Frank de Boer’s side wasted numerous excellent chances in the first half of Sunday night’s pulsating Group C encounter in front of a home crowd at Amsterdam’s Johan Cruyff Arena, yet still appeared to be coasting towards victory in their first major tournament match for seven years courtesy of two goals in six second-half minutes from Wijnaldum and Wout Weghorst.
However, they failed to manage the game sufficiently from there, with a superb strike from West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk’s header from a free-kick bringing Ukraine level with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Denzel Dumfries’ dramatic late header - his first goal in senior international football - ultimately meant the Dutch still claimed all three points after group rivals Austria defeated tournament debutants North Macedonia 3-1 in Bucharest earlier on Sunday.
And while Wijnaldum - captaining the Netherlands at the Euros in the absence of former Liverpool team-mate Virgil van Dijk - was pleased with his side’s display overall, he knows they cannot afford to open the door to teams in such a fashion again if they are to make up for lost time this summer.
“I am relieved. Overall, we played a good game, but we gave them two chances in 10 minutes which were two goals,” said the midfielder, who signed for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer earlier this week.
“We need to learn that if we play such a match we need to finish it off well. We let them get back into the game and that needs to improve.”
Yarmolenko’s unstoppable, curling left-footed strike will surely be a goal of the tournament contender and the West Ham forward and Ukraine skipper spoke of his frustration at not holding on for a point.
“It was a difficult game. We realised that we were playing against a serious rival,” he said.
“The coaching team are happy with how much we gave. It is always upsetting to lose a game, but we have two more games to go and we will still play with the same energy.
“If we do it [qualify] then it will be great. We come back after 2-0 down and it’s so frustrating to lose a game in the last minutes.
“We had some chances in the first half and we simply had to convert them. It wasn’t a one-sided game. It’s hard to take it now, with so many emotions.
“It was 2-0, then 2-2 and yet we lost. We need to analyse it with our coaching staff. They will point out our mistakes and we’ll move forward.”