Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman has led a revival in their fortunes but after Sunday’s 1-0 defeat by Portugal in the Nations League final he conceded that his rebuilt side was not yet ready to win titles.
The Dutch failed to qualify for Euro 2016 or the World Cup in Russia last year but their Nations League campaign has seen them beat Germany, France and England before their loss to the European champions.
“We know we made big steps in the past year and that is positive but to make the next step maybe we need more time,” said Koeman, who was quick to highlight the weak spot in his side.
“Offensive strength is important, we need to create more chances, to have what we missed tonight,” he said.
“Maybe its too early to win, there are the Euros coming up next year, but I don’t want to be too negative about the performances of this team, these players.
“I am really proud about the spirit of the team, it wasn’t enough tonight, but the whole campaign was really very positive,” he added.
While Memphis Depay has rebuilt his career in the past two seasons, the converted winger now playing as a central striker, struggled to find real opportunities.
The wide players used by Koeman also lacked incisiveness as the Dutch found it difficult to turn their always impressive midfield play into clear chances.
“They had more time together than us and I think the way they played enabled them to get the maximum result and that’s a quality in itself,” added Koeman.
“Ronaldo, Bernardo (Silva), (goalscorer Goncalo) Guedes, they’re fast – and handsome – and maybe we missed this kind of quality up top.”
But the former Everton and Southampton manager believes his young team, which includes several of the Ajax Amsterdam players who featured in the Champions League semi-finals, can continue improving and close the gap on the elite.
“All of us have worked together to get the best possible results and things can get better if players evolve to a higher level,” he said.
“If they play Champions League they will evolve…. we have certain possibilities with players with attacking qualities but they are not yet there for this level and that could also push us forward,” he said.
Portugal team are an almost indestructible family: Fernando Santos
Portugal’s national team are an “almost indestructible family”, coach Fernando Santos said on Sunday after they added the inaugural Nations League to their Euro 2016 title.
Portugal, punching far above their weight for a small country, have enjoyed a golden period in the last 15 years, having also reached the Euro 2004 final as hosts, a World Cup semi-final in 2006 and the last four at Euro 2012.
But they had never won a title before Santos took charge in 2014 following a home defeat by Albania.
“The players have done a fantastic job. We don’t have time to create routines so they have to believe in the coach,” said the 64-year-old after a 1-0 win over Netherlands. “Sometimes, things are not perfect, but that is not for lack of effort.
“For the last five years, we have been an almost indestructible family who know what we are capable of doing,” he added. “We will continue working the same way…. we are always candidates to win the competitions we take part in.”
Santos made two key chances to the side for Sunday’s final as he brought Danilo into midfield instead of Ruben Neves to give added protection to the defence and replaced Joao Felix with Goncalo Guedes.
Both moves paid off as Guedes scored the winning goal and Danilo helped subdue Frenkie de Jong, the Dutch side’s key midfielder.
“We knew all about their quality and what they can do…. so obviously, we had to take care with them and avoid De Jong getting the ball
“We created five, six, seven good chances, we had all the best openings ……we defended well, we attacked well and we counter-attacked well.”
Santos added that winning two titles in four seasons had left a “huge mark” on Portuguese football, but he was already looking ahead.
“It’s a moment of happiness for us and the Portuguese people, it goes down in history…. no more than that,” he said. “Now we have to get back to work.”
“The future is here and now, right outside the door,” he added. “If we look back to 2016, some of those players are no longer here – this is an ongoing process.
“It shows how much talent we have here in our country. The future of Portuguese football looks assured, but we need to keep the balance.”