Football Features

Netherlands’ last Euros knockout side, from Spain’s newest enemy to a cult Liverpool hero

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 19:06, 26 June 2021

In qualifying for Euro 2020, the Netherlands ended a lengthy major tournament absence having missed out on Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup. 

The Oranje have certainly made up for lost time and can now look forward to a first European Championship knockout game since the summer of 2008 when they faced Russia and lost 3-1 after extra-time.

So, before Frank de Boer’s men take on the Czech Republic in Budapest, let’s have a look at the last Dutch side to play a ‘loser goes home’ match at the Euros and what happened next.

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GK: Edwin van der Sar

Netherlands caps: 130

Euro 2008 would prove to be Edwin van der Sar’s swansong at international level. He came into the Austria-Switzerland tournament having played a pivotal role in Manchester United winning a third European Cup but could not carry that fortune over. Van der Sar remained at Old Trafford for several more seasons, reaching two more Champions League finals and winning two more Premier League titles before returning to his boyhood club Ajax and becoming their CEO.

RB: Khalid Boulahrouz

Netherlands caps: 35

Before the Russia game, Khalid Boulahrouz experienced a personal tragedy when his wife gave birth to a prematurely born daughter who passed away. He opted to face Russia, but it was obvious it had taken a toll on him. Once the championship was over Boulahrouz ended a two-year association with Chelsea and would spend the next seven years earning nine more international caps whilst representing four clubs in four different countries.

CB: André Ooijer

Netherlands caps: 55

André Ooijer was part of the Netherlands squad at France ’98 but never left the bench, meaning his international debut was delayed. A decade later, the former PSV man was at Blackburn Rovers and he would remain there for another year after Oranje‘s Euro 2008 elimination. Ooijer returned to the Philips Stadion, albeit for just one season, before joining boyhood club Ajax where he played the final minutes of his career which included lifting two more Eredivisie titles to go with the five he picked up in Eindhoven.

CB: Joris Mathijsen

Netherlands caps: 84

The latter half of the 2000s saw Joris Mathijsen was a regular at centre-back for Netherlands in the latter half of the 2000s, usually alongside John Heitinga, but on this occasion he partnered the more experienced Ooijer. Euro 2008 came off the back of Mathijsen’s second year at Hamburg and he would remain there until 2011 when he moved to Malaga. He ended his career at Feyenoord, where he collected his final Oranje cap and hung up his boots.

LB: Giovanni van Bronckhorst

Netherlands caps: 106

This championship came at the tail end of Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s illustrious playing career. He’d soon inherit Van der Sar’s captain’s armband and Gio led Oranje to a third World Cup final appearance in 2010 under Bert van Marwijk’s guidance. Once that tournament came to a close, Van Bronckhorst called time and moved into coaching. His big break came at childhood club Feyenoord and, in 2017, he ended the Rotterdammers 18-year title drought.

CM: Nigel de Jong

Netherlands caps: 81

One of five Ajax academy graduates in Marco van Basten’s starting lineup, Nigel de Jong would join Manchester City soon after Euro 2008 where he’d make over 100 league appearances. It was at Man City that he reunited with former Hamburg teammate Vincent Kompany and, since leaving England, he’s represented AC Milan, La Galaxy, Galatasaray and Mainz 05 before moving to Qatar. Oh, and there was that incident with Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final.

CM: Orlando Engelaar

Netherlands caps: 14

Orlando Engelaar was a surprise pick for Euro 2008, seemingly coming from nowhere. His eye-catching performances at the tournament attracted the attention of Schalke 04, who promptly signed Engelaar from FC Twente but their time together was restricted to one season. He soon joined PSV until they moved him onto Melbourne Heart from where Engelaar returned to Twente to see out his playing days.

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RW: Dirk Kuyt

Netherlands caps: 104

Football’s answer to the Duracell Bunny and someone who always gave it his all for the Dutch national team. Dirk Kuyt was representing Liverpool during Euro 2008 and once he eventually left Anfield as a cult hero, the Dutch forward would win a league title in Turkey with Fenerbahçe before helping Feyenoord — the club he initially left for England — end their championship drought. Since retiring, Kuyt has moved into coaching.

AM: Rafael van der Vaart

Netherlands caps: 109

The first ‘Golden Boy’ award recipient, Rafael van der Vaart joined a burgeoning Dutch enclave at Real Madrid following Euro 2008 but lasted just two seasons before joining Tottenham Hotspur, where he bagged 24 goals across 63 league appearances. Van der Vaart then returned to Hamburg before seeing out his playing career in Denmark following a brief spell at Real Betis. Today, he’s a pundit and recently made headlines infuriating the Spanish national team.

LW: Wesley Sneijder

Netherlands caps: 134

Wesley Sneijder is the Oranje‘s record appearance holder and, for the best part of a decade, their most inspirational player. He looked the real deal at Real Madrid but the powers that be thought otherwise, offloading him to Inter Milan where he had the last laugh by helping the Serie A win the 2010 Champions League final at the Santiago Bernabéu. Once leaving Italy, Sneijder enjoyed five seasons at Galatasaray and the former Ajax academy graduate is still fondly remembered in Istanbul.

CF: Ruud van Nistelrooy

Netherlands caps: 70

There were very few better No.9s in the 2000s than Ruud van Nistelrooy, whose ruthlessness in front of goal made him a dying species. Known to be a penalty box killer at Manchester United, he seemingly reinvented himself at Real Madrid subsequently helping them with two La Liga crowns. Since packing it all up, Van Nistelrooy has followed the path of so many by turning into a coach. You can now find him as part of De Boer’s backroom team.