In the preparation it was only a hassle for the Orange, but look: it immediately took its first victory. The Netherlands played a strong game and led 2-0, but after two quick goals – including one from AA Gent striker Roman Yaremchuk – Ukraine seemed to be running with a point. Denzel Dumfries decided otherwise: in the 85th he made it 3-2 for the Netherlands.
After seven years, the time had finally come. The great comeback of our northern neighbors on the big stage. Yes, in the meantime they sometimes played the final of the Nations League. But they don’t count that themselves either.
Everyone seemed to have forgotten about the anything but flawless preparation. The enthusiasm in the orange colored Amsterdam, where 16,000 spectators were welcome, was great. Clean people in the Johan Cruijff ArenA too. Sneijder, Van Bronckhorst, Van der Sar,… The latter knew that he would lose the record of oldest Dutch international at a European Championship/World Cup to Stekelenburg, but didn’t mind. As director of Ajax, he ensured that the goalkeeper once again ended up between the posts of his club and the national team at the age of 38.
Stekelenburg is also the only one who was there at the previous European Championship of Orange. That was in 2012, when he and his teammates went naked and lost all three duels. Immediately the only thing they had in common with the Ukrainians: they also lagged behind at their previous European Championship (2016) with a 0 out of 9.
What else did you need to know about Ukraine? That barely one of the 26 players has not been to Dynamo Kiev or Shakthar Donetsk. That four players from the Jupiler Pro League were selected – Sobol, Makarenko, Bezus, Yaremchuk –, but that only the latter was in the starting lineup. That Kevin De Bruyne’s lookalike teammate – Zinchenko – plays in midfield and not left back as with Man City. We were going to write that that was good, because in the Champions League final he was responsible for Chelsea’s winning goal. But even now he was almost the loser. After a minute and a half he clumsily lost the ball and Depay was able to get away with it. He could also lash out, but Bushchan saved the day.
The tone was set. It was the home side that took matters into their own hands and created opportunities. Frank de Boer had kept his word. He no longer wanted to speak of a 5-3-2, “because that sounds too negative”. In his eyes he opts for a 3-5-2 and that was really the case. Right back Dumfries was sometimes so deep that deep striker Weghorst was shocked. Ei so after led to the 1-0, as Dumfries was cleared in the sixteen. There was already cheering here and there, but the Ukrainian goalkeeper threw himself in front of the ball just in time.
Ukraine was by no means dramatic. It came out quickly and sharply at times. But it was always ‘just not’. Malinovskyi always tried to fire towards the goal – you know from Genk what that yields – but there was always something in between. Yarmolenko’s shot, who will relieve national coach Shevchenko with forty goals as all-time top scorer, did pass, but ended up in Stekelenburg’s hands. For the greatest danger, however, we had to be on the other side. Wijnaldum saw his bolt still stopped. And Dumfries, again he, was able to head completely free on the stroke of half-time, but nodded far wide to the disappointment of the entire stadium.
Away from disappointment in the beginning of the second half. It didn’t take long before the ball was in the basket. Bushchan could only push away Dumfries’ low cross and Georginio Wijnaldum kicked the rebound with his left against the ropes. A wonderful moment for the 30-year-old captain, who was also top scorer in the preliminary rounds with eight goals. He said on Sunday that he was relieved that he had already secured his dream transfer to PSG, so that he could now fully focus on the European Championship. Well, this was the result. Beer spilled over our laptop, which meant the party had begun.
Goal of the tournament?
‘One is none’ is an expression that has yet to find its way in the Netherlands, but Weghorst has understood it. After new preparatory work by Dumfries, he made it 2-0.
However, whoever thought at that moment that the game was over was wrong. Yarmolenko had something in store, namely a nomination for the goal of the tournament. Out of nowhere he curled the ball into the far corner with his left hand and brought Ukraine back into the match.
Would it still go wrong for Orange? It looked a lot like that, yes. Malinovskyi threw a free kick in front of the goal shortly before the end and Yaremchuk also headed the 2-2 in goal. The striker of AA Gent made his market value soar and his country cheer.
But his joy was short-lived. After all, the absolute final chord was for… Denzel Dumfries, the most quoted player in our report. The PSV defender also made a striking joke and thus gave the Netherlands a crazy European Championship comeback. “A fantastic moment”, as the man of the match called it. An above all a huge relief. Because without his goal it was hassle again.