The Czech Republic have delivered the first real upset of Euro 2020 and one that will taste particularly sweet.
In the build-up to the Netherlands’s first knockout game in seven years, manager Frank de Boer was already looking ahead to the next one, plotting his route to Wembley.
“What I find favourable is the duration of the route to the final,” said De Boer in his pre-match press conference - where he also spoke of parading down Amsterdam’s canals with the trophy.
“We have now had almost a week to prepare for the round of 16 and if we get through, we have five days until the next game. That is ideal.”
The former Crystal Palace manager would have had Czech backs up quickly.
De Boer insisted their focus was on the last-16, but his confidence at looking ahead was misplaced.
The free-flowing Netherlands of the group stages were clear favourites in Budapest, but were facing up to a smart and strong Czech Republic side who broke their metronomic midfield before those in orange hit self-destruct.
The underdogs were robbed of captain Vladimir Darida through injury ahead of the game, but went out to break the Oranje midfield machine.
Tomas Soucek and Frenkie de Jong are two very different players, the former capable of dictating on the grandest stage with seemingly effortless and attractive brush strokes with the ball at his feet. Soucek, the West Ham midfielder, is far more industrial, but no less effective.
De Jong and his captain, Geroginio Wijnaldum, simply weren’t able to get things ticking across a first half in which the Czech Republic had by far the better chances.
They mostly lacked a finishing touch but De Boer had Matthijs de Ligt to thank for a last-ditch sliding block to turn Antonin Barak’s close range shot over the crossbar - though the goodwill towards the Juventus defender would not last long.
A few dramatic Denzel Dumfries charges aside, the Dutch were chocking going forward in the first half, their midfield misfiring behind them.
They found a way through early in the second, Donyell Malen wriggling his way between the white shirts and breaking through one-on-one with Tomas Vaclik, the Czech goalkeeper. Vaclik stood his ground, waited for Malen to try and clip the ball past him and swept it away from the forward’s feet before jumping onto the ball before Memphis Depay could get there.
Having wasted a golden chance, the Netherlands imploded. The Czechs went up the other end at some pace after Malen’s missed chance, Patrick Schick looking to force his way past De Ligt, the last man back, before the defender lost his balance and swept the ball away with his hand. A yellow was shown before, on review, Russian referee, Sergei Karasev upgraded his decision to a red. De Boer was rocked and the Czechs smelt blood.
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The onus was on the underdogs to dominate and they delivered. Dumfries had to make a fine block from Pavel Kaderabek before Maarten Stekelenburg bundled one just around the post. The Dutch were creaking, and then they broke.
After Patrick Van Aanholt brought Petr Sevick down in the corner, Barak sent a high free-kick to the back post where Bristol City’s Tomas Kalas headed back across goal to Tomas Holes who was free at the far post to break Dutch hearts with a simple header.
The Czech Republic had given everything to keep in the game in the first half, but were showing no signs of tiring after taking the lead. Having headed in front, Holes spotted quite the hole in the Dutch back line, springing between Dumfries and Wijnaldum before racing through, cutting back and teeing up the Czech’s biggest star this summer, Patrik Schick, to slot home and send the Dutch packing.
In all De Boer’s planning, plotting his march to the final and subsequent canal tours the Netherlands manager had no answer for the unexpected, nothing to change the course and no reaction to a fired up and fighting Czech side.