England Go Dutch In Nations League Showdown Tonight
The Nations League tournament got underway once again last night with a masterclass in finishing from Portuguese legend Cristiano Ronaldo handing the hosts a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Switzerland in the first semifinal.
Tonight, England boss Gareth Southgate will send out his team to take on an improving Netherlands side in the second semifinal, with a place in the final in Oporto on Sunday on offer for the team that can emerge victorious.
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Before we bring you details of England’s game later on, we will quickly recap the action from the first semifinal which saw Cristiano Ronaldo inspire Portugal to victory over the Swiss.
Nations League Semi Final Result
Portugal (1) 3 (Ronaldo, 25, 88,90)
Switzerland (0) 1 (Rodriguez pen, 57)
The difference between having a world class finisher and not was never more evident than in Oporto last night as Cristiano Ronaldo, despite not having the best all-round game, produced a masterclass in finishing to put Portugal into the final of the Nations League.
In truth, Switzerland dominated the game and after Ronaldo had given Portugal a perhaps undeserved lead on 25 minutes, the Swiss battled hard and deservedly levelled on 57 minutes from the penalty spot in somewhat controversial circumstances.
Originally, the referee allowed play to go on after the foul on the Swiss player in the box and from the resulting play, Portugal themselves won a penalty. However, the referee was advised to consult VAR for the first penalty award and upon reviewing the action, he went back and awarded Switzerland the penalty.
Rodriguez duly levelled from the spot and at this point, it seemed very much like Switzerland would be the likely winners, only for Ronaldo to change the game with two moments of brilliance in a three minute spell.
First Bernardo Silva’s sublime control and cross found Ronaldo to fire home at the near post of the below-par Swiss keeper Sommer and then just a couple of minutes later, after the Swiss lost the ball near the halfway line, Ronaldo was sent clear to fire his and Portugal’s third goal past Sommer. It was a brilliant finish and Ronaldo’s 88th international goal in 157 appearances for Portugal.
Nations League Semi Final Preview
England v Netherlands
Tonight’s game in Guimares kicks off at 7.45pm and unfortunately for England, their fans have already been involved in skirmishes and trouble with the Portuguese police, and that has already left a rather bitter taste in the mouth ahead of the game.
England fans are expected to outnumber the Dutch significantly in Guimares and it promises to be an interesting game. There is much speculation over when England striker Harry Kane will start the game, with the Tottenham man’s fitness in doubt after he missed the last eight weeks of the season with an ankle injury, returning to be largely ineffective in last weekend’s Champions League final.
If Kane does not start then it could mean a rapid elevation into the team for Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho, who could start on the wing with Marcus Rashford being moved into a more central role, with Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling on the other flank.
That attack will have to face what many experts feel is the best central defensive pairing in World Football at the moment. Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk has enjoyed a phenomenal season at club level and is rated by many as the best defender in world football, while alongside him is the 19-year-old Ajax skipper and another star of the Champions League, in the much-coveted Mattijs de Ligt.
It is going to be very interesting to see how England’s attacking players fare against that formidable duo, although the full back areas of the team are ones that England will feel they can exploit with neither left or right back areas being particularly strong for the Dutch.
Defensively England are solid, but Holland have some very talented attacking players themselves. Memphis Depay is their most dangerous player, although Gini Wijnaldum’s goals from midfield have been very valuable throughout the Nations League so far.
England v Netherlands – Top Tips
Full Time Result – Draw – 9/4 at bet365 Sport
I think the defensive strength of the Netherlands will be enough for them to nullify most of England’s attacks but while I can see the Three Lions scoring, I also feel that the Dutch will also be strong enough to get a goal too. As such, I feel that a draw at 90 minutes will be the most likely result, meaning extra time and possibly penalties may be needed to decide the winner.
You can back the game to be decided in Extra time at 5/1 with bet365 if you are interested in this particular bet and if you want a bet on who is to qualify, the Dutch are 21/20 and England the 7/10 favourites and my money would just about be on England to earn the final spot in extra time.
Correct Score – England 1-1 Holland – 5/1 at bet365 Sport
As I mentioned above, I can see both teams finding the net in normal time in this game, but the defensive side of the game is very strong for both these sides and as such, I can’t really see England or the Netherlands grabbing a second goal inside the 90 minutes. As such, the 1-1 score draw, which is a 5/1 shot with bet365, is the most likely option for the Correct Score bet.
Anytime Goalscorer – Raheem Sterling (7/4 with bet365)
With Harry Kane’s participation likely but not guaranteed, I think a better option for a first goalscorer may be Manchester City’s winger Raheem Sterling. He returned to scoring form for England against Spain with a brace and his form this season has been sensational for City. He is likely the man Holland will least want to face and if he is up against Daley Blind, he could well give the ex-Man Utd man a really torrid time.