Uefa Nations League Finals – LIVE!
England are out to book their place in the Uefa Nations League final tonight when they take on Netherlands.
Raheem Sterling is set to captain the Three Lions with Gareth Southgate to rest those who started last Saturday’s Champions League final – including Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson.
Portugal await the winners in the final, with Cristiano Ronaldo firmly back on the international scene after his sensational hat-trick against Switzerland on Wednesday.
While Nations League glory would be no substitute for the disappointment of being knocked out of the World Cup semi-finals last summer, lifting the nation’s first official trophy since 1966 could be the perfect tonic to drive Southgate’s young side onto bigger and better things.
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Follow all the build-up to the Finals with Jack Rosser in Portugal.
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So, while Gareth Southgate opted to rest his Champions League finalists, Netherlands counterpart Ronald Koeman has named Liverpool duo Virgil Van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum in his XI.
Barcelona-bound Frenkie De Jong and sought-after Ajax defender Matthijs De Ligt are also included a strong Dutch side.
England have only contested five major semi-finals in their entire history. The 1966 World Cup. The 1968 European Championship. The 1990 World Cup. Euro 96. And of course the 2018 World Cup, Harry Kane, Kieran Trippier, Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat, all that. Last summer seems like yesterday.
You’ll have noticed that their hit-rate hasn’t been too clever. Just the 20 percent. They’ve lost their last four semis on the bounce. Put another way, they’ve not reached a final for over half a century. Oh England!
But all runs have to end sometime. And since Southgate’s youthful side announced itself in Russia last year, they’ve gone on to prove themselves as the real deal, rescuing a slow-starting Nations League campaign with a wonderful win in Spain and a revenge victory over their World Cup conquerors Croatia. Throw in a couple of five-goal hauls against the Czech Republic and Montenegro, and England are currently on a five-game winning streak. Could that 53-year wait for another final end tonight?
Perhaps, though tonight’s opponents are on the upward curve themselves. Having failed to qualify for the last World Cup, the Netherlands picked themselves up, dusted themselves down, and reasserted themselves with a couple of huge Nations League wins over world champions France and old rivals Germany. Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum have been finding it hard not to score, there’s a new defensive order of Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt, and everyone’s tails are up again.
This one’s in the balance alright. Deliciously poised. Which country will make it to Sunday’s final against Portugal, and get the chance to lift the second major international title in their history? The 1966 World Cup winners, or the champions of Euro 88? It’ll be a blast finding out, possibly after extra time and penalties. It’s on!