Football

2019 UEFA Nations League Finals – England gift win to Dutch

Two defensive howlers in extra time gifted Holland two goals, ending England’s dream of becoming the inaugural Nations League champions, finally going down 1-3 after being 1-0 up with less than twenty minutes to play in regulation time.

England had lead the Dutch 1-0 at half time thanks to a calmly taken penalty by Marcus Rashford, whom had latched on to a mistake by Matthijs de Ligt, who’s attempt at a recovery tackle only served to hack Rashford down as he broke clear on goal. De Ligt could consider himself lucky not to be sent off, but Rashford made no mistake with the penalty to give England a 1-0 lead that whilst wasn’t totally against the run of play, wasn’t truly a result of their pressure or superiority.

Rashford had a half chance to make it 2-0 before the break, but Dutch full back Denzel Dumfries put in a superb tackle to deny the Manchester United and England striker – the tackle though ending Rashford’s game as he was forced off at half time to be replaced by Harry Kane.

Holland ramped up the pressure even more in the second half and the England goal lived something of a charmed life. Set pieces were causing the English defence all manner of problems, with van Djik and de Ligt seemingly winning headers at will – and it was no real surprise to see the Dutch equalise when, in the 72nd minute and again from a corner, de Ligt (above) powered home a header, escaping the supposed man marking of the much maligned John Stones, to make it 1-1. Jadon Sancho, impressive for England, had earlier spurned a great chance to make it 2-0 before being replaced by Jesse Lingard, who thought he had won the game with a few minutes left, slipping the ball into the Dutch net – only for the effort to be cancelled out after a VAR review.

The game went into extra time – which became a horror show for England, as first John Stones and then Ross Barkley made calamitous mistakes when trying to play the ball out of defence, gifting goals to Quincy Promes who made no mistake with open nets to fire at. His first effort was deflected in from the challenging Kyle Walker, and it was credited as a Walker OG, but the third and final goal was all Promes, rifling in from a Memphis Depay cutback after he had taken advantage of Barkley’s tired but very careless attempt at a pass on the edge of his own area.

The win takes Holland into the final where they will play Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, who themselves, 24 hours earlier, had also won 3-1, thanks to another Ronaldo hat trick, against the combative Switzerland side, who will now be England’s third/fourth place play off opponents on Sunday afternoon.

England will once again be put under the microscope after this performance and result which will be seen as, again, failure at the semi final stage in a tournament they have performed well in. The Nations League has been a breath of fresh air since its introduction, giving competitive football games with something at stake over quite meaningless and stale friendlies….but with this comes more analysis and focus – and it cannot be denied that whilst not yet a real top quality side, Holland were far superior to England over the 120 minutes and deserved the win. Possession stats were almost equal, but Holland looked much more dangerous and controlled with their possession – England looking a little bereft of ideas and flair – Sancho apart – when attacking themselves.

Playing out from the back is common place in modern day football – with most top flight club sides and, indeed, top rated international sides, Holland included, playing this rather than the now old fashioned lump upfield from the goalkeeper. But to do this successfully, you must have players who are happy to receive the ball and be able to take a touch, turn and lay it off with control and accuracy – and have team mates who give options should one or two be closed down when high pressing.  Three of the four goals were down to individual mistakes from trying to play out at the back. It is the ultimate in risk/reward play.

England fans will no doubt, after their World Cup adventure and positivity gained from qualifying for last nights semi final, feel that maybe its the same old, same old…close but no cigar, glorious failure, struggle to beat the top level teams. It would be churlish to question coach Gareth Southgate or suggest England are (again) in crisis – but how he and the players react from this performance will be interesting to see….they have to learn from the defeats to Croatia and Holland – only by improving can they look to eradicate the pain felt by these two losses.

ENGLAND 1 – 3 HOLLAND STATISTICS

  • Eng Goal : Rashford (32 Pen)
  • Hol Goal : De Ligt (73)
  • Hol Goal : Walker OG (97)
  • Hol Goal : Promes (114)
  • Possession : Holland 53% England 47%
  • Total Shots : Holland 29 England 13
  • Corners : Holland 7 England 4
  • Yellow Cards : Holland 3 England 1
  • Red Cards : Holland 0 England 0
  • Offsides : Holland 1 England 6
  • Fouls : Holland 19 England 15