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Much-improved Netherlands beats Romania 3-0 to reach first Euros quarterfinal in 16 years

Much-improved Netherlands beats Romania 3-0 to reach first Euros quarterfinal in 16 years

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Much-improved Netherlands beats Romania 3-0 to reach first Euros quarterfinal in 16 years

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 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.”

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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.

“What we created was good football … Maybe one critical point was that it took too long to score the second one. … It’s difficult to explain why one time you play badly and the next time you are really sharp from the beginning.”

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.

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“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.”

Romania had dominated possession until Gakpo’s goal, but never really tested Netherlands goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen. Instead the opener came when Xavi Simons surged forward before finding Gakpo on the left. The Liverpool forward cut inside the blue-haired Andrei Rațiu and fired into the near bottom corner.

It was Gakpo’s third goal of the tournament, making him joint top scorer along with Germany’s Jamal Musiala, Georges Mikautadze of Georgia and Ivan Schranz of Slovakia.
“We tried to surprise the Netherlands today and I think it worked well until the 20th minute,” Iordănescu said.

The goal seemed to give the Dutch confidence and they had several chances to extend their lead. A huge section of their orange-clad fans thought they scored again six minutes later when Stefan De Vrij was allowed a free header on a corner but he planted it just wide of the right post, rippling the sidenetting.
A combination of good goalkeeping from Florian Niță and wayward finishing from the Dutch kept Romania firmly in the match until seven minutes from time.

Van Dijk also saw a header come off the right post in the second half and Gakpo had a goal chalked off for offside, but turned provider when he managed to just keep the ball in play, under pressure from Radu Drăgușin, and prodded it back from the byline for Malen to poke home.

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And the Dutch capped a dominant performance in stoppage time when Simons released Malen for a surging run from the halfway line before slotting past Niță.

Not only did Malen have to dodge the Romanian defense, which had rushed back to frantically try to close him down, but he also had to cut around a shoe on the field — presumably thrown by a Romanian fan behind the goal.

Niță had kicked away the other shoe from the same pair as Malen was bearing down on his goal.

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Rakitic joins Hajduk Split after leaving Al-Shabab

Rakitic joins Hajduk Split after leaving Al-Shabab

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Rakitic joins Hajduk Split after leaving Al-Shabab

Former Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic is joining Hajduk Split after Saudi Pro League club Al-Shabab terminated his contract by mutual consent following a six-month spell.

The 36-year-old scored once in eight games after joining Al-Shabab in January 2024 as they finished eighth on 52 points.

“The club management agreed with the Croatian player Ivan Rakitic to terminate the contractual relationship between the two parties by mutual consent,” the Saudi club posted on the X social media platform.

Hajduk Split on Sunday announced the signing of the former Barcelona and Sevilla midfielder for one season with the option of an extra year in what will be his first campaign in Croatia.

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Rakitic, who was born in Switzerland, played 106 games for Croatia, scoring 15 goals, and helped the country reach the World Cup final in 2018. 

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Croatia’s Vida retires from international football

Croatia’s Vida retires from international football

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Croatia's Vida retires from international football

Croatia defender Domagoj Vida has retired from international soccer after 14 years in the national team, the Croatian Football Federation said on Sunday.

Vida, 35, made his international debut in May 2010 and has played 105 matches for Croatia. He was part of the Croatia side that reached the final of World Cup 2018 and finished third in World Cup 2022.

“It is an honour to wear the most beautiful jersey in the world once in your career,” Vida said in a statement.

“And when you do it 105 times, you play in seven major competitions … then you can just be infinitely grateful for such a privilege.”

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Former Bayer Leverkusen and Besiktas player Vida currently plays for Greek top-flight club AEK Athens. 

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Canada defender Collins to miss Paris 2024 soccer tournament through injury

Canada defender Collins to miss Paris 2024 soccer tournament through injury

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Canada defender Collins to miss Paris 2024 soccer tournament through injury

Canada defender Sydney Collins will miss the Paris 2024 women’s soccer tournament after fracturing her left leg during a training game in her first match back after suffering a similar injury to her right leg earlier this year, Team Canada said on Saturday.

Gabrielle Carle will replace Collins in Canada’s Olympic squad, while Desiree Scott will take Carle’s spot as an alternate for the Tokyo 2020 gold medallists, it said.

Collins sustained the injury on Thursday during a closed-door training match against Nigeria, her first since fracturing her right leg in February.

“Our hearts go out to Sydney during this difficult time. She has worked incredibly hard to return in time for Paris 2024, and while this is a setback, we know she will come back stronger,” said women’s national team head coach Bev Priestman.

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“She will be with us in spirit every step of the way.

“With the depth and resilience of our roster, it’s a next-player-up mentality, and both Gabby and Desiree’s experience will be invaluable to our team’s success.”

Canada will begin the defence of their Olympic title on July 25 against Group A opponents New Zealand. 

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