Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Dutch newspapers react to ‘scandalous’ penalty as England win Euro 2024 semi-final

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There was a shade of deja vu on Thursday, the morning after the night before. Three years earlier, England had beaten Denmark at Wembley in a European Championship semi-final with a little help from a dubious penalty, and history rhymed as the Netherlands were left to rue a questionable call in England’s favour.

The line between a legitimate block and a dangerous tackle has always been a little blurred, a grey space usually preserved for defenders to safely fling boots, knowing they will not be punished. But Denzel Dumfries was not afforded any leeway as referee Felix Zwayer awarded a penalty for the defender’s challenge on Harry Kane, after reviewing the incident at the recommendation of his video assistant (VAR).

Kane equalised from the spot and England went on to win 2-1 and book their place in the final of Euro 2024.

Dutch newspapers were in no doubt about the decision. “Referee Felix Zwayer did nothing,” wrote Willem Vissers in de Volkskrant. “The VAR, originally appointed to filter out ‘clear and obvious mistakes’ from football, has long since exceeded its authority by correcting the referee at the most inconvenient times. And so it was here.”

Patrick van Ijzendoorn wrote: “Southgate kept faith in his captain and that quickly paid off against the Dutch when Kane cleverly won a penalty. Even the English agreed that Felix Zwayer’s decision was scandalous, especially since it was preceded by Saka’s handball.”

Dutch manager Ronald Koeman and captain Virgil van Dijk were unhappy with the referee, though as Algemeen Dagblad reported, Dumfries himself was not so certain of the injustice. “It was a rollercoaster,” the defender said. “The penalty moment, the ball just fell in between us. I went to block the ball, so I just touch him. There is contact, so you know [the referee] can give a foul. I take responsibility for that. You do everything to prevent a goal, but then it happens. That really sucks.”

Harry Kane was adjudged to have been fouled by Netherlands’s Denzel Dumfries
Harry Kane was adjudged to have been fouled by Netherlands’s Denzel Dumfries (Nick Potts/PA)

Mike Verweij wrote in De Telegraaf that the contact was “too light” for the referee to have awarded a penalty, while Valentine Driessen said simply wrote the Dutch luck ran out, coming up against an England side that finally produced a performance worthy of their abundance of talent.

Beyond the penalty, the Dutch media praised some of England’s star players. “The quality of the English finally came through,” wrote De Telegraaf. “With the help of 19-year-old Kobbie Mainoo of Manchester United and Manchester City star Phil Foden, England seized the initiative, meaning that almost the entire first half took place in the Dutch territory.”

And there was and acknowledgement of England’s fighting spirit after coming from behind in all three knockout games – that just maybe this was their time.

Van Ijzendoorn added: “In the past, the English have been duped on several occasions. Think of Maradona’s Hand of God in 1986, the disallowance of Frank Lampard’s flawless goal against Germany in 2010 or the ‘Rotterdammerung’ of 1993, when Karl-Josef Assenmacher failed to send off Ronald Koeman during the play-off match in Rotterdam’s Kuip for the World Cup in America. Can we, so it sounded in England, be lucky for once? In any case, the ‘Curse of Koeman’ has now been undone.

“As brilliant as Spain are, there is a growing sense in England that the hand of football history rests on the shoulders of Gareth Southgate’s lions. Late goals, refereeing strokes of luck and a favourable route to the final in Berlin. For Kane & co, Sunday is the ultimate chance to avenge all the disappointments of the past, from Paul Gascoigne’s tears in 1990 to the penalty shootout against Italy three years ago in the last European Championship final at Wembley. If football doesn’t come home now, when will it?”

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