Football Features

Poland 1-2 Netherlands: Supersub Weghorst decides Hamburg opener

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 16:15, 16 June 2024

For the first time since Euro 2000, a Dutch side completed a European Championship comeback win after falling behind.

Ronald Koeman’s current Netherlands team emerged as 2-1 winners over Poland in Hamburg this afternoon to secure three vital points.

It was far from a classic Oranje performance, and there will be much scrutiny, particularly over their set-piece defending, which resulted in Poland’s opener.

Adam Buksa nodded home Piotr Zieliński’s corner to become just the fourth Poland player to score on his debut at the European Championships, after Robert Lewandowski (2012), Arkadiusz Milik (2016), and Karol Linetty (2021).

His effort (15:48) was the earliest the Netherlands had conceded at the Euros since June 2000, when Christophe Dugarry scored in the 8th minute against them (also a header).

It also meant there was no clean sheet for Bart Verbruggen, who became the third youngest goalkeeper to ever play at the European Championships (21 years and 303 days) and the youngest to do so since José Ángel Iribar for Spain in 1964.

If Koeman knew the historical significance of that goal—the Netherlands had previously lost their last five games when conceding first at the Euros—he wasn’t showing it.

And for good reason: the Dutch were pretty much camped in Poland’s half before conceding the game’s opener. Patience was ultimately rewarded when Cody Gakpo’s deflected shot bamboozled Wojciech Szczęsny, who will likely be playing in his final major international tournament.

The forward subsequently became the first Netherlands player to score from outside the box at the championships since Rafael van der Vaart against Portugal in 2012. Furthermore, he’s been directly involved in six goals in his last eight games for the Netherlands in all competitions (four goals and two assists), guaranteeing him a starting berth against France next time out.

With their orange tails up, Koeman’s men pushed for the winner, and it came seven minutes from time when super-sub Wout Weghorst, who had just been introduced, struck first-time to break Polish hearts. The one-time Manchester United loanee has now bagged seven goals across his last 11 appearances for the Netherlands, with five coming off the bench.

It was the fastest goal by a Netherlands substitute at the European Championships, netting the game’s winning goal just two minutes and 18 seconds after coming off the bench. Even more incredible is that Weghorst’s four goals at an international tournament have come via eight shots on goal while he’s averaging a strike every 65 minutes.

Nathan Aké played a critical role in the game-decider. It was his clever pass that was threaded into Weghorst’s path. The multifunctional Manchester City defender had earlier provided the ‘assist’ for Gakpo’s equaliser, which capped off a brilliant opening-round individual performance.

Weghorst is likely to again start on the bench against Didier Deschamps’ men with Koeman telling his marksman that he has more impact against tiring legs.

“That makes the team stronger and of course he can start because he started in other games,” he said post-match.

“He started really well and that is an option. We will see what the best is for the team and not the best for the player.

“He is aggressive and Memphis is the forward who plays often and has a lot of ball possession. We were not able to run a lot in the first half, but Wout is aggressive and he always takes initiative and is a good header as well. He has one chance and finds the net.”

The Dutch won after conceding the opening goal in the UEFA European Championship for the first time since June 21, 2000, against France (six games without a win). As for their defeated opponents, Poland has failed to win in their last six games in the UEFA European Championship; their previous joint-longest winless streak was from June 8, 2008, to June 16, 2012.