Source: Imago Images
Source: Imago Images

EURO 2024, semi-finals: the forgotten ones

EURO OlyBet 08.07.2024

Spain, France, England, and the Netherlands make up the four semi-finalists of EURO 2024, each a colossus of world football. So why do many only seriously consider three of them when discussing who will win it all?

Everyone (and their mother) seems to have an opinion on who will lift the trophy. You have heard all the theories. Spain are playing the best football of the tournament, France are so talented and have the best defence, England… Are still in it after two close calls. The latter two have supposedly not clicked yet, with some mysterious potential being kept under wraps.

“England are strong favourites to beat the Netherlands,” states a popular British daily newspaper, before adding: “The Three Lions have underwhelmed with their performances so far at the tournament, winning just one of their five games in normal time.” Why exactly are they strong favourites then?

The Netherlands have won three games in 90 minutes; they have spent an hour less on the pitch than England, without including the emotional roller-coaster penalties present on the players. Sure, they only qualified third from the group, but their performances throughout the tournament have been well-controlled, masterful even.

An early scare vs Poland was turned into a 2-1 win and followed by an utterly boring goalless draw vs France, which helped both secure qualification (remember who scored, by the way?); losing a rather meaningless game to Austria made sure the Dutch ended up on the “weaker” side of the knockout bracket. They dispatched Romania with minimal fuss and overcame a stingy Turkey side.

The team might lack star power, but not key players to break down the opponents. 33-year-old Virgil van Dijk has been one of the best central defenders for half a decade while promising youngsters Cody Gakpo (25) and Xavi Simons (21) have broken through. Even without injured Frenkie de Jong, they are not found lacking in quality.

With colourful fans supporting the Oranje every step of the way again, could they pull it off again? When Germany last hosted the European Championships in 1988…

So who will win it this time: Spain, France, England or the Netherlands?

All times listed below are in Eastern European Summer Time (GMT+3).

Spain – France

Tuesday, July 9th 22:00

Spain are the only team to win all five matches at EURO 2024, but even they had to go to extra lengths in the quarter-final vs Germany. It came with a price: a late, late red card for right-back Dani Carvajal means 38-year-old Jesus Navas will likely start in a notably thin position (and the prospect of Kylian Mbappe being the direct opponent). Central defender Robin Le Normand and midfielder Pedri are also out.

France have been the model professionals, doing as much as necessary without taking any risks. Stats suggest their scoring numbers – still no goals from open play – are an outlier and they could start taking their chances at any moment. At the other end, Mike Maignan has the best save percentage (94%) of the tournament amongst goalkeepers who have played more than once, and also the best mark by a keeper since Iker Casillas in 2012.

Player to watch: If Spain can break down Maignan, 16-year-old Lamine Yamal might be the (young) man to do it. The prodigy has created 14 chances at EURO 2024, the most by a Spaniard since Xavi in 2012, and the most of any teenager at major tournaments since such stats have been gathered. Yamal has registered three assists so far.

Netherlands – England

Wednesday, July 10th 22:00

The Netherlands have a good record vs England (7W, 9D, 6L), with the most recent games even more lop-sided (4W, 4D, 1L). But they have not met in a match of this calibre since EURO 1996, and the Netherlands will be under pressure as well as this is their first EURO semi-final in twenty years. Coming from behind twice (vs Poland and Turkey) shows character, but just once has a team (Czechia 2004) won three games from losing positions in the EUROs.

Much like France, the English have done as little as possible yet had to dig deep for a second consecutive game. Against Slovakia, two quick goals made the difference while England were (unusually) perfect from the penalty spot vs Switzerland. But this will be a different proposition, as the Netherlands are the highest-ranked side (FIFA rank 7.) the English (5.) have met in the tournament (Switzerland 19.; Denmark 21.).

Player to watch: Cody Gakpo introduced himself to a wider audience at the 2022 World Cup while still a PSV player; now playing for Liverpool, his talents should come as no surprise. With 13 shots (3 goals) and 11 chances created (1 assist) so far, the 25-year-old can be dangerous in so many different ways.


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