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Southgate's England takes on resilient Netherlands in Euro 2024 semi-final

10. July 2024
(foto: Getty Images)
England had a much easier path to the semi-finals compared to first finalists Spain. Gareth Southgate will need a strong team performance tonight to succeed.

The European Championship is in its final stages. After Spain defeated France to secure the first spot in the grand final, the second finalist will be determined by the match between England and the Netherlands.

The English national team has shown very little on the pitch. In the group stage, they played a solid first fifteen minutes against Serbia, but everything else was forgettable. In the round of 16 against Slovakia, Jude Bellingham saved them with a spectacular bicycle kick in the dying moments despite an overall poor performance. In the quarter-finals against Switzerland, Bukayo Saka was the savior, but Southgate's team still underperformed relative to their individual quality.

Initially, criticism was directed primarily at coach Gareth Southgate, but after another lackluster performance, the English public has turned on captain Harry Kane. Although he has scored two of England's five goals in this tournament, his overall play has not been up to the usual standard. In the match against Switzerland, he touched the ball only 27 times, a low number for a key player.

One reason might be a back injury he sustained just before the Euros, which may have affected his physical condition. There have even been calls for Southgate to bench Kane for the semi-final against the Netherlands and give someone else a chance, but this is highly unlikely. Southgate has complete trust in Kane and is not inclined to make radical changes to the team.

The Dutch, on the other hand, finished third in their group with Poland, France, and Austria. They narrowly defeated Poland after falling behind, drew with France in a dull match, and lost to Austria in an entertaining game. Finishing third turned out to be a blessing as it gave them a relatively easier path to the semi-finals. A comfortable win over Romania and a hard-fought victory against a strong Turkey team brought Oranje to the final four, where they certainly won't be intimidated by the inconsistent English side.

Liverpool's Cody Gakpo, who has scored several crucial goals, and the evergreen Memphis Depay, easily spotted with his white headband, have been the standout performers for the Dutch. Coach Ronald Koeman, who lost key star Frenkie de Jong to injury just before the tournament, has managed to stabilize the team after an unconvincing qualification campaign. Reaching the semi-finals can be seen as a significant achievement.

About Gakpo, Koeman said: "His starting position is on the left because he is very dangerous in one-on-one situations with the right-back. When he gets a bit tired, he prefers playing as a center forward. He has been playing at a high level in this tournament, and he might even be our most important player. I hope the others will rise to his level."

It's hard to say who the favorite is in this match. Under normal circumstances, based on quality, it would undoubtedly be England. However, given their poor performances so far, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Netherlands knocked them out and reached the European Championship final for the first time since 1988. The last time the Euro was held in Germany, Van Basten, Gullit, and Rijkaard led the Dutch to their only European title.

England won their only major international title, the World Cup, back in 1966 and have never claimed the European title. After the painful loss to Italy in the final three years ago, this is a golden opportunity for the current generation that they cannot afford to miss. Hence, the pressure will be even greater than usual.

Summary: England faces the Netherlands in the Euro 2024 semi-final, with both teams having a point to prove. England's inconsistent performances have raised questions, while the Dutch have shown resilience despite setbacks.

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