It could be Rotterdam or anywhere, Liverpool’s his home…
Virgil van Dijk struck a 90th-minute equaliser against Germany last night to ensure Netherlands’ qualification for the prestigious* Nations League finals.
*it’s prestigious now that England are in the finals, okay?
The 27-year-old finished the game as an auxiliary target man as the Oranje completed an impressive Nations League group campaign in dramatic fashion.
Ronald Koeman’s men condemned 2014 World Cup winners Germany to relegation and pipped 2018 champions France to top spot.
Only a few months ago many were talking about the tragic demise of a once proud footballing nation.
Now, Netherlands may well be the most exciting international side in the world.
Captain Van Dijk is their rock; an oasis of calm to offset the chaotic raw talent around him.
His leadership qualities are obvious when patrolling the defence, but last night he proved why he’s worthy of the armband with his actions after the final whistle.
Referee Ovidiu Hategan broke down in tears at the end of the game.
Van Dijk noticed his distress and offered a broad shoulder for the official to cry on.
Hategan revealed his mother recently passed away and Liverpool’s talismanic defender offered a few words of comfort.
A few seconds of human decency was all it took, but it underlined Van Dijk’s character.
Van Dijk’s partner at the back is Matthijs de Ligt — an uber talented 19-year-old already tipped for a relocation to the Camp Nou.
The Ajax starlet is a typically modern defender, composed in possession, the first outlet of attack rather than the last line of defence.
Daley Blind is the experienced head in Koeman’s new-look side.
Well, him and Ryan Babel.
The former Liverpool winger’s resurgence is as inexplicable as it is welcome in his homeland.
Gini Wijnaldum’s industry gives the Dutch intensity in midfield while Memphis Depay’s enigmatic nature provides an endearing unpredictability.
The Lyon winger is a matchwinner on his day and Koeman has done well in maintaining Depay’s confidence — something his immediate predecessors failed at too often.
Then there’s the darling of Football Twitter, Frenkie de Jong.
Ajax’s stylish centre-back/defensive-midfielder has been the subject of numerous viral montages in recent months.
It remains to be seen whether the hype is totally justified, but he’s perfect for Koeman’s Netherlands as he is right now.
Much like Gareth Southgate’s England, Netherlands are not yet the finished article.
However, there is no doubt they are heading in the right direction with a young side and a coherent plan.
Netherlands failed to qualify for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.
People think Germany are in crisis, but their old foes have been in a state of emergency for a while now.
For years the ‘Dutch model’ was considered football’s optimum blueprint.
But the domestic game deteriorated as coaches touted Johan Cruyff’s teachings without adapting them to the modern game, a la Pep Guardiola.
Under Koeman, Netherlands could restore their reputation as one of the world’s superpowers.
You could say, it’s Koeman home.
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