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England, Netherlands battle for berth in UEFA Euro 2024 final on TSN


Two giants of European football meet in Dortmund on Wednesday as the Netherlands take on England for a spot in the UEFA Euro 2024 final on Sunday against Spain.

Both teams head into the match with the belief that we still haven’t seen the best from them, but time is running out to show it. For England especially, there’s a feeling that anything less than a return trip to the final is a disappointment.

You can catch England vs. the Netherlands LIVE at UEFA Euro 2024 from Dortmund with coverage getting underway at 2pm et/11am pt on TSN1/4, and the TSN App.

This Three Lions side loves to leave it late. It took Jude Bellingham’s spectacular overhead kick to force extra time in their Round of 16 encounter with Slovakia before a Harry Kane header won it early in the first extra 15 in a 2-1 victory. Then in the quarters against Switzerland, England fell behind again with Breel Embolo putting the Swiss up in the 75th. It was Bukayo Saka who came to the rescue only five minutes later with a low strike from just outside the area that beat Yann Sommer.

Extra time didn’t solve anything, and the match moved on to the traditional bane of England’s existence at international tournaments – penalties. This time, though, England left nothing to chance. A cheat sheet on his water bottle that let Jordan Pickford know of each potential Switzerland shooter’s penalty proclivities allowed the Everton goalkeeper to start the spot kicks with a stop on Manchester City defender Manuel Akanji. That would be all his shooters needed as all five Three Lions players converted their spot kicks, with Brentford forward Ivan Toney never averting his gaze from Sommer’s eyes in a moment of supreme confidence.

For Luke Shaw, it doesn’t matter how England got there. All that he’s concerned with is that they’re in another final four.

"The most important thing is winning,” the Manchester United left-back said. “At the moment, whether people like it or not, the way we’re playing [got us] in the semifinals. That’s all that matters."

The 28-year-old Shaw, who had been out of action since February with a hamstring injury, made his tournament debut as a substitute in the quarters. He says he’s ready to play a full 90 minutes now, and thanked manager Gareth Southgate for sticking by him.

"The last four months have been really tough,” Shaw said. “At the start, I was expected to come back a lot sooner, but I went through a lot of setbacks. It was really nice to get on the other night and get some minutes - I've been itching. I think before the squad got announced, we had a plan to come back around the second or third game but, unfortunately, things didn't go as planned and I was pushed back a game or so…They were really there for me, not just Gareth and [assistant manager] Steve [Holland], but the medical staff, as well. I have a lot to thank them for."

On the other side of the pitch, the Oranje showed their mettle in the quarter-finals. After a comfortable 3-0 win over Romania in the Round of 16, the Dutch got all they could handle from Turkiye in the final eight.

Falling behind 1-0 late in the first half, it was almost curtains for Ronald Koeman’s team in the 65th. Bart Verbruggen did well to deal with a shot from distance from Arda Guler, but he parried directly into the path of Kaan Ayhan, who appeared to have a tap-in to double the lead. Before he could do that, though, striker Wout Weghorst intervened at the last possible moment to poke it away and keep his team alive in the match.

Only five minutes later, the Dutch were level when Stefan de Vrij met Memphis Depay’s cross with a powerful header to beat Mert Gunok. Then, moments after that, Mert Muldur turned a Denzel Dumfries cross into his own net as he attempted to stop Cody Gakpo from scoring a fourth goal of the tournament to make it 2-1 and the Netherlands held on.

City defender Nathan Aké believes the Oranje are finally rounding into form after a disappointing group stage that saw them finish third behind Austria and France.

“We're building momentum,” Aké said. “We came through tough stages at the start of the tournament and now we've got through another test, so we're ready. Underdog or not, it doesn't matter. We focus on ourselves. We know what we need to do. We are very close now."

From a tactical perspective, Southgate has a choice to make. Switching to a back three of Kyle Walker, John Stones and Ezri Konsa, in for the suspended Marc Guehi, to match Switzerland resulted in England’s best performance of the tournament. With the Oranje utilizing a back four, it would make sense to go back to the four-man backline Southgate utilized in the first four matches, but there was enough to like against Switzerland to once again go with three. What Southgate opts for remains to be seen and it’s unlikely he will tip his hand either way.

"A lot of our processes have been shared," Southgate said of the news breaking in advance of the switch to the back three. "We live in an amazing world where it is so difficult for us because any element of surprise you might have is gone three days before the game. It’s quite incredible really."

The Netherlands are 7-9-6 all-time against England and Wednesday’s match will be the fourth between the two teams at a major tournament and third at a Euro. En route to winning the entire tournament, the Oranje defeated England 3-1 at Euro 1988 in the group stage on a hat trick from Marco van Basten. Two years later at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, the Three Lions and Netherlands would face off again in the group stage, this time playing to a 0-0 draw. Their final meeting took place at Euro 1996 as Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham each had a brace in a 4-1 Three Lions group-stage victory at Wembley Stadium.

While the last time these two teams met wasn’t at a major tournament, the match was of some importance. In the summer of 2019, the Oranje defeated England 3-1 in the UEFA Nations League semifinal on goals from Matthijs de Ligt and Quincy Promes and an own goal from Walker. Five England players from that match could feature on Wednesday, while seven are with the Oranje squad in Germany.


NETHERLANDS POTENTIAL XI (4-3-3): Bart Verbruggen; Denzel Dumfries, Stefan de Vrij, Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Aké; Jerdy Schouten, Xavi Simons, Tijjani Reijnders; Steven Bergwijn, Memphis Depay, Cody Gakpo

ENGLAND POTENTIAL XI (3-4-2-1): Jordan Pickford; Kyle Walker, John Stones, Marc Guehi; Bukayo Saka, Kobbie Mainoo, Declan Rice, Luke Shaw; Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham; Harry Kane