North Macedonia vs Netherlands. European Championships Group C.
Report as Georginio Wijnaldum's double and another from Memphis Depay send Netherlands into last 16 having won all three of their Group C games; North Macedonia see goals from Ivan Trickovski and Darko Churlinov ruled out for offside in either half
Monday 21 June 2021 19:56, UK
Georginio Wijnaldum moved above Marco van Basten in Netherlands' all-time scoring charts as his double helped them complete a 100 per cent group C record with a 3-0 win over North Macedonia.
North Macedonia manager Igor Angelovski had spoken of "putting on a show" in his side's last game in the tournament and they very nearly did early on, with Ivan Trickovski only denied the opener by a late offside flag after slotting home Goran Pandev's through ball.
Instead Netherlands continued their impressive run of scoring form themselves, with Memphis Depay slotting home on the break from Donyell Malen's tee-up after Pandev had been left on the floor by what appeared a foul from Daley Blind.
Wijnaldum moved level with Van Basten six minutes into the second half as Depay found the Netherlands captain with a nice square ball after being played through by Ryan Gravenberch.
North Macedonia: Dimitrievski (7), Ristovski (5), Velkovski (6), Musliu (5), Alioski (5), Bardhi (6), Ademi (6), Trickovski (7), Elmas (6), Trajkovsi (6), Pandev (7).
Subs: Churlinov (6), Hasani (6), Kostadinov (5), Stojanovski, (6), Nikolov (6).
Netherlands: Stekelenburg (5), Dumfries (6), De Vrij (5), De Ligt (6), Blind (5), Van Aanholt (6), F De Jong (7), Wijnaldum (8), Gravenberch (7), Depay (8), Malen (7).
Subs: Berghuis (7), Timber (6), Weghorst (6), Promes (7), Gakpo (6).
Man of the match: Memphis Depay.
And the now-PSG midfielder, who criticised Frank de Boer's 3-5-2 tactics ahead of the game, may have had reasons to backtrack after netting his second of the day to fire home the rebound from another Depay effort, as Netherlands advanced to the last 16 with a flourish.
The retiring Pandev was given a guard of honour by his team-mates as he headed to the bench with 68 minutes gone, shortly before Darko Churlinov looked to have beaten Maarten Stekelenburg again, only to be ruled out by another offside flag to deny North Macedonia one final moment to cheer before they departed the competition.
The first dead rubber of the tournament, with Netherlands already confirmed group winners and North Macedonia heading home, would likely become either an open affair or fizzle out into nothingness - and the opening exchanges showed exactly how things would pan out in Amsterdam.
Just 10 minutes into the final match of their debut tournament North Macedonia were denied another moment of history when Trickovski was slipped in behind by Pandev's lovely through ball and beat Stekelenburg confidently, before a late offside flag, confirmed by a tight VAR call, cut his celebrations short.
The next big chance fell to the minnows and provided another moment agonisingly close to supplying a shock opener as another Pandev pass found Aleksandar Trajkovski, who rattled the base of the post from 20 yards with Stekelenburg again beaten.
But against teams as good as the 2014 World Cup finalists, there were only so many chances that could be missed. Netherlands were looking to extend their run of scoring at least two goals in each of their last nine games, and netted a first moments after that let-off when Malen's burst over the halfway line on the counter then found Depay, who scored his second of the tournament.
Denzel Dumfries, a surprise early front-runner in the Golden Boot standings, then came close to doubling the advantage from another Malen assist but was denied by some smart goalkeeping from Stole Dimitrievski.
The second would come six minutes after the break, as Gravenbach's nice ball through to Depay was turned into the six-yard box to give Wijnaldum a simple finish.
He would move himself level at the top of the Golden Boot rankings with a second seven minutes later, with Malen's latest smart pass finding Depay on the left, and his shot tipped into the captain's path from a position in which he could barely miss.
With 18 minutes remaining Churlinov showed more fine composure to find the back of the net from outside the box before the offside flag again proved the North Macedonians' enemy. They continued in vain, with Darko Velkovski heading wide in the final stages, before bowing out without a goal to show for their efforts - but a performance to remember in their debut appearance at a tournament finals.
Depay took a bit of time to warm up in this tournament, perhaps with his club future weighing over him, but now he has got his Barcelona move sorted, he looks at full throttle.
Depay was a livewire behind the North Macedonia defence even before his opener and he assisted on both of Wijnaldum's double too. You would not be surprised to see him continue his partnership with Donyell Malen in the knockout stages either, with the pair's quick thinking and movement a real asset while both were on the pitch.
The Netherlands will play one of the third-placed teams from groups D, E or F in Budapest on June 27; kick-off at 5pm. That looks most likely to be one of France, Germany or Portugal from the latter group.
North Macedonia's Euro 2020 dream is over, though, and their next game comes at home to Armenia in a World Cup 2022 qualifier on September 2; kick-off at 7.45pm.