The Netherlands and Czech Republic locked horns at the Puskás Aréna this afternoon with a place at this summer’s European Championship quarter-finals up for grabs.
Oranje had sailed through Group C with a 100% record whilse Jaroslav Šilhavý’s men settled for third spot in their respective group subsequently making them underdogs to face Denmark on July 3.
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They were anything but an afterthought in Budapest. Although the Dutch initially controlled possession, this was a whole new experience for them at these championship. Here, in front of them was a well organised and physical side who continually denied them space to play their enchanting passing game. Oranje’s inability to break this compact team down through normal methods was perfectly illustrated by the countless times they pumped long balls from the back.
After the break, a series of events turned the match on its head and ultimately decided it. Donyell Malen, who kept his spot following an impressive performance against North Macedonia, stunned the masses in attendance and the millions watching at home when he failed to put the Dutch in front after being played in behind, with only Czech goalkeeper Tomáš Vaclík standing between him and glory. From the ensuing goal kick came Matthijs de Ligt’s moment of madness. Under pressure from Patrik Schick, he lost his footing and instinctively clawed the ball on the edge of the penalty area, following a VAR review he was given an early bath.
🇨🇿 Patrik Schick for the Czech Republic:
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 27, 2021
Schick being involved shouldn’t come as a surprise given he’s been the heartbeat of this Czech outfit from day one. Having started like a man possessed in Glasgow, the Bayer Leverkusen striker may have already scored the goal of this summer’s championship. Schick arrived in the Hungarian capital responsible for six of the Czech Republic’s nine group stage shots on target, which is the highest percentage (67%) of any player for his team at Euro 2020. Against the Netherlands, it was a mere 40%, but he still led that category (2 out of 5 shots on target), and it was also still good enough for victory, with one of those efforts beating Maarten Stekelenburg with ten minutes remaining. It puts him on four at Euro 2020 and firmly in the hunt for the Golden Boot.
It’s also worth noting that only Milan Baros (5) has registered more strikes at a major tournament than Schick for the Czech Republic. Those five goals came at Euro 2004, which before today was the last time the Czech’s won their first game in the knockout stages of a major competition (3-0 v Denmark, in the quarter-finals, exactly 17 years ago today). Not only that, but only two players have scored more than five goals at the European Championships (Antoine Griezmann and Michel Platini).
Back to Schick for a second: he started today’s game relatively quiet as the Dutch immediately gobbled up possession, but unwavering in his duties, he kept patrolling Oranje’s backline like a vulture waiting for an opportune moment, which as touched upon came late on.
He wasn’t involved when the Czech Republic went 1-0 ahead through Tomas Holes, who became the first Czech player to both score and assist in a single match at the European Championships since both Jan Koller and Baros did so against the Netherlands at Euro 2004. But considering, it came following a set-piece into the Netherlands penalty area, you have to believe those Dutch defenders were nervously drawn to him. Denmark would have undoubtedly been watching and know what awaits them. But the question is do they have the answer for Schick? Or will Kasper Hjulmand’s side be just another victim?