England and Netherlands meet each other in the semi-finals of the UEFA Nations League on Thursday, kicking off at 7:45pm local time at the Estadio D.Afonso Henriques in Guimaraes in Portugal. Both sides will be determined to win the first ever UEFA Nations League, as neither side have won a major trophy for quite some time in their history, despite getting close.

England

In England, there has been debate on how important winning this trophy is. Whilst the majority of the fans would say it’s a meaningless competition, manager Gareth Southgate says that it would be a huge stepping stone for this team that are currently developing into one of the major nations in world football. After reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup, England have followed that success by knocking out Croatia and Spain in order to reach the finals here in Portugal. Going into their final two matches, they were only on one point, so they had to win their final matches away in Spain before beating Croatia at home. In Spain, England delivered an excellent counter attacking display to get a 3-0 half time lead, before holding out for a 3-2 win. Then, with 15 minutes left on the clock in their final encounter with Croatia, they managed to overturn a 1-0 deficit and win 2-1, as Wembley went into wild celebrations. England now have an opportunity to win silverware, something that the country has been starved off from their national team. They go into the tournament, as slight favourites and winning this would build confidence going into European Championships next summer.

Captain Harry Kane is expected to return to the England side after starting for Tottenham in the Champions League on Saturday night. Other key players for England will be Manchester City duo Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker, as well as defensive stalwart Harry Maguire of Leicester. The biggest problem posing England is that there will be some players, of Liverpool and Tottenham, that will join the squad a bit later, and may not be able to take part in the match – Champions League winning captain Jordan Henderson, included.

Netherlands

Netherlands have always been an excellent nation in world football, that often reach far in major tournaments over the years. They have been European Champions only once though, back in 1988, and are yet to win the World Cup despite reaching the final three times. Netherlands have been through a tricky time though, and have been in transition over the last six years. After reaching the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup, they failed to reach either the European Championships in 2016 and the World Cup in 2018. They do look to be back on the right path though, as they qualified for these finals by overcoming both Germany and France – the two previous World Cup winners. They did lose their first match to France, but managed to win both of their respective home games, before claiming a critical point in Germany to sneak through to the finals. Virgil van Dikj scored a last minute equaliser in that match, in another dramatic UEFA Nations League group.

Virgil van Dikj has been undoubtedly the best defender in the world over the last 18 months, having won the man of the match award in the Champions League final, as well as being voted PFA player of the season. He’ll want to make sure he is fit and prepared to face some of his Premier League rivals on Thursday. Netherland are also boosted by their Ajax contingent, with Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt, Van de Beek and veteran Daley Blind, who have all been fantastic in their Champions League run, as well as winning the domestic double.

Head to Head

The two nations have met 33 times in their history, with England winning on 14 occasions, and Netherlands winning on 9. Despite that being good reading for England, most of those wins came before the 1950’s. In recent years, the two teams have only played in friendlies, with Netherlands winning two, and England winning one in their last three meetings.

We have to go back to the 1990’s for the last time they played each other in a competitive match, which will be remembered by England fans for many years. It was a 4-1 success for England in the group stage at the European Championships in 1996, hosted in England – as both progressed. It was revenge as Netherlands boasted an impressive record over England in both of the qualification phases for the 1990 and 1994 World Cup, with two wins and two draws. As well as that, Netherlands also beat England 3-1 in the 1988 European Championships in the group stage, as they went on to win the tournament hosted in Germany.

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Predictions and Betting Tips

Netherlands are at 2/1 to win the match in 90 minutes, with England slight favourites at 7/5. For the game to go into extra time, that is priced at 11/5. To bet on the team to qualify, Netherlands are at 1/1 (EVENS), with England at 8/11. It was the Dutch that were celebrating on Saturday night in the Champions League final, but the likes of Harry Kane and Deli Alli will want to get some instant revenge this Thursday. It’s going to be a close match, but perhaps England will progress by a narrow 2-1 score line, which is priced at a generous 9/1.

For the goal scorers, Raheem Sterling (11/5 to score at any time) would be the best person to back for England, giving his goal scoring record in recent matches for both club and country, and other talisman Harry Kane looks slightly unfit. For the Dutch, Memphis Depay happens to score many critical goals, and that’s why he is only at 2/1 to score at any time. If you’re a tipster, then I’d back a goalscorer treble, meaning all players have to score a goal in the game for it to come off. In my predicted 2-1 score line, I’d back Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Memphis Depay at 50/1. Finally, let’s hope that it will be a goal fest between the two sides, so backing both teams to score in both halves is at a generous 25/1. Let’s hope the game doesn’t disappoint!

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