Netherlands started their Euro 2020 campaign on a thrilling note after Denzel Dumfries' 85th minute goal gave the Oranje a thrilling win against Ukraine.
It was a see-saw contest that defined the word thrilling. After a goalless first half, the second half of the clash between Netherlands and the Ukraine burst into action brilliantly. Georginio Wijnaldum opened the scoring for the Dutch in the 52nd minute. Wout Weghorst doubled the lead six minutes later. But, Ukraine refused to go down. In a stunning four-minute burst, they levelled the scoring. Andriy Yarmolenko gave Ukraine a glimpse of hope with a goal in the 75th minute.
Ukraine seemed to have completed a remarkable turnaround when Roman Yaremchuk leveled the score in the 79th minute of the match. But, Ukraine’s hearts were broken when Denzel Dumfries scored a goal in the 85th minute to give the Netherlands a full three points in the opening game of the Euro 2020 competition. This was the first game for the Netherlands in a major competition after seven years. The Oranje had not qualified for Euro 2016 as well as the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
In a crowd of 16000 in Amsterdam, fans still held messages for Christian Eriksen to get well soon. The Denmark international gave a message from the hospital that he was recovering well. Daley Blind of the Netherlands had his thoughts with Eriksen. Blind was Eriksen’s teammate in Ajax before the Danish international made the Tottenham Hotspur. Blind himself needed heart surgery in 2019 after being diagnosed with myocarditis. After he was substituted in the second half, Blind broke down in tears.
Netherlands are in Euro 2020 on the back of some solid performances in the build-up. Although they have lost Virgil van Dijk due to injury for the whole tournament, they had some issues even before the start of the Ukraine game.
Matthijs de Ligt, who plays for Juventus, missed the match due to injury. Donny van de Beek withdrew from the squad and goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was left out after testing positive for COVID-19. Looking at the number of players who were absent, it needed some tactical innovation from coach Frank De Boer. De Boer switched to a 3-5-2 formation, with Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay up front.
Ukraine coach Andriy Shevchenko, who has played for Dynamo Kyiv, Milan and Chelsea, has admitted that it was a tough game for Ukraine but they will bounce back. Speaking after the end of the match, “It is upsetting to lose like that at the end but not a tragedy. We still have two games to go,” Shevchenko said.
On the other hand, De Boer said that Netherlands could not afford to take Ukraine lightly. “When they encounter pressure from us, they are able to play against it and find new opportunities. You have to try not to give away dangerous moments to the opponents,” De Boer said after the match.
Dumfries, who scored the winning goal for the Netherlands, said the Dutch had the belief that they could win even when Ukraine equalized. “The reason I scored the goal is that we kept believing. I knew there would be more opportunities and you have to be ready when the moment comes,” Dumfries said.
Netherlands will take on Austria on June 17. Ukraine will take on North Macedonia on the same day in Bucharest.