Netherlands 2-1 Türkiye: Second half comeback sends the Dutch to the semifinals

It took a pair of second half goals for the Netherlands to book their place in the semifinals of EURO2024, coming back from 1-0 down to defeat Türkiye in Berlin.

In a game which started slowly, both sides grew into the game as it progressed – but despite Samet Akaydin’s opener, it was Stefan de Vrij’s equaliser and Mert Müldür’s inadvertent own goal which defined the clash.

As it happened

It was a clash between relative overachievers. For Türkiye, this was a first quarterfinal in 16 years, and making it this far represented a step further than the Dutch could muster back in 2021. But there’s no secret who the favourites were – the Netherlands, after defeating Romania handsomely in the round of 16, were expected to cruise to their first major tournament semifinals since the 2014 World Cup. That’s not quite what happened.

Underestimate Türkiye at your peril. They were the laughing stocks of EURO2020; they widely labelled the dark horses but failed to clear the first jump. But maybe, just maybe, we weren’t specific enough back then. They’ve turned out to be dark horses indeed, but perhaps we didn’t specify when.

Make no mistake about it: in the first half, they were the better team. That said, the opening exchanges were coloured orange, with Memphis Depay squandering an early chance by blazing a curled effort over the bar, and Denzel Dumfries lofting an awkward cross that could’ve dipped haphazardly under the bar both in the opening 12 minutes. Xavi Simons tried his luck from outside the area in the same minute, too, but he couldn’t guide it at all.

That early flurry of chances rather summed up their first half: they tried, but they simply weren’t accurate enough to require Mert Günok to make a save of any description.

So here we are, looking at Türkiye once more. Going forward, they were just as exciting as ever. Hakan Çalhanoğlu was up to his usual tricks, firing from distance and taking charge of Turkish free kicks. His deliveries were more threads through needles than kicks of a football, too, but his teammates couldn’t find the penetration; Abdülkerim Bardakci was one such target who could only volley over.

Embed from Getty Images

But for the most part, in the first half at least, Türkiye struggled as much as their Dutch counterparts in terms of getting their shots anywhere near the target. It wasn’t until the 35th minute, in fact, that anyone could guide an effort goalwards – and it was the opening goal.

Çalhanoğlu swung another threatening ball, this time a corner, into the area but could only watch as it was headed clear to Arda Güler on the right of the penalty area. Crowded out, he had no time to switch the ball onto his stronger left, so he tried his luck with his right.

It was worth it. His cross infiltrated the corridor of uncertainty, bamboozled Bart Verbruggen and left him helpless. In wandered Samet Akaydin, unmarked, untroubled, free to nod the ball into the all-but empty net. Türkiye led, and the Dutch couldn’t come close to pulling it back until the second half.

Embed from Getty Images

They did pick it up after the break, too. Cody Gakpo, who had been so one-dimensional throughout the first half, began utilising his left foot to cross and gave Kaan Ayhan second thoughts as to whether he’d cut inside. Wout Weghorst was also introduced to add that extra layer of attacking threat that a big number nine brings, and Memphis Depay finally hit their first shot on target in the 57th minute.

But after every failed Dutch attack, there was a Turkish one which looked closer; just after one of those Gakpo crosses, Nathan Aké gifted a free kick from which Arda Güler agonisingly hit the post. For the Netherlands, it was a case of one step forward, one step back.

Embed from Getty Images

They had another enemy to deal with too: the linesman. They were flagged offside four times in the first hour, all of which preventing what looked like threatening breaks. That discipline going forward was lacking and it showed. Remember, to this point, the sides had only had one shot on target a piece; if just one of those four moves was timed a tad quicker, they might’ve benefited. But that’s hindsight for you.

Then there’s the issue of Barış Yılmaz. Compared to Gareth Bale before the game, he certainly looked like him when he sprinted down the wing and made mincemeat of Virgil van Dijk before winning a free kick, one from which they were so desperately unlucky not to score. Türkiye seemed to have an answer, man for man, to every Dutch question asked of them.

That was until the 71st minute. Simons lofted a ball to the far post for Weghorst to volley, but he got it wrong, scuffing it a tad for Günok to force out for a corner. When that corner came, there was a flying Dutchman waiting in the middle: Depay’s delivery was pinpoint, Stefan de Vrij’s leap was explosive and his header hard and low enough to finally breach the Turkish backline. It just shows what some Dutch courage can do.

Embed from Getty Images

Really, this was a game of two halves. They all are, of course, but the first was decidedly Turkish and the second absolutely Dutch. Once that crucial equaliser went in, it was the Netherlands’ game to lose.

They weren’t going to lose it in a hurry either. Four minutes after that goal, they took the lead for the first time. Dumfries found space on the right and swept a low ball into the same area Güler did for the Turkish goal. In came Gakpo, challenged by Mert Müldür. In the end, the goal was scrappy, but just touched the defender before trickling over the line. It was unlucky: an own goal was what no one particularly wanted. But it was enough, and 2-1 was the score, leaving the Netherlands with 15 minutes to hold on.

And hold on they did. They needed a bit of luck; late missed chances and crucial interventions from Verbruggen and Micky van de Ven were all that stood between Türkiye and their equaliser. But the Dutch did enough: not quite Cruyff, not quite total football, but enough to see them into a semifinal for the first time in a decade.

As a result, Türkiye’s deep run has come to an end, but what a welcome surprise they’ve been. Not dubbed dark horses this time, they still ran a further race than they could muster back in 2021, and their glorious brand of attacking football added so much to this year’s tournament.

But there would be no Turkish delight come full time. This was a Dutch day, and they’re now one game away from an historic final. No one saw this run coming, but Ronald Koeman’s side can no longer be counted out.

You can keep up with all the late drama at EURO2024 right here at FromTheSpot.

The lineups

NED: Verbruggen; Aké, Van Dijk, De Vrij, Dumfries; Reijnders, Schouten, Simons; Gakpo, Bergwijn, Depay

TUR: Günok; Kadioğlu, Bardacki, Akaydin, Ayhan, Müldür; Yildiz, Çalhanoğlu, Özcan, Güler; Yılmaz