Romania's midfielder #10 Ianis Hagi and Netherlands' defender #06 Stefan de Vrij fight for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2024 round of 16 football match between Romania and the Netherlands at the Munich Football Arena in Munich on July 2, 2024.

The Netherlands could be peaking at just the right time. The Dutch team reached its first European Championship quarterfinal in 16 years with a 3-0 win over Romania on Tuesday, July 2, after its best performance by far at Euro 2024.

Cody Gakpo broke the deadlock in the 20th minute and substitute Donyell Malen scored two late goals to send the Dutch to their first quarterfinal in the tournament since 2008.

“I think the whole performance today was outstanding and that’s what we need to have a chance to continue in this tournament,” coach Ronald Koeman said. “This is the level. If you go down in that level, then we don’t reach the final.”

The Netherlands had missed a plethora of earlier opportunities to add to the lead and captain Virgil van Dijk also hit the woodwork. It was nevertheless a much-improved display compared to its disappointing group stage performance, which ended in a 3-2 loss to Austria.

Koeman’s side could get a quick rematch in Berlin on Saturday if Austria beats Turkey in the final round of 16 match later Tuesday. “Sometimes it’s difficult to explain why you play bad,” Koeman said. “Even today, the start was difficult. They were really aggressive. But finally we found our ball position”.

A match to remember for Romania

It was nevertheless a match to remember for Romania and its loud mass of yellow-clad fans, who have lit up the tournament. It was only the second time Romania had qualified for the knockout stage at a European Championship and it did so as group winner.

The bouncing yellow wall at one end of the stadium gave its team such a magnificent send-off – singing and applauding the players long after the final whistle – that it was almost as though Romania had won the game. “Today we ended a great story, which we started two years ago. We continued that story here in Germany along with the fans of the national team,” Romania coach Edward Iordănescu said. “The team gave a great effort, but there is some sadness. We wanted more, but we gave our all. Thank you to my lads, the supporters and Romanians everywhere in the world who supported us.”

Le Monde with AP

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