The Three Lions might be favourites for the Netherlands vs England in Wednesday’s Euro 2024 semi-final, but Ronald Koeman’s side have enough to punish their opponents if they fail to rise to the occasion.

Ronald Koeman’s Netherlands are all that stand between England and another European Championship final; runners-up three years ago at the delayed Euro 2020, they hope to go one better and finally end a trophy drought that stretches all the way back to 1966 for the men’s team.

Performances haven’t been particularly impressive from England in this tournament, though, requiring a dramatic late equaliser and then extra-time to get past Slovakia, before needing penalties to see off Switzerland in the quarter-finals.

And the omens, for what they’re worth, aren’t great for this game either as England have won just one of their past nine meetings with the Netherlands. In fact, of all the nations they’ve faced 20 or more times, only against Brazil (15%) do the Three Lions have a poorer win percentage than they do against the Dutch (27%).

It’s fair to say the Netherlands themselves haven’t exactly been sensational in Euro 2024, but in reaching their first Euros semi-final since 2004, they clearly have the weapons to unsettle England.

But where exactly could the Dutch cause England problems?

Dynamic Attackers

They’re hardly unknown quantities, but there’s no mistaking Cody Gakpo and Memphis Depay have been hugely important to the Netherlands in Euro 2024. So much of what the Oranje have done in the final third has involved at least one of them in some way, and so keeping them quiet will surely go a long way to stifling the team as a whole.

First and foremost, with Depay tallying 17 shots and 10 chances created, and Gakpo registering 12 and 11 in those respective metrics, the Netherlands are the only side to have more than one player reach double figures for both.

That means 63.5% of the Netherlands’ 74 shots at Euro 2024 have seen at least one of those two directly involved, while that goes up to 66.7% when looking specifically at goals.

Of course, Gakpo has been their main dangerman in that respect. With three goals already, the Liverpool attacker is the joint-top scorer in the tournament, while only two other players have reached that tally without including goals scored from the penalty spot.

Gakpo’s positivity and purpose have been key to the threat he’s brought, with only two players in the whole tournament managing more shot-ending or chance-creating carries than him (nine). He’s also the only player to surpass two goal involvements (two goals, one assist) following carries.

Cody Gakpo chance-creating carries

A lot of what Depay has stood out for has been his hold-up play and link-ups with teammates as the focal point in the attack, with the Atlético Madrid forward one of few Netherlands players to come out of the 3-2 loss to Austria with any credit.

But it’s also worth pointing out his work rate. The Oranje haven’t deployed a high press like some other sides, but Depay has still averaged 22.4 high-intensity pressures in the final third per 90 minutes, ranking him ninth among strikers.

Memphis Depay pressures

And while Gakpo may not have been working with quite the same degree of intensity, he’s still been effective, with his six possession regains in the final third the second-most of anyone in the tournament.

England have been pretty solid at the back in Euro 2024, but in Depay, Gakpo and the physical Wout Weghorst (presumably off the bench), they’ve enough to keep John Stones and co. on their toes.

Between the Lines

This may not be the greatest Netherlands side ever, but they are at least fairly typical in that you can expect them to be very comfortable in possession.

There aren’t many players in their squad that you’d look at and surmise to be weak on the ball, and that translates to a progressiveness in possession that deserves to be highlighted.

Of their 2,545 passes at Euro 2024, 14.2% have been classified as line-breaking passes, which is the fourth-highest proportion of all teams at the tournament. They also rank fourth for line-breaking passes leading to a shot, goal, cross or corner within 10 seconds.

Further to that, their 26 line-breaking passes into the penalty area is second only to Germany. In fact, they rank high across the board when it comes to this type of pass in threatening areas, which is notable when you consider how they’ve played significantly fewer passes in total than the most possession-dominant teams at Euro 2024.

Ahead of their quarter-final, we highlighted how Tijjani Reijnders’ abilities – both in terms of passing and carrying the ball – have facilitated this, with the central midfielder ranking joint top for line-breaking passes into the area (eight) and second for those leading to danger (16).

But it’s not just him having an impact here. Jerdy Schouten generally operates a little deeper than Reijnders but has still caught the eye for his use of the ball; only seven midfielders have made more passes that have split the midfield line than his 28, and he ranks sixth among midfielders for line-breaking passes played from within his own half, evidence of his desire to get the Netherlands on the front foot.

Jerdy Schouten line-breaking passes

In fact, only four midfielders can better his 21 progressive passes at Euro 2024, with he and Reijnders offering a lot of ball-playing ability in the middle.

But they’re certainly not infallible here.

The Netherlands really struggled to get a grip of the midfield battle in the 3-2 defeat to Austria, particularly in the first half, when Romano Schmid seemed to be everywhere, recording 10 possession regains.

Collectively, Austria managed to tally 14 possession regains in the middle third of the pitch in that first half, which has only been bettered by a team in five halves (first or second) at Euro 2024, which gives some idea as to the pressure the Netherlands were put under.

Austria Possession Won vs Netherlands

The faded colouring of the Netherlands midfielders in the below passing network indicates a lack of influence in the centre as a result.

Netherlands pass network vs Austria
Jonathan Manuel / Data Analyst

The Oranje’s inability to cope with this led to Joey Veerman’s withdrawal with a little over 30 minutes played, while Schouten’s 84.4% pass completion rate was his worst of the tournament and the only match in which he’s gone below 90%.

Austria’s midfield intensity on the day set the tone for a commendable and deserved 3-2 win; if England’s midfield can replicate that off-the-ball urgency, it’ll surely serve them well.

Probing From the Right

A staple for the Oranje for a while now, Denzel Dumfries’ offering as an adventurous full-back or wing-back is no secret. Nevertheless, he needs to be marked as a potential threat.

England’s left side has been one of the most talked-about aspects of the team at Euro 2024, with nominal right-back Kieran Trippier having to fill in there for the most part. That’s not been ideal and there’s no doubt the team has suffered on that side of the pitch as a result.

But, Luke Shaw returned from injury in the penalties defeat of Switzerland, meaning he is likely to earn his first start of the tournament on Wednesday; that’s obviously a good thing for the Three Lions, though there’s understandably going to be question marks over his match sharpness.

Dumfries is more than capable of giving him a thorough examination and Shaw shouldn’t expect an easy ride if it is indeed the Inter man lining up against him, with 39.5% of the Netherlands’ attacks coming from that side of the pitch.

Netherlands attacking thirds

While Dumfries ranks seventh among defenders for crosses and passes played into the box (31), for crosses alone he moves up to fourth (17).

Positive both in possession and but especially with his off-ball runs, Dumfries needs no invitation to get forward and has been a frequent beneficiary of those line-breaking passes mentioned earlier; as a result, his 13 touches in the box is more than any other defender at the tournament.

Denzel Dumfries touches in opposition box

The danger he represents needs to be taken seriously by England and Gareth Southgate.

The Wandering Xavi Simons

The future of the Netherlands national team, Simons has shown numerous flashes of his ability at Euro 2024 and appears to have made that position at the top of the midfield his own.

He went into the pre-tournament warm-up games under something of a shroud, with suggestions he had underwhelmed during his fledgling international career, though it’s difficult to argue with his output at Euro 2024.

With three assists ahead of the semi-finals, no one has managed to set up more goals than him. There is the caveat that one was a pass inside his own half ahead of Donyell Malen’s solo goal Romania, and another was a simple ball to Gakpo who still had a lot to do before finding the net in the same game.

But needless to say, Simons’ talents on the ball and ability to intricately tie things together in the final third make him the kind of player capable of troubling pretty much any team, and the positions he takes up could be problematic.

He likes to operate both on the left and centrally, which means he quite often creates overloads with Gakpo – one of the liveliest attackers at the tournament, remember – in dangerous positions.

Xavi Simons touch zones

Whether England go with a back three or four, Kyle Walker should expect to be put through his paces, and considering his unconvincing displays at this tournament so far, that’s a prospect that ought to worry England’s fans.

Of course, generally speaking, England’s defence has probably been one of few impressive things about them at Euro 2024, and that solidity has to be seen as among the chief reasons for them getting so far.

The Netherlands possess the most talented squad England have faced yet, though Southgate will surely feel buoyed by their defensive displays going into this game.

With France also failing to excite but looking miserly at the back en route to the semis, there’s a huge possibility that the winners of Euro 2024 will have built their success on a solid defensive platform.

The Oranje promise to test that strength, however.

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