Euro 2024

Netherlands v England: Four players set to make the difference on Wednesday

John Stones, England
Stones has been rock solid at the back for England

Ste Tudor backs the Three Lions to usurp logic once again, with four players featuring strongly in Wednesday's semi-final clash.

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Liverpool and Netherlands defender Virgil Van Dijk can now be backed to commit 1 or more fouls vs England at 1/1 - up from 1/3!

Virgil Van Dijk has committed more fouls than any other player at Euro 2024 (12), at an average of 2.4 per 90.

Indeed, he has made a foul in each of the Netherlands' five games at the tournament so far, and committed 2 or more in four of those - 2 v Poland, 1 v France, 3 v Austria, 4 v Romania, 2 v Turkey.

England (73) are the most fouled team at Euro 2024, whilst both Harry Kane (10) and Jude Bellingham (11) sit in the top five most fouled players at the tournament.

Football... Only Bettor Podcast - Netherlands v England Semi-Final tips - Listen here!

Listing England's failings at the Euros takes us through a well-thumbed catalogue of flaws that 24 days into the tournament are now so familiar.

There is the sterile, prediction possession, especially in build-up. There are the underwhelming individual performances to worry about, most notably from Kane, Bellingham and Foden, a trio who are unquestionably world class.

There's the ill-balanced set-up that has the entire left side evoking a round peg and a square hole coming to blows. There's the cautious approach that has seen England commit to fewer shots on target than the Czech Republic, a side hardly known for their attacking virtues themselves, who exited at the group stage.

Yet, for all this, Gareth Southgate's men topped Group C, navigated a path past Slovakia and Switzerland and now here they are, semi-finalists and with the most unlikeliest of glories within reach.

Can England once again usurp logic and disprove the eye-test of millions in Dortmund this Wednesday evening? Should they do so it is imperative that these three Lions roar.

Stones and co

John Stones has had a lot on his plate in Germany.

The 'Barnsley Beckenbauer' has helped bed in Marc Guehi alongside him, and then Ezri Konsa, and all while taking on the continent's elite with only 156 minutes of football under his belt since March.

He's had to compensate for poor showings from Kyle Walker to the right of him, his club team-mate statistically being one of England's worst performers to date.

And when he strides out from the back, whereas ordinarily he sees a maelstrom of sky blue offering up various options, here there are none.

All things considered then, the 30-year-old has done extremely well to make 13 clearances, win 66.6% of both his ground and aerial duels, and boast a 94% pass completion rate, the best of any England player who has started three games-plus.

Moreover, Stones is a pivotal presence in an England back-line that has been one of the few pluses to emerge in Germany.

Gareth Southgate's men have conceded the fourth fewest number of shots on their goal and have been breached every 170 minutes.

Early knockings

Luke Shaw's return to the fray was a very welcome sight last Saturday, the left-back offering up much better balance to the England set-up.

Just a couple of minutes after coming off the bench, the Manchester United star hared down the wing, attempting to meet an over-hit pass, and a nation held its breath, half-expecting him to pull up. He didn't.

His match-up with Denzel Dumfries will go a long way to deciding the outcome in Dortmund and his fitness is key.

luke shaw.jpg

It was Shaw who scored early into England's Euro 2020 final three years ago at Wembley and an early goal could be a feature here too.

A weakness of Ronald Koeman's first spell in charge of the Netherlands was a propensity to go behind early doors and this has continued since taking the helm again post-Qatar.

In his 19 games after returning, Oranje have kept ten clean sheets which is impressive. But in their other nine, only twice have they not conceded inside 25 minutes.

Indeed, of the 21 goals conceded since the World Cup, ten have come inside this timeframe.

Kane isn't able

Harry Kane's insipid displays in Germany have rightly caused a good deal of alarm.

Against Switzerland, the forward had a mere 27 touches of the ball yet still managed to lose possession on ten occasions. Most concerning of all, when Bukayo Saka drilled across several dangerous deliveries in the first half, each time Kane was nowhere to be seen.

Yet how can Southgate be expected to drop a striker who has converted 29% of England's goals during his eight years in charge? That's before we factor in his 44 goals for Bayern last term. No, Kane will start and he will likely struggle again.

This time he comes up against Virgil Van Dijk and it at least bodes well that he has a decent record against the Dutch colossus, scoring four times from the seven previous occasions they have met in the Premier League.

Perhaps, given the poor form of the England man, and Van Dijk's importance to the Netherlands' construction of attacks from the back, the best that can be hoped for is that they manage to negate one another.

And it could be a bruising affair too. Van Dijk has committed the most fouls of any player at the Euros while Kane has been fouled every 46 minutes this summer.

Main threat

Netherlands are one of only three sides who have scored twice on the counter and the pace of Depay and Malen, coupled with the ingenuity of Xavi Simons, should give Southgate a restless night on Tuesday.

The player who will appear in his nightmares though, when he eventually drifts off, is Cody Gakpo.

The wide-man has only stood out in moments at Anfield since joining at the start of last year but has exploded for his country in recent weeks, winning three Man of the Match awards, scoring three times and assisting once.

Add to all this a substantial 11 key passes, nine successful dribbles and 2.6 shots per 90 and he is undoubtedly a threat that must be managed. Which is easier said than done.

Now read more Euro 2024 tips and previews here

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