Saturday, January 16, 2021

Nations League – Netherlands 3-1 England (AET)

The Netherlands win as England crash out of the Nations League as errors at the back, as well as a huge VAR decision, costs Gareth Southgate’s men a place in the final.

The game started pretty well from an England perspective, Southgate’s 4-3-3 formation seemed to be working well with the energetic front three causing problems. However, once the game settled down, England’s frailties in midfield shone through.

They struggled to keep the ball away from the impressive trio of Frenkie De Jong, Marten De Roon and Georginio Wijnaldum. De Jong was pulling all the strings and England just couldn’t get hold of the now Barcelona star.

All of a sudden, half an hour in, Marcus Rashford caught Ajax superstar Mathijs de Ligt napping and nicked the ball from him in the box. De Ligt’s naivety came to the fore as he chopped down the United striker to give away a penalty – a penalty which Rashford duly dispatched.

Following the goal, England settled into a more compact defensive unit and seemed to be more than happy to allow Holland to pass the ball around in the middle of the park. Something which would eventually bite them halfway through the second half.

Netherlands triumph

Holland had been pressing and pressing, and were winning corner after corner – something which they had been looking dangerous from all game. With the giant centre halves Virgil Van Dijk and Mathijs de Ligt in there, they were always going to be a threat. On 73 minutes, that eventually came to fruition as de Ligt made up for his earlier error and slammed a header past Jordan Pickford at his near post.

In fairness, England responded to the goal really well and started playing some great football. Eight minutes or so later, Jesse Lingard broke through on goal and slid the ball past Jasper Cillessen – cue pandemonium. However, the euphoria didn’t last long for England fans as the referee went to VAR to check for an offside. After what seemed like an age, the ref eventually signalled that Lingard was in an offside position when the ball was played, overturning the goal.

That seemed to knock the stuffing out of England as the game went into Extra Time. England defenders had given the ball away more than once in dangerous areas throughout the 90, and in the 8th minute of ET, they were eventually made to pay for their ineptitude at the back. John Stones was caught in possession by Memphis Depay, who saw his effort parried away by Pickford. Unfortunately for England, the incoming Quincy Promes was just too quick for Walker and he put in the rebound, courtesy of a deflection from Walker.


Sadly, England still didn’t learn their lesson. After failing to make any impact going forward, England were once again caught in possession at the back with five minutes of ET remaining. Ross Barkley misplaced a pass back to the keeper, Depay picked up and squared it to Promes who slammed it home to send England packing.

The debate tonight is whether or not this kind of error is something you just have to accept when trying to play out from the back. However, these players are professional footballers and if you can’t realise you’re in trouble and either clear the ball or pass back to the keeper, you don’t deserve to wear an England shirt.

At the end of the day, poor decision making from England costs them a place in the inaugural UEFA Nations League final. Gareth Southgate’s side will have to settle for the third place play-off against Switzerland on Sunday night – flashbacks, anyone?

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