DREAMING BIG

'Small' Netherlands among the Euro 2024's late bloomers

2024 delivers the chance to repeat the success of 1988, when the Oranje won the tournament for the only time.

In Summary

•The feeling of victory might be a feeling the Dutch assumed to have lost over the years, as the team has not reached the semifinal of a European Championships since 2004.

•Former Barcelona coach Koeman might be able to tell his squad what it takes to kick the can down the road, as he was around in 1988 to celebrate the country's last big triumphant march

Cody Gakpo (C) of the Netherlands vies with Samet Akaydin (L) and Kaan Ayhan during the UEFA Euro 2024 quarter-final match against Türkeye in Berlin, Germany on July 6, 2024.
Cody Gakpo (C) of the Netherlands vies with Samet Akaydin (L) and Kaan Ayhan during the UEFA Euro 2024 quarter-final match against Türkeye in Berlin, Germany on July 6, 2024.
Image: XINHUA

A glorious moment seemed the right time to show humility for Netherlands' coach Ronald Koeman.

"We are a small country and are in the semifinals against countries like Spain, France and England," the 61-year-old emphasised after the Netherlands proceeded to the last four of Euro 2024 following a 2-1 victory over Turkey.

The former midfielder kept calm despite it seeming apparent that he had to deal with deep emotions.

"This means so much for the entire nation," the former midfielder added. The feeling of victory might be a feeling the Dutch assumed to have lost over the years, as the team has not reached the semifinal of a European Championships since 2004.

2024 delivers the chance to repeat the success of 1988 when Oranje won the tournament for the only time.

That it was on German soil might encourage the outfit to retake the big step. It seems curious that the Netherlands are one of three teams in 2024 joining the circle of tournament late bloomers.

A bumpy journey through the group stage also seems characteristic of France and England. Having improved step by step, some say in a matter of millimetres, has become a pattern leading to success.

Koeman seemed convinced his side had passed an important exam. "Sometimes we are accused of playing without leaving our hearts on the pitch. I think tonight we showed a lot of heart."

Inter Milan defender Stefan de Vrij spoke about the side's patience and ability to wait for the right moment.

Former Barcelona coach Koeman might be able to tell his squad what it takes to kick the can down the road, as he was around in 1988 to celebrate the country's last big triumphant march. A robust team spirit is the key, the coach said.

"It is a fact that results make you grow in a tournament. We learned that in 1988," he added.

It might help to have a scorer like Liverpool winger Cody Gakpo around. The 25-year-old has scored three goals in his five Euro 2024 encounters.

Against Turkey, some see the winning goal as his achievement. A Turkey defender directed the ball into the net in a one-to-one battle against Gakpo. "We are here to create our memories," the forward said, reminding many back home of the country's legend Arjen Robben, who led the squad to the 2010 FIFA World Cup final.

Like Robben, today's Dutch hero relies on a signature move, curving to the middle slightly ahead of the box to finish with an irresistible shot. Gakpo said he remembers the 2010 tournament "as if it was today. But now it's time for a new era."