Memphis and Wijnaldum run riot as the Netherlands beat North Macedonia 3-0

Don’t shout it from the rooftops, but the Dutch class of 2021 could turn out to be real clever clogs.

As two-goal skipper Georginio Wijnaldum suppressed North Macedonia’s spirited resistance, Frank de Boer’s men completed a 100 per cent record in Group C and headed for knockout business in Budapest with a spring in their step.

In truth, they still don’t look watertight at the back, and for 45 minutes they rode their luck in the Johan Cruyff Arena.

But when they break at speed, De Boer’s darling clementines are easy on the eye and eight goals in three games can’t be bad.

So the jury’s still out, but these Oranje could even be playing England next, so no tittering at the back of the class.

Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring the Netherlands' second after being set up by Memphis Depay
Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring the Netherlands’ second after being set up by Memphis Depay

The early evidence, against the group wooden spoonists, in Amsterdam was unconvincing. Ivan Trichkovski slotted Goran Pandev’s pass beyond Maarten Stekelenburg, but the Netherlands were reprieved by a fractional offside call.

And when Pandev, given a guard of honour after winning his 122nd and final cap at the age of 38, called the tune like a jukebox again, Aleksandar Trajkovski’s low shot cannoned off the inside of a post to safety.

If North Macedonia had the sinking feeling their luck was out, their suspicions were not misplaced.

Just seconds after Pandev had been wiped out by Daley Blind’s studs-up challenge just outside the Dutch box, the home side broke upfield and Memphis Depay swept home Arsenal academy graduate Donyell Malen’s cut-back.

Inexplicably, the VAR check saw no undue force in Blind’s challenge and Holland’s lead, against the run of play, was allowed to stand.

Take nothing away from the lightning speed of the counter-attack, nor Barcelona-bound striker Depay’s 28th goal in 67 appearances, but the home-town decisions stacking up in the Netherlands’ favour rivalled Olympic boxing scorecards for favouritism.

Memphis Depay scored the Netherlands' opener against North Macedonia
Memphis Depay scored the Netherlands’ opener against North Macedonia

Georginio Wijnaldum doubles the Netherlands' lead after being set up by Depay
Georginio Wijnaldum doubles the Netherlands’ lead after being set up by Depay

But when Depay broke clear again and picked out Wijnaldum to make it 2-0 from four yards out six minutes after the break, the Oranje had breathing space.

When Holland are on top, Depay draws defenders to the ball like bees to honey, Wijnaldum gets into the box and the engine purrs instead of spluttering.

Seven minutes later the Manchester United flop, sent clear by Malen’s clever flick, was denied by Macedonia keeper Stole Dimitrievski, but Wijnaldum devoured the rebound – and the floodgates could have opened.

But apart from substitute Wout Weghorst rattling the bar with his first touch, Dutch courage evaporated and they settled for comfortable victory instead of a rout.


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