Euro 2024: Five talking points ahead of England-Netherlands semi - with Liverpool FC and Manchester United men likely to be key

Harry KaneHarry Kane
Harry Kane | Getty Images
England face the Netherlands in Dortmund on Wednesday evening looking to book a place in back-to-back European Championship finals.

Gareth Southgate’s side have been heavily criticised for their performances at Euro 2024 but are one game away from Sunday’s showpiece in Berlin. The PA news agency has taken a look at some of the key talking points ahead of the meeting with the Dutch.

No Kane, no gain?

It would have been unthinkable before a ball was kicked at the Euros to consider that Harry Kane’s place in Southgate’s starting XI would be called into question. Captain, all-time leading goalscorer and a man who hit the back of the net 44 times in 45 appearances for Bayern Munich last season.

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But the 30-year-old has struggled throughout the tournament and in the the quarter-final win over Switzerland in particular, and has been substituted as many times as he has scored – twice – while Ivan Toney has impressed in his short outings from the bench.

In all likelihood, Southgate will stick with his talisman for such a big game, but the fact his place is even being speculated about speaks volumes for his summer so far.

A Shaw thing

Luke Shaw made his long-awaited comeback from injury as he came off the bench against the Swiss, racking up his first minutes since a hamstring problem he suffered at Manchester United in February.

The 28-year-old had hoped to be available earlier in the competition as Southgate opted to bring just one recognised left-back in his 26-man squad – but a setback delayed his return. Now though, he insists he is ready to start against the Netherlands on Wednesday night.

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Liverpool pair hoping to make Oranje boom

If the Dutch are to down England and reach their first Euros final since 1988, the chances are a couple of Premier League players will have a big say. Liverpool duo Virgil van Dijk and Cody Gakpo have been crucial in the run to the semi-final for Ronald Koeman’s men.

Captain Van Dijk, who turned 33 on Monday, remains one of the best centre-backs in Europe and will fancy his chances against whoever plays up front for England – while Gakpo is one of four players jointly leading the Golden Boot race having scored three goals in Germany.

Three and easy

Southgate made the call to switch to a back three against Switzerland and, while the tie was ultimately decided on penalties, England did produce an improved performance.

Shaw could now come in to help the balance even more, while Marc Guehi is available after serving a one-match ban.

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The shift, though, has allowed Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham more chance to roam with the pair able to both operate centrally, while Bukayo Saka’s turn at right wing-back saw the Arsenal man produce his best football of the tournament so far.

All in all, it now seems improbable Southgate would abandon the change in system after one game, although – unlike the Swiss – the Netherlands do usually operate with a back four.

The man in the middle

Felix Zwayer – a German referee who was banned over his part in a match-fixing scandal – will take charge of the game at Signal Iduna Park.

The 43-year-old was given a six-month ban by his country’s football federation in 2006, having worked as an assistant referee alongside Robert Hoyzer. Bellingham was fined by the German federation after he referenced Zwayer’s involvement in that scandal after a defeat for his old club Borussia Dortmund against Bayern Munich in 2021.

Speaking ahead of the game, Shaw said the England players “respect UEFA” in terms of its selection of officials and that they were not concerned by Zwayer’s appointment.

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