W.Olfsburg’s goal scorer Wout Weghorst celebrated the perfect start to the European Football Championship with the Oranje kickers after the final whistle, which also delighted the Dutch royal couple Willem-Alexander and Máxima in the stands. With the 3-2 (0-0) against Ukraine, the Netherlands made a successful return to the big football stage on Sunday evening in Amsterdam after 2528 days and created a good starting position in Group C.
In front of 16,000 spectators, the 28-year-old Weghorst scored the first European Championship goal of his career in the 59th minute, making it 2-0. “We saw a good Oranje team most of the time today. We created a lot of chances, ”said Weghorst after the roller coaster of emotions in the exciting 90 minutes. “After the 2-0 win, we actually had everything under control and then we’ll almost give it up in a few minutes. But in the end we deserved to win. “
Georginio Wijnaldum (52nd) had put the Elftal in the lead. Andrej Jarmolenko (75th) and Roman Jaremtschuk (79th) equalized again for Ukraine, but Denzel Dumfries (85th) let the Dutch cheer in the end. “The relief is of course great. If we had played 2-2, we would have been angry, ”said Wijnaldum.
Bad luck and Bushman
The hosts, who are back at a major tournament for the first time since the 2014 World Cup and who had been poorly prepared for the European Championship, got off to a furious start into the game, which was flawlessly led by the German referee Felix Brych. Already in the second minute, Memphis Depay started a solo, but failed at the end because of the Ukrainian goalkeeper Georgi Buschtschan. The 27-year-old from Dynamo Kiev became the best man of the Eastern Europeans and a little later defused the next big chance for the Dutch with a parade through Dumfries.
The Elftal of bond coach Frank de Boer, who has to do without the injured star defender Virgil van Dijk from Liverpool FC throughout the tournament, played refreshingly forward. Wijnaldum carefully directed midfield and also created danger in front of goal. At first the Oranje captain aimed a little too high, later he failed with a deflected shot at the strongly reacting Buschtschan.
The Ukrainian goalkeeper had previously saved against Weghorst. The striker from Bundesliga club VfL Wolfsburg, who was not included in the World Cup qualification in March, was preferred to Luuk de Jong as Depay’s strike partner and justified the coach’s trust. “If I score, I’m of course very satisfied,” said Weghorst.
Ukraine largely inferior
The Ukrainians, who surprisingly left defending champions Portugal behind them in qualifying for the tournament, held against it with great willingness to run and fight. The team of coach Andrei Shevchenko, who scored the only two European Championship goals for his country so far in 2012, could hardly create chances.
Except for a harmless shot by the ex-Dortmunder Jarmolenko (30th), Oranje keeper Maarten Stekelenburg – at 38 years and 264 days the oldest professional who has ever played for the Netherlands at an EM or World Cup – was unemployed in the first half.
His front men had the game firmly under control, but initially did not reward themselves. Five minutes before the break, Dumfries missed the greatest chance to take the lead when he headed the ball past the goal from five meters, completely free.
Strong Wijnaldum unties the knot
Wijnaldum showed how to do it shortly after the restart. With a sharp cross from the right, Buschtschan cleared in dire need in front of the onrushing Depay, the rebound sunk the midfield director, who will play for Paris Saint-Germain in the future, ice cold. The last Oranje goal at a European Championship was scored by Rafael van der Vaart in 2012 against Portugal. Now the last fetters were released. Just six minutes after the overdue lead, Weghorst followed up. After further uncertainty in the Ukrainian defense, the 28-year-old hit with a long-range shot.
In anticipation of a certain victory, the momentum for the Dutch flagged – and suddenly the game tipped over. Jarmolenko scored with a wonderful shot that gave the Ukrainians a boost. Four minutes later, Yaremchuk headed the hosts’ passivity. “I liked the reaction of my team,” said Shevchenko. But it wasn’t enough for a happy ending.