England manager Gareth Southgate believes his side have been freed up by edging closer to a first ever major final on foreign soil at Euro 2024 after struggling to deal with the weight of expectation earlier in the tournament.
The Three Lions arrived in Germany as one of the favourites thanks to a richly-talented squad and an upturn in their fortunes under Southgate. England are into a third semi-final in four tournaments, where they will face the Netherlands in Dortmund today.
But they have never reached a final outside of England or won the European Championship before.
Southgate’s men have been heavily criticised for their performances at Euro 2024, where they have won only one of their five games in 90 minutes.
But he said his players showed signs of what they are capable of in a quarter-final win over Switzerland on penalties after needing a late Bukayo Saka equaliser to send the game to extra time.
“One of our strengths over the last eight years has been less fear, less inhibition but at the beginning the expectation weighed heavily,” said Southgate at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
“We couldn’t quite get ourselves in the right place and in the end what was impressive was the players ground results out.
“Now we are into that moment in the tournament where it is what is possible? What is achievable? Rather than, what could go wrong?
“That is different for a player. This is now the chance to make history, first time to make a final not held in England. We are trying to break new ground and that is difficult, but the players have responded brilliantly.”
England’s only previous European Championship final was three years ago when they missed out agonisingly on penalties to Italy at Wembley.
Harry Kane has been captain for almost the entirety of the Southgate era in charge and believes his side can lean on that experience against a Dutch side in their first Euros semi-final since 2004.
“We’ve got a lot of players who have experienced big games at international and club level,” said Bayern Munich striker Kane.
“You use that experience over the course of your career to prepare the best way possible to control nerves and excitement tomorrow night will be not different.
“We had a goal, a target of what we think it is achievable and step-by-step we’ve been getting closer to that target.
“We’ve got ourselves in a great spot and we’ve got a big game to reach back-to-back finals in the European Championships which would be an amazing achievement.”
Southgate has all of his 26-man squad available with Luke Shaw pushing for his first start of the tournament. The Manchester United left-back made his first appearance for club or country since February as a substitute against the Swiss.
Marc Guehi looks set to return from suspension in place of Ezri Konsa, but Southgate looks set to stick with the 3-4-2-1 formation he used in the quarter-final.

Netherlands hit by travel chaos ahead of semi
The Netherlands’ planned pre-match press conference ahead of today’s Euro 2024 semi-final against England was cancelled on Tuesday after the Dutch had their travel plans disrupted.
Ronald Koeman’s men were due to travel to Dortmund from their base in Wolfsburg by train but were unable to do so due to a blockage on the line. Instead, the Dutch were forced to fly but were unable to fulfil their media duties due to their late arrival.
“Due to disruption of the Netherlands’ planned team travel to Dortmund, their arrival has been significantly delayed and therefore no press conference will take place,” said a statement from the Dutch football association.
England boss Gareth Southgate said he did not think the disruption would have any impact on the outcome of the semi-final.
“We don’t play until 9pm (1900GMT) tomorrow. I’m sure they will still get dinner when they arrive,” said Southgate at his own pre-match press conference.
“They’ve got plenty of time. I don’t see it having any impact on the game.”

From Koeman’s free-kick to Euro 96: Five Netherlands v England clashes

The Netherlands and England meet in the last four of Euro 2024 today with both teams eyeing a place in this weekend’s final in Berlin. There was a time when the two nations met regularly on the international stage, but the match in Dortmund will be just the second competitive game between the sides this century. AFP Sport looks back at their most notable past encounters:

Van Basten hat-trick: The 1988 European Championship remains the only major international tournament that the Netherlands have won, and will always be remembered for Marco van Basten’s stunning goal in the final against the Soviet Union. It also remains a low point for England, the only time in which they have gone to a major tournament and lost every game. Both sides lost their opening match before they clashed in Duesseldorf in the group phase, and the Dutch came out on top thanks to a Van Basten hat-trick. England had chances, with Gary Lineker and Glenn Hoddle both hitting the post. Van Basten’s opener for the Netherlands was cancelled out by a Bryan Robson equaliser just after half-time, but two goals in five second-half minutes allowed Van Basten to complete his hat-trick and sealed a 3-1 Dutch win.

Draw at Italia 90: The nations were again drawn in the same group at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, and many of the players involved in 1988 again featured in this meeting in Cagliari, among them current Dutch boss Ronald Koeman. The sides had each drawn their opening match, with England being held by Ireland and the Netherlands by Egypt. This time England kept Van Basten quiet in a 0-0 draw, and it was England who would top the group on the way to reaching the semi-finals. The Dutch, meanwhile, were beaten by West Germany in the last 16.

England miss out on USA 94: England have failed to qualify for just one World Cup since the 1970s, and it was the Netherlands who denied them a place at USA 94. Graham Taylor’s England had a poor campaign, taking just one point from two games against Norway, who topped the group. They squandered a two-goal lead at home to the Dutch at Wembley, but when they went to Rotterdam for the return fixture – their penultimate game in the group – England still had qualification in their own hands as they were above the Dutch. With Paul Gascoigne suspended, England fell behind to a free-kick just after the hour mark by Koeman – who the visitors felt should have been sent off earlier on – before Dennis Bergkamp sealed a 2-0 Dutch win. England beat San Marino in their final game but a Dutch win in Poland ensured they qualified instead. It was a disastrous campaign for Taylor, captured in a warts-and-all TV documentary. Taylor later resigned, while the Dutch reached the World Cup quarter-finals.

Shearer, Sheringham double act: The nations met again in the group stage at Euro 96. Both teams had taken four points from their first two matches before clashing at Wembley, where Alan Shearer opened the scoring with a penalty and added another goal early in the second half, in between a brace by Teddy Sheringham. Patrick Kluivert’s late goal for the Dutch made the final score 4-1 as England – who had current boss Gareth Southgate in defence – won the group and the Netherlands squeezed through in second place ahead of Scotland. The Dutch lost on penalties to France in the last eight, while England were beaten in a shoot-out in the semi-finals by Germany, with Southgate missing the crucial kick.

Dutch win Nations League semi: The only competitive meeting of the teams since Euro 96 came in the semi-finals of the inaugural UEFA Nations League in 2019. Southgate was already England’s manager and Koeman was in his first spell as Dutch coach as the teams clashed in Guimaraes, Portugal. Marcus Rashford put England ahead from a penalty but Matthijs de Ligt levelled, taking the game to extra time.
Kyle Walker’s own goal gave the Dutch the lead and Quincy Promes sealed a 3-1 victory for the Netherlands, who would lose the final to hosts Portugal.
Related Story