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England, Netherlands get shot at redemption

They face off in Euro 2024 semifinal tonight

July 10, 2024 00:00:00

England's goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale takes part in a MD-1 training session at the team's base camp, the Weimarer Land golf resort, near Blankenhain, on Tuesday, ahead of their UEFA Euro 2024 semifinal match against Netherlands — AFP

DORTMUND, Germany, July 09 (Reuters): The route to the last four of Euro 2024 has been a rocky one for the Netherlands and England, and a few flashes of their best quality in their semi-final showdown might be enough for either side to make the final.

England's shootout win over Switzerland brought momentary euphoria, but it was more relief than redemption and Wednesday's (1:00 am as per BST) date with the Dutch in Dortmund may require a transformation in attack for them to reach a third major tournament final, against France or Spain. England have limped into the last four with tepid performances against opponents they should on paper have beaten easily, while the Netherlands have yo-yoed through and were 20 minutes from elimination before their quarter-final fightback against Turkey.

The Dutch dazzled in their last-eight rout of Romania but have had to scramble too, having fallen behind in three of their four scoring games. Their three wins were all in regulation time, however, compared to one for England, and the Dutch have scored nearly double their number of goals at the tournament.

The Netherlands have the edge in attack, their nine goals at Euro 2024 coming from 20 attempts on target against 15 by an England side spearheaded by the usually lethal but currently subdued Harry Kane, Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham.

England improved against the Swiss but their five expertly struck penalties rescued an attack that again looked frustrated, with Bukayo Saka's 80th-minute equaliser their first shot on target.

Netherlands do not have that problem and will bank on the tournament's joint top scorer Cody Gakpo to and trouble an England defence that has been solid in contract with their jaded attack.

England manager Gareth Southgate declined to discuss the Dutch after his side's win over Switzerland, keeping media attention squarely on his players' resilience in handling the intensity of penalties. England's troubles in front of goal were during matches he said were not normal, against crowded defences determined to stop them.

"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 said.

"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 organized defences."

Southgate is again expected to stick to a similar lineup having been impervious to calls to shake things up or make substitutions earlier during the tournament.

The Dutch have blown hot and cold and will need to be stronger at the back to stand any chance of reaching their first final since their 1988 Euros triumph, their only major tournament success.

Austria and Turkey exploited Dutch defensive disorganisation at set-pieces and England will try to do the same.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman has also received criticism, hitting back at pundits who questioned his team's commitment and saying his players showed a big heart in coming from behind to beat 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."

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