When the tournament was first announced, confusion ensued as to what exactly the UEFA Nations League was and how it worked. Now that we’re past the unnecessarily complicated league stage and into the knockout phase, things are much more straightforward. Beat the Netherlands and England are into the final and in with a chance of winning their first silverware since 1966. While nobody is claiming that winning the Nations League is equivalent to the Euro’s or World Cup, it could certainly be a launching pad for this relatively young squad to go on and achieve further success.
Every international tournament has a “Group of Death”. For the Nations League, it was League A, which contained World Cup winners France, serial silverware winners Germany and the Netherlands. Having failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the Oranje have embraced youth and seen a resurgence under manager Ronald Koeman. Ajax quartet Daley Blind, Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and Donny van de Beek will be hoping to make up for their Champions League final loss to Spurs by dumping the English national team from the competition.
The Netherlands have a decent recent record given the quality of the opponents they’ve faced, winning four, drawing two, and losing two of their last eight games. Amongst those fixtures, the Netherlands have faced France twice and gone against Germany on three occasions. At this stage, it’s unknown if the Champions League winning duo of Dutch captain Virgil Van Dijk and Gini Wijnaldum will feature in the match following their exertions in Madrid.
Over the past 12 months, English football has been a force across international and UEFA competitions. For the first time ever, both UEFA club tournaments featured a clean sweep of finalists from the same country with Chelsea and Liverpool overcoming Arsenal and Spurs, whilst Gareth Southgate’s national side reignited a nation and made it to a World Cup semi-final.
With a youthful squad full of exciting talent, there is much optimism surrounding a Three Lions team that, thus far, seems to be embracing the new-found expectations being heaped upon its shoulders. There’s been no post-World Cup slump, with a run of six victories, and just one defeat, in eight matches following the tournament. During that run, England have score 20 goals, beaten Spain 3-2 away from home and exacted revenge over World Cup opponents Croatia with a Wembley victory.
Both sides enter the semi-finals having topped their respective groups with identical records: played four, won two, drawn one, lost one. So, both sides should be confident of beating the other, even with the difficulty of predicting the line-ups given the number of players who featured in the weekend’s Champions League final (two for the Netherlands, seven for England)
The last time the sides met in a competitive international fixture was over 20 years ago, during Euro 96, in which England secured a 4-1 victory. Since then, the Netherlands have been the dominant force in the friendly fixtures between the sides, winning three, drawing four and losing just once. However, that loss came in the last match between the two sides, with England winning 1-0.
Neither side has had a dominant defence of late, the Dutch have conceded in seven of their last 10 matches, while England have only kept clean sheets in five of their last 15. So, we can see goals in this game. We can also see England using their World Cup experience to positive effect and progressing to the final. We’re backing England to win and both teams to score at 7/2 (4.5).
*Odds subject to change. Odds correct at time of publishing.