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Wout Weghorst’s Late Strike Secures Dutch Victory Over Poland in Euro 2024 Opener

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Hamburg, Germany – Wout Weghorst made a triumphant return to major tournament action on Sunday, scoring a decisive late goal to secure the Netherlands’ 2-1 victory over Poland in their opening match of the European Championship. This win sets a positive tone for the Dutch in a challenging group that includes title favorite France.

The imposing striker netted the winning goal with a low left-footed shot in the 83rd minute, capitalizing on his first touch after replacing Memphis Depay. Depay had missed several key chances, and Weghorst’s clinical finish ensured the Netherlands didn’t squander their opportunity for a win.

Weghorst’s effectiveness on the field has been well-established since his dramatic performance at the 2022 World Cup. In a memorable quarterfinal against Argentina, his two late goals, including a cleverly executed free-kick routine in the 11th minute of stoppage time, pushed the match into extra time. Despite a heated post-game exchange with Lionel Messi, which went viral, Weghorst’s contributions were pivotal.

On Sunday, Weghorst’s goal was not just about skill but also timing and intuition. “I said it this morning to my girlfriend: ‘Scores level, 0-0, 1-1, 20 minutes to go.’ It was a bit later. But you feel it and visualize it for yourself,” Weghorst told Dutch broadcaster NOS.

Poland faced the Dutch without their star player Robert Lewandowski, who was sidelined due to a leg muscle injury. Nevertheless, Poland took an early lead in the 16th minute through Adam Buksa. Buksa, who stands at 1.91 meters (6-foot-3), used his height advantage to head in a goal from a corner, navigating past four Dutch defenders. Buksa has had a prolific career, including a successful stint with New England Revolution in Major League Soccer before moving to French club Lens.

Cody Gakpo equalized for the Netherlands in the 29th minute with a deflected shot that wrong-footed Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny. The Dutch dominated the first half, ending the game with 21 attempts on goal. Gakpo’s knack for scoring at major tournaments continued, having scored in all three group-stage games at the World Cup, propelling the Netherlands to their clash with Argentina.

Former Manchester United forward Weghorst has been a reliable option for the Dutch national team, with four goals in five matches this year and three more during the Euro 2024 qualifying rounds. His goal-scoring prowess at the club level continues with seven goals for German club Hoffenheim this season.

Goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen was crucial in preserving the Dutch victory, making key saves against Polish substitute Karol Świderski and stopping a long-range shot by Nicola Zalewski in the game’s final moments.

Poland hopes to have Lewandowski back for their second match against Austria on Friday, while the Netherlands will face France on the same day, enjoying an extra day of rest compared to their opponents.

Approximately 50,000 Dutch fans traveled to Hamburg for the match. Before the game, there was a shooting incident involving police in the downtown St. Pauli district, near a gathering of fans. Police reported shooting and injuring a man who was threatening them with an ax and a Molotov cocktail, though the incident appeared unrelated to the soccer event.

The Dutch team’s performance has set a strong foundation for their Euro 2024 campaign, with fans eagerly anticipating their next clash against France.

Source: AP