Marcus Rashford’s penalty, awarded after he was fouled by Matthijs de Ligt, gave Gareth Southgate’s side an interval advantage.
De Ligt made amends when he took advantage of poor marking at a corner to power home a header with 17 minutes left.
England thought substitute Jesse Lingard’s late strike had put them on course for the inaugural Nations League final against hosts Portugal in Porto on Sunday, only for VAR to intervene and rule it out for offside.
The Dutch were the far superior side but they were gifted their route to the showdown against Portugal on Sunday by suicidal defending in extra time by England, who were hoping to go one better than their World Cup semi-final exit against Croatia last summer.
John Stones was caught in possession by Memphis Depay who forced a brilliant save from Jordan Pickford, but Kyle Walker could only bundle the loose ball into his own net under challenge from Quincy Promes.
And England produced more pantomime defending for the Netherlands’ third, this time Ross Barkley getting caught in possession from another poor pass from Stones, leaving Memphis to offer up a simple finish to Promes.
England’s dejected players must now lift themselves for the third-place play-off against Switzerland in Guimaraes on Sunday.
England second best
England’s defending, or lack of, was the primary reason for this defeat, but this was a mediocre performance from a side hoping to lift their first trophy since the 1966 World Cup.
Southgate left out the likes of captain Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson after their Champions League final exertions when Liverpool beat Spurs in Madrid on Saturday and, of course, this tournament comes at the conclusion of a gruelling season.
There can be no excuse, however, for the errors that led England down the path to defeat and they were symptomatic of a defensive performance that bordered on the shambolic.
Stones had a game he will want to forget, a process that may take some time because this was a harrowing 120 minutes for the Manchester City defender, but he was not the only culprit because he can be joined on the roll of dishonour by Harry Maguire and Walker.
Maguire’s performance was littered with mistakes against the nimble Dutch and he was fortunate Depay’s finishing was wayward after he was robbed in a dangerous area in the second half, while Walker was rescued by Pickford when he also conceded possession to the same forward.
England looked leggy and uninspired, perhaps an inevitable consequence this late in the season, but there were real areas of concern at the back and there can be no complaints.
Koeman overseeing Dutch development
They were more composed and constructive than England and it was only their lack of a clinical striker that kept England in the game for so long. If Koeman can uncover one, they will be a very formidable side.
The Netherlands are on the way back as Koeman presides over a mix of talented youngsters and experience.
Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, mercilessly and totally inexplicably jeered by England’s fans all night, is the leader and has the developing De Ligt, who had a mixed evening but who will be a truly outstanding defender, alongside him.
And in the brilliant Frenkie de Jong, the midfielder who is the first piece of Barcelona’s rebuild, they had the best player on the pitch as he played with a class and composure that made a nonsense of his 22 years.
The Netherlands deserve their place in the final and, barring accidents and aided by the addition of the striker they so badly need, Koeman’s team could be a serious force at Euro 2020.
The Dutch curse – the best of the stats
- England have lost three of their last four international matches against the Netherlands (W1, D0, L3).
- Two of England’s last three defeats when leading at half-time have been against the Netherlands (also March 2016) – the other was against Croatia in the World Cup semi-final.
- Rashford has scored four goals in his last seven international appearances for England – having scored three in his first 25.
- Sterling became the third youngest player to reach 50 caps for England (24y 180d), behind only Wayne Rooney in 2009 (23y 159d) and Michael Owen in 2003 (23y 179d).
- De Ligt has scored in each of his last two international appearances for the Netherlands, having scored none in his first 14 beforehand.
- Walker became the first England player to score an own goal in an international match since Eric Dier in May 2016 against Australia.
- Tonight was Southgate’s 34th game in charge of England and his 10th starting XI with an average age of under 25 – the previous 17 managers to take charge of England did this just 10 times in 595 matches combined.
- Depay has been involved in 23 goals in his last 21 international matches for the Netherlands (13 goals, 10 assists).