BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Netherlands defender Matthijs de Ligt took responsibility for his country's elimination from the European Championship on Sunday, after his straight red card helped the Czech Republic push forward and eventually win 2-0 in their last-16 tie in Budapest.
The 21-year-old centre back was sent off after a VAR review on a handball as he looked to have cynically knocked the ball with his hand as he tumbled over in a challenge with Czech striker Patrik Schick early in the second half.
"We actually lost through my action, that feels very annoying," told Dutch NOS television in a brave admission not long after the final whistle.
"It’s bad. We had the game under control and then such a ball comes. I let it bounce, which was not a good decision. I got a slight push and fell, after which I handled the ball.”
Asked whether he was not being too hard on himself, an emotional-looking De Ligt added: “You know what, ultimately this moment changed the game, and I cannot get away from that."
The Dutch found the Czechs tough to handle but got the better opportunities before the 55th minute red card left them wilting in the Budapest heat.
"I never had the feeling the game was slipping out of our hands. We were in control and made some chances in the first half. The Czech Republic were a physically strong team who didn’t shy away from the duels. We had a hard time out there. It was a 50-50 game where the red card made the difference.”
The Dutch had been fancied after winning their group with three victories, while the Czechs had finished third in their group.
"These Euros were a golden opportunity, so to depart in this way is very painful," said De Ligt.
"We did well in the group stage. Then you get knocked out in the last-16 against the Czech Republic. That is very sour," he added.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Hugh Lawson)