Stumbling England and Netherlands Aim for Redemption

Stumbling England and Netherlands Aim for Redemption

by Reuters News Service
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The route to the last four of Euro 2024 has been challenging for both the Netherlands and England. Their semi-final showdown promises to be a test of resilience and quality, with either side needing a few flashes of their best to secure a place in the final against France or Spain.

England’s narrow shootout victory over Switzerland brought momentary euphoria but mostly relief, highlighting their struggle in attack. They will need a significant improvement to reach a third major tournament final in Dortmund. Despite tepid performances against theoretically weaker opponents, England managed to advance, but their path has been far from convincing.

On the other hand, the Netherlands have had a rollercoaster journey, narrowly avoiding elimination before a dramatic quarter-final comeback against Turkey. Their dazzling display in the last-eight rout of Romania showcased their attacking prowess, although they have had to scramble in several games, often falling behind before securing wins.

The Dutch have a slight edge in attack, having scored nine goals from 20 attempts on target, compared to England’s 15 attempts. The usually lethal trio of Harry Kane, Phil Foden, and Jude Bellingham have appeared subdued, with England relying on Bukayo Saka’s late equaliser against Switzerland to register their first shot on target in that match.

Netherlands, buoyed by joint top scorer Cody Gakpo, will aim to exploit an England defense that has been more solid compared to their attack. England manager Gareth Southgate has focused on his players’ resilience under pressure, noting their struggles against well-organised defenses.

“These are national events with huge pressure, with really young men in the middle of it. Our team has been under enormous pressure from the start. They’re doing so well. So well,” Southgate remarked. “We’re not able to score a load of goals at the moment. But again, we’ve played three teams that play back fives, very well organised defenses.”

Southgate is expected to maintain a similar lineup despite calls for changes, sticking to his strategy throughout the tournament. The Dutch, who have been inconsistent, need to shore up their defense to stand a chance of reaching their first final since their 1988 Euros triumph. Austria and Turkey have exploited their defensive disorganization at set-pieces, an area England will likely target.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman has defended his team’s commitment amid criticism, emphasizing their determination and heart shown in the comeback win over Turkey.

“We need to fight to win the semi-final,” Koeman said. “It will be a great night on Wednesday between two big nations historically. England have good players, but we have too.”

Both teams face a high-stakes match where their ability to handle pressure and capitalize on key moments will determine their fate in the tournament.

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