In the eyes of Frank de Boer, the Netherlands had the quality to win the European Championship, “if everything falls into place.” However, it all fell apart in Budapest, where a team supposedly improving in form and confidence suddenly self-destructive. The Czech Republic ruthlessly took advantage to march to the quarter-finals with Denmark in Baku on Saturday.
The Dutch defensive back, Matthijs de Ligt, was sent off by a deliberate hand in the 55th minute and his country’s hopes were with him. Hard-working Tomas Holes topped the head of Jaroslav Silhavy’s team soon after and Patrik Schick scored his fourth match of the competition as the Czechs feasted on Dutch misery. De Boer’s players were whistled by their own supporters after the defeat.
A 100% start with eight goals, the highest set in the group stage, had made the Dutch favorites to reach the round of 16, but Silhavy’s side had no inferiority complex. For good reason. “Traditionally we always have tough matches against them,” said De Boer, who scored the 89th minute penalty at Euro 2000 that gave the Netherlands their only win in four meetings with the Czech Republic at this tournament. The Czechs had won five of the 11 matches in total, including the last two, and De Boer’s prediction of a tight match, in which his opponents would be strong in individual battles and unafraid to go straight to Schick, was corroborated. while it remained. 11 against 11.
Donyell Malen, the former Arsenal academy player preferred over Wout Weghorst in attack, nearly found Denzel Dumfries unmarked at the back post in the first minute. The right-back has announced himself on the international stage at this tournament, but he had no control in the first Dutch attack. With Tomas Vaclik making an uncertain start in Czech goal, Memphis Depay dragging defenders out of position and Frenkie de Jong polished in midfield, the 7,000-man Dutch contingent in the crowd was excited.
De Ligt was only able to cross the goal to its full extent when Vaclik and Tomas Kalas missed a Daley Blind cross on a Depay corner kick. Dumfries, sprinting across the field, grabbed onto another Blind delivery down the left channel and headed for Vaclik as the goalkeeper ran off unnecessarily. Kalas saved his goalkeeper by blocking Dumfries’ crossing attempt along the vacant goal to its full extent. The Czech Republic was being forced deep and in increasing numbers, with three midfielders regularly returning to a seven-man defense, but improving as their own attacking force as the first half progressed.
West Ham’s Tomas Soucek sent a header deflected from a cross by Petr Sevcik. De Ligt had gone mad in preparation, much to the delight of the Czech support. Schick pulled a comfortable save from Maarten Stekelenburg with a long-range shot before Antonin Barak blew the clearest opportunity of the half when Lukas Masopust released him inside the area. Barak, opening the body for a shot with his left foot to the right, dodged the shot.
The complexion of the game altered over the course of a minute into the eventful second half. Malen, picking up a delicious film from Depay, showed an explosive pace to pass two Czech defenders and found himself clean on goal. The PSV striker chose to surround Vaclik instead of shooting but the goalkeeper read his intentions perfectly and saved his feet. Suddenly the ball was at the other end of the field and De Ligt let it bounce between him and Schick. It was a serious mistake by the Juventus defender, who had fought throughout the match. Schick touched him forward, De Ligt fell on the turn and ripped the ball apart as he did so, denying the Czech forward a clear scoring opportunity. Russian referee Sergei Karasev was recommended to check his field monitor and his starting yellow card was successfully updated to red.
De Ligt, the fourth Dutch player sent off against the Czech Republic or Czechoslovakia in a European Championship, could have no complaints. His departure left the Netherlands having to play a long 35 minutes in the Budapest heat with 10 men and, despite bold substitutions from De Boer, the Czech force in numbers and in the air finally said so.
The inevitable breakthrough came after Patrick van Aanholt fouled Sevcik from the left. Barak swept the deep free throw into the back post where Stekelenburg was caught in no man’s land and missed his flight. Kalas, rising above Georginio Wijnaldum, crossed the goal again for Tomas Holes to drive in his header and pass two Dutch players at the finish line. De Boer’s team offered little response and the tie was effectively broken with 10 minutes to go when Holes latched on to a header and edged out Wijnaldum and Dumfries. The scorer became a creator with a clean ball from the baseline on the path of Schick, who swept a fresh finish inside Stekelenburg’s first post.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism