TALINN, Estonia (AFP) — Ryan Babel’s first international brace helped the Netherlands ease into a 4-0 victory over Estonia in Tallinn that boosted their Euro 2020 qualifying hopes.
Ronald Koeman’s men sit third in Group C, albeit with a game in hand, three points adrift of leaders Germany and second-placed Northern Ireland after the visitors won 2-0 in the meeting of the top two in Belfast.
“Before the match, we realized that if we didn’t get the focus right from the beginning it could be a difficult evening,” the 32-year-old Babel told NOS TV.
“It was great to score the first two goals — I’m a player who runs on confidence.”
“I’m no longer one of the younger players in the team, so I try to compensate for the loss of speed by using my experience.”
Memphis Depay starred on his 50th Netherlands appearance with a goal and two assists while Georginio Wijnaldum scored for the second time in four days after also netting in Friday’s 4-2 triumph over the Germans in Hamburg.
The Netherlands, Euro 1988 winner, is attempting to return to Europe’s top table after missing out on qualification for Euro 2016 and last year’s World Cup.
Buoyed by their stunning win in Germany, the Dutch wasted little time in getting on the front foot, with Virgil van Dijk stepping into midfield and drilling a long-range strike narrowly wide in only the third minute.
The visitors grabbed the lead 14 minutes later as Babel met left-back Daley Blind’s low ball to slot home his ninth international goal and first since netting exactly a year ago in the Nations League against France.
Galatasaray forward Babel, on his 60th Netherlands appearance, secured his first international double less than three minutes into the second half by nodding home Depay’s deep cross at the back post.
Lyon winger Depay scored his 17th Netherlands goal to wrap up the three points with 14 minutes to play, firing a left-footed strike into the bottom corner following a neat turn on the edge of the box.
Liverpool midfielder Wijnaldum rounded off an excellent day for the away side in the 87th minute, climbing highest to nod in Depay’s free kick.
“We played better in the second half, switching the ball from flank to flank and creating more chances with, ultimately, more goals as a result,” said captain Van Dijk.
The Netherlands host Northern Ireland in a crucial game on 10 October, before visiting Belarus three days later.