AUTHOR: Lewis Williams

ALEX CROOK PREVIEW: Netherlands v England

Star Sports football ambassador Alex Crook looks ahead to the the big one – England take on Netherlands for a spot in the Euro 2024 final up for grabs…

“We have got to use this opportunity to change history.” The words of England boss Gareth Southgate as his side bid to book their place in a major tournament final away from home soil for the first time ever, writes ALEX CROOK.

For all the perceived criticism England have faced during their time in Germany, and even foreign media trying to stick the boot into the playing style after the quarter-final win over Switzerland, Southgate has now guided the Three Lions into at least the semis in three of his four tournaments at the helm.

That alone tells us that while it not always pretty, and often very ugly, Southgate has instilled a steely mentality in his players that should serve them well in the cauldron in Dortmund, where the Dutch fans will outnumber their England counterparts having been given the iconic Yellow Wall.

Coping with that intense atmosphere is just one of the challenges Southgate will have to contend with along with England’s propensity to hand control of matches to their opponents.

While England have stuttered their way into the last four, their opponents have recovered from losing to Austria and finishing third in their group to produce two convincing knockout round wins over Romania and Turkey, with the former of those especially one-sided.

In Cody Gakpo they have a surprise contender for the Golden Boot and if they are to win their first Euros semi-final since lifting the trophy in 1988 then the Liverpool star is likely to have a big part to play.

While the Dutch have lived up to the cliché of ‘growing into a tournament’ you have to go back to the first half of the 1-0 win over Serbia for the last time the pre-tournament favourites looked truly convincing in their work and incidentally they have not won a game in 90 minutes since that opening night in Gelsenkirchen.

In fact England have been level after 90 minutes in six of their last nine competitive games and with so much pressure on both sides to set up showdown with Spain in the final in Berlin on Sunday perhaps we should be preparing ourselves for another one of those long nights following our boys at a Euros or World Cup.

I do think this might be a more open affair than England’s previous games here in Germany as the Dutch are the first opponent they have encountered who will really be prepared to attack them and that should release the likes of Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham to get in behind the Oranje defence.

A lot has been made of the controversial appointment of German referee Felix Zwayer – once branded ‘corrupt’ by Jude Bellingham – and the statistics show us that he has dished out at least four yellow cards in seven of his last eight games while there were four bookings in the other semi-final between Spain and France.

A build-a-bet of a draw after 90 minutes, both teams to score and over 3.5 cards returns around 7/1 with

If you are inclined to back the draw at full-time then you are probably already thinking about the prospect of yet another England penalty shootout but that is no longer the petrifying prospect it once was.

England were foot perfect from the spot against Switzerland and can be backed at ? with to win on penalties once again.

With little to separate the two teams, the first goalscorer market throws up a bit of value and Bellingham to score first at ? with on his return to his former ground catches my eye. The ex-Dortmund man has scored in each of his last three matches at Signal Iduna Park.

Build-a-bet: Draw after 90 minutes, both teams to score and over 3.5 cards 1pt at 7/1 with

BACK England to win on penalties 1pt at 13/2 (⭐️ ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Jude Bellingham to score first 0.5pts at 11/1 (⭐️ ? CLICK TO BET NOW)



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