ROTTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands have put behind them the poor form that saw them miss out on the last two major tournaments and even coach Ronald Koeman is pleasantly surprised by Friday's victory over world champions France.
"We've have shown we are broken the slump but I did not expect that we would be so much better through 90 minutes," said a delighted Ronald Koeman after a 2-0 win in Rotterdam inflicted a first defeat on the French since they won the World Cup in Russia.
The result means the Netherlands can win the group if they draw in Gelsenkirchen against Germany on Monday, usurping the last two World Cup winners to advance to next June's Nations League finals.
"I also did not expect that this team would be as far in their reading of a match. We’ve shown on such a night that we’ve made enormous steps. From the beginning to the end we played really well," Koeman said.
Georginio Wijnaldum scored just before halftime and Memphis Depay converted a late penalty as the Dutch dominated against the world champions, looking much changed from the side that missed out on the 2016 European Championship and the last World Cup in Russia.
The Netherlands beat Germany 3-0 last month in the Nations League to signal their potential but Koeman, appointed coach in February, then tried to temper the euphoria.
But he was fulsome in his praise after the latest victory.
"In the previous matches there were moments where we could have been a lot better. But to be better than we were against France will be very difficult.
"It has given the team a lot of self-confidence. France did not come to play and try and make a decent game of it. It made it difficult to stay patient and to pick out moments. We had many chances a second goal but their keeper (Hugo Lloris) was tremendous, otherwise the final score could have been 3-0 or 4-0."
Depay said that the young team were on the right track.
"I'm enjoying how the team is developing and if, in games like this, are able to get result, then we are on the right path."
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)