England a step away from back-to-back European finals

1 week ago 9

DORTMUND, Germany (AP):

ENGLAND CAN reach back-to-back European Championship finals when they meet the Netherlands in Dortmund in the second semi-final.

The winner plays Spain in Sunday’s final.

Both teams conceded the opening goal in their quarter-finals before coming back to win, with England beating Switzerland in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw, and the Netherlands winning 2-1 against Turkey.

After a win on penalties in his 100th game in charge of England, coach Gareth Southgate defended his often-cautious tactics as the kind of “streetwise” style successful teams use.

The backlash from England fans, including some who threw plastic cups at him after a group-stage game, is “quite difficult” to deal with, he added.

“I don’t really understand the criticism. What he’s done for the country, for us as players as well, he really took us to the next level ... I’ve got a lot to thank him for because he showed a lot of faith and trust in picking me when he didn’t have to,” said England defender Luke Shaw on Southgate’s performance.

The Netherlands will be, by far, the highest-ranked team England have faced after group games with Serbia, Denmark and Slovenia, followed by knockout games with Slovakia and Switzerland.

“You’re now into that moment of the tournament where it’s what’s possible, what’s achievable, rather than what might go wrong. That is different for a player, an athlete,” said Southgate, speaking about the mentality the team would need to get by the Dutch.

England have played one hour more than their Dutch counterparts, and defender Micky van de Ven is hoping the latter can take advantage of that.

“Hopefully, it’s us that will have the ball more than England. So it’s more England that’s running. I expect a high-intensity game,” he said.

The referee for the game is Felix Zwayer, who once had ties to a match-fixing scandal in Germany. England midfielder Jude Bellingham was fined 40,000 euros ($43,400) in 2021, while playing for Borussia Dortmund, for criticising Zwayer.

The Dutch endured some travel disruption on the way to Dortmund yesterday when their scheduled train journey from Wolfsburg was cancelled because of what the team said was a “blockage” on the line. The squad had to fly instead, meaning the Netherlands’ news conference with Ronald Koeman and defender Nathan Aké was called off.

England has relied on the right-footed Kieran Trippier at left wing back, but his tendency to cut inside has meant England have made little use of the left wing all tournament. Left-footed Luke Shaw came off the bench against Switzerland for his first minutes since February after injury. Shaw says he’s fit to start against the Netherlands if Southgate picks him, and the coach said yesterday he had a tough decision to make.

Southgate also has to choose whether to stick with Ezri Konsa in the centre of defence after he replaced the then-suspended Marc Guéhi against Switzerland. Guéhi is eligible again.

There’s scrutiny of Harry Kane’s fitness after the England captain went off with cramp in extra time against Switzerland. Ivan Toney came off the bench and scored one of England’s five successful penalties in the shootout.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman, on the other hand, could keep his line-up unchanged for the third game in a row, with Memphis Depay starting alongside Cody Gakpo and Steven Bergwijn up front.

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