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De Jong reflects on Netherlands' 'painful' exit

Despite a "painful and terrible" exit, striker Luuk de Jong attempted to draw on the positives when he spoke to after the Netherlands' semi-final loss to Italy.

Stefan de Vrij, Luuk de Jong and Marco van Ginkel cannot hide their disappointment
Stefan de Vrij, Luuk de Jong and Marco van Ginkel cannot hide their disappointment ©Sportsfile

Evidently crestfallen after their UEFA European Under-21 Championship semi-final defeat by Italy, Netherlands striker Luuk de Jong attempted to look on the bright side when he spoke to

Cor Pot's side, back in an U21 final tournament for the first time since they lifted the trophy in 2007, started in supreme fashion in Israel. Group stage victories against Germany and Russia booked a last-four berth with a match to spare, before a 3-0 loss to Spain condemned them to second spot in Group B and a semi-final meeting with the Azzurrini. The Jong Oranje looked in control for much of Saturday's game at Ha Moshava but ultimately succumbed to Fabio Borini's 79th-minute strike.

"Really painful," summed up VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach striker De Jong. "I don't think it was necessary, especially because we were the better team and we played the better football. We played really very maturely and we kept possession well. We just couldn't get the goal and then they scored with their only opportunity of the second half. It's terrible."

It is a bitter pill to swallow for a squad which included 12 senior internationals and opened the tournament so impressively. De Jong, though disappointed that the Dutch had not won the title as planned, echoed Pot's sentiments that they had left a "positive impression on the tournament".

"We only had one dream when we came here and that was to be European champions," said the 22-year-old. "We have failed in that sense. If you look at our games, we played really good football, really mature football. I think there are a lot of players with really bright careers in front of them.

"We have a lot of players who have played for the senior national team but we all agreed to come here to make sure we had a really good squad. We scored a lot of goals in the first two games in the group. We have all learned a lot from this tournament."