Netherlands players and pundits furious about England’s controversial VAR penalty

Harry Kane being challeged by Denzel Dumfries
The VAR suggested that referee Felix Zwayer take a second look at this challenge - Shutterstock/RONALD WITTEK

Dutch players and pundits turned on referee Felix Zwayer after England won the Euro 2024 semi-final 2-1 via a contentious penalty decision.

Virgil van Dijk, the team’s captain, and former striker Pierre van Hooijdonk both launched attacks on Zwayer as recriminations began on Netherlands TV.

Harry Kane’s spot-kick proved the most controversial moment of the match, cancelling out a superb Xavi Simons opener. Dutch defender Denzel Dumfries was dismayed after being adjudged – following a VAR-review – to have recklessly challenged Kane as he attempted to block a shot.

Referee Felix Zwayer checks the Video Assistant Referee screen
Zwayer has a look at the incident on the pitchside monitor - Getty Images/Dan Mullan

Van Dijk and Dutch manager Ronald Koeman both believed the decision was wrong. “The referee ran back inside straight after the full-time whistle, that says a lot,” said Liverpool defender Van Dijk immediately after the match.

Appearing on Dutch TV station NOS, Van Hooijdonk said: “Felix Zwayer, put him on the black list. The penalty in the first half, the many moments in the second half, these moments have decided the final outcome of this game.”

Kane: ‘My foot’s hanging off!’

Kane insisted he had deserved his penalty in the 18th minute, saying: “My foot’s hanging off so he definitely caught me! Sometimes you get them sometimes you don’t. I was happy to step up and see that go in the back of the net. It was a nice feeling for sure.”

England's forward #09 Harry Kane reacts after he is fouled leading to a successful penalty kick for England during the UEFA Euro 2024 semi-final football match between the Netherlands and England at the BVB Stadion in Dortmund on July 10, 2024
England captain Harry Kane felt the effect of the challenge - AFP/Kenzo Tribouillard

However pundits were less convinced. In Telegraph Sport’s live coverage, columnist Jamie Carragher said it was “never a penalty” while Lee Dixon, co-commentating on ITV, said: “I’m pleased, don’t get me wrong, but you have to challenge for the ball. I don’t think it’s a penalty but I don’t care.”

Gary Neville and Ian Wright were involved in a heated exchange in the ITV studio at half-time as they disagreed with the decision.

Neville said: “As a defender I think it’s an absolute disgrace. An absolutely disgraceful decision to have that given against me as a penalty any time, but in a game of such importance [even worse].

“I was fuming with the Denmark one the other week, I was offended by that one, that was a disgrace. I have to say the defender just goes in naturally and blocks the shot, it’s not a penalty for me.

“I don’t think many of the England players were claiming it either. Harry obviously stayed down, he took a knock but look, you take your luck, England have had a really good half.”

Wright replied: “That is reckless. His studs are up. They’ve given it – anywhere else on the pitch and it’s a foul.”

But Neville snapped back: “If someone thinks that’s reckless? Honestly that’s not a penalty. There has to be licence to try and block the shot.”

Gary Lineker echoed Neville’s view. “I’m sorry but however biased you may be, I can’t see how that is a penalty,” he said on The Rest Is Football podcast.

Micah Richards added: “It was pathetic to see that decision. And when they sent him to the screen, I just knew he was going to overturn it. You can still go to the screen and stick with your original decision.

“I don’t think it helped the fact that Kane was rolling around. And he might have been in pain because we’ve all, as footballers, had it that way, it just catches the bottom of your foot at times. But I don’t understand what Dumfries is supposed to do there. He’s not gone and lunged at Kane. He’s sort of kept his distance, put his foot up to block the shot, Kane’s had the shot, followed through.

“It’s just a collision after the shot. It’s one of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen in top-level football.

“It wasn’t a penalty. Fact. It’s not the case of, ‘Oh well, if that...’ And that is the problem with VAR. We’ve talked about it. “But, as England fans, as Englishmen, we will take it.”

Former England captain Alan Shearer, speaking on BBC 5 Live, said: “England players are looking at the referee, they think there is a collision. Denzel Dumfries does connect with Harry Kane. There was no contact to the ball from Dumfries.”

Michael Owen, who controversially won a penalty at the World Cup against Argentina in 2002 that David Beckham scored, also said England had “got lucky” with the penalty.

Uefa’s appointment of Zwayer was controversial because he was embroiled in a match-fixing scandal earlier in his career.

In 2006, Zwayer admitted taking money from banned referee Robert Hoyzer, who was accused of match-fixing but not of altering the outcome of a game. Zwayer was given a six-month DFB ban, having been one of the officials who brought Hoyzer’s match-fixing plot to light.

England and Netherlands’ history of controversy

Wednesday is not the first time that a refereeing controversy had become a major talking point following a big match between England and Netherlands.

During qualification for the 1994 World Cup, England’s David Platt was infamously denied a clear scoring opportunity by Koeman, who was mistakenly spared a red card before later striking a match-winning free-kick. Koeman, now the nation’s manager, added his voice to criticism of the penalty decision for Kane on Wednesday. “Football is getting broken with these type of calls by VAR,” Koeman added.

Thanks to Ollie Watkins’ winner in the 90th minute, England have the chance to become European champions for the first time this weekend.

‘VAR was wrong to intervene’

The VAR was wrong to intervene. The referee’s judgement from a good position was correct. There was no foul and therefore no penalty kick should have been awarded.

This was not a clear and obvious error and sadly we see yet again VAR intervention and the referee not sticking with his original decision.

The referee was ideally positioned. VAR should not have intervened.

Starmer and Dutch counterpart watch at Nato meeting

At a Nato summit in Washington, prime minister Sir Keir Starmer watched the penalty alongside his Dutch counterpart Dick Schoof. The pair shared a handshake despite the controversy.