GUIMARAES • England manager Gareth Southgate was left to rue two shocking defensive errors in extra time which gave the Netherlands a 3-1 win in the Nations League semi-finals, but he refused to put the blame on his players.
Defender John Stones was caught in possession on the edge of the area, which led to Kyle Walker's own goal that saw the Dutch go 2-1 up. He then put Ross Barkley under pressure with a needless short pass that the midfielder misplaced to give away the third to Quincy Promes on Thursday.
"Fatigue has played a part and a lack of match sharpness," said Southgate, who added that his commitment to playing the ball out from the back was not to blame.
"If we didn't play that way, we wouldn't have got to the semi-finals, and we'd never progress to being a top team.
Referring to Matthijs de Ligt giving away a penalty, he said: "The Netherlands also made a huge mistake at the back.
"We didn't lose because of how we wanted to play; we lost because of poor execution and fatigue."
Marcus Rashford's penalty gave England a first-half lead against the run of play, but de Ligt made amends for his error to equalise 17 minutes from time.
England then contributed to their own downfall in extra time with a comedy of errors to hand the Dutch a spot in tomorrow's final against Portugal.
The defeat makes it four losses in their last four semi-final appearances in competitive tournaments, including the 1990 and 2018 World Cups and Euro 1996.
The loss also means England's long wait for a major trophy since the 1966 World Cup goes on.
Southgate, however, insisted his side would learn from their error-strewn performance. Their display showed much work is still to be done if they are to end their trophy drought at Euro 2020, with the semi-finals and final to be played on home soil at Wembley.
"I think it's a really important game for us to reflect on," he said.
"The next few days will be painful, having got to this stage, but we will be stronger for the experience."
The Netherlands failed to qualify for the last two major tournaments. But the young talent that has contributed to a dramatic turnaround in their fortunes was evident, with Barcelona-bound Frenkie de Jong outstanding in midfield.
Said Dutch boss Ronald Koeman: "Most of the people are always looking at what he is doing with the ball, how calm he is but, if you see defensive wise, how many balls he is winning in midfield.
"It looks so easy, but it isn't."
He was not entirely satisfied, saying: "There was a lot of space between their defence and midfield, but we had to do a little bit more on the ball when we were in the final third of the field.
"We had more possession and shots on goal, but the last ball was often too sloppy.
"We don't stop after tonight, there is always something to improve.
"But we are on a good path and the team are happy and confident in the way we play. We have big, big talent in the system."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN