Netherlands vs. England preview: UEFA Nations League semi-final preview, where to watch and more
With the club season now over and done with, 2018/19 is set to finish with the finals of UEFA’s newest international tournament – the UEFA Nations League.
The group stages of the tournament, which went down between September and November 2019, saw England, the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland qualify for this summer’s finals, with Portugal and Switzerland facing off on Wednesday, England and the Netherlands on Thursday with the winners meeting in Sunday’s final.
England are currently on somewhat of a hot streak; they’ve won their last 5 international fixtures, including Nations League victories over Spain and Croatia and Euro 2020 qualifying wins over the Czech Republic and Montenegro.
The Netherlands meanwhile qualified for the finals by impressively winning a group that included the last two World Cup winners – France and Germany – but they also lost to Joachim Low’s Germany side in a Euro 2020 qualifier in March.
All in all, this should be an entertaining game between two of Europe’s most exciting young sides.
Date: 6th June, 2019
Time: 19:45 (local time), 00:15 (IST)
Venue: Estadio D. Afonso Henriques, Guimaraes
Referee: Clement Turpin (France)
TV Coverage: Sky Sports (UK), Univision NOW (USA), Sony TEN Network (India)
Last 5 international fixtures
Netherlands: 6 wins
England: 6 wins
Draws: 9 draws
Koeman’s chequered history
It might be hard to imagine given his mild-mannered nature and the fact that his run as Everton boss wasn’t all that noteworthy, but in the early 1990s, current Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman was Public Enemy #1 on English soil thanks to his actions in a pivotal 1994 World Cup qualifier between the two sides.
Under a lot of pressure due to some poor results in their qualifying campaign, Graham Taylor’s Three Lions side travelled to Rotterdam needing to come away with a strong result in order to keep their World Cup hopes alive. And after a goalless first half, it looked like England might just pull it off, as David Platt raced through on goal – only to be hauled down by the Dutch left-back, Koeman.
The referee only gave a free-kick to England despite the foul seemingly taking place inside the penalty box, and despite the laws of the game stating that a red card should’ve been shown, Koeman escaped with a yellow instead – and then minutes later scored a free-kick of his own at the other end of the pitch to put the Netherlands in the lead.
England were unable to come back and a Dennis Bergkamp goal then sealed their fate and essentially prevented their qualification, costing Taylor his job in the process. Despite the incident taking place over two decades ago, expect some kind of focus on it from the English media come Thursday!
Champions League hangover?
Despite worries about the Champions League final – which took place on Saturday – affecting the fitness of the England squad in particular, perhaps Gareth Southgate shouldn’t be all that worried. Only 7 of Southgate’s Three Lions ply their trade at Liverpool and Tottenham, and of those 7 just 5 (Danny Rose, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson, Dele Alli and Harry Kane) started Saturday’s game in Madrid.
Interestingly of those 5 players, only Kane and Alli have been England regulars in their most recent fixtures, with Henderson missing most of the Nations League group stage with injuries and Rose and Alexander-Arnold usually appearing on the bench, with Ben Chilwell and Kyle Walker starting in the full-back berths instead.
Given the Netherlands also had two key players starting for Liverpool in Madrid on Saturday – defender Virgil Van Dijk and midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum – it could easily be argued that the playing field should just about be level by the time Thursday comes around.
England’s most memorable night?
The last time England and the Netherlands faced each other in a competitive fixture was 23 years ago in the group stage of Euro 1996, and of course, the game turned out to be one of the most memorable nights in the modern history of the Three Lions. The match was the final group game for both sides, and a draw would have seen both teams qualify for the knockout stages.
Despite the Netherlands having a star-studded squad featuring the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert and Clarence Seedorf, they were simply no match for Terry Venables’ England squad on that famous night, as despite some shaky moments early on, the Three Lions raced into a 4-0 lead in the second half with braces from Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham.
Kluivert pulled a goal back for the Netherlands but it was only ever a consolation, and many England fans would point to the game as the best performance put on by any England side since their World Cup victory in 1966. If Southgate’s men play as well as their predecessors – a side which included Southgate himself – on Thursday, then the Dutch will be in serious trouble.
The power of youth?
Both England and the Netherlands have become notable in recent months for fielding extremely young squads, and that’s again the case in the Nations League finals. England’s squad has an average age of 24.9, and the Netherlands squad an average age of 26.3, and between them, the two sides have named just 4 players over 30; goalkeepers Jasper Cillessen, Tom Heaton, and Kenneth Vermeer and forward Ryan Babel.
The recent success of a young Ajax side is visible in the Dutch squad, with youngsters Donny van de Beek (22), Frenkie de Jong (22) and Matthijs de Ligt (19) all in contention for a starting spot against England, while the Three Lions can call upon the youngest player across both squads in 19-year old Jadon Sancho – who is additionally the only player involved in the finals to be born after the turn of the millennium.
Fascinatingly though, neither England nor the Netherlands has the youngest squad in the Nations League finals – that award goes to Switzerland, who have named a 23-man squad with an average age of 24.1. Portugal’s squad is the oldest, averaging 27.2 years – and it’s no surprise that the oldest player in the finals, 37-year-old goalkeeper Beto, is part of their side.