Van Dijk hails Dutch character in draw
Holland came back from two goals down against Germany to earn point that clinches Finals spot
Virgil van Dijk hailed Holland's belief as his 91st-minute equaliser fired them into the semi-finals of the Nations League after their thrilling 2-2 draw with Germany yesterday morning (Singapore time).
The point in Gelsenkirchen was enough for the Dutch to advance to the last four of the Finals at the expense of world champions France after scoring twice in the final six minutes in a dramatic finish.
Liverpool defender van Dijk volleyed home a cross in added time to complete the Dutch fightback after Quincy Promes had scored their first goal on 85 minutes. Germany, who led 2-0 after only 20 minutes through goals by Timo Werner and Leroy Sane, were punished for not being clinical enough in the second half.
Van Dijk said it was "a fantastic feeling" to finish top of League A, Group 1 ahead of European powerhouses France and the Germans.
"We should all be proud of ourselves. I know I am," he said after the Dutch join England, Switzerland and Portugal in the Nations League's last four.
"We worked so hard every game and to get rewards for that is fantastic.
"It was good to get the equaliser and qualify. After a moderate first half, we wanted to come out stronger after the break. We showed character tonight."
After missing out on qualifying for the Finals of both Euro 2016 and this year's World Cup, van Dijk said the priority is to get the Dutch to the Euro 2020 Finals.
"If we can win the Nations League, fantastic, but we all want to make sure we're at the European Championship and do very well there to make our country proud," he said.
Holland coach Ronald Koeman praised his team for turning two of their three late chances into goals.
"It was very difficult for us, the Germans were sharper and faster in the first half," admitted Koeman.
"We fought to come back in the second half and pressed.
"They had their chances to finish it off, but the fight and belief we showed were enough for the point. We didn't play great football, it wasn't our best performance, but it was enough.
"No one expected Holland to win the group. Of course, we did not want to go down to League B, but winning the group was a dream."
After Germany missed several second-half chances, coach Joachim Loew rued the victory that got away from his inexperienced side.
"That's the price you pay for having a young side, we have to learn to close a game down," said Loew, who started only three 2014 World Cup winners in Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos and Manuel Neuer.
"They risked everything and were rewarded. This is a learning experience for us and we will have to analyse our performance in the last 10 minutes.
"We were strong for 80 minutes and they hardly had a chance to score, which says a lot about our team."
Thomas Mueller reached the milestone of 100 Germany appearances as a second-half replacement, but the future belongs to the likes of Manchester City's winger Sane, who was outstanding.
"The result is annoying," Sane said.
"We went ahead and then let them off the hook. We should have scored the third goal, then run the game down, but it didn't work out like that."
Fellow goal-scorer Werner, who ended his eight-game goal drought, agreed.
"It's a pity, we had everything under control until the 85th minute and could have gone 3-0 up," said Werner.
"At the end, we weren't rewarded and everything fell apart again." - AFP