Bet of the Day: England and Holland both to score in Nations LeaguePublished on: June 6, 2019Author: Antonia Kelly
With Portugal having taken one of the slots in the first-ever Nations League final, tonight sees the second semi-final taking place between two nations for whom a win in this competition would represent a major step forward. England’s run to the World Cup semis last year captivated a nation, but their eventual loss to Croatia saw the dream stall out at the same stage as Italia ‘90 and their home tournament in Euro ‘96. The Nations League may not hold the same prestige as those competitions – how could it, in its inaugural run? – but winning tonight and in the final would go some way to ending fifty-three years of hurt.
For the Netherlands, the competition represents something different. World Cup finalists less than five years ago, the more recent past has seen them fail to reach Euro 2016 after finishing fourth in their qualifying group, and then miss out on last year’s global event after trailing in behind Sweden. In a Nations League group that placed them with the last two World champions, they were expected to prop up both France and Germany – but against the odds, they won out and are now 180 minutes from a trophy and direct qualification for next summer’s Euros. Both teams have plenty of hopes invested in this game – so which will run out as victors in the end?
Intriguing battle ahead at both ends
This match could be much better timed, from an English point of view. Much of the Three Lions’ success of recent years has been built on contributions from Tottenham Hotspur players – particularly Harry Kane, but in no small part from Dele Alli and Eric Dier too. The first two of these players were involved in Saturday’s Champions League final and their performances were less than impressive – Kane, in particular, looking a shadow of his usual self and sparking speculation over his fitness. Dier remained on the bench for much of the night, and Spurs looked better after he came on in the second half.
The conundrum for Gareth Southgate is whether it would be a risk to pick Kane for this match so soon after such a listless display – not least because it could bring the Spurs man back into direct competition with Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk; arguably the best defender in the world. The former Southampton stopper had a fairly serene evening in Madrid – England may be better served by leaving Kane out, hoping he’s fit for the weekend, and leaving it to Marcus Rashford to lead the line and hopefully shoot them to the final. The Manchester United man is 17/10 with Betway to score tonight, and that’s a better-value punt than Kane’s 7/5 right now.
England favourites, but need to be cautious
For the second time in under a year, England find themselves in a semi-final and favourites with the bookies to win it. Against Croatia, that status was fanciful and, as it turned out, also wrong. This time around it’s probably more realistic, but there’s plenty of cause to be cautious about leaping on Southgate’s men to set up a final against Portugal. For one thing – and as demonstrated by the soporific Champions League final – the Premier League ended three weeks ago, and a number of players are somewhat off the boil. For another, as mentioned above, Liverpool and Tottenham players will, for contrasting reasons, be feeling the effects of the weekend’s result.
Add to that the presence in the Dutch side of a bunch of players who propelled unfancied Ajax to within seconds of a Champions League final. Frenkie de Jong, Matthias de Ligt and Donny van de Beek are still relative unknown quantities at this level, and there is an advantage in that. Youth, and the relative absence of expectation, was a driving force for Ajax this season, and could well carry through to this week’s action. While picking a winner is tough, an enthralling and kinetic Dutch side should play their part here, and it’s worth backing Both Teams To Score – an 8/11 bet with William Hill.
Extra Time may be needed
This game is an interesting study – England have been in many ways more impressive since the World Cup than they were during it, winning in Spain and gaining revenge over Croatia to qualify for this stage of the Nations League. The Dutch, however, could be argued to have the momentum right now, having come back from the relative backwaters of international football to find themselves on the verge of a competition final – and having levered the World Champions out of the way in getting here. In addition, they have a confident young side which is starting to resemble their great teams of the 20th century.
If pushed to pick a winner here we would just – just – lean the way of England, who have more recently experienced knockout tournament football. However, we wouldn’t feel confident of backing them to do it in 90 minutes. This is a match which could well require thirty additional minutes and then possibly penalties to separate the sides; backing the draw, at 21/10 with Betfair, is perhaps the best bet you could make given the closeness of the two competitors.
Bets of the DayBoth Teams To Score (William Hill, 8/11); Draw in 90 minutes (Betfair, 21/10); Rashford to score anytime (Betway, 17/10)