Euro 2024 exit hard to take for Dutch coach Koeman

<a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Netherlands;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Netherlands</a> coach Ronald Koeman applauds his team's supporters after Wednesday's Euro 2024 semi-final loss to <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:England;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">England</a> (Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV)

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman admitted his team's 2-1 Euro 2024 semi-final defeat against England on Wednesday was "hard to accept" after a controversial penalty decision and then a last-gasp Ollie Watkins goal left his team floored.

"I am disappointed about the final result in a match which started really good for us," Koeman told reporters at the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund, where the Dutch had taken an early lead on the night through a brilliant goal by Xavi Simons.

Harry Kane quickly equalised from the penalty in question, but the match was seemingly heading for extra time before substitute Watkins struck in the 91st minute to send England through to a final against Spain.

England's penalty came just after the quarter-hour mark when Kane sent a shot over the bar and was caught on the follow-through by Denzel Dumfries.

Contact was minimal and seemingly innocuous, but German referee Felix Zwayer pointed to the spot after coming over to the VAR monitor.

"What can you do as a defender? In my opinion this shouldn't have been a penalty," Koeman complained.

"We cannot play football properly and that is due to VAR. It breaks football."

Koeman felt his team had been in control after the 35th-minute introduction of midfielder Joey Veerman for the injured Memphis Depay, which allowed them to stem the tide of England attacks.

"We had some difficulties in the midfield to stop the good players like (Jude) Bellingham and (Phil) Foden between the lines," he said.

"We didn't control the game. We made some changes to get control back and the feeling was that in the last 20 minutes we were the better team and attacking more.

"But then came the knockout on 90 minutes. A great goal, and then it's over, and that is difficult to accept."

- 'There's a future' -

Koeman, 61, returned for a second spell as Netherlands coach following the 2022 World Cup, when Louis van Gaal took the team to the last eight in Qatar.

Their run in Germany is their best performance at a European Championship since 2004, when they also went out in the semi-finals.

"We should be proud, we've achieved many things in these weeks," insisted Koeman, whose team notably missed injured Barcelona playmaker Frenkie de Jong at the tournament.

"This team is able to do more. And moreover, there are also players who will join us in the future.

"Some were not able to play because they were not fit, so there's a future for us.

"We have to improve some aspects, but we were close to the final."

The Dutch had been hoping to go to Berlin for a final against Spain that would have been a repeat of the denouement of the 2010 World Cup.

Instead they go home to their next assignment: a double-header of UEFA Nations League games in September against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Germany.

Koeman meanwhile believes England can compete with Spain in the final on Sunday.

"I think England showed great football in the first half after going 1-0 down," he said of their performance in Dortmund.

"England are in the final and they have possibilities to win it. Spain are playing on a high level, but England can stop them, why not."