Feature: Belgian and Dutch Clubs in Europe: A Fantastic End to the Group Stages

It was a dramatic week of football in Europe as 96 teams from across the continent battled it out in the last matchday of the group stages. There was joy for some, while heartbreak for others.

Here is a look back at how the Dutch and Belgian teams did in Europe this week and how things look from a coefficient point of view.

Perfect week for Netherlands, stronger grip on sixth

It was the best week for the Dutch in Europe this season, without a shadow of a doubt. All four teams managed to win their games, earning almost maximum points achievable this week.

Ajax got the ball rolling on Tuesday with a 3-1 defeat of Rangers at Ibrox. The Eredivisie champions got out to a 2-0 lead before conceding one moments from the end. It turned out not to phase Alfred Schreuder’s side as they got their third shortly thereafter. The result meant that Ajax secured third place in their Champions League group and will play in the Europa League knockout playoffs in February.

Joining them in that round will be PSV. A trip to the Arctic Circle proved to be a successful on for the Eindhoven club as they topped Bodø/Glimt 2-1. Unfortunately for PSV, Arsenal won the other group game 1-0 at home to Zürich, meaning that the Gunners topped the section at the expense of their Dutch counterparts. To the knockout round playoffs go PSV.

Feyenoord had it all to do in their tie as they hosted Lazio. When the going got tough for last season’s Europa Conference League finalists, they were able to get the job done. A goal midway through the second half was enough for them to beat the Italians 1-0. Incredibly, all four teams in Group F managed to finish level on points (8). Feyenoord won the group, however, as they scored one more goal than the runners up Midtjylland. Their reward is a direct place in the last 16.

Lastly, AZ defeated Dnipro-1 by a 2-1 scoreline to win Group E in the Europa Conference League. They left it late, but Vangelis Pavlidis managed to score the winning goal three minutes from time. A draw was enough for AZ to top their group, but a win made it even better for them.

It was a polonaise for the Dutch this week regarding coefficients. With all four teams winning, that brought in 1.600 points based on the matches themselves. Since Feyenoord and AZ won their groups in the UEL and UECL respectively, a further 1.400 in bonus points was added to the score. Overall, 3.000 was the weekly total. Netherlands have now amassed 10.300 points this season, which is an excellent tally at this point. In the five-year rankings, they are now up to 56.700, keeping them comfortably in sixth.

Their rivals for that sixth spot, Portugal, also had a solid week. Wins from Porto, Benfica and Sporting Braga helped contribute a further 1.000 to their coefficient. Problem is, neither Braga nor Sporting CP managed to finish in the top two of their groups. In fact, the latter nearly fell out of Europe altogether. Things would have looked more dire for the Portuguese had Pierre Emile Højbjerg didn’t score a 95th minute winner for Spurs against Marseille.

Portugal has now collected 10.000 coefficient points this campaign, just a bit less than the Dutch. The problem now lies for them that the distance between them and sixth spot has grown to just under 3.000 points. At this stage in the game, that is a significant number to be behind in such a huge race. Topping Netherlands in this race for sixth place is looking a lot more difficult for them now. It is not impossible, but things are looking more grim for the Iberian country.

Incredible season for Belgian football continues

For the first time ever, Belgium will have four teams represent them in the knockout rounds in the same season. It was another impressive week as only one goal was conceded across the four games.

Things started off with Club Brugge in the Champions League on Tuesday. Heading to Germany, they faced a Bayer Leverkusen side hoping to steal third and continue their European campaign in the Europa League. It ended 0-0, with big chances coming at a premium. Leverkusen finishes third in Group B, while Club Brugge takes second spot as Porto pipped them to the summit at the last. It was also Club’s fifth clean sheet in six Champions League games, an incredible achievement.

Union St. Gilloise headed into Thursday already confirmed as winners of their Europa League section. Hosting Union Berlin, Carel Geraerts’ side was out to play spoiler. Sven Michel got the goal inside six minutes to give the Germans a needed 1-0 win over USG. The result meant that Union Berlin will join last season’s Jupiler Pro League runners-up in the knockout rounds. Braga will fall to the Europa Conference League despite their 2-1 success over Malmö.

Gent knew they had to beat opponents Molde at home to save their European campaign. At half time of the Conference League tie, no goals were scored. By the final whistle, Gent had scored four times to top the Norwegian champions 4-0 and progress at their expense. It was a complete performance from Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s men, who made the most of their possession and chances to move on to the next round.

Completing the job was Anderlecht, who headed to Denmark to face Silkeborg. Being in the exact same predicament as Gent, the task was arguably more difficult for the former UEFA Cup and Cup Winners Cup champions. Yet, a goal in each half was enough as Anderlecht defeated the 10 men of Silkeborg 2-0. It will be their first season of European knockout round football since the 2016-17 season, where they reached the quarterfinals of the Europa League.

The 2-1-1 record this week from the Belgian clubs yielded another 1.000 in coefficient points. A further 0.400 of bonus points was also added since Anderlecht and Gent finished second in their respective Conference League groups. The 1.400 points from the week brings the season total to 10.600. In the five-year ranking, Belgium is firmly in eighth spot with 38.600 points.

Nearest challengers Scotland saw all three of their teams lose, meaning none of their sides remain in Europe past the group stage. It is a similar story for Austria, who also went 0-0-3 on the week. RB Salzburg is the only team that remains, but them alone can no longer catch Belgium in eighth. Only Serbia and Turkey can catch up to Belgium by season’s end, and in both cases, it is incredibly unlikely for that to happen. Safe to say that it has been a phenomenal run for Belgium’s teams in Europe.

David Parkes

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