Netherlands faced their first knockout game of Euro 2020 against Czech Republic in Budapest after winning all of their games in the group stages. Czech Republic, however, finished on 4 points after facing Croatia, Scotland, and England– drawing with the first of the three, and losing to the last. Going into the game, Holland were favourites- especially after fielding a strong starting XI, with the likes of De Jong, Depay and Wijnaldum all featuring.
The game kicked off to a very lively start, particularly for the Dutch, as the first big chance of the game fell to former Ajax captain Matthijs De Ligt. A brilliant ball from Daley Blind following a short corner fell to the Juventus man at the back post, but he was unable to direct the ball goal-wards.
Good signs were starting to appear as Donyell Malen, making his second appearance of the tournament, linked up well with newly signed Barcelona man Memphis Depay. With Depay’s quick feet and Malen’s pace in behind, they were already causing the Czech Republic defence problems. The influence of De Jong was also having a large impact on the game.
Another superb ball from Daley Blind over the top required Bristol City defender Tomáš Kalas to make a crucial block as goalie Vaclik was caught in no-mans land. This was encouraging Dumfries and Van Aanholt further as they were being extremely effective down either flank causing several problems for Jaroslav Šilhavý’s men.
Early in the first half, Czech Republic were constantly on the search for a counter attack but just didn’t seem to possess the final touch- although Soucek did glance a header wide of the post after getting in front of De Vrij following a teasing ball by Czech wide-man Masopust. This saw their right hand side grow into the game, as West Ham’s Vladimir Coufal seemed to be have a lot of joy as they continued to spray crosses to talisman Patrik Schick- who is the leading goal scorer for Czech Republic in Euro 2020.
Czech Republic’s first decent chance of the game occurred when Barak opened up his body to curl the ball into the far corner with his left foot, only halted by a vital touch from De Ligt. Even though this was a brilliant block, Barak really should’ve scored with the chance he had.
The second half kicked off and the first opportunity fell in the 50th minute as Malen missed a sitter for the Netherlands after going 1v1 with the goalkeeper, but mistakenly trying to round him- leading to Vaclik managing to steal the ball from his clutches.
It was clear this Dutch side were growing in their frustration and, soon after Malen’s miss, Czech Republic went up the other end. De Ligt was caught out over poor positioning which caused the centre half to slip and instinctively scoop the ball away with his hand which would have seen them concede a one-on-one chance. The referee had originally only given a yellow but VAR interfered and saw the decision overturned to red card.
Dumfries made another important block when the ball fell to Kaderabek who tried placing the ball- another opportunity squandered for the Central Europeans.
Former Everton goalkeeper Mark Stekelenburg conceded a really poor corner at his front post as he dropped a catch. This corner then lead to the first goal, in the 68th minute, as the ball was played to Kalas, who headed it back across goal to Tomáš Holeš, perfectly places to beat three men on the line with his powerful header.
Oranje started to pick up the pace after conceding, but simply could not create sufficient chances. Eventually, Patrik Schick put the game to bed in the 80th minute as Holeš intercepted a pass and, after a brilliant first touch, glided past Dumfries. He managed to cut the ball back to Schick who calmly and cooly finished at the near post.
Czech Republic managed to see out the rest of the game, bagging a 2-0 win, pleasing the stacked end of fans.
Where does this leave the teams?
Netherlands have faced more disappointment in international major tournaments after crashing out today. Poor tactics from De Boer after not reacting to the sending off very well see them leave much earlier than most had predicted. Players didn’t seem to show up- even though they showed glimpses of hope from the likes of De Jong- but it was not good enough to go through. A major underachievement for Oranje, and the first shock of the knockouts at this summer’s tournament.
Czech Republic now face Denmark in the quarter finals of Euro 2020 and will fancy themselves to go further into the tournament which they can if they are able to manage games like how they did today. With the likes of Patrik Schick up front and the current form of Tomáš Holeš, they will surely back themselves. All the players were impressive in the game- not dropping below a 7/10 performance. Special mentions go to Holeš and Tomáš Kalas who had brilliant outings.
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