Georginio Wijnaldum struggled to explain the Netherlands’ “off-day” against the Czech Republic as their Euro 2020 campaign ended at the last-16 stage.
Frank de Boer’s side were the favourites to reach the quarter-finals after three wins from three games in the group stage, but they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat in Budapest as a red card to Matthijs de Ligt proved costly.
The Juventus man was sent off for a deliberate handball and the Czech Republic capitalised on their advantage, Tomas Holes and Patrik Schick scoring the goals to send them through.
The Netherlands failed to attempt a shot on target for the first time in a European Championship or World Cup match for the first time since at least 1980 as they struggled to replicate the attacking flair they showed previously in the tournament.
Captain Wijnaldum was an isolated figure throughout in the number 10 role, completing just 10 passes in the contest, the fewest of any Oranje outfield player in a Euros knockout match for at least the past 41 years.
Wijnaldum pointed to a good chance for Donyell Malen, which was missed barely 30 seconds before De Ligt’s red card, as a key point in the contest but admitted his side deserved little for their performance.
“In the second half, we had a good chance and you have to finish that,” he told NOS.
“The goals we gave away, the chances we didn’t take… all that goes through your head. After the red card, we found it difficult to put them under pressure. Things just got more difficult for us.
“The whole match was tough going. Somehow we couldn’t deal with the way they pressurised us. We couldn’t create spaces. We fashioned a few chances in the first half, but not enough.
“Before the tournament, there was a lot of criticism around our way of playing, and we turned that around. Today was an off-day. I can hardly explain it. It’s very difficult, but it’s the reality.”
The Czech Republic will face Denmark in the quarter-finals next Saturday.