You can call it a very late start to 2012, or an early start to 2013. However you want to see it, the Netherlands put the three-and-out Euro 2012 performance and 4-2 loss to Belgium behind them on Friday evening local time, defeating Turkey 2-0 in their first 2014 World Cup qualifier. The victory didn't just end a four-game losing streak for the Dutch. It also put Holland level on points with Hungary and Romania in their qualifying group. The Netherlands are expected to finish atop Group D without much problem, but this Dutch football fan is taking nothing for granted following the team's disastrous summer.
Holland 2-0 Turkey: Same old problem
The Dutch defending that has been extremely suspect throughout 2012 was again guilty of multiple miscues on Friday, mistakes that fortunately didn't result in Turkey finding the back of the net. The visitors nearly scored before the third minute, when Ömer Toprak was gifted a free header while inside the left portion of the penalty area. His far post attempt bounced a few feet wide of the target, though, and it should also be noted that there was a Holland player right at the post waiting to clear the ball from danger if necessary.
Holland then nearly surrendered an own goal right before the quarter-hour mark. Goalkeeper Tim Krul and defender Bruno Martins Indi were on different pages as a cross came into the box, and Martins Indi headed the ball backward toward the empty goal. With Krul out of position and having zero chance to collect the ball, Martins Indi did well to hold off an opposing player before eventually making the clear.
The scariest moment for the hosts came in the 25th minute. Jetro Willems had possession while in the defensive third, and he literally just gave the ball away to Arda Turan. The winger was away and clear into the penalty area, but his far post shot bounced less than a foot wide of the target. It was undoubtedly the worst miss of the game, as Turkey absolutely should have been level with Holland at the halftime break.
Holland 2-0 Turkey: RvP
In-form Robin van Persie was given the nod over Klaas-Jan Huntelaar on Friday, and the new Manchester United star did all he could to hold onto his spot in the Holland starting eleven. Van Persie had an opportunity to open the scoring early in the match, but he slipped and fell in the box before Arjen Robben could send a cross in from the left wing. Van Persie made no mistake in the 17th minute, though, when he got his head to a Wesley Sneijder corner while several yards off the line. Goalkeeper Tolga Zengin was caught wrong-footed and out of position, and he could do nothing but watch the ball bounce into the left portion of the net.
Holland 2-0 Turkey: The second half...
was largely about missed opportunities for both sides. The Holland defense did tighten up a bit following the break and Krul really only had to make one stop, a fantastic sprawled-out save to deny Hamit Altintop's 25-yard rocket in the 56th minute. While definitely an athletic stop, Krul had his eyes on the shot the entire time. Six minutes later, Sercan Sararer had a chance to bury a free header from about six yards out, but his attempt sailed over the bar. That was the last time Turkey really came close to finding an equalizer.
Holland finally put the game to bed three minutes into stoppage time. With Turkey surging forward in an attempt to tie the match at the death, the speedy Luciano Narsingh tracked down a long clearance before making his way toward the box. With nobody but the 'keeper to beat, Narsingh played a clever chip over the left shoulder of Zengin and into goal.
Holland 2-0 Turkey: Conclusion
It was far from a perfect performance from the Dutch, but Holland did two things on Friday that they haven't consistently done throughout this calendar year: They managed to not surrender a goal in the waning moments of a contest, and they put a team away with a late tally of their own. Results, not style points, are what matter most in these qualifiers. The Netherlands will gladly take the win, as they must now prepare for a September 11 showdown at Hungary.
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