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Sport

Dutch begin post-Koeman era with victory over Poland

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands began the post-Ronald Koeman era by keeping up their former coach’s approach to the game and beating Poland 1-0 in their Nations League opener on Friday.

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The performance had all the hallmarks of their confident showings of the last two years under Koeman, who sparked a revival after they missed out on the European Championship in 2016 and the World Cup in Russia.

After Koeman quit to take up his “dream job” with Barcelona last month, his assistant Dwight Lodeweges took over as interim coach and the Dutch team hardly missed a beat.

Even Koeman was expressing his delight at the end.

“Ronald Koeman congratulated me by text. He thought we had a really good second half. So, thank you Ronald,” Lodeweges told Dutch television after the game.

The team plays again in Amsterdam against Italy on Monday after which Dutch football association (KNVB) will begin the process of selecting a new coach, though KNVB sources have said there would be no rush to name a replacement.

Louis van Gaal, 69, has not ruled out the possibility of a third stint at the helm, though captain Virgil van Dijk spoke highly of Lodeweges, who is not considered a strong candidate.

“He has the respect of the players and does an excellent job. He does what he did before,” Van Dijk said after Friday’s victory. “It is pleasant working with him and everyone here around the team knows that.”

For the interim coach it was no prefect debut, even though he is the first new Dutch coach since Frank Rijkaard in 1998 to win his first match.

“We worked on things in the week that we wanted to improve, and we didn’t achieve that in the first half. We fixed it in phases in the second half.

“But we were last together nine months ago and so in the end I’m most satisfied.”

Writing by Mark Gleeson in Johannesburg; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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