Preview: Netherlands vs. England

After nervously edging through the first two knockout rounds, England now aim to reach successive European Championship finals, as they meet the Netherlands in Wednesday’s second Euro 2024 semi-final.

A high-stakes showdown in Dortmund determines which team progresses to Sunday’s decider, where new favourites Spain will await.

Match preview

Through to a third major tournament semi-final in four attempts – but only by the skin of their teeth – England have become a regular fixture at the sharp end of both Euros and World Cups without claiming the prize, so only silverware will do for Gareth Southgate’s squad this summer.

The Three Lions reached a fourth European Championship semi-final overall by seeing off Switzerland in last week’s quarter-finals, despite trailing to a late Breel Embolo goal heading towards the final whistle in Dusseldorf.

Bukayo Saka sensationally equalised to force extra time, and spot kicks were ultimately required to decide the outcome of a finely-balanced battle. England went on to clinically dispatch all five of their penalties and Jordan Pickford saved from Manuel Akanji, so for the second round running, Southgate’s side squeezed through.

Having previously limped through the group phase, then required Jude Bellingham’s stunning strike to spark a fightback against Slovakia, it has been a far from convincing journey to this point – but results are all that matter in knockout football.

Southgate’s 101st game in charge will see England try to become just the sixth team to make consecutive European Championship finals, and a familiar foe stands between them and a place in Sunday’s showpiece in Berlin.

The Three Lions now face a fourth major-tournament meeting with the Netherlands: the Oranje won 3-1 en route to glory at Euro ’88, thanks to a Marco van Basten hat-trick, then a forgettable goalless draw at the 1990 World Cup was followed by a famous 4-1 England win in 1996.

However, having won just one of the nations’ last nine meetings in all competitions, precedent is not on the side of an English team packed with attacking talent but yet to find rhythm or inspire confidence among their fans.

The most recent of those nine encounters also came in a semi-final, with the Netherlands winning 3-1 after extra time in the UEFA Nations League – both Southgate and Ronald Koeman were in the dugouts on that occasion too.

Last weekend, the latter guided his country to a first Euro semi since 2004 by beating a spirited Turkey side at Berlin’s Olympiastadion, and – like England – the Dutch required a comeback to seal their place in the final four.

A goal down and apparently heading for the exit, an unlikely saviour stepped forth, as Stefan de Vrij pulled his team level on 70 minutes, before the lurking threat of tournament specialist Cody Gakpo forced an own goal from Mert Muldur soon after.

Seeking their second European title, after lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy in Germany 36 summers ago, Koeman’s men are making their way through the so-called ‘weaker’ half of the draw, having only emerged from Group D in third place.

Following victory over Poland, a draw with France, and an eventful defeat to Austria, the Oranje were handed a relatively kind last-16 tie against Romania, in which they ultimately ran out 3-0 winners.

However, a squad led by captain Virgil van Dijk will attempt to win just a second European Championship semi-final tie for the Netherlands; and with a dismal record of four losses from the previous five, the burden of history weighs heavily on their shoulders.

Team News

As the only specialist left-back in Gareth Southgate’s squad, the return of Luke Shaw has been eagerly awaited: the Manchester United defender missed England’s first four matches while completing his return from a hamstring injury, but after appearing briefly against Switzerland he has now declared himself ready to start.

That remains unlikely, though, as Kieran Trippier and Bukayo Saka are again expected to occupy either flank.

Having impressed earlier in the tournament, Marc Guehi must now battle it out with Ezri Konsa for a place in central defence upon his return from suspension, though it remains to be seen whether it will be within a three or four-man rearguard – or a hybrid of both.

Harry Kane was taken off during extra time last weekend, but having since confirmed he was only suffering from cramp, the Three Lions’ record goalscorer will be fit to build on a fine record in the European Championship’s knockout phase: no player has ever scored more times in the elimination rounds (five, level with Antoine Griezmann).

Kane was on the scoresheet in the semi-final of Euro 2020 against Denmark, and only two players have ever scored at this stage of consecutive European Championships – Viktor Ponedelnik and Valentin Ivanov, both for the USSR in 1960 and 1964.

The Netherlands, meanwhile, have a major selection call to make in the final third, as the half-time introduction of Wout Weghorst against Turkey turned their quarter-final tie on its head.

Ronald Koeman – who has just announced that he will stay in post until 2026 – has left the door open to the Burnley striker partnering Memphis Depay from the start; however, another impact role from the bench is more probable. Either one or both of Depay and Cody Gakpo have been directly involved in 63.5% of the Oranje’s goal attempts so far this summer, and six of their nine goals.

Due to the contributions of Depay (17 shots, 10 chances created) and Gakpo (13 shots, 11 chances created), the Netherlands are the only team with more than one player in double figures for both shots and chances made at Euro 2024.

Koeman is likely to stick with most of his starting XI, though right-winger Steven Bergwijn has been withdrawn at half time in both knockout rounds and finds his place under threat from Donyell Malen, who plays his club football in Dortmund.

Virgil van Dijk skippers the side from central defence, two days after celebrating his 33rd birthday, while mercurial playmaker Xavi Simons plays a link-up role with the Dutch attack; Jerdy Schouten and Tijjani Reijnders will cover plenty of ground in midfield.

Netherlands possible starting lineup:
Verbruggen; Dumfries, De Vrij, Van Dijk, Ake; Schouten, Reijnders; Malen, Simons, Gakpo; Depay

England possible starting lineup:
Pickford; Walker, Stones, Guehi; Saka, Mainoo, Rice, Trippier; Bellingham, Foden; Kane

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *