The question for the Netherlands after the Euro 2020 group stage was whether they had benefited from a simple draw or whether predictions of chaos leading up to the tournament had been exaggerated. Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to the Czech Republic in the round of 16 provided the answer. Matthijs De Ligt’s dismissal early in the second half was a big factor, but a disciplined and physically imposing Czech Republic had shaken the Dutch long before.
The red card should not be used as an excuse. Rather, the Oranje came out because they did not have the ingenuity to break through the Czech defense, and because defensively they seemed vulnerable to crosses and never seemed to find a way to stop deliveries to the area. As they come out unable to register a shot in the second half and a single shot on goal at all, and go home to recrimination and the likely departure of coach Frank De Boer, the Czechs face Denmark in the quarterfinals. final, a rematch of the 2004 quarterfinal they won, 3-0, 17 years ago to this day.
But in addition to what happened on the field, this was an important game for other reasons. The captain of the Netherlands, Georginio Wijnaldum, wore a rainbow bracelet with the slogan “One love”, an open reaction to the recent homophobic legislation in Hungary (the match was being played in Budapest). Although the colors of the rainbow were evident in the advertising for the court, surprisingly, there was no evidence of rainbow flags or banners in the stands.
There were reports earlier in the day that Hungarian security seized rainbow flags from Dutch fans. UEFA, which is already investigating alleged homophobic incidents involving Hungarian fans, responded with a statement insisting that “UEFA had informed the Hungarian Football Association today that the symbols of the rainbow colors are not politicians and that are in line with UEFA’s Equal Play campaign that aims to fight any kind of discrimination, including the LGBTQI + community, such flags will be allowed into the stadium. ” the fan zones are under the control of the local authorities.
There are clearly limits to the influence that UEFA (or FIFA) has over local police, which only makes it even clearer than it was before the need, when venue rights are assigned, that consider the extent to which the potential host complies with the standards set by UEFA (or FIFA) on human rights, which would include the absence of discriminatory legislation. In that sense, what has happened in Hungary may only be a harbinger of things to come at the World Cup in Qatar next year.
The game itself produced the first real impact of the tournament. De Boer was not a popular choice to coach for the Netherlands. Despite all his accomplishments at Ajax, an 85-day stint at Inter Milan, a 77-day stint at Crystal Palace and 18 months at Atlanta United had all diminished his credibility and there was a sensation when he stepped in after he Ronald Koeman took over from Barcelona. that he was someone who was available rather than necessarily wanted.
And being Holland, of course, there were tactical disputes. In a country where some fans are demanding a 4-3-3 as a matter of faith, even De Boer’s twin brother Ronald commented before the tournament that Johan Cruyff would be rolling in his grave, preferring a 5- 3-. 2 caused consternation. Three wins out of three in the group perhaps tempered some of the criticism, but the frankness of much of the Dutch game here felt unorthodox to the point of heresy.
Initially, balls overhead to free Memphis Depay or Donyell Malen, or runners from deeper, created opportunities. The problem was that the approach soon became predictable and the Czechs adjusted, dropping a little deeper. As the game became increasingly uneven, the Czechs, always dangerous from set pieces, also began to cause problems in open play, as Vladimír Coufal, the right-back, repeatedly found space behind the left-back. Dutch Patrick van Aanholt.
But everything revolved around an incident at nine minutes into the second half. Within 25 seconds of Malen breaking in and being denied by an excellent Tomáš Vaclík goalkeeper, the tenor of the game changed when De Ligt, the last defender, slipped and then scooped the ball away from Patrik Schick with his hand to be sent off. (Interestingly, all four of the Netherlands’ all-time red cards at the Euro have come against Czechoslovakia / Czech Republic.) The Dutch took Malen out of Quincy Promes and traded to a back four, and the Czechs took control.
The first goal came in the 68th minute, when Tomáš Kalas headed a free kick from the right by Antonín Barák to send Tomáš Holeš past three Dutch players on the line. A second came 12 minutes later, Holes slashing the ball for Schick to lead his fourth goal of the tournament.
This is the Czechs’ first major quarter-final since Euro 2012, but with this half of the draw opening up, coach Jaroslav Šilhavý will dream of repeating the achievement of 2004 by reaching the semi-finals, perhaps even emulating what happened in 1996 and reach a Wembley final. one more time. Its combination of robustness and neat patterns could unsettle anyone.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.