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Euros semi-final preview: Netherlands vs England

Netherlands vs England


Euros semi-final preview: Netherlands vs England

Euros semi-final preview: Netherlands vs England

After under-performing for the entire tournament, England have made it to the semi-finals of these Euros anyway.

Will the baffling combination of felicitous results and mostly terrible football continue on Wednesday night, as Gareth Southgate’s side face the Netherlands in Dortmund?

Could England deliver an inspired performance?

Since England edged out Switzerland on penalties, semi-jokey declarations that “it’s coming home” have replaced the more woeful appraisals.

If you want to cheer on the Three Lions without dwelling on their journey to this point, fair enough. But it’s tough not to have concerns, given the way games have played out thus far.

Sideways passes. Backwards passes. Backwards passes from corners. Yet for all the overtly cautious nature of England’s gameplan, the team have nonetheless gone behind in each of their two knockout games.

In their round of 16 tie against Slovakia, England were about a minute away from exiting the tournament. In the group stage, Southgate’s side couldn’t score against Slovenia; nor could they hold a lead against Denmark.

It might be better to be lucky than to be good – but no-one stays lucky forever. After a pretty shaky tournament where somehow, they’ve progressed, is this the game where England finally get their comeuppance?

Or, more optimistically, could Southgate’s men produce an inspired team performance? So far we’ve only had a couple of inspired moments to alleviate the gloom. Surely these players are capable of something more.

The Netherlands’ games have tended to be lively

The Netherlands’ games have tended to be livelier, with at least three goals scored in each game – with one exception. Against France in the group stage, the Dutch played out a goalless draw with Didier Deschamps’ side.

Even there, it’s worth remembering the Netherlands had a goal disallowed, controversially, for being offside.

Still, is that nil-nil a grim portent of what to expect here? England can at least look to the past for a more inspired performance; the side famously enjoyed a thrilling win over the Dutch back at Euro 96, winning 4-1 thanks to braces from Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham.

Since then the sides have met nine times, though never at a major tournament; England have only won one of those encounters, though four of them ended in draws.

Is that the way to go this time too? Given four of England’s last five games have ended in draws after 90 minutes, only the most determinedly upbeat of Three Lions supporters could expect much different.

On the basis of recent performances, backing the stalemate may even be a form of optimism. The draw is a 37/20 shot.

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