Preview: Netherlands vs. Belgium

Preview: Netherlands vs. Belgium

Netherlands only require a point against Belgium on Sunday to top Group D and progress to the UEFA Nations League finals.

Due to head-to-head rules being used in the Nations League, Belgium must score four goals in Amsterdam after suffering a 4-1 loss to their neighbours in June.

Former Barcelona and Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has enjoyed an excellent third spell in charge of his home country so far, remaining unbeaten in his 14 games since taking over in August 2021.

The 71-year-old helped guide his team to 17 points from a possible 21 in seven World Cup qualifiers, edging out Turkey by two points at the top of Group G to qualify for their first World Cup since Van Gaal took them to the semi-finals in Brazil in 2014, while they are on the cusp of reaching the Nations League finals for the second time having only dropped two points across five games.

Thursday’s 2-0 win away to Poland was a typically controlled performance from Netherlands under Van Gaal’s tutelage, with Cody Gakpo’s third international goal in only eight caps providing them with a 13th-minute lead to hold onto.

Steven Bergwijn, whose return to form and regular game time since joining Ajax in the summer is a timely boost for the Oranje ahead of the winter World Cup, wrapped up a crucial victory on the hour mark, meaning even a narrow defeat to Belgium on Sunday would be enough to send them through to compete in the finals next June.

Belgium have performed solidly in the Nations League themselves, taking 10 points from five matches, but their 4-1 defeat to Netherlands in Brussels on the opening matchday looks likely to have ended their chances of progressing to the next stage for the second successive campaign.

First-half strikes from Kevin De Bruyne and Michy Batshuayi helped Roberto Martinez’s side to a 2-1 win over Wales on Thursday, keeping alive their slim hopes of leapfrogging their neighbours into top spot at the weekend.

The former Everton and Wigan Athletic boss has been in charge of the Red Devils since 2016, falling short at the latter stages of the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020, despite breaking an international record last September by keeping Belgium at the top of the FIFA World Rankings for three successive years.

The 49-year-old will be acutely aware that the forthcoming winter World Cup in Qatar may represent his last chance of leaving a lasting legacy with this talented generation of players, and a win in Amsterdam on Sunday would certainly do wonders in terms of building momentum and confidence ahead of the major tournament.

Netherlands Nations League form:
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Netherlands form (all competitions):
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Belgium Nations League form:
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Belgium form (all competitions):
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We say: Netherlands 2-2 Belgium
With Belgium having to go for a big win in order to progress to the next stage of the Nations League, we can envisage an open, entertaining clash in Amsterdam on Sunday.

Both teams to score has landed in 80% of both nations’ matches during the current campaign, so it would be a surprise if either goalkeeper kept a clean sheet, but Netherlands should do enough to retain top spot in Group D.

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