Netherlands vs England, Thursday’s semi-final match for the UEFA Nations League Final Stage in Guimarães, Portugal.
The UEFA Nations League was met with some scepticism when it was announced, but the first edition of this international tournament has been a widespread success in terms of reaching its main goal. UEFA wanted to bring some level of enthusiasm to the hard work of the international break, and this title is exactly what they wanted.
It may not be the World Cup or the European Championship, but the League of Nations has been taken seriously by all the countries involved. Now, it all boils down to four teams, all struggling to become the first winners.
For England, it’s an opportunity to bring home a Cup for the first time in over 60 years. The Netherlands, for its part, wants to end its own 30-year period with a group of extremely talented young people. It is especially important to them after failing to qualify for the last two major international tournaments.
Both teams are also in the middle of a promising upward trajectory. The Netherlands has drastically improved since the failure to qualify for Russia in 2018, and with its cast with such names as Matthijs de Ligt, Nathan Ake, Donny van de Beek, Frenkie de Jong and Steven Bergwijn, the future is certainly shining.
The England World Cup run under Gareth Southgate led the nation to a standstill last summer and, like their opponents, they also have a wealth of talent at their disposal. Jordan Pickford, John Stones, Joe Gomez, Ben Chilwell, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Eric Dier, Declan Rice, Ross Barkley, Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, aged 25 years and have promising international careers ahead of them.
The Netherlands has not slowed down since the World Cup. They have won six of their eight matches since then and lost only once, scoring an impressive 20 goals and even defeating Spain 3-2 away from home.
The Netherlands has a more modest recent record, despite having faced very difficult opponents. They have won four, drawn two and lost two of the last eight games, which include a trio of games against Germany and two clashes with France.
One thing that does not seem particularly good for either team is the defense. The Netherlands have conceded goals in seven of their last 10 games and have scored five goals in their two recent matches with Germany. England, meanwhile, has conceded in 10 of their last 15 games.
The Champions League final can also have a big impact here. Dutchman Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum are expected to participate and travel to Portugal a little tired, while England has as many as seven players in the squad who could take part in Saturday’s matches including striker Harry Kane
However, both sides have enough attacking talent. Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Callum Wilson and Raheem Sterling are more than capable of replacing Kane, while Steven Bergwijn, Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong and Donny van de Beek will be well rested. Considering all things, I think supporting a game with goals is a value bet.
My bet is over 1.5 goals.