Football Analysis Soccer Netherlands sharp shooter Weghorst shows value of killer instinct
Football Analysis Soccer Netherlands sharp shooter Weghorst shows value of killer instinct

Football: Analysis-Soccer-Netherlands sharp-shooter Weghorst shows value of killer instinct

HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters) – Modern-day football sometimes shuns the strapping centre forward but Netherlands super-sub Wout Weghorst came off the bench to spare their blushes on Sunday and show the value of a number nine with a killer instinct in a 2-1 Euro 2024 win over Poland.

There was no question that the Dutch were the dominant side against a Polish outfit who were perfectly happy to sit and wait for their moments.

Yet goals win games and if the Netherlands are to go far at the tournament they will need to sharpen their knives after a largely wasteful display in Hamburg.

The Dutch started the game with a dynamic front three of Cody Gakpo, Memphis Depay and Xavi Simons who were full of running and creative interplay, carving apart the Poles and creating chance after chance.

They had 64% of possession and 20 shots on goal but apart from Gakpo’s deflected effort in the 29th minute to level the scores, the opportunities came and went.

As the Netherlands’ hopes of opening their Group D campaign with a victory started to fade, boss Ronald Koeman summoned Weghorst off the bench in the 81st minute, one of a number of changes he made as he looked to shift the dial in their favour.

Two minutes later, the Netherlands had the lead as Weghorst latched on to Nathan Ake’s pass and rifled the ball into the back of the net left-footed.

Weghorst, who came on with the Dutch trailing 2-0 to Argentina at the 2022 World Cup to score twice, has netted with his past three shots at major tournaments.

And underlining his super-sub credentials, it was the third consecutive game in which he has come off the bench to score for the Dutch.

“A real No.9 knows exactly where he needs to be to get those sort of goals,” said former Netherlands striker and Dutch TV analyst Pierre van Hooijdonk.

Those who have followed Weghorst’s club career would be forgiven for thinking they are watching a different player from the version who lines up for the Dutch.

He scored no goals in 17 league games during a dismal loan spell at Manchester United last season, while this campaign he has scored seven in 28 games for his loan club Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. He has bagged the same number for the Dutch this season in 11 appearances.

While the victory was deserved, Poland can take some solace from a competitive display when many had been predicting a more comprehensive defeat.

There was some trepidation among Polish fans after they scraped into the tournament through the playoffs following a woeful qualifying campaign, even if their recent form had shown more promise.

With record scorer Robert Lewandowski, who boasts a remarkable 82 goals in 150 internationals, sidelined through injury, it was always going to be an uphill task.

There are occasions when losing your best player can be a blessing in disguise, as a team that has become overly reliant on an individual’s brilliance is forced into a rethink.

In came Adam Buksa to lead the line, a big man to replace a big star and not only did the 1.93-metre striker open the scoring for the Poles but his all-round game gave the Dutch defence headaches.

Lewandowski may be fit for their second group game against Austria on Friday but Buksa may hope he has done enough to keep him on the sidelines.

(Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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