Dutch not favorites against Germany, says Van Dijk

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman and captain Virgil van Dijk during a press conference at KNVB Campus, Zeist, Netherlands, Saturday. — Reuters

AMSTERDAM — The Netherlands will not be lulled into a false sense of security when it faces a struggling, new-look Germany in their Euro 2020 qualifier in Amsterdam Sunday, captain Virgil van Dijk has said.

The Dutch beat the Germans 3-0 at home last October and came from behind with two late goals to force a 2-2 draw away in Gelsenkirchen one month later to win a place in the Nations League Finals.

The contrast in form continued this week when Van Dijk was among the scorers as the Netherlands beat Belarus 4-0 in Rotterdam Thursday in their opening Group C qualifier, a day after Germany proved unconvincing in a 1-1 draw at home to Serbia in a warm-up international.

“It does look like the Germans are still in a building phase but don’t forget that the Dutch side is also going through the same process,” Van Dijk said on the eve of the game at the Amsterdam Arena.

“The Germans still have fantastic players even if they might be talking over there (in Germany) about a crisis. We also had a spell like that, where things did not go for us,” added Van Dijk, referring to his team’s failure to reach the 2016 European Championship in France and last year’s World Cup in Russia.

“That was not a good phase. But we must worry about ourselves and not Germany. I don’t think we are favorites but that is up to you members of the media to decide.”

The Dutch are, however, in confident mood after Thursday’s comfortable victory.

“At times we played really good football but it can, and it must be, a lot better on Sunday,” said Van Dijk.

“There were times where we did not put enough pressure on them and were sloppy and lost the ball.

“Against Germany we can expect a completely different game and we all realize that. We know what we are capable of.”

Ramsey unfit for Wales

Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey is unavailable for Sunday’s European Championship qualifier against Slovakia after failing to recover from a thigh injury, manager Ryan Giggs said Saturday.

The 28-year-old sat out Wales’ friendly against Trinidad and Tobago Wednesday and was expected to be fit for their first Group E qualifier in Cardiff but has withdrawn from the national squad and returned to Arsenal for treatment.

“Aaron’s gone back to Arsenal, he’s not available tomorrow,” Giggs told reporters. “His injury didn’t clear up in time so it’s obviously a blow.

“We have plan B and we’ve worked on it during the week. He was in good form but it gives a chance for someone else.”

Wales is already without the injured Ethan Ampadu (back), Sam Vokes (groin) and Tom Lawrence (ankle) for the match in Cardiff.

Ramsey, whose contract with Arsenal expires this year, is set to join Italian side Juventus in the close season after signing a four-year deal with the reigning Serie A champions in February. — Reuters