Euro 2024, Netherlands vs. England: Players to watch

Home » Euro 2024, Netherlands vs. England: Players to watch

England entered the tournament as one of the strongest contenders and managed to top their group with one win and two draws, but Gareth Southgate’s side have failed to fully convince.

In the round of 16, England relied on Jude Bellingham’s stoppage-time overhead kick to draw level against Slovakia, before Harry Kane netted the winner in extra time. They also staged a comeback against Switzerland, with Bukayo Saka’s equaliser forcing the match into extra time and ultimately winning on penalties as all five players converted their spot-kicks.

The Three Lions are now just one win away from their second consecutive Euro final. Here’s a closer look at three key players whose performances will be crucial for England to overcome the Netherlands in the semi-final.

Jude Bellingham

Bellingham epitomises England’s ability to deliver in crucial moments better than anyone else in the squad. With two goals already, including a spectacular last-minute bicycle kick against Slovakia, he’s Southgate’s go-to player. Built for big occasions, his performance consistently improves as the stakes rise. The Real Madrid midfielder is the first European player to participate in three major international tournaments before turning 21, having competed in Euro 2020, the 2022 FIFA World Cup and now Euro 2024.

Following his header against Serbia in their 1-0 victory, the UEFA Champions League winner with Madrid has now scored England’s opening goal in both the 2022 World Cup and Euro 2024. Bellingham has been instrumental in England’s attacks, frequently dropping deep to collect the ball and drive the game forward. He is relentless in pressing from the front, tirelessly chasing the ball to force opponents into mistakes.

A master creator, Bellingham has made 24 passes into the attacking third and 15 into key play areas. Additionally, with 11 recoveries, his defensive contributions are evident. Bellingham will be a crucial presence in the box, aiming to assert England’s dominance through his pressing, especially as the Dutch have often appeared panicky when properly pressured.

Bukayo Saka

Saka has been England’s standout forward so far, despite his stats showing just one goal and one assist. The 21-year-old scored a crucial late equaliser against Switzerland, taking the game to extra-time, and later converted another in the penalty shootout.

Saka was shifted to wing-back against Slovakia and excelled in this role, balancing defensive duties with attacking intent.

In the quarter-final against Switzerland, Saka played more as a right-winger and delivered another brilliant performance. An adept dribbler, he has completed 21 successful dribbles, posing a constant threat to opposing defences.

Saka has also demonstrated his creative flair, with 31 passes into key play areas and six passes into the attacking third. Saka will be pivotal for England in their clash against the Netherlands. He will need to contribute defensively to contain the in-form Cody Gakpo, while also driving England’s attack down the flanks, delivering accurate crosses or cutbacks for the likes of Bellingham and Harry Kane.

Declan Rice

Rice has been one of England’s most consistent performers at Euro 2024. It was the Arsenal midfielder that supplied the assist for Saka’s equaliser against Switzerland. At the base of their midfield, he has adapted seamlessly despite playing with different players. Initially paired with Trent Alexander-Arnold in the first two group stage matches, he then partnered up with Conor Gallagher, followed by 19-year-old Kobbie Mainoo in the last two knockout games. Rice has now developed a strong partnership with the young Manchester United star.

Rice’s aerial dominance and duelling prowess make him a formidable opponent. He excels as a ball carrier, effectively moving the ball out of dangerous situations, and is a secure passer with a 93.2% accuracy rate, completing 368 of 393 passes. His long-ball accuracy is also impressive, with 23 out of 25 successful attempts. Additionally, Rice has created numerous chances for a defensive midfielder, making 43 passes into the attacking third.

The 25-year-old will be crucial for England in their upcoming match against the Netherlands, particularly in keeping Xavi Simons in check. The Dutch midfielder, who will be deployed as an attacking midfielder, likes to dribble through the centre, and Rice will have to disrupt his rhythm to prevent him from enjoying much of the ball and creating goal-scoring chances. Rice will need to trust his ball-carrying abilities to help progress England’s play from the back whenever possible.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands had a turbulent start to the tournament, beginning with a thrilling comeback victory against Poland followed by a goalless draw against France, and a shocking 3-2 defeat to Austria.

Despite these ups and downs, they advanced as one of the best third-placed teams, making them the sole semi-finalist to achieve this feat. In the round of 16, they displayed their strength by convincingly overcoming Romania. The Dutch then rallied from behind to defeat Türkiye, securing their first Euro semi-final appearance since 2004.

Now, we put the spotlight on three pivotal players who will be instrumental in the Netherlands’ quest to reach the final.

Cody Gakpo

Cody Gakpo has been the standout player for the Netherlands at Euro 2024, making a compelling case for Player of the Tournament with three goals and an assist. After a disappointing season with Liverpool, Gakpo came into the tournament with a point to prove, and he has exceeded expectations. He scored a crucial goal against Romania and provided an assist in the round of 16, reaffirming his ability to perform in pivotal moments, much like he did in the 2022 World Cup.

Operating primarily from the left flank, Gakpo has been exceptional at cutting inside and creating chances. His partnership with Memphis Depay has been instrumental in the Netherlands’ attacking prowess, forming a dynamic duo. Gakpo’s game is characterised by his ability to elevate his team-mates’ performance through his intelligent play. He has also been a constant threat in one-on-one situations, successfully completing 16 dribbles. His precision in front of goal is evident, having attempted 12 shots with eight on target. He has also made 13 key passes, nine of them into the penalty area, showcasing his knack for creating goal-scoring opportunities.

Gakpo faces a formidable challenge against England’s robust defence, particularly against the experienced and agile Kyle Walker. His success will depend on his movement off the ball and his ability to combine effectively with his team-mates against the Manchester City defender. Additionally, Gakpo has made significant defensive contributions, with eight ball recoveries and four successful tackles. To reach the Euro 2024 final, the Liverpool forward must once again deliver a standout performance.

Tijjani Reijnders

The Milan midfielder seamlessly integrated into the team, providing vital defensive security and balance alongside Jerdy Schouten in the absence of Frenkie de Jong. His presence has instilled confidence in the Dutch lineup for the long haul.

Known for his dominance in aerial duels and expansive ground coverage, Reijnders holds his ground against any opponent. As a distributor, he boasts an impressive 93% pass accuracy rate, completing 207 out of 220 passes. While he has excelled in short passes, he’s adept at executing precise long balls, completing 15 out of 18 attempts, often with long diagonal switches. With seven ball recoveries, Reijnders is crucial as a defensive shield. His standout quality lies in his astute timing and decision-making in passing, knowing when to secure possession and when to take calculated risks. He has also been effective in moving play forward, making 25 passes into the final third and delivering 14 key passes, showcasing his well-rounded playmaking skills.

The 25-year-old will have a big role against England, particularly in covering the forward surges of Xavi Simons, who frequently pushes up, leaving gaps behind. Reijnders must also keep a watchful eye on Bellingham’s incisive runs into the box, as his goal-scoring ability poses a significant threat if not tightly marked. Against an increasingly formidable England midfield, Reijnders will aim to dictate the tempo and direction of play.

Xavi Simons

Simons has been in exceptional form lately, contributing two assists and showcasing his fearless approach on the pitch. Deployed as an attacking midfielder by Ronald Koeman, Simons has excelled in this role, driving the team forward with his ball carrying, dribbling, and ability to create scoring opportunities rather than sticking to the sidelines.

The 21-year-old has been crucial for the Netherlands, particularly in the absence of de Jong, delivering moments of brilliance. A product of Barcelona’s La Masia youth academy, Simons is renowned for his smooth dribbling, often drawing fouls in dangerous areas that lead to scoring chances. He has recorded 10 key passes, 10 passes into the penalty area, and 12 passes into the attacking third. Defensively, Simons has also impressed, completing three successful tackles out of six attempts and making six ball recoveries.

To secure a spot in the finals, Simons must maintain his peak form. He will face tough opposition from Rice and Mainoo, who will try to neutralise his threat, but Simons must trust in his abilities and persevere. His ability to find openings and deliver decisive passes to Gakpo or Depay will be crucial. The young midfielder also needs to defend diligently when not in possession, strategically drawing fouls to relieve pressure.

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