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Netherlands vs England: Familiar foes trade tackles in blockbuster Euro 2024 semi-final

Signal Iduna Park forms the backdrop for a heavyweight 2024 European Championship semi-final clash between the Netherlands and England on Wednesday.

Borussia Dortmund’s iconic stadium serves as a springboard for the final, where the winner of this tie will meet the winner of the other semi-final between Spain and France.

It’s been a while since the Netherlands ran this deep into the tournament. Their last Euro semi-final foray dates back to 2004, when Portugal sealed their fate.

England are more familiar with the territory, with this being their third last-four tie in four major tournaments under Gareth Southgate.

Road to the semi-finals

Ronald Koeman’s charges blew hot and cold in the group stages (W1, D1, L1), landing a last-16 berth as one of the best third-place teams, but they’ve found their feet in the knockouts.

Following a comprehensive 3-0 thumping of Romania in the last-16, the Oranje overturned a 1-0 half-time deficit against Turkey in the quarter-finals to set up this tie.

Virgil van Dijk’s header and Mert Muldur’s own goal beyond the hour mark inspired the Netherlands to a 2-1 victory, giving them a chance to settle the account with England.

The last time the two teams faced each other at the Euros, the Three Lions thrashed the Dutch 4-1 in 1996, with Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham bagging braces.


However, England’s misfiring tournament effectively rules out the potential for another emphatic scoreline.

Southgate’s side haven’t scored more than once in regulation in any of their five games at Euro 2024, intensifying the pressure on the ex-Middlesbrough manager.

The 53-year-old avoided sacking by the skin of his teeth in both previous knockout fixtures.

After Jude Bellingham’s stunning injury-time overhead kick set the tone for England’s 2-1 extra-time against Slovakia, Southgate had Bukayo Saka’s brilliance to thank for staying in the tournament.

The Arsenal ace struck home a speculative shot from an awkward angle to help the pre-tournament favourites take their dramatic quarter-final clash against Switzerland to penalties.

History sends mixed signals to the Dutch

Despite the abovementioned embarrassment in the 1996 edition, the Netherlands’ track record against England looks promising.

The Dutch hammered England 3-1 in the group phase the only previous time they conquered the most prestigious continental tournament in 1988.

Even after that loss nearly three decades ago, the three-time World Cup runners-up have gone from strength to strength against their esteemed rivals.

Barring a 1-0 friendly defeat in 2018, they’ve gone unbeaten in eight of their nine matches against England in the 21st century (W4, D4), most recently beating them 3-1 in extra time of their UEFA Nations League semi-final showdown in June 2019.

On the downside, the European Championship semi-finals have frequently been the Netherlands’ scourge, as they’ve failed to go past this hurdle three times on the trot since lifting the title.

Despite their long-standing struggles at this stage, Koeman will hope history could repeat itself, with the Netherlands’ only previous Euros success arriving on German soil.

Time to wake up

Since dispatching Serbia 1-0 in their curtain-raising Group C outing, England haven’t won a Euro 2024 game in regulation, casting further doubt on Southgate’s managerial credentials.

However, all his tactical flaws and faint-hearted approach would probably fall to oblivion if he becomes the first Three Lions boss to bring the famous phrase ‘it’s coming home’ to life.

There’s no doubt Southgate would appreciate another ‘ugly’ win. And his men seem well-positioned to answer the call, having gone into overdrive since a 2-1 loss to France in the 2022 World Cup quarter-finals.

It remains England’s last upset in competitive action. The beaten Euro 2020 finalists have avoided defeat in 13 consecutive contests (W9, D4), conceding one goal or fewer on each occasion.

While Southgate can’t complain about his team’s defensive effort, there’s ample room for improvement in the build-up play and in front of goal.

All eyes turn to Ballon d’Or hopeful Bellingham. He scored the winning header against Serbia and extended England’s title hopes with the ‘goal of the tournament’ contender against Slovakia.

Netherlands vs England potential line-ups

Netherlands (4-2-3-1): Bart Verbruggen; Denzel Dumfries, Stefan de Vrij, Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Ake; Jerdy Schouten, Tijjani Reijnders; Donyell Malen, Xai Simons, Cody Gakpo; Memphis Depay.

England (3-4-2-1): Jordan Pickford; Kyle Walker, John Stones, Marc Guehi; Bukayo Saka, Kobbie Mainoo, Declan Rice, Kieran Trippier; Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden; Harry Kane.

Prediction

England’s abysmal win rate of only 27% against the Netherlands paints a bleak picture for the Three Lions faithful amidst the team’s dire form in Germany.

Luck smiled on Southgate several times at Euro 2024, but another tame performance against the Dutch would probably result in England’s exit from the tournament.

Koeman’s troops are in better shape, but if Southgate’s star-studded line-up can find the chemistry in these crucial moments, there would be no hope for the Oranje.

England’s sheer attacking potential gives them every chance of reaching the final.

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