AMSTERDAM: Netherlands defender Nathan Ake said his team’s fighting spirit helped them to stay focused even after they surrendered a two-goal lead and snatch the dramatic 3-2 win over Ukraine in their European Championship opener on Sunday.
Ake, who came on for the last 25 minutes, provided the cross that allowed Denzel Dumfries to head home a dramatic 85th minute winner at the Johan Cruyff Stadium in Amsterdam.
“I was very happy with that. After we let it slip to 2-2, we really wanted to assert ourselves again. We kept fighting,” he told a news conference on Monday.
“The fighting spirit of this Dutch team is good. We were confident that we could grow to this level and that we were able to show it in our first game gives us even more confidence for the coming weeks.”
The Dutch had looked comfortable at 2-0 up with 15 minutes remaining but then allowed Ukraine to score twice in the space of four minutes as looked to have let slip a full haul of points in Group C. Ake then hit an inviting cross from the left that Dumfries powered home to win the game.
Ake, who suffered a training injury at Manchester City and spent four months sidelined before returning to action in April, said the Dutch squad had waited a long time to make an impact again at a major tournament.
“We have been looking forward to this for so long, the qualifying competition was beautiful and we have now won the first game, wonderful,” the 26-year-old Manchester City defender added.
The Dutch had missed out on the last two major tournaments – Euro 2016 in France and the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
They are next up against Austria in Amsterdam on Thursday.
“It’s going to be tough,” Ake said. “We all know Marko Arnautovic. I have often played against him in the Premier League. For defenders it is sometimes a real nightmare to play against such a strong player.”