The Dutch team falls after a goal in stoppage time and the dream of the European Championship is over (1-2)

Exciting is an understatement for the denouement in Dortmund. The assistant referee was holding the board with two minutes of added time when Cole Palmer played the ball to substitute Ollie Watkins in the penalty area. He spun away from Stefan de Vrij and shot between his legs too easily.

The stadium erupted with English joy. It was unsatisfying when confused and disruptive German Felix Zwayer blew a free-kick after Cody Gakpo’s run a minute before the fatal goal, when nothing was happening.

About the Author
Willem Vissers is a football reporter for from VolkskrantThis is his seventh European Championship for men.

Orange was: fighting spirit, the eternal thought of recovery, never being afraid of falling behind or having a bad time. Resilience too. Or the good conversions of the national coach, Ronald Koeman. All that weighed more than all those misunderstandings, the lost duels, the lack of opportunities and the necessary technology at the highest level from time to time. The lethargy sometimes, in certain phases.

It all seemed too much for the Netherlands on Wednesday in the semi-finals, in their first game of the second round against a truly top country. The scoreline remained 1-1 for a long time, but after the break there was a chance to recover, and even a chance to win. Jerdy Schouten, the Dutch revelation of the Euros, kept the ball well. Joey Veerman thought ahead, Xavi Simons kept running, Wout Weghorst provided energy, Stefan de Vrij stood tall and Virgil van Dijk led the troops.

Strain

The final could have been reached. It was not possible either. The air vibrated with tension. Whoever managed to make it 2-1 would win. Finally, in that second part of the second half, the Dutch team temporarily took the initiative, Van Dijk moved more often and the legion won a few duets. Because England was better for a long time in almost all aspects of football – especially before the break, on an atmospheric and charming evening in Dortmund, in which the much-discussed legion of the Orange party almost constantly lost in terms of singing. Apparently, the English endure a day of drinking in the city better than the Dutch (they sing lalala and then it fades away again), which could already be heard in the almost animalistic singing of the English during the national anthem.

This difference in experience and quality was reflected on the pitch. Football is also a physical test of strength. Winning duels, finding free players. All this did not work well enough for the Netherlands, who have never played good football in this tournament, at least not over a longer period. The Dutch team thus leaves the Euros with a decent performance, thanks to having reached the semi-finals, but also slightly unsatisfactory, due to poor midfield play.

National coach Ronald Koeman had started with Donyell Malen on the right flank, instead of Steven Bergwijn. Striker Memphis Depay collapsed a little as instructed, but after more than half an hour he was injured. Koeman did not immediately bring on semi-folk hero Wout Weghorst, but midfielder Joey Veerman. He slightly rearranged the pawns, which was necessary to gain control of the game, especially in midfield. Things went better, especially after the break, and the Dutch team managed to regroup, leading to some good attacks.

Wandering Englishmen

England managed to find free players all the time, basically everywhere, whether on the wings or in midfield. Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and the hugely talented Kobbie Mainoo must have had a lot of fun wandering around the open areas of the pitch. The Oranje players were constantly talking amongst themselves, especially before the break, about who should defend whom. Virgil van Dijk, who came close to scoring after the break from a Veerman free-kick, cried out hoarsely.

Yes, the Oranje’s start was great. How Xavi Simons snatched the ball from the much taller Declan Rice, how he dribbled short and pressed beautifully, although goalkeeper Jordan Pickford could have reacted better to Simons’ first goal of the Euros. The Netherlands barely managed to press home their lead. The score was quickly levelled again after a controversial penalty given away by Harry Kane, who had already taken a shot when he was caught by the recklessly outstretched leg of Denzel Dumfries.

Referee Felix Zwayer did nothing. VAR, originally designed to filter out “clear and obvious errors” in football, has long since overstepped its authority by correcting the referee at the strangest of times. Now too. Zwayer took advice and Kane converted the penalty. Dumfries corrected their error moments later by keeping Phil Foden’s ball off the line.

The Dutch team simply didn’t have enough of the ball anyway. Always build carefully. Never skip a station, as they say. There was no surprise in the build-up, there were hardly any chances, although Dumfries headed onto the bar from a corner. Cody Gakpo, the team’s star, suddenly turned into a somewhat lanky man who kept slipping on the rain-soaked pitch. The Dutch recovered reasonably well anyway, but lost.

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