Saturday, July 13, 2024

The Numbers Game: Netherlands stand between England and back-to-back Euros finals

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 8 Jul 2024


England have staggered and stuttered their way through Euro 2024, but they are nevertheless in another semi-final.

For the third time at a major tournament under Gareth Southgate, the Three Lions are in the last four – the only competition in which they have failed to reach that stage since the start of the 2018 World Cup was in Qatar in 2022.

Standing between them and successive European Championship finals are the Netherlands.

Ronald Koeman’s team were unconvincing in the group stage but, unlike their opponents in Dortmund on Wednesday, have clicked into gear in the knockouts.

Whereas England required extra time – and a Jude Bellingham stunner – to break Slovakian hearts, and then stayed perfect from the spot and relied on a save from Jordan Pickford to beat Switzerland on penalties, the Oranje overcame Romania 3-0 and Turkiye 2-1, both inside 90 minutes.

But what does the data suggest ahead of the second Euros semi-final, with a place in the Berlin showpiece, against either France or Spain, on the line?

What’s expected?

England have been clear favourites, according to the Opta supercomputer, for every match they have played at Euro 2024 so far. But that is not the case for this tie.

The model gives England a 37.8% chance of victory, just marginally more than the Netherlands’ 31.6%; the draw threat (so, the likelihood of extra time and a penalty shoot-out) is coming in at a relatively large 30.6%.

That’s not particularly surprising considering England have gone to extra time in both of their knockout ties so far.

Only Portugal at Euro 2016, Spain at Euro 2020, and Italy at Euro 2020 have ever gone to extra time three times in a single edition of the finals.

This is the fourth meeting between England and the Netherlands at a major tournament; the Oranje won 3-1 at Euro 1988 (thanks to a Marco van Basten hat-trick), followed by a goalless draw at the 1990 World Cup, and a 4-1 England win at Euro 1996.

Of all the nations England have faced 20+ times in their history, only against Brazil (15%) do they have a lower win rate than they do against the Netherlands (27% – six wins, nine draws, seven defeats).

In fact, England have won just one of their last nine meetings with the Netherlands in all competitions (four draws, four losses), winning a friendly 1-0 in Amsterdam in March 2018.


While Southgate has come under criticism for the level of performances in Germany, his major tournament record is hard to argue with.

England went 22 years between 1996 and 2018 without reaching a semi-final. Since the start of that tournament in Russia, England have reached the stage three times.

Indeed, having gone 65 years without reaching a final, England are now on the brink of back-to-back appearances in a major tournament’s biggest event.

This is England’s fourth appearance in the semi-final of the European Championships; having been eliminated in the first two in 1968 (vs Yugoslavia) and 1996 (vs Germany), the Three Lions reached the final of Euro 2020 after beating Denmark 2-1, only to lose on penalties to Italy at Wembley.

Bukayo Saka cast aside the demons of that final shoot-out with his composed effort from 12 yards against the Swiss, and it was his superb strike that forced extra time in the first place.

There have been five occasions of a team reaching the final of consecutive editions of the Euros; USSR (1960/1964), Germany (three times, 1972/1976, 1976/1980, 1992/1996) and Spain (2008/2012).

Change the record

For the Dutch, it will be a sixth semi-final at the Euros. They have lost their last four, with the one they won coming in 1988 – they went on to win that tournament, with Van Basten scoring one of the most famous goals in the competition’s history in the final, which took place in Munich.

This is the Netherlands’ first Euros semi-final since 2004. On that occasion, they lost 2-1 to host nation Portugal.

The Netherlands have won two different matches having conceded the first goal at Euro 2024, beating Poland 2-1 in the group stage and Turkiye by the same scoreline in the quarter-final.

Only Czechia, at Euro 2004, have ever won three games having conceded first at a single edition of the tournament, but it does show England – who have proved comeback specialists themselves in the knockouts – must be wary.

The Netherlands have scored nine goals across their five games at Euro 2024, while their 8.12 expected goals (xG) ranks them fourth in the competition.

England, on the other hand, have mustered just 4.36 xG, scoring five times. The Oranje also average more touches in the opposition box than the Three Lions (29.8 per game compared to 25.6).

Defensively, both of these teams have been tight, conceding just seven goals between them, but if the Dutch are to change the record when it comes to their Euros runs in the modern era, this is as good a chance as any.


Netherlands – Memphis Depay

In Depay (17 shots, 10 chances created) and Cody Gakpo (13 shots, 11 chances created), the Netherlands are the only side with more than one player to have both 10+ shots and 10+ chances created at Euro 2024.

Indeed, one or both of Depay and/or Gakpo have been directly involved in 47 of the Netherlands’ 74 shots at these Euros (63.5%), and six of their nine goals (66.7%).

While Gakpo has been their primary goalscorer, and has a shot at the Golden Boot, Depay has that magical touch when he’s on his best form, and displayed his quality with an excellent delivery for Stefan de Vrij’s equaliser against Turkiye.

England – Harry Kane

Coming into the semi-finals, no player has scored more knockout stage goals in the competition’s history than Harry Kane (five, level with Antoine Griezmann).

Kane scored in the semi-final of Euro 2020 against Denmark; only two players have ever scored at this stage of consecutive European Championships – Viktor Ponedelnik and Valentin Ivanov, both for USSR in 1960/1964.

That being said, despite scoring twice in Germany so far, Kane has largely cut a frustrated figure, and has managed just 23 touches in the opponent’s box throughout the tournament.


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