Dutch captain Edwin van der Sar equalled France's Lilian Thuram's record for appearances in European championships finals with his 16th here on Saturday in the quarter-final with Russia – but it ended in sadness as the Russians won 3-1.
The 37-year-old Manchester United star – the record Dutch caps holder with 128 – made four appearances in Euro '96, under now Russia coach Guus Hiddink, four in Euro 2000 and five four years ago in Portugal.
This time round he played in the opening two victories over world champions Italy (3-0) and then 2006 World Cup finalists France (4-1) before being rested for the final group game against Romania.
Van der Sar, who was Manchester United's hero in the Champions League penalty shootout win over Chelsea, has played 27 matches in major finals, when taking into account appearances at World Cup finals matches.
However, equalling the record mattered little to the former Ajax, Juventus and Fulham guardian after the defeat, though, he had pulled off a string of saves to keep his side in the match.
“We were not good enough to beat this Russian side,” he said.
“One has to admit it, they played fantastically well.
“It is really a pity to leave the tournament in this way after having started so brilliantly.
“Now, we have to confront the future.
“But it will be without me. This evening, one shouldn't criticise anybody, it isn't the time to point fingers at anybody.”
Dutch coach Marco van Basten was sorry that there couldn't have been a better way to say farewell to the outstanding goalkeeper.
“I feel very sorry for Edwin van der Sar, because I was hoping to give him a very nice final send off here, after a career with the national team, so I feel sorry for Edwin,” said van Basten, who is also standing down as he is to coach Ajax.
“He is such a great goalkeeper that he deserves a better send off than this. I feel sorry for him.”
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