Koeman says Dutch need to step up after Croatia loss

June 15 – Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman has said that his side will need to “take steps” following their 4-2 defeat against Croatia.

In the final minutes of the match, the hosts threw everything forward and Noa Lang grabbed a last-gap leveller, but goals from Bruno Petkovic and Luka Modric in extra time ensured the Croatians will play Sunday’s final against Spain or Italy. The Dutch were left to lament what could have been, but ultimately could not match the battle-hardened and skilful Croatians.

“There were clear moments that showed where we need to improve,” said Koeman. “We clearly have a team now that had the right energy, that put up a fight. That’s something we can build on. But we played against a Croatian team that showed why it finished second and third at the most recent World Cups. We need to learn from that. We need to take steps.”

“We lost possession a few times, which they almost never did. We played all or nothing – that’s what we did as well mostly after the 3-2. At times, they were fitter than us and we couldn’t really press them anymore. In the end, you just about fall short.”

Koeman had gambled fielding a very young team with Cody Gakpo, Donyell Malen and Xavi Simons as the front line. His choice seemed to have paid off before the Dutch faded in the second have and extra-time, often chasing possession and an imperious Modric. 

Koeman was not shy to praise the man of the match. He said: “One word – awesome. He is decisive and so good. It’s difficult to say, but I can even enjoy him. That such a guy can still play at this level and with the capacity to play 120 minutes – huge class.”

On Sunday, the Dutch will feature in the third-place playoff in Enschede before they return to Euro 2024 qualifying against Ireland and Greece in September. 

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