Monday, July 15, 2024

Neville says England have tournament know-how, but warns Netherlands a step up

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 7 Jul 2024

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England have displayed their tournament know-how by battling into the Euro 2024 semi-finals but must improve when they meet the Netherlands, says Gary Neville.

The Three Lions have reached their third semi-final in four major tournaments under Gareth Southgate, having beaten Switzerland 5-3 on penalties following a 1-1 quarter-final draw on Saturday.

They had reached the last four at just two of their previous 17 tournaments (World Cup or Euros, since 1968) before Southgate’s 2016 appointment.

Despite overseeing England’s emergence as serious contenders, Southgate has been fiercely criticised for the team’s tepid attacking performances in Germany, with their total of 4.36 expected goals (xG) bettered by 10 already-eliminated teams.

Most pundits believed the Three Lions improved after changing to a 3-4-3 formation against Switzerland, and Neville feels the system suits Southgate’s squad.

“I’ve felt we’ve had a better balance, the team suits it. It’s more fluid, a more relaxed nature in the football, particularly in the first half,” Neville told Sky Sports News.

“In the second half we went back to recycling the ball safely, but in the first half we played some half-decent stuff. Extra-time was then very safe, very cautious.

“But this team has tournament know-how, they get to semi-finals. There’s fortune along the way with the draw. We’ve played Serbia, Denmark, Slovenia, Slovakia and Switzerland.

“If you said you’d get those five teams in a major tournament you’d be very happy. We haven’t played at our best but it’s a tournament that seems to be moving that way.

“Spain have played some fantastic football but the other teams have been quite unspectacular but getting through.”

While Neville feels Southgate has transformed the team into seasoned tournament campaigners, he says Wednesday’s semi-final will be their toughest test yet.

“It’s a good sign for a team, you have to get through difficult matches – but you can’t rely on that all the time. My feeling is you’ll get caught out eventually if you don’t step up your performance level,” Neville added.

“Saturday was definitely a step up in terms of our balance, it was a step forward, now we have to step up again against the Netherlands on Wednesday. We’ll have to step up quite a bit because they have some serious players.”

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