Football Soccer Koeman proud after coming close to Euro 2024 final
Football Soccer Koeman proud after coming close to Euro 2024 final

Football: Soccer-Koeman proud after coming close to Euro 2024 final

(Reuters) – Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman was feeling more pride than hurt after his side came tantalisingly close to reaching the Euro 2024 final, falling to a last-ditch 2-1 comeback by England in the semi-final on Wednesday.

Koeman said it was heartbreaking to lose a game where he thought his side were best, but felt Dutch fans should be optimistic about the future after his players showed an attacking mentality until the end.

“I’m disappointed about the final result because it started good for us,” said Koeman, whose team went 1-0 up after seven minutes thanks to a brilliant Xavi Simons strike.

But the Dutch went on to relinquish control in midfield against English players like Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden, Koeman said, before then coming back strongly.

“The feeling was we were the better team overall in the last 20 minutes, we went on attacking more. And suddenly, there was that great goal,” he added, referring to Ollie Watkins’ stoppage-time winner.

“And it was all over … that’s difficult to accept.”

Koeman said he did not agree with the decision to award the penalty that brought England level when Harry Kane was caught by the studs of Denzel Dumfries as he shot.

But the Dutch coach said his side could still have turned the game back to their advantage had they been more decisive.

“As a former defender myself, what could he do in that position? He tried to block the ball … To penalize that is to tell him we cannot play properly football,” Koeman said.

“That’s my personal opinion. We should be proud because we’ve achieved many things in these weeks and there’s no criticism after seeing how my player fought until the end.

“We have fought like lions. We just needed a little more balance and the English team did it better than us, so congratulations to them.

“I have to thank my players because they believed in something and it was good to see that … Although now it’s too late. We can’t do anything with that feeling, but in the future we will come back stronger.”

Koeman said that he is already looking forward to the 2026 World Cup and believes that the Netherlands will reach it with a great mixture of youth and experience that should make them a power to reckon with.

“I believe our team are able to do more and there are also players who will join us in the future. Some people were not able to play because they were not fit,” Koeman said.

“We have worked in a proper way together, it was important and it gave us a path to follow. We have to improve some aspects as well but I think we were really close to the finals.

“Great mentality … Team spirit … I wish I could see them playing in the final … but it’s not possible… And I feel so sorry about that.”

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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