Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Netherlands v England: Gareth Southgate faces defining days as manager at Euro 2024

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Southgate also complained about the media – purely doing its job to inform and not in attendance at Euro 2024 as cheerleaders – for revealing changes in formation before the Switzerland game, referring “our own media leaking tactical information two hours after we’ve walked off the training pitch”.

This, more than anything, hints at an England camp that had not been as tight as at previous tournaments and appeared, at times, to be flat, in the early part of Euro 2024 at least.

For all that, the Three Lions are in the semi-final with a chance for Southgate and his players to write a glorious new chapter in their sporting history.

He cut a relaxed figure in his media briefing at Westfalenstadion, suggesting there was a different mood and drive around the squad as they have progressed through Euro 2024.

Southgate said: “One of our strengths over the years has been having less fear, showing less inhibition but, at the beginning of the tournament, the expectation weighed heavily and the noise from outside had never been louder. We couldn’t quite get ourselves in the right place.

“Now it’s about what is possible and not what might go wrong. This is now the chance to make history. We are trying to break new ground and that is not easy but the players have been resilient.”

The manager has had praise for his work too, as former England striker Chris Sutton told BBC 5 Live Sport after they reached the last four: “Gareth Southgate has proved a hell of a lot of people wrong at this tournament. I’m delighted for him. Gareth talked about beer being thrown at him in certain games and what have you… that is not the way to treat an England manager.

“You think about his record as England manager. Out of the last four tournaments, three semi-finals and a quarter-final, with a final in there as well. You have people saying he’s not an inventive manager and he’s a poor manager, he’s done it again. Gareth South-great.”

England face an old adversary in Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman, who played in their 3-1 win over Sir Bobby Robson’s side in the 1988 European Championship in Dusseldorf, but was also an infamous figure for his part in a World Cup qualifier between the sides in October 1993.

Koeman dragged David Platt back when he was clean through with the scoreline goalless, escaped with only a yellow card, then scored a free-kick five minutes later as England – needing just a point to qualify for the 1994 finals – went down to a damaging 2-0 defeat. He had finished his international career before England’s stunning 4-1 Wembley win at Euro ’96.

In his second spell in charge, Koeman has led the Netherlands into the semi-final and looking increasingly confident and dangerous, having recovered from a 3-2 loss to Austria in the group stage. They will present a stern examination.

But England and Southgate find themselves two games from history.

And the history books would simply record England’s achievement – not how they played to write that new chapter.

It will either end with Euro 2024 glory or another bitter disappointment of Southgate and his team falling short once more. This much goes on the line in Dortmund.

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