Depay and Dumfries help Netherlands beat Austria to secure last-16 spot

Top of the group after a more comfortable night than a couch potato, they join Italy and Belgium in the knockout phase.

Everybody loves a major tournament where Holland separate the oranges from the lemons.

But on the evidence of a performance that was nearer workmanlike than scintillating at the Johan Cruyff Arena, they are not going to frighten Europe’s big guns.

Although there was no shortage of entertainment, Holland’s opening five-goal thriller with Ukraine had left as many question marks about their defensive leaks as their sense of adventure.

Critics, including ITV pundit and that eternal ray of sunshine Roy Keane, says coach Frank de Boer’s 3-5-2 system has more holes than Leerdammer cheese, so we may have to enjoy them while we can.

Memphis Depay of Netherlands celebrates with team mates after opening the scoring vs Austria

But the Dutch day of reckoning was never going to be administered by a side as limited as Austria, especially with firebrand striker Marko Arnautovic banished to the naughty step for his excessive goal celebration against North Macedonia.

And Holland were handed a dream start when David Alaba clipped Denzel Dumfries and Israeli referee Orel Grinfeld awarded a penalty after consulting his pitchside monitor.

Manchester United flop Memphis Depay, who scored six and provided eight assists in the qualifying campaign, made no mistake from the spot.

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Depay kept his cool from the penalty spot to break the deadlock in the Euro 2020 Group C clash
Depay kept his cool from the penalty spot to break the deadlock in the Euro 2020 Group C clash

Depay may have flattered to deceive at Old Trafford, but he is on the brink of a dream free transfer to Barcelona, whose coach Ronald Koeman – De Boer’s predecessor in charge of the national side – was among the reduced 16,000 crowd.

Ahead after 11 minutes, Holland settled with the swagger of a side who had won the last 21 games where they had scored first.

And goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, the tournament’s oldest player who appeared in the 2010 World Cup final, was so untroubled he could have hung a hammock between his posts.

Autopilot has its virtues if you can leave some gas in the tank for later, but it did the Dutch no favours.

Depay, unmarked and teed up by Wout Weghorst, spooned wastefully and horribly over the top from six yards and skipper Georginio Wijnaldum’s finish was half-hearted where more conviction would have doubled the lead before half-time.

Apart from width, pace, movement, cutting edge and imagination, Austria brought a full deck of cards to the croupier’s table.

Denzel Dumfries wheels away to celebrate his second-half goal after doubles Netherlands' lead
Denzel Dumfries wheels away to celebrate his second-half goal after doubles Netherlands’ lead

Alaba, who is leaving Bayern Munich to replace trophy-laden veteran Sergio Ramos at Real Madrid, remained deep and central where he had been influential and threatening down the left flank against North Macedonia.

Yet Holland still managed to make heavy weather of it.

Italy are catching a wave, Belgium are for once living up to the hype, France look like they mean business and England will be contenders, but the Dutch just look… orange.

Gini Wijnaldum leads with energy and purpose, Frenkie de Jong’s quality is not wasted on Barcelona and Depay is lively, but they did not dominate possession against a bang-average side.

Daniel Bachmann, who kept 14 clean sheets in 23 games as Watford won promotion, excelled to keep out Stefan de Vrij’s point-blank header.

But the Austrian keeper could do nothing to prevent Denzel Dumfries’ second goal in as many games giving the Netherlands breathing space midway through the second half.

Substitute Donyell Malen sprang Austria’s ludicrously high defensive line and Dumfries could not miss from close range.

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