutes.

The Dutch ended their group campaign unbeaten, six points clear of Belgium.

Belgium boss Roberto Martinez described Belgium’s heavy defeat in their previous meeting with the Netherlands as “a needed wake-up call”, and said prior to their meeting in Amsterdam that his side were out for “revenge”.

Martinez had to watch from the from stands as he served a touchline ban in Amsterdam, with Thierry Henry taking charge in the dugout.

Having kept their faint hopes of reaching next summer’s finals alive with victory over Wales three days ago, Belgium tried to unsettle the hosts early on but Eden Hazard was unable to make the most of Amadou Onana’s cutback inside five minutes.

The Dutch did not manage a shot on target in a quiet first half but, after a lively start to the second period by Belgium which saw Remko Pasveer deny Onana with a one-handed save, Van Dijk all but guaranteed Van Gaal’s side top spot.

Substitute Dodi Lukebakio almost scored a sensational consolation goal for Belgium with an overhead kick that struck the crossbar.

But, for the first time in 50 matches, Belgium failed to score, and the Netherlands will head into the World Cup on a 15-match unbeaten run.

The other match in the group saw Wales relegated after they were beaten at home by Poland.

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Herman Nnyanzi 'The Analyst' is a Ugandan multimedia sports journalist who started his career in 2017. He has a genuine strong love for sports and expertise, especially football. Contact me on +256704472629 or +256786403603

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