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The Netherlands suffered a shock last-16 exit from Euro 2020 at the hands of the Czech Republic – but one Dutch man felt the sense of responsibility of an early exit more than others.
With the teams level at 0-0, Matthijs de Ligt was sent off in the second half for handball when he denied Patrik Schick a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Thirteen minutes after their talismanic young defender trudged off the pitch, the Netherlands were behind and they failed to respond.
Goals from Tomas Holes and Schick eventually did the damage but De Ligt faced up to the media afterwards, saying “we basically lost the match because of what I did”.
“Of course, it feels bad. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have let the ball bounce,” he told Dutch public broadcaster NOS.
“I had it under control. The ball came and I let it bounce. I fell to the ground and got pushed, which made me use my hands.
“The moment changed the game and I feel responsible. I saw how the guys fought after and I’m proud of it. But I feel bad about the incident.”
De Ligt was given support by his manager Frank de Boer, who said “you can always blame it on me”.
“I am responsible at the end of day. I need to take a look in the mirror. I think this group can achieve everything but now the emotions are raw.
“We will have a big hangover. I will take this bitter pill tonight and afterwards we will see what happens.”
But did the Netherlands show enough fight and were the Czechs tactically better?
- How you rated the players in the Czech Republic’s win
- Check out the Euro 2020 scores and fixtures
- Listen to the latest Daily Euros podcast from BBC Radio 5 Live
‘The Dutch didn’t show enough respect’
The Dutch became the first side in the history of the competition to win all three group games and then go on to lose in 90 minutes in the first knockout round.
And former England striker Dion Dublin said they failed to show the Czech Republic “enough respect”.
“The Czechs were better in all departments. They had better commitment. It was disappointing from the Dutch. They have all the talent in the world.
“We know how well they did in the group stage but everything about them today was never going to get them over the line. Sometimes you have to give your fellow professionals a little more respect.”
Former Netherlands midfielder Nigel de Jong told ITV it was a “poor” display.
“There was a lack of intensity, aggression and mentality. Sometimes when there’s a red card the team pulls together, but the Netherlands didn’t do that,” he added.
But midfielder Frenkie de Jong insisted his side “didn’t underestimate” the Czech Republic.
“It was almost as if we were tired, although I have no idea why. We really wanted to win it. We just couldn’t get our game going. Sometimes you have days like that.”
‘The Czech Republic were tactically ready’
For the Czech Republic, it was their first victory in the knockout stages of a major tournament since Euro 2004.
On that occasion they beat Denmark 3-0 in the quarter-finals – the same opponent they now face in the last eight.
Former Dutch international Mario Melchiot told BBC 5 Live: “The tactical level of how the Czech Republic played was totally different.
“Look at the goals the Dutch conceded. Tactically, the Czech Republic were ready, they set the team out and the energy level that they brought was incredible.”
The Czechs, ranked 40th in the world, will face another tough test against Denmark in Azerbaijan but goalscorer Holes has belief.
“It’s unreal, like a dream,” he said. “It was the game of my life. We were the underdogs today, and maybe before in the group stage. I believe we can still surprise Denmark, maybe even beyond that.”
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