Disheartened Dutch watch hopes of first European title in 36 years fade as coach contests penalty decision

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Virgil van Dijk applauds fans after the match

Dutch supporters, numbering 100,000 in a spirited march to the stadium, faced a disappointing journey home after England’s 2-1 victory over the Netherlands in the Euro 2024 semifinals on Wednesday dashed their hopes of a first European Championship title since 1988.

“A fantastic goal, but then it’s all over, and that’s hard to accept,” lamented Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman.

The return trip won’t be without bitterness, as controversy surrounded a penalty decision favoring England, awarded after Dutch defender Denzel Dumfries collided with Harry Kane while attempting to block a shot.

“In my view, it shouldn’t have been a penalty,” Koeman expressed through an interpreter. “I believe that VAR is hindering proper football. It’s really damaging the game.”

Before the pivotal penalty call that swung momentum back to England, Dutch fans had been celebrating in full force. The South Stand, usually known as the “Yellow Wall” during Borussia Dortmund games but now adorned in bright orange, buzzed with dancing fans, with beach balls and balloons adding to the festive atmosphere.

Fans of the team walk towards the stadium

A victory would have set up a final against Spain in Berlin on Sunday, a rematch of the Netherlands’ last major tournament final, when they were runners-up at the 2010 World Cup.

Throughout the tournament, Koeman’s team had shown glimpses of brilliance, notably in a 0-0 draw against France where VAR disallowed what could have been a winning goal for Dumfries due to an offside call. However, a 3-2 loss to Austria revealed vulnerabilities before subsequent knockout victories over Romania and a determined Turkey team.

In a semifinal defined by fine margins, much hinged on Dumfries’ performance once again. He conceded the penalty that allowed England to equalize, struck the crossbar with a header at the opposite end, and made a crucial goal-line clearance to deny Phil Foden a second goal for England.


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