The Netherlands failed at crucial moments against the Czech Republic and never quite recovered after Matthijs de Ligt was sent off, manager Frank de Boer said after his side bowed out in the European Championship last-16 on Sunday.
After a goalless first half, the Dutch imploded after De Ligt was sent off following a VAR review for a handball when he denied Patrik Schick a clear goalscoring opportunity.
The incident came after De Boer’s side missed a huge chance at the other end, with a hesitant Donyell Malen failing to find the net in a one-on-one with Czech goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.
“We created few opportunities but this sport is played at a top level,” De Boer told reporters after their 2-0 defeat in Budapest. “One moment can turn the world upside down. These are hard lessons to take.
“I’m responsible for this defeat at the end of the day and I will take a look at the mirror.
“It wasn’t our best game but it’s not like we did not dominate the game.”
The Netherlands showed great intensity going forward throughout the tournament and that did not change in Budapest as wing backs Denzel Dumfries and Patrick van Aanholt led waves of attacks in the first half.
But despite all the chances, the Dutch never managed to test Vaclik and looked vulnerable at the back after De Ligt left the pitch.
After Tomas Holes nodded home the opener, De Boer was hoping to respond with an aggressive tactical switch. But those ideas soon went out of the window when the Czechs doubled their lead through Schick with 10 minutes remaining.
“I had wanted to go to 3-3-3, by bringing (Steven) Berghuis on as a right-winger, putting Quincy (Promes) wide on the left and having Wout (Weghorst) as centre forward, but just before that the Czechs made it 2-0, and so I had to ditch that,” De Boer said.
“We struggled to find our attackers and missed that killer pass from the midfield.”
De Boer said his team can take can take plenty of positives from the tournament after having swept their group with three impressive victories over Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia.
When asked if he would like to continue in the role and lead the team to next year’s World Cup, De Boer said: “I think this group can achieve anything. But right now we have this big hangover.
“We will take this bitter pill tonight and let’s see what happens later.”
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